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Modi’s four years foreign visits: Dummy horse dancing with empty hands

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Foreign visits are mandatory for any head of the state. It cannot be simply escalated or avoided. However, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s abroad visits have different stories. His foreign visits are showing a desperate attempt to land in a country in the name of a ‘state visit’. From what we read on his foreign visits – it is clearly understood that the sole objective is that ‘he has decided to go around the world in five years’. Moreover it has been noticed that many a time during his international visits our prime minister is talking more on domestic issues and criticism of his opponents rather than working for India’s interest.

In the first three (2014-17) years in his office Modi has visited 49 countries in comparison with Dr. Manmohan Singh (2004-7) 27 countries. This indicates that Modi is a frequent flyer. Since May 2014, Modi has made 40 foreign trips. He uses the IAF BBJ Aircraft for visiting our neighborhood. So that the total expenses spent for Modi’s last four years abroad visits are always hidden and are not disclosed.

Ramesh Abhishek the Secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) claims that Modi’s abroad visits yield more investments to India. However, he did not also mention the large scale  withdrawal of funds from India by the foreign investors due to BJP’s government unwise economic policies. Moreover, it is difficult to point out the link between flows of investment from abroad to India with regard to Modi’s abroad visits. On a rational note if one was to think that the flow of investment is more connected with by keeping the domestic atmosphere pleasant and with investor’s friendly practices. Then common understanding would be that the ruling elite have failed on both fronts.

At First, Modi has been speaking on foreign soil in a very calm and composed manner avoiding topics on the atrocities against minorities, women and dalits. Second, the foreigners are also completely disappointed with Modi’s foolish policies of demonetization and the way the GST was implemented.

The government claims that the flow of investment to India during the period 2017-18 from abroad is on a rising streak. Neither is it a surprise nor a big achievement. The reality would be the BJP government fails in many fronts in handling the economy. If we apply our commonsense we can realize that the flow of funds toward India concentrating mainly on our huge market. Since 1991 the new industrial policy announced by the then P.V. Narishima Rao government the flows of investment have been in a rising mode. When the Congress Party government liberalizes the Indian economy the BJP and their allies stand against our views.

Though the flow of investment to India in a raising mode due to the size of our big domestic market – the real question would be – who all  have specifically gained from Modi’s abroad visits would be a  better topic  to debate on. What the supporters of the BJP tycoons benefited and what India has gained?

Who are the gainers and losers?  Let us discuss the never-ending foreign tour programme of our Prime Minister Modi.

While his administration devastated the Indian economy by imposing the ill advised demonetization that killed more than 100 innocent lives and wrongly implemented the GST – will he will  dare to talk in front of the foreign investors when visiting foreign countries. While the foreign media asks about the failed demonetization and GST to Modi, he never answers directly to any specific questions. Instead he will blame the opposition parties for his failures.

Let us see the statistical record of the government on FDI. According to the government recent announcement (June, 2018) on FDI in India, the inflow of investment rises to $61.96 billion in 2017-18.However, the CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury says, “FDI has decreased despite Modi’s foreign tours”. In what way Modi’s visits were helping India to draw foreign investments would be a big question. Many foreign journalists praised Modi in the initial years of Modi taking his office now refused to write about him. The reason is – Modi’s failure to by his words. While in abroad he has been attacking his opponents but not presented anything worthy for the inventors to comply. He is simply a loud speaker; nothing can be expected seriously from him. In the last four years of his foreign visits he demonstrated that he is a better orator who can talk more on domestic politics on the international soil but not about developmental issues.

Moreover, all of his visits purposefully avoided the External Affairs Minister Susma Swaraj but accompanied by the selected business tycoons who had supported the BJP during the 2014 general elections. I can clearly highlight it here inthe order without any hesitation who all gaining by Modi’s foreign trips. And also I am expecting a counter argument from our BJP friends. This has been going around in the social media without any hindrances but the BJP leaders have no substantial answers to counter. Why other emerging business leaders from our country are not chosen to accompany the prime minister? This may not look like a serious question to many but its hidden agenda is worthy for the public of this country to understand.

