Connect with us

South Asia

Withering India’s Neighbourhood Policy

Published

on

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]ndia is believed to be one of the emerging economic powers of the world. This potential is attributed to several indicators such as demographic dividend, substantive economic growth, political stability, unity in diversity, a good pool of trained and skilled human resources, new strides in science and technology, mastery in information technology, well trained and adequately equipped army etc.

For the given of its size, location, economic potential, India has been holding an important and unique position in South Asia. In the terms of geography, demography, economy and military, it is the largest country in the South Asia. For the given of such factors, the countries of South Asia have always been remained skeptical of taking undue advantage of the weak bargaining capacity of neighbouring countries in a bilateral dialogue. India wanted to enhance bilateral relations with all the South Asian countries, but Bhashin (2008) has argued that   its bilateralism took as an instrument of coercive diplomacy and Indian hegemony.

Conceptualization of India’s South Asia Policy

Michael (2013) has argued that the inspiration and philosophy of Indian foreign policy has been derived from Kautilya’s Arthashastra, that is believed to be as a manual of statecraft. In this manual, the incumbent or the potential king has been guided, how to rule a state or what rules are to be followed to gain geopolitical and geostrategic space in terms of power in the region.

India has been following good neighbourly policy even before its independence. This argument could be substantiated by the argument of Rajkumar (1952: 46), who quoted Jawaharlal Nehru’s first speech delivered in December 1927, wherein he said, “The people of India have no quarrel with their neighbours and desire to live at peace with them.” The Nehruvian foreign policy had been consistently followed by the successive governments of India.

In the post-Cold War era, India has emerged as an economic global player in the global arena. The former Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao (2009-2011), has argued and accepted that a ‘peaceful neighbourhood is mandatory for the realization of India’s vision of economic growth.’ Realizing the geopolitical and geostrategic imperatives, India has invoked all the neighbouring countries to be partners and contribute to the regional growth and prosperity (MEA, Annual Report 2005: 1).

Modifying the South Asian Policy

India has been pursuing good neighbourly policy vis-à-vis South Asian countries, however, it is failed to convince them of the same. The leadership of these countries is of the firm opinion that India has been pursuing hegemonic policy. Moreover, the relations with almost all countries have remained off the keel. Since India has been emerging as one of the economic powers, thus, it realized that peaceful neighbourhood is the prerequisite of its economic development and prosperity in general and for the region in particular.

Even before the formation of his government, Modi had outlined foreign policy priorities during a Network 18 TV Programme: ‘Think India, Dialogue Forum,’ in 2013 as:

•Improving relations with immediate neighbours, as peace and tranquility in South Asia is essential for realizing the development agenda.

•The introduction of para-diplomacy.

•Enhance of bilateral trade with all the countries.

In order to show his priority and interest towards South Asia, the first, and unique step was taken by inviting all the heads of the South Asian countries. Moreover, it was believed that it would undo the criticism of his being hardliner. The invited guests list included-Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan), Tshering Tobgay (Bhutan), Abdulla Yameen (Maldives), Sushil Koirala (Nepal), Nawaz Sharif (Pakistan), Mahinda Rajapaksa (Sri Lanka), Navin Ramgoolam (Mauritius), Parliamentary Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury (Bangladesh) respectively. The policy was christened as the Neighbourhood First Policy, later on, formalized and concretized by the first speech of Indian President Pranab Mukherji (2014, June 9) and PM Address to the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. By highlighted the place of neighbours in Indian foreign policy PM Modi said, “A nation’s destiny is linked to its neighbourhood. That is why my government has placed the highest priority on advancing friendship and cooperation with its neighbours.”

The objective of the first step is to improve and enhance bilateral ties with the South Asian countries. PM also held talks with all the all the heads individually on the second day of swearing-in-ceremony. During these meetings, he strongly advocated for trade, connectivity, infrastructure, transit facility issues among the South Asian countries. On the eve of 18th SAARC Summit, Kathmandu (2014, November 26-27), he also exhorted his counterparts to give greater focus on the people to people contacts, better connectivity, commercial linkages among the South Asian region.

PM Modi visited almost all the South Asian countries in order to enhance multifaceted engagements with these countries. Bhutan was the maiden foreign visit of PM Modi. He had emphasized on building economic ties between both the countries. The other areas of cooperation included hydro-electric deal, the inauguration of the India-funded Supreme Court of Bhutan building. The bilateral relations between both countries were termed as “unique and special relationship.”

After the long hiatus of 17 years, PM Modi had visited Nepal. This visit has created an unprecedented enthusiasm among the Nepali public and politicians. He became the first foreign leader to address the constituent assembly of Nepal. PM Modi has also declared a long list of gifts to Nepal. He advocated that borders must be bridges, not barriers.” But Nepal’s constitutional crisis 2015 and Indian stand on it, distanced both the countries from each other despite India’s neighbourhood first policy.  

The bilateral relationship between India and Bangladesh has also improved a lot under the Neighbourhood first policy. The controversial issues between both the countries have been sorted out like boundary issue through the land boundary agreement (LBA) and the Teesta water-sharing pact. Bangladesh has also been cooperating in eliminating the extremist groups from North-East. Similarly, good relations have been developed with Sri Lanka under the stewardship of PM despite reservation about the Hambantota port and stationing of Chinese submarines at the same port. Maldives is a very important country for India’s maritime security architecture. Due to this, Maldives has been figuring very prominently in Indian neighbourhood policy.

Pakistan is a country which is difficult to deal with despite having neighbourhood first policy. The hardliner perception of PM Modi has substantially changed when on the swearing-in-ceremony, PM Nawaz Sharif was invited. During the talk between both the leaders, they looked forwarded to improve the relations by starting the dialogue at various levels which have been suspended even before taking over the governments by both the leaders. But despite India’s number of efforts like visiting by PM Modi to Pakistan during the marriage of grand-daughter of PM Nawaz Sharif, conveying best wishes for the birthday and surgery of PM Nawaz Sharif, the dialogues at all levels have remained suspended. Intermittently, gun-firing on the line control distancing both the countries from each other. The Kashmir issue has been time and again raised in the international forum such as UNSC and GCC etc. Notwithstanding of India’s good neighbourly policy, the bilateral relations between both the countries have not been improved.

Similarly, Afghanistan has figured very prominently. It is called as the first strategic partner of India. India became the fifth largest donor to Afghanistan. India has made substantial FDI of US$ 2 billion. Very recently, parliament building built by India handed over to Afghanistan. Afghanistan people hold India in a very high esteem. However, neighbourhood first policy, did not show any substantive results in respect of Pakistan and Nepal.

India pursuing it neighbourhood policy since its independence which is consistently being followed by the successive government. This policy has been derived from the Kautilya’s Arthsashtra. After taking over the reign of the Indian government, PM Modi has revived and renovated the policy into neighbourhood first. Though this policy has been remained a bit successful in improving relations with some of the countries but it has been failed in respect of Pakistan and Nepal. It is, therefore, recommended that neighbourhood policy is required to be remodeled and refashioned, in order to not only improve relations bilaterally rather creating the peace and stability for the entire South Asian region.

Dr. Bawa Singh is teaching in the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies, School of Global Relations, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India-151001. bawasingh73[at]gmail.com

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

India’s Unclear Neighbourhood Policy: How to Overcome ?

Published

on

India has witnessed multiple trends with regards to its relations with its neighbours at a time vaccine diplomacy is gaining prominence and Beijing increasing the pace towards becoming an Asian superpower, whereby making these reasons valid for New Delhi to have a clear foreign policy with respect to its neighbourhood.

Introduction

The Covid Pandemic has led to increased uncertainty in the global order where it comes to power dynamics, role of international organisations. New Delhi has tried to leave no stone unturned when it comes to dealing with its immediate neighbours.  It has distributed medical aid and vaccines to smaller countries to enhance its image abroad at a time it has witnessed conflicts with China and a change in government in Myanmar. These developments make it imperative for New Delhi to increase its focus on regionalism and further international engagement where this opportunity could be used tactically amidst a pandemic by using economic and healthcare aid.

