Has India adopted an aggressive foreign policy?
In any nation the three critical tools of statecraft are diplomacy, intelligence and armed forces. India has tried to upgrade the three tools with political will and effective delivery mechanisms. The major question which has been asked time and again with regard to India’s foreign policy under Modi government is whether there is a continuity or change in the foreign policy outlook. There has been references with regard to Non-Alignment 2.0 in the past, and it has been felt that India should maintain its strategic autonomy without compromising on its strategic interests and the core foreign policy fundamentals. The transition in India’s policy outlook has been with regard to multi-alignment with India specific attributes.
The new foreign policy looks into what exactly are the potential sectors as well as possible areas of mutual collaboration, without a demand supply relationship, in any bilateral ties with any country. On scrutiny of documentation of the critical aspects of foreign policy outlook and the strategy that India has adopted, one can very well notice that there are proposals like SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), promoting connectivity (both physical and digital) and developing trade and investment with a major focus on exploring international markets while at the same time opening up Indian market with certain quid pro quo benefits.
In the new regional approach, the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS), approach to the Caribbean and Latin American countries, Visegrad countries, Pacific island countries have added new dimensions to the policy approach. India has seen as a major transit in terms of investment and opening new foreign offices in those countries where there is less representation of Indian diplomats.
Technology has been seen as an important component of India’s interaction with many of the technological powers. In fact, if one evaluates the last five years of foreign policy, joint statements and agreements one can very well discern that multiple agreements having focus on terrorism, technology, training, trade, investment and tourism has been signed with major countries and the visiting dignitaries have acknowledged the fact that India is very well on its way to become a knowledge hub. Interestingly, the reference about terrorism also tacitly acknowledges that Pakistan is the biggest perpetrator of terrorism across the world. In terms of education and knowledge, India has been taking giant leaps through the process of Digital India and Skill India processes.
In many of the documents that India has signed with other countries, there has been structured agreements related to smart cities project, infrastructure development, waste management, energy efficiency, sewage treatment, renewable energy, and town planning. With regard to strategic partnership that India has signed with more than 33 countries, there has been a gradient and selective approach with many countries being given prefixes such as ‘preferred’, ’desired’ and ‘special’ strategic partners. What is interesting in India’s new approach with regard to foreign policy is that Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Iran are listed as strategic partners. Even though there is no strategic partnership agreement with Israel but it has become a critical security partner for India supplying military hardware, border security equipments, and other devices which can monitor India’s borders and also help in detecting any tunnels which might be dug by terrorist or other subversive elements to infiltrate from Pakistan to India.
The result of the dividends of these aggressive foreign policy outlook that India has adopted since the coming of Modi government has been the fact that Pakistan has been isolated and any overtures which were expected to be made from India to Pakistan for initiating the peace talks are gone. In other terms, as one can say that in organic chemistry the Indian approach to Pakistan has become inert. While approach towards China has been adopted with an iron fist under a velvet glove but with a confrontationist attitude and one can see in the case of a number of conflicting situations with China at the border be the case of Depsang, Doklam or even Pangong Tso lake stand offs. The stand offs have lingered but have shown that India can counter Chinese tactics.
India’s Indian Ocean strategy now spans across the eastern and western Indian Ocean, and as a part of its outlook towards Indian Ocean it has adopted a strategy which calls Indo-Pacific approach as an extension of Indian Ocean strategy. As a result of which India has been engaging the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean through various initiatives which include capacity building, personnel training, defence exports, focussed aid, allocating more seats for ITEC programme and also conducting high level visits to these countries. The impact has been seen with regard to better relations with the eastern African countries as well as select Southeast Asian countries, and better and mature relationship with island countries. Interestingly, as part of the ‘double fish hook strategy’ it has been engaging the island states in Indian Ocean so as to create a viable radar and coastal security network with many of these countries.
From the structural point of view there has been a new development in the institutional framework. Now one can see divisions such as New Emerging Strategic Technologies (NEST), Oceania, Indo-Pacific, and also a separate division addressing the concerns of the federal structure particularly states with regard to engaging border provinces in India’s foreign policy interaction with the neighbouring countries. There are also different divisions which have been created with regard to Development and Planning Assistance (there are three divisions in external affairs ministry now, earlier there used to be only one) to the countries which required India’s financial and material support in times of need. India’s approach through Act East Policy, think West Asia policy and connect Central Asia policy is now more mature and looks into various aspects which can be developed in collaboration with the countries of these regions.
With regard to its relationship with Russia and the US as well as Asian powers such as Japan and Australia, it has been structured in a way that it is engaging while at the same time not depending too much on anyone power as an insurance to India’s security. Lately, India has been also making right kind of noises with regards to its candidature as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and it is clearly stating that a country with the population of 1.30 billion people should not be denied an entry into the high table because it will be counter-productive to democratic fundamentals of the UN.
Multiple times it has been stated and narrated by many strategic thinkers that India has been reluctant power and has not clearly outlined its policy on many of the issues which are of international interest. However, Indian establishment openly believes that it is better not to say anything and let the action speak louder than words. In the case of evacuation of its citizens from Libya, Yemen and many other countries whenever there has been crisis or ongoing civilian unrest, India has taken an active interest.
India has also thought about this prospect of unifying the department of foreign affairs and trade to look into viable opportunities and address its concerns both with regard to political interactions and trade development. However, this initiative could not gain that ground because of the large bureaucracy that India has, and the large workload regarding queries, addressing parliamentary questions and other issues that every department related has to deal with. In the late 2019 and subsequently because of the Covid-19 the political interactions have been held both online and offline which clearly states that COVID- 19 epidemic cannot stall the march of India’s emergence as a regional power and an Asian power.
Modi has been successful in harnessing personal chemistry with the leaders of different countries because of which many times all those issues which are left unaddressed at lower level get addressed at the high table. One of the important rallying points for Pakistan at the international level has been the resonance of the Kashmir issue but now Pakistan is unable to rake up the Kashmir issue because it is just not getting the support that it used to get because of its concocted narratives. Further, its own human rights record is pathetic related to ethnic minorities and other religious communities.
India has been very specific with regard to its requirement and the need before approaching Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)or even ASEAN Free Trade structures. The new approach that India has adopted with regard to participating in Shangri-la dialogue and also articulating its interest in the ASEAN plus dialogues (ADMM Plus) clearly shows that India is going to put its mind where its interests are. There is more outcome orientation in policy, and with the COVID vaccine diplomacy India is positioning itself as a major pharmaceutical hub of the world. While it is completely addressing this issue of international global social responsibilities, it is also looking for a structured support for its initiative from all the international leaders and the countries concerned. Quad meeting acknowledged the need for strengthening India’s pharma sector through investment and financial support.
Many positive things have been written with regard to the success of the Indian foreign policy but there are certain flaws also. While interacting with many countries, the political leadership has made too many pronouncements and therefore expectations have increased with regard to deliverables. In terms of aid, assistance as well as Lines of Credit (LoC)the need of the hour is to structure it and stagger it in such a way that India should not default from its commitments. Also, Modi’s own personal interaction with leaders have overpowered the structural mechanism because of which if in case Modi leaves office then there is a critical vacuum which will be created.
India’s strong outlook has a times led to criticism in the international community with regard to India’s hard-line approach in a number of ways. The case of Balakot air strikes or Uri military operation it is seen that while India has managed the international community but there are certain flaws in its approach in engaging the domestic interest groups. On aspects related to trade and foreign direct investment requires structural changes. These structural changes can only be brought about when the bureaucracy is sensitised, and there is an active intervention of the commercial processes which can suggest changes to these tardy procedures. The single window system which is adopted by many of the Asian countries can be explored and also the environmental ministry clearances with regard to investment and setting up a factory or a group of industries in India should be facilitated in a better way.
It is stated that India’s foreign policy outlook has become much more assertive in recent times but it is also believed that India’s cautious outlook on a number of issues in the past because of the fear of international backlash and condemnation has decelerated momentum. This mindset has relegated India into the league of few of the nations which were reluctant or shy powers but do have the potential to rise at the regional and international space. India’s acceptance of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue which it has entered with the US, Japan and Australia clearly shows that there is huge potential and spinoffs. The approach that it has taken with regard to developing skills and technologies, and entering into joint ventures on critical aspects of technologies such as space and cyber clearly shows that India has a blueprint with regard to its next phase of foreign policy as well as progressive strategic outlook. India’s new policy outlook is futuristic and has adopted an outcome approach.
Rashmi Mishra on the UK- India relationship and the role women are playing to strengthen international ties
Rashmi Mishra is the founder of Inspiring Indian Women, an NGO focusing on women empowerment globally. She has won several awards including Indian Achievers Award, HERA Goodwill Award, Global Goodwill Ambassadors, National Diversity Awards United Kingdom, FOX story India and various others. In this article, we have a conversation with Rashmi Mishra to understand more about the non-profit sector, women empowerment and the UK-India relationship.
What inspired you to start Inspiring Indian Women (IIW)?
IIW initially started as a platform to connect women, inspire, and support each other. The difficulties of finding a job according to qualifications and the impracticality of having domestic help at home make life in London frustrating and sometimes affect mental well-being. We thought that women needed to explore various possibilities and outlets to look for other options to satisfy their artistic or professional desires and break free from the monotony of life. The long and depressing winters add to their woes.
How can Indian women play a role in strengthening the UK-India relationship?
Indian women today are more career-conscious than ever before. As I write this, several Indian women have already made their mark in strengthening the Indo-UK relationship. Prominent among them are Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, former Indian High Commissioners Smt. Ruchi Ghanshyam, Smt. Gaitrii Issar, and Smt. Poonam Gupta, the founder of PG Paper Company, whom I personally met at Pravasi Bharatiya Sammelan Indore. CA Bina Mehta, a partner at KPMG, Smt. Vishakha Mulye, ED ICICI Bank, Neelima Jain, CEO of EESL EnergyPro Assets Limited (EPAL), Energy Efficiency Service Limited’s (EESL) UK-based subsidiary. She is the force behind establishing EESL’s UK operations from the ground up and led the first-ever acquisition of an overseas company, Edina, by a state entity administered under the Indian government’s Ministry of Power. Nidhi Dua from Marks and Spencer is a committee member of the British Business Group and Confederation of British Industry. Laxmi Kaul, former head of CII UK, Ms. Nina Amin MBE, bringing investments into startups in both India and the UK, Mrs. Mira Misra Kaushik OBE by strengthening cultural ties, Ms. Prerna Bhardwaj, with experience in media, connecting the dots between both countries… The list is endless.
Your NGO deals with many women who have rebuilt themselves after their husbands’ deaths. What have you learned about resilience? How can the world be more resilient in the current Russia-Ukraine situation?
It requires great strength to be resilient. Easier said than done. I know just one thing: life doesn’t come to a standstill with a tragedy. Picking up the thread and walking on with the head held high is life. Struggles will be there, but ‘giving up’ is cowardice. Just look for that small twig to sail back. No looking back is the key. Visiting the past never helps. In the current Russia-Ukraine situation, the world must start reframing the education system by incorporating more life skills and life lessons of empathy, equality, togetherness, and brotherhood. The youth today are becoming more mechanical and money-minded. They are more focused on reaching their targets through shortcuts. The emphasis on human values in the education system has been lost.
What are some ways in which women can be empowered globally? Specifically when it comes to representation on international platforms like global parliaments or the UN?
Equal pay is first and foremost. Gender equality is a human right. More and more women must join politics as they need to be in policy making positions. The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 said it all very aptly – “DigitAll Innovation and Technology for Gender by embracing equity.” So much needs to be done, and at least society has started saying that only equal opportunities are not enough. A change in attitude at the workplace is pertinent. Unpaid caregiving jobs are not normal – women work all the time, but only some are salaried, sadly. Domestic abuse has risen since the pandemic; it is time to stand up for oneself. The silent revolution has begun.
How is IIW inspiring Indian women on a global scale?
There’s a lot to be done. A beginning has been made. We have already been connecting women from different countries. We need to organize events in collaboration with international organizations. We are in touch. Social media has shrunk the world, but we need to go beyond with exchange programs and international exhibitions and conferences.
How can India be more empowering towards women in the country?
By bringing up both sons and daughters in the same way. When parents start saving for both their son and daughter’s education and not just for the daughter’s marriage and the son’s education. Sons too need to learn cooking and cleaning the house, just as daughters are encouraged to learn. The notion of “papa going to the office and mama cooking” needs to be eradicated from young minds.
Your organization is also recognizing trans women and awarding them for their work. What can India do for trans rights to make the country more gender equal?
Firstly, they need to be considered equal. The law needs to include them in society. Awareness is the key; schools must include the third gender in books. As most have to drop out of education in the early days of growing up due to the stigma attached, they end up in low-class jobs, begging, and being looked down upon.
Any plans for IIW’s expansion?
Definitely, we have already started IIW Sweden. We have IIW Netherlands, though it is a little dormant at the moment. Suggestions are coming to start IIW Poland. IIW intends to do lots of groundwork in India and hence is registered under a section 8 company in India. We already have different chapters in India: IIW Delhi, IIW Chennai, IIW Mumbai, IIW Bihar, and IIW Guwahati. We aim to connect women globally and support them in whatever way possible. We have also started an e-commerce platform, Eutsav.org, to strengthen women entrepreneurs and help them reach a bigger clientele. The purpose is to make more and more women, especially from rural India, self-reliant.
The Need for the Next SAARC Summit
Authors: Harsh Mahaseth and Sanjana Chib*
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) came into existence on the 8th of December, 1985, with eight member states namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan, (which became a member-state in the year 2007) Considering the approach followed by other bodies such as that of ASEAN, which might soon start addressing their differences in an “ASEAN way” i.e. resolving their internal matters amicably instead of approaching the courts, SAARC also follows an institutional framework that regularly holds summits to discuss the various alternatives regarding dispute settlement and cooperation amongst its members.
The meetings of the Heads of the States or Governments of the Member States known as the Summit is the highest decision-making forum of SAARC. Generally, SAARC organizes Summits biennially through its Member States in an alphabetical order, and the hosting country of the Summit assumes the Chair of the Association and its importance can be acknowledged by the key outcome of its summit, which takes place in the form of a Declaration and includes decisions/ directives of the leaders to strengthen and consolidate regional cooperation in different areas being pursued under the patronage of SAARC. Moreover, the Summit also considers and approves reports of the Ministerial Meetings.
The 18th SAARC Summit was held in Kathmandu, Nepal and its theme was “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity.” Ever since then there has been no successful attempt to schedule the next summit, mainly due to lack of consensus between the member-states. As far as India is concerned, the major reason behind its non-participation is the Uri- Terrorist Attack, which was alleged to have Pakistani involvement, and that is the reason why it turned down Pakistan’s proposal to attend the 19th SAARC Summit virtually if it does not want to be physically present in Islamabad.
SAARC has held only 18 Summits since its inception, which is a violation of Article 3 of the SAARC Charter itself. The prevailing political problems and bilateral disputes of respective member-states mainly caused delays. As of now, SAARC has conducted 18 Summits, ten in the first 15 years of its existence (1986 – 2000) and eight in next 15 years (2001 – 2016) which highlight that frequent cancellations have occurred over the last 15 years.
The experience of last 35 years suggests that, SAARC as an institution cannot be a tool for “regional integration” due to Indo-Pak Rivalry as their rivalry is so profound that it cannot be addressed in terms of a regional solution, which happens to be the major reason for not conducting the summit. However, some of other the reasons for not holding the SAARC Summit are also inter-state problems and bilateral tensions.
In the year 2020, Mr. Nilambar Acharya, Nepal’s envoy to India made a statement that “SAARC is alive and there will be a summit in future”, which came as a ray of hope soon after PM Narendra Modi tweeted the leaders about creating a strategy to deal with the situation of covid-19. Later, the organization was all set to conduct a summit in New York next year, which was later cancelled due to the objections of certain member states regarding the participation of Taliban as the government of Afghanistan.
A successful SAARC Summit can be conducted in future if its member states work towards resolving their bilateral disputes and other internal problems such as political instability, general elections, insurgencies, and economic recession, lack of adequate infrastructure and resources on the part of some members to organize the summit, which is why its leaders should consider amending the charter and make it mandatory to hold summits at a permanent venue such as that of the SAARC Secretariat on an annual basis which will make things much convenient for the member states and increase the chances of organizing the summit.
*Sanjana Chib is a Law Student at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, India.
International Peacekeeping Day: Pakistan’s Case
29th May marks the 75th anniversary of International Peacekeeping Day. In conflict studies, Peacekeeping as term defines those activities and actions that tend to keep conflict and conflicting parties under control and involve such activities that serve as pathway to uproot conflict as a whole and reduce battlefield deaths. UNN Peacekeeping Missions recently have undergone several reforms and evolution to better their efficacy, coherence, and responsiveness for which they have been criticized for. While effectiveness of the very purpose of these missions is highly debated, May 29 calls for commemorating and honoring the services of all those countries and people coming together with a vision to ensure peace, stability, and sustainability across the world. Pakistan is no exception.
The image of Pakistan has, in the international politics has highly revolved around security and strategic realms. Considering that image, Peacekeeping Missions are just one of the many features where Pakistan has carved out its identity as a state that is committed to the security of not only its own but the entire world. Since its fist Peacekeeping Mission in Congo in 1960, Pakistani blue helmets have served with honor and valor in 48 United Nations missions in almost all continents of the world.
While endorsing Action for Peace (A4P) and Action for Peace Plus (A4P+) initiatives-that tend to improve efficacy and consolidate security of Peacekeeping Missions-Pakistan, being one of the few states, institutionalized peacekeeping by such structural initiatives as that of Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS). To date CIPS has run 175 courses, training 2853 Peacekeepers, including 407 officers from other states. In this way, CIPS stands as an embodiment to Pakistan’s efforts of consolidating regionalism and Internationalism and standing as a responsible and capable state thinking for all and common peace and prosperity.
Besides working towards peace and security in war-torn communities, Pakistan has been on the forefront of peacebuilding and humanitarian efforts. Pakistan’s Field Hospital established as part of UN Mission Mali, is providing premium healthcare services, including lifesaving surgeries to the dependent clientele of 3500 UN Peacekeepers besides facilitating affected civilians of the warn-ravaged region. In April 2023, services of Pakistan’s hospital were appreciated at various levels in mission as well as UN headquarters for its constant quest for excellence and being in line with the needs of mission dynamics.
Through professionalism and dedication, Pakistani Peacekeepers have remained pivotal in UN’s efforts to reform and strengthen the Peacekeeping Architecture. Pakistani Engineers are maintaining 1430 kms of main Communication Arteries connecting 45% of the total land territory in the Central African Republic (CAR) and providing assured connectivity to 60% of the population of CAR even during worst climatic conditions.
Pakistan has exercised resolve and manifested resilience and courage in working in some of the most dangerous war-ravaged regions of the world. Not only it has paved the way in ensuring peace and preventing full-fledged war in such regions but its commitments towards humanitarian appeal are no hidden reality. From 2022 South Sudan floods whereby Pakistani engineers constructed for them dyke system to provision of 60 metric tons of various stores in northern part of Abyei to Pakistani doctors and Engagement Teams running awareness and hygiene campaigns to psychological counselling to contributing in education field in various missions, Pakistan has proved resolve and promptness of its security architecture in the region and beyond.
Pakistan also hosts one of the oldest UN Peacekeeping Mission i.e., UN Mission Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to monitor the ceasefire violations on Line of Control and has committed to it unlike the other stakeholder in the domain.
This day, hence, is a time to commemorate the services of Pakistan’s 225, 000 peacekeepers who have served uptil now, as well as honor the martyrdom of 171 Pakistani peacekeepers in the process.
29 May, on one end, is reminisce of Pakistan’s advancing role in UN’s agenda of maintaining peace and security around the world and on the other, it is a contemplating point at the structural amendments still needed in the peacekeeping apparatus of the world so that peace and prosperity is ensured for all nations and people of the world, once and for all.
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