During the year 2015 while Modi visits Moscow “Reliance signs pact with Russia arms firm worth of $6 billion” (in.reuters.com). Further, in the year 2016 Modi’s visit to France made the “Reliance Group ties up with Dassault Aviation” (firstpost.com). “Everywhere that Modi goes, it seems, Gautam Adani sure to go” (Hindustan Times). Now the Adani’s company gets the coal mine project in Australia. Further, the same company got more projects in Bangladesh. Modi’s Israel visit also helped his old friend Adani. After Modi landed in Israel the Adani firm got a contract of jointly producing aerial vehicles with the Elbit Group. All his close friends can be visible and standing close with the ‘foreign state heads’ while visiting India or they will be specially accompanied with Modi on his foreign tours. Someone asks in the social media that “Modi a Prime Minister of India or business development manager for his long time friends.”

Conclusion

Domestic stability is the key to attract the foreign investors than unwanted foreign trips. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley can appreciate Modi’s abroad visits. This is simply to save his position as a minister. Jaitley should not forget that the people of this country are suffering to save Modi’s old friends in consuming the artificially increased price of goods and services. This is well exposed the way the oil price was handled by this government in the last four years. While the global crude oil price was in low its fruits were not distributed to the people of this country who have trusted Modi. Now it is well exposed without any doubt that Modi is working for few selected corporate who are helping him to stay in the prime minister chair. I am not getting any clue by comparing Modi’s foreign visits and benefits rendered to the poor of this country. Instead we should link how his foreign trips are utilized for the betterment of the corporate. Moreover, it would be better to say that not the poor men house of this country in better shape but the BJP’s Central Office in New Delhi.

From the above discussions let me sum up that the uninterrupted foreign visits should not be aagenda to a prime minister of a country like India. Have any of his foreign visits brought anything for the poor of this country?  As an alternative the Modi government should have focused more on the economy. The former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said “That requires collective economic wisdom, bold, structural reforms, radical policy changes and determined implementation that will lead to sustained and high (8-10%) economic growth over a period of 20 years” (The Indian Express). This would have helping the poor and needy of this country.  If Modi doesn’t have the faith on his finance minister he should replace him with a suitable person who can deliver the best.

Whatever may be the investment flowing to India, Modi’s abroad visits bite the exchequer in a upswing mode. One thing is strongly indicating us from Modi’s abroad visits that he is in a desperate mood to visit foreign countries. Someone in the social media admired Modi that he would cover the remaining countries in the list of the UN in the year 2018-19.

India is a country aspiring to become a major power. China is a established major power aspiring to be a super power in 2043. The president of the all powerful China did not landed India more than one time in the last four years. Why does India’s prime minister continuous his fourth visit to China? Why the Prime Minister of India is often seen in abroad instead of meeting the challenges domestically. It is not ill advised that Modi criticizing the opponents from the foreign land. If he did not know diplomacy he should learn from the previous prime ministers. But he won’t lend his ears. He will soon learn that dancing like a dummy horse with empty hands in the foreign soil will not keep India’s interest alive in the international system or bring anything for the people of India.

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.

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South Asia

Kashmir burns as lockdown continues

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The valley is on fire again, and it is engulfing the whole region. It is not just about Pakistan or India but the onus remains on the world, every person, every country, and every individual as Kashmir suffers from these flames.

It is burning everywhere. The dispute of Pakistan-India is not new. It has elevated from its dormant levels. From the disruption of peace-talks to election fueled border skirmishes, every action and every other effort in the region is worsening the situation.

Time has stood still. It has stopped healing wounds and only the lacerations have increased. As the lockdown persists, the agony persists and continues to darken the skies.

The cries of innocent Kashmiris (nine million of them) scream on the loss of their loved ones. The arrests under the Public safety Act (PSA) has demeaned its meaning in Kashmiri eyes and in the eyes of the world. Everyone arrested under this act have gone under detention without trial for a maximum of two years. As absurd it sounds, the trauma is more horrific.

And all of this began with the passing of Article 370. And it has raised many questions in the minds of the people living in these areas

Voted by the majority of Indian parliament members, that is,351 votes in favor and only 72 against, on 5th of August. The timing, the stunts being played by the restraining government are to be questioned. Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has claimed to normalize the abnormal situation in the state of Jammu Kashmir. But the truth cannot be further from this. In the six months since, the state could not have destabilized more had Pakistan directly intervened. At its lowest ebb of the past 40 years, the situation needs to be normalized.

And in this manner Modi and the current Indian government have set the template for every dictatorial regime. Arrest all possible voices of a region, cut all communications, blockade the region and you are on your way.

Internet, tele-communication and any sort of media coverage was limited to say the least. As millions suffered badly with each passing day of the curfew. The valley burnt and there were no witnesses as a complete lockdown continued as the government tried to normalize the state.

But the images of the valley made their way out and the stories they tell do not need much interpretation. They support their tales without much context. It will be wrong to assume their context but there was no one to state it. Such was the stranglehold of the government. And this was in stark contrast to what was aimed at.

To revive Kashmir’s economy and make it come at par to rest of the country, a lot of different directions were available. So why mess with the hornets nest.

The necessary steps that Modi’s government had to take were promote local governance and encourage new investment plans in the state. Outdated plans had to be set aside and a renewed focus on ones that bring the state to the forefront after lagging behind rest of India for so many years.

What Mr. Modi does is anyone’s guess. After all, he has been the face of RSS backed BJP known for its neo-Nazi politics. The great face of secular India maligned by the idiosyncratic visions of a deranged lunatics.

And it has not played out well in Kashmir. The state’s lack of governance has had a detrimental impact on its development and the current legislature change will not help its case. All these measures were strongly criticized by the international media and on political forums.

The need to stabilize the region of Indian occupied Kashmir becomes very frequent question in the minds who follow the news update on the region. For Pakistan and India, the claim of Kashmir could not be more skeptical than in current situation. And impact current affairs situations in the geography.

From America taking out its soldiers from Afghanistan, to unrest in Iran and middle-east. The noisy neighbors and Kashmir issue impacts everyone. And as we learn from Soviet retreat from Afghanistan and its ensuring unrest, South Asia is not going to stabilize for some time. And Kashmir will be the talking point.

Wisdom would suggest that this issue should be decided sooner rather than later. Even if India’s claim of Kashmir being an unresolved matter of India, it should be resolved at the earliest. This has to be done some day, and with American troops leaving Afghanistan, doing it before will be a good time.

The freedom fighters have been engaged in Afghanistan for the better part of two decades and the focus will return on Kashmir. The suffering of millions of Muslims cannot be overlooked and the region will not be able to stabilize. It is in the best interests of all parties involved, especially India.

On the other side of the border, Pakistan is watching eagerly and getting support for its international claims. Peace talks have been proposed and they would mutually benefit both the countries and stabilize the region. But no movement has been seen on this front. Both Islamabad and Delhi are far from sitting across each other.

Pakistan itself has unilaterally changed the structure of Azad Kashmir government. And they did it by changing the status of the Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir territories last year. Any kind of the unrest in the Kashmir state has a direct effect on the Azad Kashmir.

And Pakistan cannot keep a blind eye on a region as close as the Indian Kashmir.It has openly talked about freedom of Kashmir from India and demands from the world to support its rights. And as Pakistan supports the Kashmir issue on all forums indiscriminately, the pressure is piling on Delhi.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced solidarity with Kashmir. His government is taking the issue to every forum possible including the human rights forums in United Nations (UN).Islamabad knows the significance of this period and has highlighted the violations happening under Article 370.Pakistan’s support Kashmir is firm and is not budging.

As the issue takes rage, other countries also got involved in it as sitting back and ignoring the matter is out of question.

The United States (US) senate committee on foreign relations has called to bring an end to this type of “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir. Even Donald Trump has offered to support in any way to solve this “complex issue”.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has shared that he is personally keeping abreast with the situation in Kashmir and would “support Pakistan in issues related to its core interests.”Xi, however, added that both India and Pakistan should resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan took up the issue in the UN General Assembly. He called to resolve it through peace dialogues as they ensure the safety, equity and happiness of the people of the region rather thana rmed collisions.

Even Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom stated that the people of Kashmir “must be included” in decisions concerning their future.

Decades have passed and there is a dire need to resolve this issue as the time flies it brings more anger in the residents. Open dialogues area solution which is in the best interest of Kashmiri people. Other repercussions are hard to fathom and difficult to digest.

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How Internal Political Instability Risks Threatening Pakistan’s International Commitments

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Dharna (Mass sit-ins) politics in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon as it has happened several times by various political parties and other entities. Yet, it is the “timing of such Dharnas” that is the most important thing for the success and failure of such methods when pressurizing governments. Currently Pakistan faces numerous problems ranging from an unstable economy, terrorism, staunch opposition from other major political parties such as the PML (N) and PPP, the Kashmir issue, the Afghanistan matter and mounting Western pressure regarding CPEC.  Any misadventure created by a Dharna or any other issue could cost the present government a heavy price in the form of regional commitments considering the current situation of the country.

Recently Bilawal Bhutto announced a Dharna to be held in March in addition to the one planned by Fazul Rehman this month. Both parties through Dharna politics want to pressurize the incumbent government via politicizing the widespread inflation plaguing the Pakistani economy. They also aimed to further build on how Fazul Rehman through his previous Dharna the previous year had tried to pressurize the Imran Khan government along similar lines. One of his top demands then was calling for a re-election because he considered the election of July 2018 rigged. This demand was favored by wide swathes of the opposition because of their resentments against the existing government and its policies.

As is the current situation within Pakistan is already unstable because of various problems. The most pressing being Western pressure being applied through the FATF and IMF in key development projects such as CPEC. Under the current circumstances, the government cannot afford any kind of strike or resentment by political parties which can diminish its image at the national as well as global levels.

This is apparent in how, the United States and India through the FATF and other means have been pressurizing Pakistan on the pretext of clamping down on money laundering which is allegedly being used by various terrorist organizations within Pakistan. In this regard, any kind of trouble generated within the country through Dharna politics or any other means would lead to the country gaining further unfavorable international attention. The resulting political instability could further bring Pakistan closer to being placed on the FATF black-list. If that happens then Pakistan would suffer immensely giving birth to a whole host of new political and socio-economic restrictions for the whole nation.

According to the present government, it has already been struggling to control the list of demands given by the FATF to avoid being put on the blacklist. This was evident in the recent visit by Imran Khan and the Army Chief to the US where a whole range of issues were clarified with the US government. These included the internal situation within Pakistan along with other regional concerns such as terrorism, the Afghan peace process, the Kashmir dispute and Chinese involvement through CPEC. Moreover, the statement by American president Donald Trump should be taken seriously by the present government that America with the cooperation of various nations will protect human rights violations throughout the world and fight against radical Islamic terrorism. There are many precedents where America has been intervening within various regions of the world under the pretext of protecting human rights and eradicating terrorism.

In addition, there is no denying that India wants to exploit the situation further by projecting the Pakistani state as the mother of terrorism at multiple regional and global forums. There can be various motives behind this move in which the Kashmir issue and RSS ideology hold immense importance. It is widely believed that PM Narendra Modi wants to divert the attention of Pakistan as well as other regional and global forums from the atrocities and human rights violations taking place in Jammu and Kashmir.

In this regard, Imran Khan has been trying his best to halt Dharna politics through multiple strategies by calling for political unity to help alleviate the current difficult situation in the country. This for instance has been evident in his attempts to prioritize the threat from India regarding the Kashmir issue well as India’s designs to portray Islamabad as a terrorist state, above the internal politics being waged within Pakistan. Such concerns have made the situation of the country considerably sensitive hence the government has to behave and act sensibly to control the emerging situation. If such issues are not going to be solved skillfully and efficiently, then the entire nation is likely to bear the consequences and repercussions of the troubles generated through such internal instability.

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India’s Extended Indo-Pacific’ and Enhanced Cooperation with the European Union

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The Indo-Pacific has emerged as a new strategic theatre in the 21st century. In this geopolitical construct, India occupies a prime place and it has provided the country with a platform to project its power and influence beyond the traditional South Asian region. Besides, it facilitates India to move up in the ladder in the international power configuration. It was a natural extension of India’s Look-East policy launched in the early years of the post-Cold War era to integrate the Indian economy with the East Asian economic dynamism and lately it has been extended into the strategic domain as India’s strategic relationship with fellow democratic countries in the region grew stronger. India is now an original member of almost all regional security mechanisms of the region. This has been a major shift in the approach of regional countries because in the past India was excluded from the Asia-Pacific construct and was not considered a part of the region, politically and economically.

India embraced the Indo-Pacific construct despite it being an American initiative for widening its hub and spoke network beyond its traditional alliance system and bring India into the new security architecture under the US leadership. The US has enthusiastically supported the growth of India-Japan strategic cooperation, which formed the basis of the Indo-Pacific construct. It has resulted in India’s increasing strategic engagement with the Pacific littoral countries and enhancing India’s profile on security issues in the region. The formation of the quadrilateral security dialogue (quad) mechanism is the culmination of the idea that major powers take more responsibility to preserve peace and stability in the region.

A major reason for India’s interest in the Indo-Pacific construct has been the pre-eminent role that other countries have accorded to India in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). Such recognition by other major powers is a key indicator in judging India’s status in the larger international power configuration. At the same time, India believes that partnering with the US, especially in the Indo-Pacific construct would help it acquire advanced defense technology necessary to counter the challenges emanating from its

traditional rivals such as Pakistan and China. However, India’s enthusiasm in strengthening the quad and treating the Indo-Pacific framework as a beneficial geopolitical sphere is diminishing. Instead, India’s Indo-Pacific strategy now focuses on to the western part of the Indian Ocean.

There are three main reasons for this change of attitude: firstly, for India, the existing Indo-Pacific is complex and security driven. The fundamental objective of free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept is to preserve rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, but it is inextricably linked to alliances and containment strategies, which India has never been a party to. Secondly, for New Delhi, the existing Indo-Pacific construct is characterised by Sino-American rivalry for regional dominance. India does not want to be entangled in this competition. India doesn’t want to be seen as against China as the construct itself is being touted as anti-China mechanism by China. Officially, New Delhi doesn’t consider that China’s increasing naval activities in the Indian Ocean is to contain India’s maneuverability in its backyard. India’s newly appointed first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat has downplayed the concern raised by the naval fraternity that China’s increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean region is not against India but to protect China’s legitimate interest in the region.

New Delhi engages with both countries-albeit in varying degrees-but expects the US to remain as the most powerful nation in the Indo-Pacific. Similarly, New Delhi’ naval capability is not sufficiently enough to manage its security interests in both the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The existing multilateral mechanism under the leadership of ASEAN supported by the US preponderant power could well preserve the rules based order in the Indo-Pacific.  And thirdly, strategically, the existing Indo-Pacific comprises eastern half of the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific but India considers it inclusive and more wider extending from the Americas coast to the African coast – call it ‘extended Indo-Pacific’, which include Russia, eastern coast of the Pacific , West Asia, and African coastal states. This will bring India’s traditional defence partner Russia into the construct and also it could dispel China’s concerns.

India’s ‘extended Indo-Pacific’. Source: Delhi Policy Group Indo-Pacific Monitor, Vol 1, No, 1, 2020

India’s ‘look-west’ policy and enhanced cooperation with the EU

India looks to avoid a spill-over effect of the US-China rivalry in the western Pacific into the Indian Ocean or a direct competition between the India and China. At the same time, Chinese increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean region is a great concern for India. To prevent China getting strategic influence in the Indian Ocean, India is building a coalition of littoral countries as well as enhancing its cooperation with the European Union. Britain, France and Germany have already shown their interests by raising their profile in the Indo-Pacific, with freedom of navigation operations. Since EU have already made its presence in the western part of the Indian Ocean by participating in the anti-piracy operation and doesn’t have any hegemonic ambition,  a strong naval cooperation between India and EU bodes well. Britain and France have legitimate stakeholder status in the Indian Ocean region and India’s defense partnership with both is also progressing well. 

Since US commitment to providing guarantee for regional security is diminishing, instead, the Trump administration demands regional countries to take more responsibility both financially as well as militarily, an India-EU strategic partnership would be able to preserve the rules-based order in the India Ocean region. India has now become a reliable strategic partner for the US in the Indian Ocean region so much so that US allies are also inclined to partnering with India. For India’s part, it is ready to cooperate with all major powers that have a legitimate interest in the Indian Ocean region. Under its ‘look-west’ initiative India has recently strengthened relations with countries of the western Indian Ocean which include island countries, African coastal states and West Asia.

The geo-economic situation of the western Indian Ocean region demands a close cooperation between EU countries and India. India has promulgated security and growth for all in the region (SAGAR) as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) targeting the western part of the Indian Ocean rim and islands with a leadership undertone. As an alternative for the ‘debt trap’ which the BRI has turned into, India has taken infrastructure projects both bilaterally and with a third party in the island nations and littoral countries which include Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (ASGC) with Japan. As of 2018, Chinese companies have participated in the construction and operation of a total of 42 ports in 34 countries under the Silk Road scheme, and between 2016 and 2017Chinese firms announced around US$20 billion-worth of investment in nine overseas ports. India cannot match with China’s financial muscle power so it requires economic cooperation with EU.

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