According to Dr. Arvind Gupta, New Delhi has to deal with threats coming from multiple fronts and different tactics where it is essential for New Delhi to save energy using soft means rather than coercive measures.. India under Vaccine Maitri has supplied many of COVAXIN doses to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where many have appreciated this move. The urgency of ensuring humanitarian aid during these periods of unprecedented uncertainty are essential in PM Modi’s Security and Growth For All ( SAGAR) initiative, which focusses on initiating inclusive growth as well as cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.

This pandemic witnessed various threats coming in India’s neighbourhood through multiple dimensions which include maritime, land, cyber as well as air threats where adversaries are using these to put pressure on New Delhi to settle land as well as marine disputes as per their terms.  These encirclement strategies have made it necessary for India to open up various options such as holding maritime joint exercises with like-minded countries, developing partnerships, providing economic as well as healthcare support to weaker countries plus having a clear insight about changing global dynamics and acting as per them.

This piece will discuss about various changing tactics, pros and cons which India has with respect to developing its national security vis-à-vis its neighbourhood, why should it prioritise its neighbourhood at the first place?

Background

India’s Neighbourhood is filled with many complexities and a lot of suspicion amongst countries, some viewing India because of its size and geography plus economic clout as a bully where it is wanting to dominate in the region putting others aside. This led to New Delhi play an increased role in nudging ties first with its neighbours with whom it had multiple conflicts as well as misunderstandings leading to the latter viewing Beijing as a good alternative in order to keep India under check.

Ever since PM Modi has taken charge at 7 RCR, India’s Neighbourhood First Policy has been followed increasingly to develop relations, to enhance understandings and ensure mutual cooperation as well as benefit with its neighbours. The relations with Islamabad have not seen so much improvement as compared to other leaders in the past. Even though former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited for PM Modi’s 1st Swearing In ceremony in 2014, terrorist activities have never stopped which could be seen through Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama terror attacks which killed many of the Indian soldiers. Even though surgical strikes were conducted on terror camps in retaliation to these bombardments, Islamabad has not changed its heart at all about its security or regional demands. New strategies and friendships are being developed where Beijing has played a major role in controlling power dynamics.

The Belt and Road initiative, first time mentioned during President Xi’s 2013 speech in Kazakhstan, then officially in 2015,  lays emphasis of achieving a Chinese Dream of bringing countries under one umbrella, ensuring their security, providing them with infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, pipelines, highways etc. The main bottleneck is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor when it comes to India’s security threats, passing through disputed boundaries of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir till Gwadar. Other projects have been initiated in Chittagong, Hambantota, Gwadar , Kyapkyou. These projects form a String Of Pearls in the Indo Pacific where New Delhi is being balanced against through economic plus development incentives being given to the member countries under the project. That’s why in the recent past, New Delhi is asserting its influence in the region, looking at new dimensional threats where Beijing’s threats in the maritime domain in the islands in East as well as South China seas are not being seen favourably in many countries such as ASEAN, US, Australia and Japan which is giving India an opportunity to look towards countries with a common threat. Amidst this great power struggle between Washington and Beijing, New Delhi is stuck between a rock and hard place i.e., having a clear and strong foreign policy with its neighbours.

In this region, India has a sole threat which is mainly Beijing where the latter has achieved prowess technologically and militarily where New Delhi lags behind the latter twenty fold. So, there is a need for improvising military technology, increase economic activities with countries, reduce dependence on foreign aid, ensure self-reliance.

Situation

South Asia is backward when it comes to economic development, human development and is a home to majority of the world’s population which lives below poverty line. The colonial rule has left a never-ending impact on divisions based on communal, linguistic and ethnic grounds. Even, in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, New Delhi lags behind Beijing significantly in the neighbourhood because the latter is at an edge when it comes to bringing countries under the same umbrella. Due to these, many initiatives have been taken up by New Delhi on developing infrastructure, providing humanitarian aid to needy countries.

There have been numerous efforts made by India with respect to reaching out to the Neighbours in 2020 through setting up of the SAARC Covid Fund where many Neighbourhood countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka gave contributions to ensure cooperation, joint scientific research, sharing information, healthcare kits where the countries contributed USD $ 18 million jointly towards this fund where New Delhi made an initial offer of USD $ 10 million.

New Delhi has even mustered ties with the Association of Southeast Asian countries during the pandemic under its Act East Policy where proper connectivity through the Northeast could be useful in easing movement of goods but currently, the infrastructure in Northeast needs more improvement where issues such as unemployment, poor connectivity are prevalent whereby disconnecting it from rest of the other states. This region could play an important role in linking Bangladesh, Myanmar to New Delhi along with the proposed India-Thailand –Myanmar Trilateral Corridor. Focus has also been laid to develop inland waterways, rail links and pipelines to ease connections between countries, making trade free and more efficient.

India is focussing on developing the Sittwe and Paletwa ports in Myanmar under the Kaladan Development Corridor, at the cost of INR 517.9 Crore in order to provide an alternative e route beneficial for the Northeast for getting shipping access

Summing Up

 These above developments and power display by a strong adversary, give good reasons for New Delhi to adopt collective security mechanisms through QUAD, SIMBEX and JIMEX with a common perception of having safe and open waters through abiding to the UNCLOS which China isn’t showing too much interest in, seen through surveillance units, artificial islands being set up on disputed territories which countries likewise India are facing in context to territorial sovereignty and integrity. These developments make it important for India to look at strategic threats by coming together with countries based on similar interest’s vis-à-vis Chinese threat.

There is a need for India to develop and harness its strength through connectivity and its self reliance initiative ( Aatmanirbharta ) so that there is no dependence on any foreign power at times of need . Proper coordination between policy makers and government officials could make decision making even easier, which is not there completely because of ideological differences, different ideas which makes it important for the political leadership to coordinate with the military jointly during times of threats on borders. Self-reliance could only come through preparedness and strategy.

Continue Reading

South Asia

India is in big trouble as UK stands for Kashmiris

Published

on

 A London-based law firm has filed an application with British police seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and a senior Indian government official over their alleged roles in war crimes in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Law firm Stoke White said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit on Tuesday, documenting how Indian forces headed by General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians – particularly Muslim – in the region.

“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to the territory in the Himalayan region.

Based on more than 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021, the report also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.

The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. It also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.

“This report is dedicated to the families who have lost loved ones without a trace, and who experience daily threats when trying to attain justice,” Khalil Dewan, author of the report and head of the SWI unit, said in a statement.

“The time has now come for victims to seek justice through other avenues, via a firmer application of international law.”

The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been initiated abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in Kashmir.

Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK.

Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.

“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.

The police application was made on behalf of the family of Pakistani prisoner Zia Mustafa, who, Camuz said, was the victim of extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and on behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the past two decades in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Muslim Kashmiris mostly support rebels who want to unite the region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi.

Rights groups have also criticized the conduct of armed groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.

In 2018, the United Nations human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir, alleging “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”.

India’s government has denied the alleged rights violations and maintains such claims are separatist propaganda meant to demonize Indian troops in the region. It seems, India is in big trouble and may not be able to escape this time. A tough time for Modi-led extremist government and his discriminatory policies. The world opinion about India has been changed completely, and it has been realized that there is no longer a democratic and secular India. India has been hijacked by extremist political parties and heading toward further bias policies. Minorities may suffer further, unless the world exert pressure to rectify the deteriorating human rights records in India.

Continue Reading

South Asia

S. Jaishankar’s ‘The India Way’, Is it a new vision of foreign policy?

Published

on

S. Jaishankar has had an illustrious Foreign Service career holding some of the highest and most prestigious positions such as ambassador to China and the US and as foreign secretary of India. Since 2019 he has served as India’s foreign minister. S. Jaishankar also has a Ph.D. in international relations from JNU and his academic background is reflected in this book.

His main argument is simplistic, yet the issues involved are complex. Jaishankar argues that the world is changing fundamentally, and the international environment is experiencing major shifts in power as well as processes. China is rising and western hegemony is declining. We are moving away from a unipolar system dominated by the US to a multipolar system. Globalization is waning and nationalism and polarization is on the rise (p. 29). The old order is going away but we cannot yet glimpse what the future will look like. This is the uncertain world that Dr. Jaishankar sees.

Dr. Jaishankar also argues that India too has changed, it is more capable and more assertive. The liberalization program that began in 1991 has made the Indian economy vibrant and globally competitive and it is well on track to becoming the third biggest economy in the world, after China and the US.  The war of 1971 that liberated Bangladesh, the liberalization of the economy after 1991, the nuclear tests in 1998 and the nuclear understanding with the US in 2005, Jaishankar argues are landmarks in India’s strategic evolution (p. 4). So given that both India and the system have changed, Jaishankar concludes, so should India’s foreign policy.

But his prescription for India’s foreign policy, in the grand scheme of things, is the same as before – India should remain nonaligned and not join the US in its efforts to contain China. India will try to play with both sides it seems in order to exploit the superpowers and maximize its own interests (p. 9). But he fails to highlight how India can find common ground with China other than to say the two nations must resolve things diplomatically. He also seems to think that the US has infinite tolerance for India’s coyness. In his imagination the US will keep making concessions and India will keep playing hard to get.

Jaishankar has a profound contradiction in his thinking. He argues that the future will be determined by what happens between the US and China. In a way he is postulating a bipolar future to global politics. But he then claims that the world is becoming multipolar and this he claims will increase the contests for regional hegemony. The world cannot be both bipolar and multipolar at the same time.

There is also a blind spot in Jaishankar’s book.  He is apparently unaware of the rise of Hindu nationalism and the demand for a Hindu state that is agitating and polarizing India’s domestic politics. The systematic marginalization and oppression of Muslim minorities at home and the growing awareness overseas of the dangers of Hindutva extremism do not exist in the world that he lives in. He misses all this even as he goes on to invoke the Mahabharata and argue how Krishna’s wisdom and the not so ethical choices during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas should be a guide for how India deals with this uncertain world – by balancing ethics with realism (p. 63). Methinks his little digression in discussing the ancient Hindu epic is more to signal his ideological predilections than to add any insights to understanding the world or India’s place in it.  

One aspect of his work that I found interesting is his awareness of the importance of democracy and pluralism. He states that India’s democracy garners respect and gives India a greater opportunity to be liked and admired by other nations in the world (p. 8). Yet recently when he was asked about the decline of India’s democratic credentials, his response was very defensive, and he showed visible signs of irritation. It is possible that he realizes India is losing ground internationally but is unwilling to acknowledge that his political party is responsible for the deterioration of India’s democracy.

This is also apparent when he talks about the importance of India improving its relations with its immediate neighbors. He calls the strategy as neighborhood first approach (pp. 9-10). What he does not explain is how an Islamophobic India will maintain good relations with Muslim majority neighbors like Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan.

The book is interesting, it has its limitations and both, what is addressed and what is left out, are clearly political choices and provide insights into how New Delhi thinks about foreign policy. So, coming to the question with which we started, does India have a new foreign policy vision? The answer is no. Dr. Jaishankar is right, there is indeed an India way, but it is the same old way, and it entails remaining nonaligned with some minor attitudinal adjustments.  

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Eastern Europe5 hours ago

Ukraine Lies About 2022 Russian Attack to Hide Dying Economy

Yesterday, Ukraine’s president Zelensky speaking to the Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence Service said “We have learned to contain external threats. It...

Reports12 hours ago

Structural Reforms Needed to Put Tunisia on Path to Sustainable Growth

Decisive structural reforms and an improved business climate are essential to put Tunisia’s economy on a more sustainable path, create...

Development14 hours ago

‘Global learning crisis’ continues says Guterres; millions still hit

Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures continue to disrupt the lives of over 31 million students, exacerbating what...

Middle East17 hours ago

Ukraine crisis could produce an unexpected winner: Iran

 Iran potentially could emerge as an unintended winner in the escalating crisis over Ukraine. That is, if Russian troops cross...

Finance17 hours ago

How Twitter can help your business

Twitter is easily one of the leading online platforms which encourages networking on a global scale. The number of users,...

Economy19 hours ago

2022: Rise of Economic Power of Small Medium Businesses across the World

Why mirrors of the Wall: To fight obesity a life-sized mirror required, to uplift the national economy a simple calculator is...

Reports21 hours ago

Lebanon’s Crisis: Great Denial in the Deliberate Depression

The scale and scope of Lebanon’s deliberate depression are leading to the disintegration of key pillars of Lebanon’s post-civil war...

Trending