South Korean President Moon Jae-In visits India from July 8 to 11. The focus of his visit is said to economic domain. But he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also be discussing bilateral, regional and global issues. Prime Minister Modi had visited South Korea in May 2015. During his visit India and South Korea entered into an agreement to upgrade the bilateral relations to ‘Special Strategic Partnership’.
Despite the Special Strategic Partnership there remains a lot of scope for expansion of bilateral relations in the strategic sphere. India-South Korea relations are still dominated by economic domain. But geopolitical transitions in the Korean Peninsula and emergence of the concept of Indo-Pacific necessitate that India and South Korea focus more on the strategic aspect of their bilateral relations. Convergence on strategic aspect would benefit both India and South Korea since both can play an active part in shaping the order instead of merely being a part of an order shaped by other powers. The propagation of a bi-polar order in the Indo-Pacific and other regions by the United States (US) as a means to contain its rivals, mainly China, only increases the possibility of conflict. Opposition to sharp polarization in regional and global orders is a vision that both India and South Korea share. This can be observed in each of the above mentioned two factors.
Korean Peninsula has been one of the most unstable regions in recent times. The intense rivalry between the US and North Korea had led the region on the brink of conflict. The crisis in Korean Peninsula was essentially presented as a conflict between two poles by the US. The US-North Korea rivalry was only a sub-set of the US positioning itself against China in the region. But South Korea, along with China, initiated engagement and dialogue with North Korea. These steps facilitated a summit between the US and North Korea and also helped diffuse tensions to some extent in the Korean Peninsula. But South Korea’s role also substantiated its view against polarization. India on its part engaged with North Korea in April when Minister of State for External Affairs General (Retd.) V.K. Singh visited North Korea. India’s engagement with North Korea during the time of crisis was a carefully designed outreach. As a part of Act East Policy India must further increase its outreach to Korean Peninsula for its own strategic interests and also to provide an alternative to bi-polarization in the region.
The concept of Indo-Pacific as a geographic and strategic entity has been the principal initiative by the US in its propagation of bi-polar vision. China’s economic and strategic expansion across the region is the principal reason behind the construct of Indo-Pacific. In this arrangement the US views India’s role as important primarily to counter China. India-China relations have not always been cordial on account of two factors – territorial disputes between both the countries and China’s attempts towards strategic encirclement of India. But despite these irritants India has favoured constructive engagement with China as a means to resolve disputes.
In June Prime Minister Modi delivered the keynote address at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore. In his speech Modi reiterated India’s vision of inclusiveness. While India favours alliances, it insists on alliances not to be directed against a single country. India endorses the view of free and open Indo-Pacific. India also stresses on respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of individual nations. India recognizes that regional and extra regional powers have stakes in the region. India’s vision tries to strike balance between inclusiveness and deterrence to protect individual interests. South Korea on the other hand has reservations about being a part of Indo-Pacific order.
India’s view of inclusiveness and South Korea’s reservations converge on the point that such polarized alliances can disturb their relations with China. Both India and South Korea are against such steps. As far as deterrence is concerned India is a part of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as The Quad) along with the US, Japan and Australia. As deterrent measures India advocates multi-polar order to maintain stability in the region. But for multi-polarity India must increase its bilateral and multilateral strategic engagements with middle powers such as South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia in addition to Japan and Australia. Such arrangements would act as a deterrent against two possible formations – uni-polar order that could result from China’s assertive activities and bi-polar order as imagined by the US as a counter measure to China. South Korea can be a valuable partner to India in initiating a multi-polar order in the Indo-Pacific. Shared visions and shared concerns of both the countries with respect to the shape that regional order is taking make it imperative for both the countries to participate in the Indo-Pacific.
Since the establishment of formal ties in 1973 India-South Korea relations have progressed well in economic and cultural fields. It is now necessary to enhance strategic engagements as a response to shifts in geopolitical trends in the world and to protect own strategic interests.
