Connect with us

South Asia

India revamping its Relation with Bhutan amidst the India- China Border Conflict

Published

on

Modi

The ongoing India-China border dispute at Galwan Valley has impacted the geopolitics of the Indian subcontinent. Even with the Indian and Chinese troops’ with some sort of disengagement in Ladakh, the entire subcontinent is still like a hot iron, anything and everything could happen. In such a situation, the role of neighbouring countries have played a crucial role. In this case, attention is on Bhutan who is between both India and China. Historically, Bhutan has remained allies with India but does the recent conflict have the potential to change its position? How is India working to keep its one of the oldest allies?

India Bhutan Relations

The diplomatic ties between India and Bhutan goes back to the 1949 Treaty of Friendship. The treaty’s Article 2 stated that, “The Government of India undertakes to exercise no interference in the internal administration of Bhutan. On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations.”

Bhutan has been a cross cutter when it comes to India’s relation to China. Its geopolitical location is landlocked in the subcontinent. Bhutan shares its border with Tibet (governed as an autonomous region of China.) in the north, Indian states of Sikkim in the west, and the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh in the south and east. It shares a border with both China and India. Therefore, this country is packed between these two big countries in the Indian subcontinent. Though Bhutan supported India in the Sino-Indian war of 1962, it started doubting India’s capability to protect Bhutan from the possible repercussions from China for taking India’s side. In 2007, the 1949 treaty was amended. The amended Article 2 states, India and Bhutan “shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither Government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.” Therefore, there is no obligation by Bhutan from taking guidance from India over its external affairs.

Bhutan was the first foreign state visit by the Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi after his election in 2014. The neighbourhood first initiative which turned the focus of the Indian foreign relations towards forming relations with its neighbouring countries was set off with the Bhutan visit. 

China Bhutan Relations

Historically the relations between China and Bhutan are tense. Sharing a 470 kilometers long border with each other, there has been occasional territorial disputes between both countries. Since the 1980s, through talks on border issues, both countries have put effort into reducing border tensions. Bhutan and China have held 24 rounds of talks to settle their border issue until 2016. According to discussions in the Bhutanese parliament and other public records of these meetings, the discussions have only centred on disputes in the western and central sections of the boundary.

The first claim of Bhutan by China was declared by Mao in 1939, after which in July 1959, along with the occupation of Tibet, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army occupied several Bhutanese enclaves in western Tibet. In 1961, China published a map in which China claimed territories in Bhutan, Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim as part of its territory.

India represented Bhutanese concerns with China until 1970s. With the UN membership in 1971, Bhutan began to be more independent in its external affairs. In fact, China and Bhutan signed a bilateral agreement to maintain peace on the border in 1998. China affirmed its respect for Bhutan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This agreement was violated in 2008 when China built roads on Bhutanese territories.

Bhutan had adopted the balancing act when it comes to India-China matters. Even during the 2017 Dokhlam crisis, Bhutan was careful in its approach so that they don’t upset China otherwise it could complicate Bhutan’s own border resolution matters with China.

Bhutan moving away from India?

While the 1949 treaty is based on trust and friendship between both countries whose soul is located at the principle of non interference, India started taking its support for granted over the years. Therefore, Bhutan has been drifting from India towards China. On the international front, Bhutan started siding with China. On Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge issue at the NAM’s Havana summit in 1979, Bhutan sided with China.

It is not unknown that China has been pushing to establish diplomatic ties with Bhutan. In the Shaanxi 2014 talks between Bhutan and China, China proposed a joint field survey of the disputed areas. After that, India jeopardized the results of that talk by soon removing the fuel subsidies for Bhutan, leading to an increase in LPG. This then led to loss of election for Jigme Thinley government who assured China that Bhutan wished a border settlement.

Bhutan also didn’t follow India’s stance on the status of landlocked nations at the UN and pulled out of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement for the regulation of passenger, personal and cargo vehicular traffic signed under SAARC in June 2015.

Hydropower is central to Bhutan’s GDP. Bhutan has been unhappy with India’s terms for financing its hydropower projects. There is still looming dominance from India when it comes to its own external affairs. Hence, with these disatisfaction from India and anticipating backlash from China for siding with India on the current border conflict, Bhutan is delicately drifting from India. On other hand, China is also in process to initiate official diplomatic relations with Bhutan. Bhutan is also India’s only neighbour who has not yet joined China’s BRI project.

