The wreckage of one of its aircraft exhibited in enemy’s Air Headquarters; a pilot thrashed by not so friendly mountain dwellers only to be detained by the enemy; a helicopter downed owing to fratricide; an Air Marshal “retired” under mysterious circumstances; and finally, an inadvertent confession from top echelons– though presumably aimed at domestic opposition – about adversary’s superiority. These were the ultimate outcomes of Indian PM Modi’s well-thought-out bid to capitalize at the opportunity created by Pulwama attack for his electoral advantage. Astonished and undeniably taken by surprise, he went even more desperate and almost pushed South to the brink of nuclear holocaust –definitely a cataclysmic imminence that was averted just at the last moment.
It all triggered on February 14, 2019. A despaired Kashmiri youth – once humiliated by the Indian occupied forces – sought revenge and rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The outcome was the most gruesome and ferocious attack at Indian forces in the occupied valley since1947. As per local media reports, nearly 750pounds of explosive material was used that resulted in the death of around 44 CRPF soldiers while many others received serious injuries.
Unquestionably, it was a massive intelligence and security failure but instead of beholding inwards, Indian officials were quick to blame their neighbour Pakistan and its spy agency ISI for the attack. All they had in terms of proof was a video statement purportedly recorded before the attack by the alleged attacker in which he pledged his allegiance to Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), a proscribed group allegedly based in Pakistan and with a long history of struggle against the Indian forces in the occupied valley. Despite the acknowledgement by Lt Gen D.S. Hooda that it is not possible to transport such heavy quantity of explosives from across the LoC and it was managed locally, Indian officials continued to lay blame on Pakistan for the attack.
Forty coffins of CRPF personnel was exactly the opportunity that India’s warmonger media and right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP, were looking before the general elections. While Indian media whipped up the war hysteria calling for “revenge” and inflicting “punishment” on Pakistan, BJP tactfully used the occasion to overcome its declining support base and soon “Pakistan bashing” was the core theme of election rallies with PM Modi – the person with proven extreme divisive credentials – taking the lead.
Pakistan’s response was composed and serene in nature. Unlike the past, when the military used to handle affairs related to India, Pakistan’s newly elected PM took the lead and in a short address, Khan offered India any help in the investigation of the Pulwama attack besides cautioning about any armed adventure against his country from the Indian side. In case of an Indian attack, he affirmed, “Pakistan will not just think about retaliating, it will retaliate. There will be no way to respond other than to retaliate.”However, this offer attached to the caveat was to go unheeded in India.
During the early hours of February26th2019, Indian aircraft crossed the de-facto border between Indian and Pakistan administered Kashmir and delivered ordnance in the Balakot area of Pakistan’s KPK province. In response, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) scrambled its jets but there is sufficient credence that the intruders made their way back unscathed.
From an Indian perspective, it was a daring venture. After 1971, it was the first time that Indian Air Force (IAF) violated the archrival’s airspace and that too, during the time of heightened tensions, and ordnance was carried to mainland Pakistan. The bravado provided India with the ground to resort to symbolic chest-thumping platitudes and cash the boldness in the war of narratives. However, things took an opposite turn and in information realm, Pakistan took the lead via its ever-active Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR).
Well before any official word from India, Pakistan’s DG ISPR took to the twitter and claimed that Indian planes intruded3-4 miles into Pakistani territory and after being challenged by PAF hurried back while dropping their “payloads” in a forest without causing any casualties. Later media reports would revealthat a person was injured close to the point of impact in Blalakot and few nearby houses were damaged. Only casualties, however, were the innocent Pine trees, which Pakistani PM Khan has been accentuating to plant in an attempt to counter climate change.
Interestingly, the recipient denied any damage before the inflictor could have taken responsibility and given the track record of Indian Government in making false and over-exaggerated claims, the Indian narrative was to pass through tough scrutiny.
The Indian side, however, spent some hours to present their account and in a press conference during the day, Indian Foreign Secretary confirmed that “in response to imminent threat”, India took a “preemptive non-military strike” against the alleged JeM camp in Balakot in which “a large number of JeM terrorists” have been eliminated. He also claimed that the aversion of civilian casualties was especially ensured and only target was alleged terrorist training camp. There was no follow up Q&A session and curious journalists eager to barrage questions were left disgruntled.
The choice of words used in the Indian statement was strikingly paradoxical. The country had violated the sovereignty of its nuclear-armed neighbor using the even abstruse cover of “preemption” and was now classifying the blatant aggression as “non-military strike”. As customary, Indians were devising their own rules and deducing their own interpretations of diplomatic and military terms.
Bizarrely, even the Indian media did not pay much heed to the official Indian narrative marked by ambiguity and generalizations. Soon, various Indian news channels were up in the frenzy and started broadcasting the different figures of 250 – 350 terrorists died adducing to sources in “India’s official circles”. The preposterous claims were nothing more than typical Indian fake news dissemination campaign, a domain already conquered by hundreds of notorious Indian news channels representing the most distorted versions of North Korean propaganda outlets.
Later that evening, DG ISPR held a press talk and besides putting forth the details of India’s aerial incursion, promised a “surprise”. An attention-grabbing mention in DG ISPR’s statement was the convening of the meeting of National Command Authority (NCA), the body responsible for overseeing and operationalization of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, a clear case of nuclear signaling.
However, mere repudiation to the Indian claim by Pakistani authorities was grossly insufficient for the Pakistani public which could still recall the infamous OBL attack. Soon, revengeful populace started raising eyebrows followed by the pouring on of direct and indirect criticism – the last thing Pakistan’s government & armed forces could afford.
With DG ISPR pledging a “surprise”, everyone waited with his fingers crossed as now it was the time for Pakistan to respond to India’s blatant aggression. Finally, the response came the next morning and the Pakistan Air Force delivered ordnance across the LoC in broad daylight. In response, IAF scrambled their jets, which were soon outnumbered and outgunned by technologically superior and high in number PAF jets. The dominance of electromagnetic spectrum by means of the better AWACS systems empowered PAF to create a communication gap between ground controllers and IAF jets leading to the crossing of LoC by an ill-fated Mig-21 Bison of IAF, which immediately facing an aerial ambush. Another Su-30 – as per the recognition of even Indian media – faced a lock and was in all probability, shot down only to tumble across the LoC in Indian Occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan’s Ministry Foreign of Affairs (MOFA) announced the strikes and DG ISPR again took to the twitter to claim that Pakistan had shot down two IAF jets and two pilots have been taken into the custody – an exaggerated figure regarding pilots that later had to be revised and formed a little but a noticeable flaw in the whole account of remarkable accomplishments for Pakistani side. Later he held a press conference and asserted that PAF jets without violating the Indian Airspace deliberately targeted the uncovered areas adjacent to Indian military installations across the LoC in a bid to display “capability”, “will” and “resolve”. He maintained that in the ensuing dogfight PAF shot down two Indian jets with the wreckage and pilot of one aircraft in Pakistani custody confirming at least one kill.
Not surprisingly, the Indian side had a contrary view. India’s MEA spokesperson appeared for a press talk– which again did not follow a Q&A session – escorted by an IAF representative, and read a written statement claiming that PAF jets violated the Indian airspace and tried to target Indian military installations. The attempts – as per his claim – “were foiled” due to high state of readiness by IAF. The MEA spokesperson confirmed the downing of one of their aircraft and admitted that one pilot is “missing in action”, but he came up with a still unsubstantiated claim that the captured pilot had shot down one Pakistani F-16 before his Mig-21 Bison was taken down. He further insisted that the wreckage of F-16 fell on the Pakistani side of LoC and asserted that Indian troops close to LoC witnessed the Pakistani aircraft going down.
The assertion of F-16 downing based on flimsy grounds was undeniably an inefficacious attempt by India to secure some face-saving in the wake of audacious military action by PAF & ingenious information campaign by DG ISPR. The claim – besides repudiated by Pakistan – would also receive rebukes from scores of non-partisan media outlets and observers only adding to the embarrassment of Indian Government.
Pakistan had manifested its capabilities in the combat and the wreckage of IAF Mig-21 along with the pilot – who was saved by Pakistani forces from the wrath of angry villagers in Bhimber– Pakistan was to enjoy an upper hand in the ongoing information war.
Pakistan’s PM Khan was on air but not with a triumphant tone or with a provocative body language despite the fact that his Air Force had just guaranteed the aerial superiority over the enemy. Instead, his address was once again very serene and brilliantly composed. Khan elucidated the destructiveness associated with the war by referring to historical examples & once again, offered India to de-escalate the situation besides reiterating his country’s assistance for the investigation of Pulwama attack. Again, the desire for peace in Islamabad was to be received as a sign of weakness in New Delhi.
The desperate Modi and his fanatic lieutenants were not ready to get off the escalation ladder so easily and as confirmed by official accounts also, India not only deployed it nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier battle group to exert pressure on Pakistan but also edged towards launching missile attacks at multiple locations inside Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities were quick to ascertain the gravity threat and in a do or die mode, resolve in Islamabad was to reply with three missiles for each incoming missile from India. The imminent exchange – that could have easily spiraled out of control to reach cataclysmic levels – was only averted after the interference by high-ranking US officials and leaders from other regional countries. Indubitably, Pakistan and India were ever close to the brink and an imminent nuclear holocaust in South Asia – whose impacts were going to be detrimental for the whole world –had just been circumvented.
The Pulwama crisis highlights the sheer precariousness associated with the ever-hostile relationship between Pakistan and India. Indian PM Modi played a dangerous gamble just to save his skin in the face of eroding popular support before the general elections and his inbuilt fanaticism and relentless greed for power nearly prompted the South Asian nuclear volcano to erupt and that too, with massive lava eruption. Although, the timely external intervention ensured that Modi’s fanaticism did not cost the South Asia region in particular and world in general, the cessation of India’s institutions to the fanaticism of BJP is menacing and can be a precursor to a vicious predicament in South Asia. For all intents and purposes, zealots – completely unmindful of the nuclear revolution and oblivious of the concept of nuclear deterrence – have taken charge of nuclear weapons in India and the way Indian institutions are caving into the zealotry, an already precarious nuclear equation has gone even perilous; thus, significantly enhancing the chances of failure of nuclear deterrence in South Asia.
Pakistan can maximize the benefits of CPEC by involving China experts
Mr. Yao Jing, who has been to Pakistan three times at various diplomatic postings – very junior, mid-career, and senior-most position as Ambassador, a perfect expert on Pakistan. He was in touch with Pakistan for almost 25 years, and have deep interaction with various segments of the society, seen several Governments and virtually all political and regional leaders in Pakistan. He has also served in India and Afghanistan and understands well Pak-India, Pak-Afghan relations in a comprehensive manner. Being an Ambassador, he had interaction with the highest level official, military and civil bureaucracy, and leadership. His understanding of Pakistan is unmatched. At the end of his tenure as Ambassador to Pakistan, before departing, in one of his farewell, he expressed that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be better served if Pakistan would have appointed officials who are experts on the functioning of the Chinese government and its market. He was happy at the progress that had been made between the two countries, and that CPEC was on the right track. Pakistan can maximize the benefits of CPEC by involving China experts.
There exist around 20,000 China-graduates in Pakistan in various fields and various age groups, with various lengths of experience to fresh graduates. The first badge of Pakistani students traveled to China for higher education in 1977-78. Initially, there were very few students, but a sharp increase was witnessed since year-2000 and onward. Currently, there are around 30,000 Pakistani students studying in China, almost all majors field of emerging specializations, in leading Chinese Universities. They are at various levels – Undergrads, Masters, PhDs, and Post.Docs, etc.
A vast pool of around 20,000 China-graduates in Engineering, Agriculture, Health Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Economics, Management Sciences, Social and Natural Sciences are available in Pakistan readily.
China graduates are the human resource required for CPEC, as they understand China in addition to their professional qualification. While studying in China, they interact with the Chinese teachers, students, and society and learns Chinese culture, Traditions, History, Philosophy, Thinking, Ethics, Values, and Psyche, Politics, Governance, etc. Based on their understandings of Chinese systems, they can negotiate with Chinese and work with them in harmony and successfully. The involvement of China-Graduates in the CPEC is key to success and may maximize benefits for Pakistan.
Chinese Ambassador further said,“CPEC is now well connected, much to the satisfaction of both sides,” furthermore. “The biggest concern, if there is one, is that Pakistani officials lack expertise on China, and do not know how the Chinese government works, and also how Chinese companies operate.” Due to a lack of understanding, some time faces misunderstandings and misinterpretations.“In China, for example, we have some experts that advise us on Pakistan’s governance model. There is a lot more to be done for Pakistani authorities to learn the functioning of Chinese markets and governance model,” he added. While considering CPEC as Oxygen to Pakistan’s economy and catalyst for economic take-off the country, there is no single interpreter of the Chinese language in the Government of Pakistan. In the private sector, there are few Chinese language experts, with 50% interpretation capability only. Communication and understanding may be a hurdle, which can be resolved by involving China-graduates simply. Pakistan needs to change its mindset from the Western approach toward understanding China, which may benefit in the smooth execution of CPEC.
Currently, those who are handing CPEC has little knowledge about China and sometimes face an embarrassing situation. It is not an individual’s fault, but if China experts are given this task, they can perform much better. CPEC is handled by Western-educated or trained personnel, having little or no understandings of China can not achieve the desired results or optimal outcomes. Often, they compare China with the Western World, which is the wrong approach and may lead to a total disaster sometimes. China is a unique civilization, and having its own traditions and values, much different from the West. It will be highly productive, if the Government of Pakistan, utilize the China-graduates and China-trained human resource, to maximize the outcomes of CPEC.
Ambassador Yao Jing is a sincere friend of Pakistan; his advice carries high-value and may be taken seriously. Especially while we are entering into the Second-Phase of CPEC, where the private sector may be involved in Industrialization, Agricultural Sector, and Services Sector, China experts can play an instrumental role and maximize benefits for Pakistan.
Interpreting Sheikh Hasina’s Foreign Policy
September 28, 2020 marks the 74th birthday of Sheikh Hasina, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh. On the occasion of her birthday, it becomes important to examine the foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina and the policy imperatives for Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina brought dynamism in Bangladesh foreign policy. In fact, the peace-centric foreign policy of Hasina becomes pertinent for world peace, stability, and prosperity. To make Bangladesh a developed country by 2041, the constructive, cooperative and peace-centric foreign policy of Hasina can play leading role. Thus, in this birthday, this article attempts to analyse Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy for a peaceful and better world.
Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009, and took oath for the third time as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh in 2019. This long period provided political stability in Bangladesh except some incidences of political violence at the beginning of 2014. This has also helped Bangladesh to maintain a consistency in foreign policy pattern/priorities. It is argued that political leaders play important role in the field of international relations and foreign policy formulations and executions. The personal characteristics of the leader, i.e. beliefs, motives, decision style, and interpersonal style become critical in understanding the foreign policy behavior of a state (Hermann 2011).
In fact, in the context of Bangladesh where the Prime Minister play vital role in the foreign policy formulations, the beliefs, ideologies, personal characteristics, norms, values, and the bold and visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina play crucial role in the formulation and execution of an independent foreign policy of Bangladesh based on norms, values and enlightened interest. One can identify the following key parameters of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy.
First, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, laid down the foreign policy principle of Bangladesh, i.e. ‘Friendship to all and malice to none’. This policy helped Bangladesh to achieve Bangladesh’s recognition from states around the world and building cooperative partnership. However, except Awami League, this policy is not followed by other political parties in Bangladesh. After coming to power for the second time in 2009, Sheikh Hasina made a strategic shift in the foreign policy formulations of Bangladesh prioritising both India and China in the development trajectory of Bangladesh. Hasina government strongly followed the foreign policy principle, i.e. ‘Friendship to all and malice to none’ in the case of Bangladesh’s relations with both India and China. In fact, Bangladesh has been able to maintain the good relations with all countries including India and China due to the ‘friendship to all, malice to none’ foreign policy principle of Sheikh Hasina. According to Sheikh Hasina, ‘[W]hat’s the problem with it (maintaining ties with both China and India)? We have ties with all our neighbours. Bangladesh has no animosity with anyone because we are following the lesson taught by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’ (bdnews24.com, July 4, 2019).If the world would follow such peace-centric foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina, the world would be a better place to live in, one can argue.
Second,Sheikh Hasina follows a peace-centric foreign policy. As the earlier section notes, the foreign policy dictum developed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is strongly followed by Sheikh Hasina. For instance, while the major powers in the region and beyond closed their doors to the Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh opened the door for them. As a result, more than 1.1 million Rohingyas received shelter in Bangladesh. Bangladesh with limited resources is providing food, shelter, medicare and other facilities/services to this huge number of Rohingya refugees since 2017. To resolve the crisis, Bangladesh strongly believes in peaceful resolution through mutual understanding and dialogue.
Third,under the Sheikh Hasina government, Bangladesh prioritises economy over security or strategic issues in its foreign policy formulations. At Bangladeshi envoys conference, held in July 2019 at London, Sheikh Hasina has asked Bangladeshi envoys based in European countries to pursue economy diplomacy as top most priority to sustain the ongoing development in Bangladesh. At the World Economic Forum Economic Summit in New Delhi in October 2019, Sheikh Hasina presented Bangladesh as the economic hub in the sub-region and thus asked the global investors to invest in Bangladesh. Under the leadership of Hasina, Bangladesh is setting up 100 special economic zones, with one-stop service across the country to attract foreign direct investments.
The agreements on economic cooperation between Bangladesh and different countries shows the importance Bangladesh attaches to economic diplomacy in its foreign policy formulations and executions. Due to the prioritisation of economy diplomacy, the GDP of Bangladesh has grown from US$102 billion in 2009 to US$302 billion in 2019 (Hasina 2019). In addition, foreign direct investment has also increased from US$ 700 million in 2009 to US$ 3613 million in 2018 (Table 1). In 2018, Bangladesh was the second recipient of FDI in South Asia. In addition, Table 2 demonstrates that the volume of trade has increased between 2009 and 2018 which underscores the priority of economic diplomacy in the foreign policy formulations of Bangladesh under Hasina regime. According to UNCTAD, there is 9.5 per cent merchandise exports growth rate in 2018. Among the export products, 95 per cent covers manufactured goods. According to the UNCTAD statistics, among the top five export destinations of Bangladesh in 2018 included USA (US$ 5672 million), Germany (US$ 5626 million), United Kingdom (US$ 3460 million), Spain (US$ 2709 million), and France (US$ 2288 million).
Table 1: Foreign direct investment flow in Bangladesh (Millions of dollars)
Source: UNCTAD (2015: A5; 2019:214).
Table 2: International merchandise trade: Total merchandise trade (millions of US$)
|Merchandise balance||-4 592||-8 627||-9 669||-21243|
Source: UNCTADstat (https://unctadstat.unctad.org/CountryProfile/GeneralProfile/en-GB/050/index.html).
Fourth, after came to power in 2009, Sheikh Hasina resolved the long-standing maritime boundary delimitation dispute with India and Myanmar peacefully through the help of international regimes. Bangladesh now has sovereign rights on all living, and non-living resources of over 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone and up to 354 nautical miles of the continental shelf of the country. Thus, blue economy has become a key area of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. Though India and China are rivals in many aspects, Bangladesh has signed Blue Economy agreement with both of them.
Fifth, resolving Rohingya crsis through internationalisation of the issue became a key foreign policy priority for Sheikh Hasina government. Thus, at bilateral, regional and international forums, Bangladesh advocated Rohingya issues strongly.
Sixth, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh strongly advocates rules-based international order. Thus, Bangladesh promotes the agency of rules-based international order, i.e. regional and international institutions. The country respects the norms of the international institutions like the United Nations. In fact, the constitution of the United Nations is also reflected in the drafting of foreign policy principles of Bangladesh.
Seventh, conventionally, Bangladesh does not participate in power politics whether at regional or international level. Instead, regional and international cooperation based on rules and norms has been the guiding principles of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. In fact, cooperation and partnership at bilateral, regional, and global level are key defining features of Bangladesh foreign policy under Sheikh Hasina regime. Bangladesh is a strong advocate of regional and international cooperation. For instance, Bangladesh strongly supports South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral and Technical Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the United Nations. The country strongly promotes sub-regional cooperation. The country has already allowed India to use its land, water, and ports to access its Northeastern states. For instance, Bangladesh has asked Nepal and Bhutan to use its Saidpur airport, and Chittagong and Mongla ports which demonstrates the importance of constructive engagement with the neighbours and beyond.
Finally,South-South Cooperation is another defining feature of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy. Bangladesh sees South-South Cooperation as an effective mechanism for development cooperation among the Southern countries. For instance, Bangladesh has included South-South Cooperation in its National Policy for Development Cooperation. Bangladesh has been awarded ‘South-South Award’ in 2013 to make a remarkable progress in the poverty alleviation. In addition, in September 2018, Bangladesh has received a special award in Bangkok from the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and UNESCAP in recognition of its outstanding contributions to South-South Cooperation.
This article also focuses on some policy imperatives. First, the above identified eight defining features of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy need to be promoted in the days to come especially economic diplomacy. Second, the dearth of scholarship on Bangladesh foreign policy studies implies that it becomes important to promote foreign policy studies in the country. In this regard, the role of the state, and scholars becomes important. Bangladesh is a rising power which requires both knowledge production and dissemination. Consequently, Sheikh Hasina government needs to promote foreign policy scholarship both in the country and beyond.
Third, it becomes also important to promote the soft power diplomacy of Bangladesh. In this context, nation branding (a peaceful country, an emerging economic power, a strong promoter of regional and international cooperation) to the world community becomes crucial. Bangladesh’s contributions to the world peace and stability needs to be highlighted by writing op-eds, making presentations, publishing research articles and so forth by both the policy and academic community.
Fourth, internationalising the Rohingya issue will be another key issue area of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy in the days to come. In this context, the role of active diplomacy at both Track I and Track II level becomes crucial. There are more than 10, 000 University teachers in Bangladesh who can write a piece on the Rohingya issue and publish it at regional and international media. This will be imperative to internationalise the issue and thus resolve the crisis.
Fifth, deepening economic cooperation, attracting foreign direct investment, promoting trade and commerce, sustaining the development partnership with major and emerging powers will become serious challenge for Sheikh Hasina government in the post-COVID-19 era. Thus, it becomes important to rethink Bangladesh foreign policy and diplomacy based on economic diplomacy in the post-COVID-19 era.
To conclude, in this troubled world where narrowly defined interest defines the foreign policy actions of states, arms races, and competition for influence, power and position becomes rampant, the foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina based on peace, friendship, and cooperation becomes important for the welfare and benefits of the people in the world. The foreign policy of Bangladesh under the Sheikh Hasina regime is improving Bangladesh’s relations with the major development partners of the country including with both India and China especially in the areas of economic and development partnership which has resulted in economic growth and socio-economic development in the country. And this has impacted the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in the country. Thus, the continuation of Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy becomes important for Bangladesh and the beyond. This article concludes that there is no alternative to Sheikh Hasina and her peace-centric foreign policy for the 170 million people in Bangladesh and beyond.
In this great day, I wish, Happy Birthday to our Honourable Prime Minister. Long live Bangladesh, long live the Honourable Prime Minister.
Russia expanding influence in India and Sri Lanka
Authors: Srimal Fernando and Vedangshi Roy Choudhuri*
In the post-World War II era the diplomatic influence of former Soviet Union on newly Independent India and its southern neighbour, Sri Lanka redefined a new foreign policy order based on Non Aligned principles. The changes following the cold war marked the beginning of a new era of diplomacy between Moscow with New Delhi and Colombo
Russia is a global superpower and a permanent member of the United Nations which paves a path to withhold a significant influence on the global south. India is a rising regional power being a UN Security Council member and its southern neighbour Sri Lanka is geostrategically positioned in the Indian ocean which results in being vital nations for Modern-day Russia’s Foreign policymaking. This Trilateral diplomacy needs greater assessment to reframe a new foreign policy doctrine to enhance economic diplomacy and for greater defence cooperation.
Soviet Union (USSR) and India
The USSR diplomatic collaboration helped India on achieving its self-sufficiency in food production and to become an industrialised nation. The same period saw specific defence cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow due to the changing security dynamics in the global security arena. In mid-1991, India accelerated the process of liberalizing the economy by removing controls as it was trying to adjust to the post-Soviet reality. The first phase of the post cold war diplomacy was marked by a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, and after a year they lined it up with a Military-Technical Cooperation agreement.
Russia – India
Historically India and Russia have had stable and cordial political relations and elevated the diplomacy to a ”Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership”. The Bilateral relationship between the two nations is robust, with a wide agenda for cooperation. There are regular excessive-degree visits between the two nations. Moreover, for Russia, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) continues to be an instrument for establishing better relations with India and with other South Asian neighbours
On an international level, Russia, and India are the predominant members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) organization of rising powers set to reshape the world economy. At present, India and Russia continue to share a common strategic rationale for their relationship: aside from bilateral collaborations, the two are members of various multilateral associations including BRICS, RIC, G20, East Asia Summit and SCO—where roads for cooperation on issues of common significance exist.
The agreement on trade and economic and scientific-technological cooperation until 2010 was signed in New Delhi in December 1998 which sought to boost bilateral trade and economic interaction in a qualitative sense between the two nations. Hence Economic interaction and trade are key focus points. On the trade front, India and Russia have called for enhancing and developing economic ties in priority areas to meet the bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025. Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)–India trade pact is a proposed platform which is to be used by the two countries to have a free flow of trade and eliminate trade barriers as currently, they have no bilateral free trade deals in place.
In the post-cold war era, the diplomatic process of one of the most critical factors of the Indo-Russian strategic partnership is defence. The 1994 Moscow Declaration is a charter for Russian–Indian cooperation in their national and international security. However, Since the early 1960s, India purchased over 40 billion dollars’ worth of defence equipment from Moscow. The key partnership among India and Russia was marked in the year 2000 and the two nations plan to extend their strategic partnership, particularly in the areas of defence, nuclear energy and trade and investment.
The 2001 long-term Russian Naval Doctrine goals in the Indian Ocean was to pursue a deliberate strategy of turning the Indian Ocean into a zone of peace, stability and neighbourly relations ensuring periodic Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
Over time India has developed the BrahMos Missile System, Joint development of the 5th generation Fighter aircraft and the Multi transport aircraft, in addition to the licensed manufacturing of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks. Lately, the plan is to assemble about 400 Kamov Ka-226 T twin-engined Russian helicopters in India.
Soviet. Union (USSR) – Sri Lanka
The predominant step towards the beginning of complete bilateral ties between the Soviet Union and Ceylon was in 1956 under the patronage of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. Later, in the mid-Sixties when Sirimavo Bandaranaike won the elections and became Prime Minister, many believed that the new government would share a socialist ideology. however, the world’s first woman premier’s foreign policy was guided by the ideas of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Russia and Sri Lanka have crafted a grand approach based on the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ideas and old Soviet connections. As a result, looking back, one can declare the entire diplomatic process to be noticeably exceptional.
In the course of this period, the Soviet Union was instrumental in reworking the agriculture-based economy into a competitive manufacturing country through her technical cooperation. Setting up Ceylon steel, Tyre and Sugar companies with the aid of the USSR created employment opportunities that significantly advanced manufacturing efficiency.
Russia- Sri Lanka
Comparing then and now, steps must be taken to make sure the free flow of foreign policy ideas to reshape external policy outreach. For a small country like Sri Lanka, it is vital to outline a new balance between external outreach and internal stability. For instance, tapping into Russian billionaires would possibly help Sri Lanka to draw foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities. For Russia, the geographical position of Sri Lanka is a bonus for gaining access to the 1.3 billion Indian consumer market through the Indo-Lanka free trade agreement (ISFTA).
After the fall of the Soviet Union, these bilateral ties were tested, but Russia kept a close watch on the South Asian island nation until they had been revived to their old glory. In the past fifteen years, Russia has been even more steady in its foreign policy towards Sri Lanka than earlier.
Six decades of international relations among Russia and Sri Lanka have yielded strong accomplishments in retaining the long-standing partnership. it is determined that Russia’s foreign policy approach regarding Sri Lanka has played a firm role in turning a new chapter in each other’s diplomatic practices. Presently, evidence of this is substantial in the closeness between Moscow and Colombo. In most recent instances, the time-tested, deep-rooted friendship got stronger when Russian President Putin stated “Moscow remains a reliable partner of Sri Lanka” following the Easter Sunday bombings.
Lately, South Asia is perhaps one of the most challenging regions for Russia from the point of view of not only security in its traditional meaning but also of Russia’s prospects of emerging as an economic power. Russia attempts to pave a path between the developed Russian constructive multilateral relations with the countries of South Asia and the further manifestation of its soft diplomacy in the region have opened the gates to its substantial regional influence.
*Vedangshi Roy Choudhuri is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (BA hons.) in Journalism and Mass Communication at the Jindal School of Journalism & Communication (JSJC). She mainly focuses on Indo-China global media relations. She was also a recipient of the ICASQCC Gold Medal in Mauritius. Roy is member of the SGRC at Jindal Global University and a social activist in Chennai.
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