13th G-20 Summit: India’s Diplomacy Finest Hour
The week leading up to the 13th G-20 Summit 2018 was one filled with chaos for the world’s mightiest economic and military superpowers. Great Britain was at loggerheads with the rest of EU and with its own Parliament over the Brexit deal. France was on the boil with protests over rising fuel and commodity prices. The United States of America and China had locked horns on who would cede ground in the ongoing trade war. Russia was again caught in conflict with Ukraine. Germany was in a fix on whether or not to impose sanctions on Russia over the Kerch Strait incident. Finally, Saudi Arabia was entering the summit knowing it would face diplomatic isolation over the ongoing yet to settle incident brutal murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi.
At the summit, there was no success between the abovementioned countries to break the palpable tensions amongst them. The only diplomatic breakthrough and yet not a success was drawn between China and the United States wherein they decided to halt the tariff war for now. However, there no details are out on this halt and the devil is the details which is yet to be revealed. On the bilateral front, POTUS Trump did not meet Crown Prince MBS of Saudi Arabia or with Vladimir Putin.
While the above two paragraphs seem to portray a gloomy summit, one country made diplomatic strides in balancing and holding all the powers present at Buenos Aires together and achieved in bringing forth a very progressive Buenos Aires G-20 Leaders’ Declaration. I’m referring to the Republic of India. In a matter of 48 hours at the summit, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, India left a significant foot print. India was able to hold bilateral and trilateral meetings with very contrasting and contradicting groups without either of the groups gaining more prominence over the other.
India held the first ever Japan-America-India (JAI) trilateral meeting. The meeting of the three democracies discussed their converging interests to ensure security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Despite being a part of this group, India has made it clear that it sees Indo-Pacific as a geographic and not a strategic construct. While James Mattis proclaimed recently that the Indo-Pacific for the United States is from Hollywood to Bollywood, Mr. Modi long before this meeting had stated that for India, it stretches all the way from the East African Coast to the Western Coast of America. India stands by this firm position in order to maintain a friendly relationship with China which it has rebuilt since the Doklam stand off last year. India has now held 4 bilateral meetings between Xi Jinping and Modi. Even the Chinese side has acknowledged that there has been perceptible improvement in the Indo-China relations post the informal Wuhan summit between the two leaders. The JAI meeting can be termed as a victory for India as it did not receive any negative press from the prominent Chinese press.
Also, there was no signs of the QUAD group holding any meeting despite Australia’s presence at the meeting because China has always viewed this group suspiciously and believes that this groups interest is to contain them. India showed respect to China by not bringing this group together at Buenos Aires.
Next, India participated in the RIC meeting with Russia and China. This was the 2nd time that this group met in 12 years. This showed the seamless balance India has achieved in interacting with America in JAI and the Eurasian giants in the RIC meeting. Modi comfortably raised the issues of rising volatility in fuel prices in this meeting without any derailing voices it usually faces from Pakistan in the SCO meetings where theses three countries usually meet on such issues. The RIC meeting was necessary because unlike at JAI, over here Modi was able to highlight the necessity to reform multilateral institutions which have been unable to meet the expectations of the international community.
There was a BRICS meeting held on the sidelines of the summit too which was attended by heads of the four governments. They exchanged views on continued terrorist attacks and urged all nations to take a comprehensive approach on tackling terrorism including all the elements identified in the Johannesburg Declaration.
The G-20 declaration echoed a lot of pressing issues that were reiterated by Mr. Modi throughout the two days at various fora. His points on tackling international economic offenders; countering terrorism; tackling climate change; reformation of multilateral institutions; benefits of digitization; need for technological innovation in finance; sustainable food future; gender empowerment found its way in some form or the other into the declaration.
The Indian Diplomacy was at one of its finest hours and also its high points that it has never exhibited so far. In a matter of those 2 days, India showed that it has gained global salience. Whether it is the world’s most advanced democracies; world’s most progressive economies or world’s most powerful militaries—everyone today wants great relations with India. Modi was able to show that NAM is a relic in the Indian diplomatic archives and that we are able to work in contradicting and contrasting groups and yet maintain seamless balance in achieving our strategic interests and promote peaceful relations with all nations alike.
India is now gearing up for the G-20 summit in 2022 which it will host in the 75th year of its independence. India owes its gratitude to Italy which has forfeited its opportunity to host in 2022. Mr. Modi has sounded the bugle that we will be a New India in 2022. Although India may not have the indigenous military prowess or economic dominance like China or the United States, it has always used the good will it has achieved through its soft power to bring the world together. Mr. Modi and his diplomatic entourage deserve a salute for keeping this G-20 summit together.
India and Pakistan bid for NSG Membership
48 years journey of India and Pakistan resulted in them getting the de-facto Nuclear Weapons Status. Since the last 20 years, both rivals have developed their arsenals in accordance with Credible Minimum Deterrence to meet the demands of nuclear strategy and security environment.
Henceforth, with the modification of global dynamics, India and Pakistan bid for the membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group. They aspire to enter into a legitimate Nuclear Regime to gain global recognition, power, prestige, and security.
India’s bid for NSG membership is backed with powerful states in disguise as Nuclear Weapon States, playing their Great Game to control the power politics of the Asia Pacific Region. India’s real motive is to have access to Nuclear technology from International markets, admission in the international arena of nuclear commerce, get more Uranium for Nuclear Reactors and fulfil their demand for thermonuclear weapons, Import Nuclear weapons (Russia-France), and easy to produce missile capabilities. The aggressive aims are undermining the guidelines of NSG and are a grave threat to regional stability.
In addition to that, India’s Strategic ambitions are eminent to its recent Strategic collaborations with France and Russia. It shows that their future plans are not just confined to the peaceful use of Nuclear Technology. Moreover, India is acquiring Igla-S system, Vshorad missiles, S-400 Triumf, Eurofighter Typhoon, LCA-Tejas MK 1A, Mig-21s, Su-30 MKI, Rafale, AK-103 assault rifles, Nuclear Submarines from different defence deals. The existence of India’s secret nuclear city Challakere highlights India’s ambitions to become a regional power. Their stance to match the nuclear arsenal of China and Pakistan is a big bluff.
India is using all its resources to avail the NSG membership. They are lobbying with close friendly states to work with other members to get India acknowledged in the NSG. India is also addressing concerns of some member countries over India’s non-NPT status. India is stressing that admission must be ‘merit-based’, and not ‘criteria-based’, as advocated by China, and that being a member of groupings like the Australia Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, and Wassenaar Arrangement, boosts its credentials.
Moreover, President Obama explicitly committed himself to facilitate India’s entry into the four components of the international export control regime, namely the MTCR, the Australia Group, the Wassenaar, and the NSG. India has recently been granted the STA-1 status and can avail new strategic opportunities under a 2+2 Framework which can open the doors of international nuclear commerce for India. It is an open threat to regional stability and violation of NPT Regime.
Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asia said that we moved ahead with an STA-1 authorization and we certainly believe that India meets all of the qualifications of the Nuclear Suppliers group and will endure to actively advocate on behalf of India’s membership.
Beijing backed a two-step approach which demanded that the NSG members first need to arrive at a set of principles for the admission of non-NPT states into the NSG and then move forward with the negotiations. Talks between the Indian and Chinese officials on the subject were “forward-looking”. Apart from China, there are others factor that are a hurdle for India to achieve NSG status, including India’s refusal to sign the CTBT and the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.
NSG member nations are typically nuclear nations that come together as a global control regime for trade in nuclear materials, equipment, and technology. India’s bid for membership violates the rules and regulations of NSG.
If India does get the membership, it will not support Pakistan’s membership and it will sabotage Pakistan’s sovereignty. Pakistan wants global recognition, as the country’s defence policies will be in danger due to the US’ and India’s aggressive aims. The US exempts India from rules and regulations for civilian nuclear trade and facilitates it with a legal right for the sake of playing their own Great Game in the Asia Pacific Region. The Indian government has accelerated its diplomatic efforts to participate on the NSG’s high tables as a full-fledged member.
Out of the 48, 43 members are with India while China, Ireland, New Zealand, Austria have objections to exceptionalism and insistence on development of a uniform criteria for the entry of all non-NPT nuclear states. Hence, it is vital to strengthen the criteria and norm-based approach and revisit multilateral approaches to strengthen the Proliferation Regime. Moreover, criteria Based Approach will benefit Pakistan’s security concerns.
On contrary, Pakistan has defensive Nuclear Posture which had maintained Full Spectrum deterrence to counter Indian Cold Start Doctrine and Pakistan Nuclear policy is not aggressive/ offensive to obtain more fissile material for nuclear weapons. The reality of Nuclear South Asia is that whatsoever, the Nuclear Treaty, Group or Agreement have to be signed, India and Pakistan evaluate their Strategic calculations with each other to keep their National Security foremost.
Pakistan must strengthen its diplomatic lobbying skills to collaborate with others states to defend Pakistan so that it can get the MTCR, Wasanaar, Australia Group and NSG membership. Tasnim Aslam, head of the UN desk at the Foreign Office stated that “Pakistan has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure and the ability to supply NSG controlled items, goods, and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses”.
Presently, there is a need for dialogue to discuss the issue. The role of the US and Russia in this regard cannot be negated and they should motivate regional states towards peace. India’s policy of isolating Pakistan and its hostile attitude towards Pakistan is hazardous for South Asian Strategic Stability.
A pioneer Dalit campaigner
Sannani Pariyar – Member, District Coordination Committee, Dhading, Nepal
Fifty-five year-old Sannani Pariyar initially became interested in politics during her school days. While her family was very poor, her parents knew the value of education and enrolled her in school. She was able to complete grade seven, the highest level her school offered. As her parents couldn’t afford to send her to school at the district headquarters her education temporarily stopped. She was able to commence Grade Eight only after three years when her village school was upgraded to higher levels.
However, when she was in grade nine, her family started to force her to get married. “I did not want to get married but I had no choice because I didn’t have an excuse for not getting married,” Sannani says, “All my friends had already gotten married and it was very difficult to get a good marriage proposal.” She finally succumbed to family pressure and got married and within a year, gave birth to her son. “I was preparing for my School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam. But I had to give birth to my son just before, which forced me to quit the examination,” Sannani reveals.
She dedicated her time and energy into raising her son and later a daughter, but as her and her husband’s financial situation wasn’t good, she began to help her husband in his tailoring shop. Sannani reflects, “sometimes, I feel that these struggles teach you more and make you more determined as a person.”
That determination and courage led her to become involved actively in politics after her children were old enough to go to school. Sannani joined the All Nepal Women’s Association, a sister organization of Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) as a member. Reigniting her thirst for education, Sannani decided to continue her studies, 18 years after her schooling stopped. She went to the school along with her daughter and both of them passed SLC with good marks.
After completing SLC, Sannini became involved in various organizations including People to People group, a local level group which works to end various kinds of caste-based discrimination and violence against women. She explains, “Being involved in these groups helped me connect with the community and to work with them very closely, which helped me eventually build trust and leadership.” She however believes that women and minority groups such as Dalits are given positions in political parties only to fulfil the quotas and aren’t provided with meaningful opportunities to participate. She said that there still a long way to go to changing the attitudes and mindsets of people, adding, “There is still a vast difference in what people at the decision-making level do and say. Breaking that barrier and putting an end to the discrimination will be my ultimate win.”
She submitted a nomination for chairperson in her ward in the 2017 local elections, but her party initially tried to discourage her from filing the candidacy for the position. She recalled, “They told me it would be very expensive to win the election. But I told them that it was not their problem, and that I would manage somehow.” She contested for the election after she got a loan from a cooperative, and ultimately won.
Promoting Gender and Social Inclusion in her municipality
Sannani has also become a member of the District Coordination Committee (DCC) in her district of Dhading. As an advocate for women’s rights and preventing violence against women, she has used her role as member in the DDC to support the drafting and approval of a Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI) policy for her municipality of Jwalamukhi. This policy is the first of its kind in the municipality and will be used by all the wards within Jwalamukhi. Sannani hopes that it inspires other municipalities to draft their own GESI policy. She has also been regularly advocating for the provision of a separate gender-responsive and GESI-related budget, and has been successful in lobbying for allocating a separate budget of NRs. 500,000 (US dollar 1= Nrs. 113) for the GESI programs in her municipality.
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