How is India Revamping its Relations with Bhutan now?

According to the TOI report, India is likely to approve Bhutan’s request for a new land custom station and also considering opening another integrated check post (ICP).  The India-Bhutan Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit, 2016 already allows for free trade and commerce between India and Bhutan. This agreement provides for about 21 entry or exit trade points between India and landlocked Bhutan.

With the recent Chinese claim over Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located towards Bhutan’s east and close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh, India realises its interest to keep Bhutan from going to the other side. It should be also noted that in the 24 talks between China and Bhutan, there were no records of public discussions over Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. The record of Bhutan’s views on this territory is- “Bhutan totally rejects the claim made by the Council Member of China. Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is an integral and sovereign territory of Bhutan and at no point during the boundary discussions between Bhutan and China has it featured as a disputed area.”

India’s efforts also arise from China’s pressure for a deal with Bhutan to settle the China-Bhutan border dispute. This is why India has expedited its efforts to build the railway connectivity with Bhutan to increase connectivity and hence, promoting trade. India had also recently approved Bhutan’s request to open Ahllay, Pasakha, the additional trade router under the Jaigaon LCS temporarily in the pandemic. The annual trade between India and Bhutan is worth Rs 6000 crore at the Jaigaon-Phuentsholing border.

Bhutan is India’s closest neighbour at this point when India is being isolated by everyone. India is amping up its effort to keep its ally close, but the coming days will reveal the direction in *which the geopolitics of this region will shape.

Mozammil Ahmad is a freelance researcher and currently pursuing LL.B from Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi, India. His work has been previously published in The Diplomat, Dhaka Tribune and Modern Diplomacy.

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

Convergence of interests determines Russia-Pakistan Relations

Published

on

Russian FM is being received by his Pakistani counterpart upon arriving at the Foreign Office. PHOTO: TWITTER/SMQureshiPTI

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Pakistan on 6-7 April 2021 and held delegation-level meetings with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in addition to called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief, as well as had interaction with other dignitaries and senior officials during his two-day stay in Islamabad, Pakistan.

It is worth mentioning that Russia and Pakistan face similar challenges and pass through similar difficulties, including sanctions, economic challenges, security threats, etc. Both countries share similar views on the Afghanistan issue, terrorism, regional security, and China’s common friend. There exists a comprehensive convergence of interests.

Especially after India signed a series of Defense agreements and acted as a “Major Defense Partner” and American-led Quad or concept of Asian NATO, the geopolitics has emerged so that Russia and Pakistan must cooperate with each other. As a matter of fact, we left with no option except strengthening regional cooperation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow and Islamabad would boost ties in the fight against terrorism, with his country providing defense equipment to Pakistan and the two holding joint military exercises.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan restated Pakistan’s determination to expeditiously complete the mandatory legal process for the “Pakistan Stream” (North-South) Gas Pipeline project and begin the work as early as possible.

Pakistan-Russia mutual relations and issues of regional and global importance were discussed in the meeting. The Prime Minister fondly recalled his interaction with President Vladimir Putin during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Bishkek in June 2019. He had emphasized his desire to take the bilateral relationship to a new level. He repeated that the importance Pakistan attached to its relations with Russia as a critical foreign policy priority. The Prime Minister uttered satisfaction at the steady growth in bilateral ties, including deepening cooperation in trade, energy, security, and defense.

Citing to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the Prime Minister shared Pakistan’s perspective on peace and security issues in South Asia, including the need for sustainable, peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

The Prime Minister repeatedly extended his invitation to President Putin to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience. It is hoped that President Putin will visit Pakistan soon.

Moreover, disturbing the peace process in Afghanistan, where both countries have long histories of concerns. It was the first time a Russian foreign minister had visited Pakistan in nine years and comes at a delicate time for Afghanistan with peace talks making little progress and a deadline approaching for the United States to withdraw its forces. “(Pakistan and Russia) share convergent positions on several issues … including peace and stability in Afghanistan,”

The visit comes as Moscow seeks to increase its stature in the region, particularly in war-torn Afghanistan, where it has sought to inject itself as a critical player in fast-tracked efforts to find a permanent peaceful end to decades of war.

As Washington appraisals an agreement it signed more than a year ago with the Taliban and rethought a May 1 withdrawal of its troops, Moscow has stepped up its involvement in Afghanistan, emerging as a significant player. Last month it hosted talks between the Taliban and senior government officials, and Lavrov suggested another high-level meeting could again be held in Moscow.

Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Lavrov expressed satisfaction over a 46 percent increase in trade between them. He, however, stressed there is a need to diversify it further. Discussing the energy sector opportunities, he said both the countries are now discussing a new protocol on the Stream Gas Pipeline Project, an ambitious project to transport 1.6 billion cubic feet per day of regasified liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Karachi to Lahore. As soon as it is signed, the construction work will begin. The top Russian diplomat termed the relationship between the two nations mutually beneficial and constructive. He recalled Russia had provided 50,000 doses of its Covid-19 Sputnik-V Vaccine.

Qureshi said Pakistan wanted to build a relationship with Russia that is based on trust. He said Moscow has always advocated the importance of international law and multilateralism. “These are principles that Pakistan adheres to. Our coordination and cooperation at the United Nations level have been excellent.” At this, Lavrov reaffirmed the commitment to deepen ties with Pakistan and create win-win cooperation between them.

Continue Reading

South Asia

India’s Naxalbari Achilles’ heel

Published

on

On April3, 2021, there was a pitched battle between a Naxalite (or Maoist) group (called “rebels”) by Indian government) and government forces of over 1500 “jawan”, equipped with state-of-the art weapons and helicopters at the Bijapur-Sukma border. The Naxals armed with machine guns gunned down 22 members of the government forces and injured 31 others, excluding missing personnel. Eight of the dead jawans were from the CRPF,  seven from the elite Cobra (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) while the others were part of the Bastariya Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the District Reserve Guard (DRG). Two of the dead CRPF jawans were from Assam, where assembly polls are on.

 The Naxalite decamped with forces’ weapons, uniforms and shoes.  The government claims that they killed 10 Naxalite, but could only produce the corpse of a dead woman as a “rebel”. The government claims that the Naxalites take along their dead and injured.

(Twenty-two jawans killed in Chhattisgarh Maoist gun battle. Officers claimed more than 10 ultras were killed in Saturday’s encounter but other sources said the police had found the body of a lone rebel — a woman. Telegraph India April 5, 2021).

Lapses

Media described the “counter-insurgency operation” as an “intelligence failure and poor leadership by the CRPF commanders and drew parallels with the February 2019 Pulwama massacre of 40 personnel in the run-up to the general election”.  Earlier in April 2017, the Naxal had killed 25 CRPF personnel near Burkapal in Sukma. The media blames home minister and the government of being preoccupied in winning elections in some state assemblies through turn coats. It is alleged that “five teams totaling 2,000-plus security personnel had on Friday night launched a concerted operation in the Maoist-hit Bijapur and Sukma districts after learning that rebels led by the dreaded Madvi Hidma were hiding in the forest.  A CRPF officer admitted, `The operation was launched from five places Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed in Bijapur, and Minpa and Narsapuram in Sukma.  While a team was advancing through the forests near Jonaguda, around 500km from state capital Raipur, it was ambushed by some 250 Maoists on Saturday afternoon, said. He said the forces were scattered and trapped along a two-km stretch of forest. The patrolling team from Tarrem came under heavy fire, prompting some of them to move to what appeared a deserted village, where the Maoists lay in wait for them.  The Maoists fled with the weapons, bullet-proof jackets and the shoes of the dead troops’.

Naxalite clout

The recent encounter belies government claim that it has wiped out Naxalism from their stronghold Bastar. Bastar division of Chhattisgarh has a population of 23, 48,808 persons. It is spread over 40,000 square kilometers (Census 2011). Bastar division has a security-personnel-to-civilian-population ratio of 1:22 with the deployment of 58,772 central paramilitary force personnel and another 50,000 of state armed-police personnel, the. Security forces occasionally conduct “search and destroy” operations in the area killing or arresting innocent people for “Naxal offence”. . The jails are overcrowded to the extent of three times the prison capacity, filled with Adivasis (tribals). The report of a High Level Committee headed by Virginius Xaxa, submitted to the government in May 2014, highlighted this fact.

Even expression of sympathy with Naxals is now a heinous offence.

 In the Bhim Koregaon planted letters case, several intellectuals and rights activists including Navalakha were declared “traitors” by the government. They were even accused of having links with Kashmiri militants. It was claimed that they were in communication with Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri leader who has served two-year imprisonment in the USA for having illegally received funds from the inter-services intelligence of Pakistan.

Despite repression under draconian laws, the Naxalbari uprising has still been alive since May 1967.

According to India’s home ministry “more than two-thirds of Maoist related violence is now restricted to only 10 districts of the country. However, media reports reflect Maoists are well entrenched in at least 68 districts.  The movement could not be quelled despite tall claims by Indian authorities over the past 53 years. Indian home ministry has a whole division dedicated to dealing with the movement.

No writ of government

In Naxalite-influenced rural areas, there is no trace of India’s judicial system.  There, the Naxalite organisations act ‘virtually like policemen, arresting, meeting out “justice” and in some cases even executing the guilty’ (“Internal security situation”, India’s National Security: Annual Review 2004, New Delhi, India Research Press, 2005, p. 87).

With the merger of pro-Naxalite revolutionary bodies, the Naxalites are the sole arbiters of justice in rural areas. 

Concluding remarks

The term “Naxalite” is rooted in Naxalbari village (West Bengal) where Kanhu Sanyal presented the concept of “forcible protest against the social order relating to holding of property and sharing of social benefits”. They started the Naxal movement on March 3, 9167 at Naxalbari village, near Siliguri sub-division in West Bengal. It is 30 to 50 miles from Sikkim. Tibet and Bhutan in the, Nepal in the West and from Bangladesh in the east. To him the purpose of the protest was “organizing peasants to bring about land reform through radical means including violence”.

Naxalite movement in India is viewed as an internal security problem.  However, the populist appeal of the movement’s ideology reflects that it could soon assume international dimensions if China supports it.  India’s Lieutenant General KM Seth laments, ‘Unfortunately, the threat to internal security from Naxalites has acquired dangerous proportions and can no longer be wished away.  …they are also developing links with Turkish and Philippino terrorist organisations…We have suffered and bled patiently and have taken huge human casualties, which could exceed 13,000, uniformed personnel and 53,000 civilians during the last 25 years… As of today, their overall strength could be put to approximately 20, 000 undergrounds, 50,000 overgrounds and more than a lakh in frontal organisations. Their armoury  is reported to comprise approximately 900 AK-47 rifles, 200 light machine guns, 100 grenade firing rifles, 2 inch mortars, thousands of .303 rifles, self-loading rifles and .12-bore guns with a huge quantity of explosives at their disposal’. (“Naxalite Problem”, U. S. I. Journal , January-March 2005, New Delhi, p. 19, 23).

India may blame Pakistan for the freedom movement (‘insurgency’ or ‘militancy’) in occupied Kashmir.  But, who shall she blame for the Naxalite insurgency in Andhra Pradesh and other Indian states? This is a movement against economic deprivation and brutality of the state or central government’s law-enforcing agencies.

Indian media has now begun to report that the counter-insurgency forces are fearful of grappling the Naxalite.  In Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), the Naxalite announced a cash reward of five lac rupees per policeman (“Reward scheme sends forces into huddle”, Indian Express, August 25, 2005). IG (Guntur Range) Rajwant Singh admitted, ‘My men are removing the posters and convincing the villagers to inform them about the activities of Naxalites’.

Continue Reading

South Asia

The ‘constructed’ world

Published

on

Karl Popper’s theory of falsification by refuting the classic positivist theory is not new. It is already applied by rejecting Aristotle’s Geocentric model by Copernicus as a Heliocentric model in the 16th century. Newton model of absolute time was refuted by Einstein in the 20th century as Time is relative and flexible. So, humanity has always revised pre-existing knowledge with experience and relation to surrounding in the course of time. Knowledge is an infinite process of getting into more advanced forms. From Aristotle to Copernicus and Popper—everyone is defending Eurocentrism. It is a huge construct that knowledge is only the ‘knowledge’ generated from the West. For example: ‘Feeling & sex’ is a biological construct. ‘Showing love’ is social construct. ‘Valentine’ is a political construct. Celebrating Valentine in Global South is part of assimilation process. Commenting on it is a part of ‘rationality’ choice with political cognitive building. Underneath, is a ‘realist’ model of state’s intention to achieve its vested interest via ‘cultural colony’ building. At the end, who controls, the story(Ideology, Process, Frame, Implementation and outcomes) wins the race. Here, west is leading with no doubt.

 Second Example: My personal interest in the US election is a bi-product of constructivist world where ideas, beliefs, identities, interest and social norms are shaped by actions and interactions of agency and structures. This put us; grip of knowledge on the western politics shapes my identities as a cosmopolitan and signals my interest of what I am looking from this continuous follow-up of election update–more data driven epistemology and ontology which is helpful in my running PhD. marathon. Like I said; my 1 OPED related to the US election in New York Times  is much more powerful than my 1000 OPEDs in Kathmandu based media. This is not caused by the capacity of these two giant media tycoon(material structures)companies rather meaning given to it; which is a ideational structures meaning constructed world; publishing in western media proves my talent.

Third Example: In the last week of December 2020, the Nepali PM dissolved the parliament and had called for a fresh election in April & May 2021. Although, Supreme Court ruled out the Parliament dissolve decision of government. However, before Supreme Court decision, this event followed several tantrums among Nepal Communist Leaders. Nepali Prime Minister K. P Sharma Oli remarks on several occasions are puerile. His counter words to opponents of his party i.e. Prachanda & Madhav Kumar Nepal is a floccinaucinihilipilification mindset. In one of the accounts, Bhim Rawal’s (one of the key leaders of the Communist Party) speech targeting sexuality to PM Oli( degraded mental conditions due to Kidney transplant provided by woman donor) was a repulsive example of puritanical patriarchy. These series of watershed among leaders made the content of the social media walls farrago and users are webaqoof. The is resulting the Nepal into entropy. And, for this Nepali leaders takes a big share for such de-growth. Nepali leaders recklessly bore the public with rodomontade. They are purely a snollygoster in power. For this, political leaders mishandling any political affairs in Nepal with a predetermined attitude of non intervention by Nepali public causing the situation to worst. Non-interventions on lacunae by the public due to public trauma of being mobilized to several revolutions and movements since 1950’s is creating a frisson. We are brewed by the agathokakological elements and politicians are not an exception. And we found ourselves in Zugzwang position. Zugzwang politicians are everywhere in Nepal and they are either by a foreign power or cadres pressure not necessarily proving advantageous for Nepal public. Prachanda and KP Sharma Oli had a sesquipedalian marathon via 19 pages and 38 pages document presented by themselves respectively —reproachful Oli of taking a decision without party consultations. Both parties had claimed; it was limpid. Allegations are also on the floor—-PM Oli and President of Nepali had closed ‘personal’ consultations to dissolve parliament. Rivals to both PM & President claimed the consequences occurred after the parliament dissolves due to muliebrity because the president is a woman and she should be taking responsibility. Opponents use Lalochezia targeted to the sexuality of the president. The overall current scenario in Nepal is the result of kakistocracy rather than democracy.

Way forward

From above Karl Popper to the US election and Nepali politics—All these carries western led constructivist attitude with mansplaining.  Rural youth of Nepal are constructed of all urban dwellers are feudal. And, therefore degradation of them is necessary. So, several radical groups are formed in Nepal for past few years. These groups created ‘tension’ in the national life of Nepal. As a result, government conduct dialogue with them for peace process. The leaders of the groups get benefited with state facilities and followers are left behind with dozens of Nepal changing dream. This has been the reality of Nepal where dynamic youth are lured for the vested political purpose. What I have to say; now “capital” is generated by “Dialectical Silicon Materialism” rather 19th and 20th Century “politicized” concept of labor-Industrialist dichotomy. But, in Nepal we are concentrated in the latter one.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending