Connect with us

South Asia

India’s Neighbourhood Policy: Modi continues to scratch his head with firewood

Published

on

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]ndia’s relations with our neighbours are historical and traditional. During the Cold War, the behaviour of US and Soviet Union across the world had forced India to pursue less foreign policy initiatives, focus on domestic issues. Now China tries to do that job to India.

As India’s presence across the Indian Ocean declining, China filled the void of dominant power in the regions sphere of influence. At present China, has danced across the Indian Ocean, welcoming all neighbours as a dancing partner. Our observations lead us to presume that our neighbours are keen to continue this relationship with China because of Modi’s unrealistic foreign policy articulations. If this strategy persists India’s future relationship with her neighbours will be in jeopardy. As the window to thwart their ties with China continues to slowly close, the window of opportunity on the Chinese side is wide open. Lots of promises were made during the 2014 election campaign by prime ministerial candidate Modi and have yet to be fulfilled. Though Modi has less perception on foreign policy, he talked louder about the subject than any other candidate but failed to provide any clear policy framework. Days before the election, he heavily criticised the Congress government on its neighbourhood policies. In the last three years Modi’s strategy for neighbour relations has had no clear policy direction. This is seen in particular with India’s relationship with Pakistan, Nepal, and the Maldives, all of whom have seen a new low in diplomatic and economic relations. Sri Lanka wants to travel in two tracks, with both India and China. Our efforts are huge in Afghanistan butprovide little to our interest. Now this government is facing the real heat of their policy. The focus of this article is to critically evaluate how Modi has dealt with our neighbours in the last three years.

Pakistan is a major neighbouring state. During 2013-14 the Prime Ministerial candidate Modi attacked Dr Manmohan Singh stating his leadership should have more guts with strategic trajectory in handling Pakistan than the Congress Party led UPA government. Today, Modi is in a desperate mood as he faces people’s expectations and questions, in particular – in what way has his government policy differentiated from the previous Congress Party’s foreign policy? What happened to the promises made on the campaign trail?

In the last three years more than 150 armed forces members were killed while fighting terrorists and recently two soldiers martyred in active combat. Not only were these two soldiers killed in action, but they were mutilated and beheaded by Pakistan army. Though these acts are against the International Human Rights Law and Geneva Conventions, Pakistan denounced the claim for responsibility and failed to act. In the face of such a cruel and inhuman act, what is or where was Modi’s response to Pakistan?

Last September the BJP attempted to take credit for the surgical strike made by the Indian army that occurred on Modi’s order. Modi’s Administration statement states that the Pakistani Ambassador to India was summoned during this. While the Congress Party government did it, it was criticised by the BJP. Now it is the BJPs turn. They have to respond to the people, especially as ceasefire violations are continuing. The Uri attack was unforgivable, and Pathankot would be unforgettable. This government is functioning by statements and phrases. So what about Udhampur, Gurdaspur and Pampore? Modi’s strategists simply stopped with statements of condemnations. Has Pakistan been contained or controlled? No. What is this government’s policy on Pakistan? Does it have any worth-while, effective foreign policies? Would Modi’s foreign policy articulators have any perceptions on strategy? Why did Modi visit Pakistan to wish his counterpart on his birthday? Would this not be considered a bluff incident to analyse and ultimately be criticised by IR scholars? Why this sudden failed tilt? Without any homework, Modi’s Pakistan visit was more of a performance and created big media debate than anything else. This is not a strategic move.  

With what reason was Pakistan allowed to investigate the Pathankot base? This is right time to implement changes and direction into India’s policy. Though Pakistan is facing challenges from across the spectrum, its geographical location makes it difficult for the US, Russia and China to isolate or dismantle their relations, even as the war on terror continues to be a global, primary national security threat. India exercising its diplomacy by using the word ‘terror’ to isolate Pakistan from the international system has not yet yielded any expected advantage. China announced a new $43 billion partnership with Pakistan. The new president of the U.S., although favouring India, insisting us to talk with Pakistan. Has Modi not seen that our ally Russia continues to try and sell military equipment and weapons to Pakistan, even participating in military exercises together. However, India still imports 75% of her military procurements from Russia. This may be because if India was to divert some of its military purchasesto the US and Israel, it would not be well received by Russia. For this reason, Russia is emitting a warning signal to India by making a move towards Pakistan. Responding to Russia, Modi’s External Affairs Department has showed nothing but disgust, which demonstrates that the department was not functioning properly or not allowed to function.

The day in 1979 when Afghanistan was invaded by Soviet forces, was a troubling period for all South Asian nations. They all wondered, what is going on in Afghanistan? The post-US withdrawal created a vacuum for the Taliban to restart theirfundamental Islamic political movement again. Pakistan would like to undermine and dismantle India’s investment in Afghanistan by using the Taliban. An unstable Afghanistan would be a crisisfor all its neighbours. India has invested vast amounts of money and resources to create stability and security across Afghanistan.Bilaterally, New Delhi and Kabul’s realisation are very encouraging and convergent. However, the policy under Modi is not enough to support President Ashraf Ghani in combating the Taliban directly. Hesitation inestablishing and strengthening Afghani security is a weak policy and this needs to be resolved. A week ago its former President Hamid Karzai said, “India should have its own policy on Afghanistan”. This is absolutely right.The International Community acknowledges our commitment to rebuild Afghanistan, but to safe guard what we have built and established there the Modi government needs to have a separate policy in strengthening Afghanistan. This includes giving the armed forces training and knowledge of the Taliban as a terrorist organization and the weapons they use. If not, all the contribution and work carried out by India in the post-US withdrawal in Afghanistan could disappear. Moreover, failing to rethink our present strategy on Afghanistan, in particular itslax security condition and ambiguous, unclear initiatives only embolden the Taliban to take control of another city like Kunduz.

Once, Nepal was akin to a state within India. Then, Nepal became a buffer state between the two giants of India and China. Now, under the current Modi government’s strategy it has become akin to a state within China. Nepal’s failure to accommodate India’s concern over their new constitution showeddisrespect to India’s ruling elite.This caused a major rift between New Delhi and Kathmandu, and was widened by our National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s suggestions to apply realism to Nepal. The Modi government stopped the energy supply to Nepal and this impacted their domestic politics, heavily backfiring on our relations with the nation. The result of this was Nepal being pushed to acquire its energy supply from China. As the saying goes, this indicates that Modi may have scratched his head with firewood. When a landlocked country like Nepal solely relies on us, there is never an appropriate time to suggest the application of realist approach to its government. There is no need to follow that approach, particularly when it does not take an IR scholar to know that Nepal has no other choice but to turn to its other neighbour. Who pushed Nepal into China’s lap? No one else to blame. It is absolutely the failure of Modi government. Now we cannot expect the same trust from Nepal, as they will always have China as an option.

Bangladesh shares its borders with India and Myanmar. However, China invested more than $38.05 billion into the country the last year. Investment inflow is good for Bangladesh because their other demands will be imported from India. At the same time, China’s also aims to move Bangladesh into their sphere of influence in order to gain regional leverage against India in the future. Modi’s soft corner with Prime Minister with Sheikh Hasina would be a traditional method. Reaching out to the opposition is also a good strategic trajectory and Modi should try this. The recent visit of Hasina to India after a seven year gap was proclaimed as a success from both sides. The Indian prime minister announced a $5 billion line of credit to Bangladesh. This shows that New Delhi and Dakha have moved beyond Teesta. In addition, if the Modi government makes a comfortable environment to resolve the Teesta it will strengthen Hasina’s hands in the upcoming election in Bangladesh. However, no fresh thinking has been added in terms of solutions to Teesta or containing China’s influence in Bangladesh. It indicates that the Modi government has failed in articulating new policy directions towards Dhaka.

The new government of Myanmar has taken a new policy shift after the Foreign Minister Aung Suu Kyi visited China. Her earlier objections on Chinese investments in Myanmar are now given importance and under reconsideration by her government. We can certainly presume that this is a new shift by the democratically elected government. Still, the new government has an emotional attachment with India that can be strengthened while the foreign minister visits India. However, Aung Suu Kyi’s mind may change and turn towardother neighbours for investment from abroad. Obviously China will be a better option for them than India. During 2015-16 India’s bilateral trade with Myanmar was just $2 billion and Chinese with Myanmar was $9.4 billion. China is ready to offer everything that India can not. For this reason we cannot blame Aung Suu Kyi’s change in policy stance. Now she is not a leader of a movement but Myanmar’s foreign affairs minister and the State Councillor. She has a responsibility to take care of Myanmar’s interests, not India’s. To continue historic bilateral trade agreements for the sake of old friendships would not benefit India either. Constrictive policies and follow-ups are completely missing from India towards Myanmar. Modi’s achievement in regard to India’s relations with Myanmar has been inadequate and this government has pushed Myanmar towards China. However, the consolation would be the commitment of Aung Suu Kyi – that Rangoon will never allow any third parties to target India from their land.

India gave humble warnings to the Maldivian government while it failed to consider giving afair trial to the former President Mohamed Nasheed. Further, what was India’s stance on the Maldives while the increasing activity of ISIS and Saudi Arabia’s madrasas flowed in effortlessly? How is it possible to maintain that we are the main security provider across the Indian Ocean, while the Modi government abstains to give resolutions to the island nations issues. However, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) states are expecting from India to deliver our policy exercises and allow the democratically elected system to rule Maldives.Moreover, Modi did not visit the Maldives while he travelled to the Indian Ocean countries. It was announced that the prime minister would not be visiting the island due to the difficult situation unravelling in the Maldives. Still, India is hanging on to the old policy of non-intervention under Modi’s administration at a time when India is seeking major power status in the international system, while the world is facing multipolar disorder. This indicates that our policy is paving the way for the Chinese to intrude and spread their presence in the Indian Ocean.

India and Sri Lanka face many difficult challenges. Between Indian-Sri Lankan fishermen issue, the UN enquiry into human rights violations during the 2009 war, concerns of LTTE reestablishments, India’s concern of Chinese Investment in Sri Lanka, the debate on the new constitution, and Sri Lanka’s policy dance between India and China, it seems support to Sri Lankan in the last three years has diminished. In this environment, it would be wise to presume that Sri Lankans will move their focus towards where help and support is presented. For this reason we cannot accuse our neighbours of turning their backs, rather they have changed due to their own national interest, and China stands with their interest. Engaging with our neighbour, China’s trajectory is very clear in that it would like to hold its dominant position in the Indian Ocean. He had accused and criticised the previous Congress government, but he does not have any new policies with him or demonstrate any significant change. If Modi has guts, he should talk with strong diplomatic language to our neighbour that if Colombo’s moves hurt India’s interest, it means they are hurting themselves.

Conclusion

Our traditional ties with our neighbours are now under threat. The rising shift in focus of our neighbours towards China will not be thwarted unless a suitable strategy is applied by Indian policy makers. Not enacting a significant policy sooner has been a huge loss and major mistake. Today, our strategy indicates that our relationship with our neighbours has one major obstacle – that is they must notbe too close to China. Traditionally, it was India that provided security and support across the region. Whenever the Chinese land on our neighbour’s soil with the bequest of economic assistance and stronger diplomatic ties, our governments response is not very sharp. Hence, this has not displayed any serious diplomatic pressure on our neighbours. Moreover, Modi has no trust in his external ministry or external affairs ministerto work effectively and discharge her duties. This is the main reason he is not willing to accommodate her in his foreign visits. Modi’s foreign policy formulations are only by their government secretaries. This government’s department of external affairs issues run by a government secretary. The prime ministerstill believes in his personnel charisma in dealing with the foreign policy of India. It has considerably failed. Since he does not realise this- his government will not learn from past mistakes either. China’s perceptions are not presumed by this government. This would be observed as a large weakness of this government’s diplomatic circle. Where ever our policy is weak, without any difficulty or hesitation China has managed toland very safely. The present ‘soft power’ approach of this government would not give any strategic advantage to India’s interest with our neighbours. Like a bandwagon, our neighbouring states are ‘looking east’by standing in our hold. If this government could not make our neighbours stand at our side, then seeking major power status in the international power system under this administration would be a joke.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Asia-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He consults on academic development and he is currently working on two books - “Discover your Talents” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia.

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

COVID-19 pandemic and positives/negatives of the Pakistani government’s policy towards it

Published

on

The covid-19 erupt from Wuhan in December 2019. The first case in Pakistan was observed on February 26th, 2020.It is considered a global pandemic because of its contagious nature. It has engulfed many lives and economies. Whereas Pakistan, despite its socioeconomic and political problems, has tackled covid-19 efficiently so far. Objectives of these policies were to contain and mitigate the spread of covid-19. Pakistan made effective policies to hamper the unfurling nature of covid-19. It was praised by the director-general of WHO and he mentioned it as a lesson for the rest of the world. The upshots of the policies on its citizens were both positive and negative, but they helped a lot in sailing through covid-19.

Covid-19 has accentuated the inadequacy of the health sector. However, to combat covid-19, RFCC assists hospitals to evolve their capacities to provide treatments. Many hotels and motels were converted into quarantine centers. Number of ventilators, gears, beds, and testing capability has been increased. Pakistan got a loan of $760M to improve its medical handling. These policies seem effective as they are the major line to combat covid-19. Number of staff has also increased. These policies play a crucial role in containing Corona virus but due to lack of awareness, many people didn’t get tested. Overall, it played a positive role.

“Out of 220M population, 25% are living below the poverty line and 30% live in grave poverty,” said the PM Imran khan. Therefore, containing the poverty and retaining the economy is an arduous task. For this purpose, the Ehsas program was launched with a stipend money of Rs.12000 for the vulnerable. Employees wouldbe paid a salary during complete lock-down. The government displayed leniency in paying taxes to accelerate the investment. The banks remained open during the nationwide lock-down. However, an in-depth analysis reveals that Ehsas program didn’t prove effective due to the absence of a proper tracking system. The poor and needy people in rural areas were not affable with the technology, therefore they were unable to enroll in this program.

Moreover, the government’s policy of smart lockdown cannot be ignored. It started in April, targeting the disease hotspots. The purpose of this policy was to provide a breathing space to the most vulnerable section of the society. Because nationwide lock-down was threatening food security. Smart lock-down technology played a crucial role and made Pakistan distinctive around the world.

To dampen the adverse effects of covid-19 on society, section 144 was implemented to avoid public gathering. According to the health ministry “home quarantine, zoning of hospitals, and social distancing should be in the nitty-gritty of the policy.” They imposed a ban on air traffic and started screening at the airports for international travellers these measures proved beneficial to some extent. But unfortunately the government couldn’t ensure the SOPs.

In a nutshell, the aforementioned account enables a worthy conclusion that Pakistan has managed to contain the devastating effect of covid-19, however, the danger is not over yet. The second wave of covid-19 has started globally which can overturn the successful results other way round. Therefore, some stringent action should be taken to make the policy of containment of covid-19 more effective that is only possible if there is a consensus between the federal and provincial governments. The only way to limit the dangers of the virus is to come up with the unified and all inclusive national plans.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Who pulls the strings of the government of India?

Published

on

While talking to a Cornell college professor, Rahul Gandhi lamented (March 2, 2021) that the RSS was making use of its educational institutions to propagate its tunnel vision (NewsMatters, March 6, 2021). `Wherefrom money comes to run hundreds of thousands of schools’, he asked.

The RSS, founded in 1925, is not only distorting history, and polluting syllabi but also compelling the BJP government to appoint its nominees to key posts whether academic or political.

The RSS’s rationale is that it is their government. As such, they have every right  to make appointments to all political and non-political posts and revise syllabus according to their own version of history.

A bird’s-eye view of appointments

Besides president Kovind Nath, a dalit, and Hindu-monk Yogi Adityanath, several parcharaks (apostles) were nominated for appointment as chief ministers, governors and cabinet ministers. The nominees included ML Khattar, chief minister of Haryana, Trivendra Singh Rawat, chief minister of Uttarakhand, Devandar Fadnavis (Maharashtra), and Ram Thakur (Himachal Pradesh).

The veterans appointed as governors included Balramji Das Tandan (Chhattisgarh), Ram Naik (UP), Om Prakash Kohli (Gujarat), Keshri Nath Tripathi (West Bengal), Kalyan Singh (Rajasthan), Vidya Saga Rao (Maharashtra), Vaju Bhai Bhala (Karnataka), Padmanabha  Acharya (Nagaland), Jagdish Mukti (Assam) and Tathaghat Roy (Tripura) (Source: Aryana P. Chatterji, Thomas Blom Hansen, and Christophe Jaffrelot (eds), Majoritarian State).

Dr, Lokesh Chandra was made president of Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Ram Bahadur Roy, former ABVP organizing secretary who was jailed during Indira-Gandhi- imposed emergency was appointed to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. Baldev Sharma, former editor of the RSS’s Hindi mouth-piece Panchjanya, was appointed chairman of the national Book Trust. Shakti Sanha, private secretary to prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was rewarded with appointment of Director of Nehru Memorial and Library. The memorial was the hub of Nehru-Gandhi legacy. A small-time actor Gajendra Chauhan was appointed Chairman of the Films and Television Institute of India. Hindu Nationalist Anupam Kher was appointed head of India’s Board of Film Certification.

Realising that educational institutions are key agents for ideological dissemination, the RSS thrust its nominees as vice chancellors and directors in universities and cultural institutions of higher learning.

RSS’s version of history

A distorted version is taught in RSS-run Vidya Bharti schools. Hindu caste system is well delineated in Rig Veda, Manusmriti and Bhagavad Gita. But, the RSS preaches that the Muslim Turks initiated the untouchability. Turks introduced commodes in India. “Hindus who refused to convert to Islam were forced to clean them. And, thus they became untouchable.”

Conscription power

While addressing a large gathering at Muzaffarpur, Bhagwat said, `RSS volunteers were so disciplined that they could be mobilized in a matter of days should the constitution and laws of the country so demand’. Many senior retired armed forces officers including former army chief General VK Singh have joined the RSS.

Inference

Bhagwat’s bonhomie with politicians, media, judiciary, industry, religious leaders and civil society reflects that the RSS would continue to keep the Modi government under its Octopus claw. Also it is keen to extend its influence in political, societal and non- governmental spheres. To deepen its roots, the RSS has initiated  programmes like Family Awakening (parivar prabodhan),Village Development (grama vikas), and Social Harmony (samara satta). 

Continue Reading

South Asia

Cease-Fire Review: A ray of hope

Published

on

Pre-Negotiations are very much crucial to achieve the state of “Negociation Continuelle” (continuous negotiations) the only way due to which conflicting parties go for sustained mode of talks.  On 25th February Director Generals of military operations (DGMO’s) of India and Pakistan contacted with each other to review cease fire agreement, on line of control (LOC), which was held back in 2003.  Both States reaffirmed cease fire agreement and to restart weekly hotline contact at DGMO’s level. The agreement was largely violated by both states for several times and they were accusing each other for violations. But one thing is common that on both sides Kashmiris are suffering, they are raising their children in an environment of fear and severe violence. India and Pakistan are both nuclear capable states of South Asian region and are considered as the custodian of regional peace and stability. And without shadow of a doubt regional peace and security is a collective responsibility of the responsible states. Pakistan and India are the main conflicting parties of South Asian region and Kashmir is the bone of contention between them. Kashmir has been a question of integrity for both States. The Line of control also known as working boundary, divides Indian Kashmir from Pakistani Kashmir. There are several resolutions have been passed by the UN General Assembly to address the Kashmir issue but never implemented. UN wants to solve this issue according to the hopes of Kashmiris. The initiation of bilateral talks in the present outrageous environment is not less than a blessing in disguise and it will be fruitful for all the stakeholders; India, Pakistan and Kashmiris as well. This peaceful move from Pakistan and India is highly appreciated globally because Kashmiri diaspora is present worldwide and they are very much concerned with future of their homeland.

Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi, with his hostile ideology of “Akhand Bharat” assumed office in 2014. His political adventurism based on jingoistic-cum-hawkish policies dragged India State to the verge of staunch illiberalism where identity crisis burst up, which is more lethal than previously existing class crisis. Every community including lower class Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. all are vulnerable to the identity crisis.  On 30th May 2019, he sworn for his second tenure as prime minister of the world’s so called largest democracy. He came with another adventurous mandate and the first demonstration took place when he suspended special status of Kashmir and abrogated articles 370 and 35A. His ideology is regarded as Nazi-inspired ideology because in contemporary scenario only RSS community and other proponents of Hindutva are only considered as “Real Hindustani”. All minorities are suffering in India because their basic living rights are kept aside. The ongoing farmer’s protests shook the foundations of the state, hundreds of thousands of farmers rushed to the Delhi against the anti-famer laws passed by Indian Parliament.

In India Separatist movements are getting pace; minorities are unsatisfied with governing approach of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reuined the secular and democratic face of India. On the other hand, Foreign policy of India is facing severe challenges because PM Narendra Modi’s approach is hostile based on hatred and prejudice. These attributes are fatal for State’s reputation at foreign lands; the recent India-China standoff was just a teaser of BJP’s whole story related to foreign relations. In addition to this, Economic goal of 2025 of India is again became a distant dream just because of belligerent policies of ruling regime.

In contemporary scenario if we look towards India, only Modi-Media nexus will be seen. But in reality the situation is getting worse day by day. The review of cease fire agreement, offered by India, is a positive step towards the regional peace. It is appreciated by both civil and military administrations of both states. When PM Imran Khan assumed office he offered dialogue to his Indian counter-part but Indian Premier refused to go for any sort of talks. India always took a position that to initiate talks first of all, Pakistan has to stop the cross-border terrorism. Both terrorism and talks can never go side by side, this Indian claim is not based on empirical evidences because Pakistan has been facing menace of terrorism  since 2001 and leaving no stone unturned to root out terrorism and safe havens for terrorists.

Currently, India is facing deep internal and external challenges. It is in the interest of India to have peace talks with Pakistan. On the other hand, it is a ripe moment for Pakistan to act decisively because it is the only time when India can review its decision of 5th August 2019.Moreover, it is a ray of hope to establish peace in entire region. This is the time when bi-lateral diplomacy can turn the traditional regional political dynamics. Both states are facing same problems when it comes to poverty, climate change, social security and the list goes on. The realm of these talks should expand and concern parties have to include economic and political regimes in front of each other otherwise momentum of talks will be lost. Regional connectivity is important to have eternal peace, Pakistan and India should review SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) that would provide basis for economic, cultural as well as political connectivity. Major Powers should also play their important role because world cannot afford rivalry between two nuclear states. Now, America is under a democrat President, and they should check every internal and external move of their Strategic and defense ally in Asia-Pacific region. Negotiations between India and Pakistan are in the interest of all other regional and extra-regional actors. Both states should adopt flexible approach while discussing the core issues and should avoid blame game. It will enhance the chances of continuous negotiation which is a pre-requisite for peace and progress.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending