Connect with us

South Asia

Indian Foreign Policy During Covid-19 Pandemic

Published

on

ABSTRACT: This article focuses on the shift of India from the notion of “Aatma Nirbhar” (self-reliance) to “Vishwa Nirbhar” (reliant on the world). Proceeding with the historical aspects of India’s foreign policy, I have tried to track the series of events that led to India adopting a realistic policy and discarding its earlier idealistic policy. Subsequently, the article throws light upon the actions of India undertaken in pursuance of its foreign policy during the COVID-19 pandemic and is backed by their examination and analysis. From exporting vaccines to other nations under the “Vaccine Maitri” scheme to not being able to meet its domestic vaccine requirements, unnecessarily focusing on China time and again when it comes to India’s foreign policy, ambiguity towards India-US relation during COVID-19 pandemic to identifying the post-COVID foreign policy requirements of India, this article tracks the developments in India’s foreign policy due to COVID-19 pandemic and critiques the foreign policy measures undertaken from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic till now and provides with some suggestions for the betterment of the India as a global power, as a potential neighbour and as a nation that believes in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” i.e. “the world is one family”.

A LOOK INTO INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY AND ITS SUBSEQUENT SHIFT: FROM IDEALISM TO REALISM

Due to security challenges from the world and regional institutions, India’s foreign policy shifted from idealism to realism with the signing of the Wachtel Accord in 1954. India then showed its ‘sense’ of realism over and again while being confronted with various challenges in the political realm, leading to the adoption of a realist strategy which was now visible via military realism, multi-alignment, and India’s power imbalance with China. Therefore, border clashes and nuclear proliferation compelled the country to take a more realistic approach and focus on national security issues. As a result, the era of idealism in Indian foreign policy ended.

Military power is central to realist philosophy, whether as a defensive strategy for survival or an offensive strategy for power maximisation, as a means to a goal or as an end in itself. Power is vital, but hard power is the most important power of all, according to most realists. According to realists, India’s desire to be a great power must be matched by realistic military capability.

It is not only a matter of status but also of survival. India has a history of violent territorial wars with its neighbours, most notably China and Pakistan, with periodic clashes, the most recent being the Galwan Valley fiasco.

DEVELOPMENTS DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

COVID-19 pandemic started with initially a few fatalities but economic constraints forced a staggered lockdown exit strategy, resulting in a spike in COVID-19 cases. Now, India appears to be weakened as a result of the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic and protracted internal policy gridlock. The Indian public health infrastructure, oxygen shortage, and hundreds of abandoned dead bodies scattered over the Ganga’s banks have all made international headlines. The wave of Covid-19 has shattered the illusion that India is a rising global power.

The Indian immunization effort has also failed miserably. Before the second wave struck India, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was actively pitching India to the rest of the globe as a net vaccine provider. India exported 66 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to 95 nations as part of the well-publicized “Vaccine Maitri” campaign. China, on the other hand, has sold 80 million doses to 60 nations.

When the developed world was focused on internal vaccine management and had imposed a moratorium on vaccine exports, India was busy packaging vaccines in export containers. Ironically, the Prime Minister, who was fully aware of the need for coordinated regional and global action to combat COVID-19, entirely ignored the local need for an organised strategy to fighting the second wave of COVID-19 attack.

India’s foreign policy posture has altered substantially as the world grapples with the Covid-19 crisis. The second wave of COVID-19 pushed India to defy its 17-year-old foreign policy and accept foreign help, despite the fact that doing so might have far-reaching strategic consequences for the country. India, which previously supplied vaccinations to over 90 countries under its ‘Vaccine Maitri’ programme, has now received foreign help from over 25 countries as a result of the second wave. The reasoning for this is still unclear, given there is a scarcity of vaccinations in India, so why prioritise other countries?

Before moving further, it is pertinent to take a look at the origins of the policy of “not accepting foreign aid”.

The policy of not taking foreign aid was originally envisioned by India’s Ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh, but no particular justification or reasoning was offered for the same, and with what may be considered a “policy shift,” India was forced to suffer certain repercussions as a result of this policy. One of the repercussion is as follows, the United Kingdom opposed India’s request for financing from the International Development Association (IDA) for national initiatives aimed at promoting economic development, eliminating disparities, and improving living circumstances claiming that these funds are intended for the world’s poorest countries, and that because India obviously does not want foreign help, it should not require these grants as their actions imply.

Subsequently, India was removed from the list of IDA borrowing countries in 2014. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s administration then decided not to accept any foreign help worth less than $100 million. Interestingly, in contrast, during the COVID-19 pandemic, India appears to have welcomed foreign assistance regardless of its magnitude; for example, Canada provided India with $10 million in financial financing, which can undoubtedly be seen as a blot on the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ canvas.

With the world’s fourth biggest foreign exchange reserves, one wonders why those assets aren’t being used by India to purchase vital goods, instead of accepting funds from other countries. India must keep in mind that these benefits come with some opportunity cost, while there is no wrong in accepting aid that is not supplied for the sake of gaining points but is given generously.

The tremendous help and support that India has obtained from all corners of the globe is due to broad media coverage of its tragedy, since the globalized world cannot allow a rapidly evolving virus to survive in India or anywhere else on the planet.

DIGGING DEEPER INTO THE IMPACTS OF THE PANDEMIC ON NEW DELHI’S FOREIGN POLICY:

 India’s Foreign Policy during COVID-19 can be analysed and examined on the contours of: –

Primacy in the Indian Ocean region/ Indo-Pacific region: The acceptance of foreign aid after a 17-year hiatus has been described as an exception by India’s foreign secretary, Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, and will not be seen as a shift in India’s foreign policy. Material help, political influence, and historical links are the foundations of India’s longstanding supremacy in the area and historical links alone are insufficient to sustain its regional predominance.

India’s political influence is diminishing, and its capacity to assist neighboring countries is shrinking. The epidemic has harmed India’s capacity and ambition to contribute to the Indo-Pacific and Quadrilateral. Any ambitious military expenditure or upgrading plans are thwarted, resulting in Beijing’s growing influence in the area. The Second Wave has accelerated China’s invasion of India’s strategic space, and it appears that India will be unable to stand up to China in terms of political will as well as balance of power concerns. Undoubtedly, during the COVID-19 epidemic, China has arisen as a stronger state in general. Last year, India battled with China at Galwan; with regards to any future incident with China of the same type, I do not believe that we can expect India to respond in the same way, and that the response would be more conciliatory. In recent years, India has been compelled to cede before Beijing, and it is probable that South Asian governments will also be more oriented towards China, therefore, South Asia’s power balance may shift toward China.

India’s Association with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) and its Defense Expenditure: Military has aided in India’s rise to the role of regional hegemon in South Asia, and it now serves as a key unit in today’s multipolar globe. Because of the volatility and transitory nature of India’s border with China and Pakistan, the country has made significant investments in border security and infrastructure.

Prima facie, the COVID-19 epidemic will prevent any aggressive military expenditure or modernization plans from being implemented, as it would be prudent for the emphasis to be on global diplomacy and regional geopolitics. Therefore, now, it is unreasonable to expect India contributing enthusiastically or at all towards the expansion of the QUAD.

The Impact of Economics on Geopolitics: COVID-19 has caused widespread economic misery, a fall in foreign direct investment and industrial output, and a spur in unemployment, all of which would restrict India’s strategic aspirations. therefore, acknowledging the economic turmoil, a lockdown, declining Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), slow industrial production, and rising poverty and unemployment, for a few years, we should prioritise internal growth, and for domestic welfare international arena may be disregarded. As a result, it would be prudent to pause India’s post-covid foreign strategy for the time being. At the very least, the COVID-19 epidemic would have an indirect influence on India’s objective of retaining strategic autonomy.

Add to it the impending UP assembly elections in 2022 and general elections in 2024. Domestic political concerns will dampen the political establishment’s enthusiasm for foreign policy innovation or initiatives. As a result, post-covid-19, Indian foreign policy is likely to be gloomy.

India-China Relations:

The problem with Indian foreign policy is the country’s continuous fixation with competing with China. Since America began focused on China in the mid-1950s, the ruling Indian elite has believed that India’s primary role in global affairs is to control China. The partnership with the United States adds to New Delhi’s obsession with Beijing. Unfortunately, many members of India’s security and strategic affairs elite regard U.S. pressure as a privilege. Pressure is being viewed as a chance to increase the emphasis of foreign policy, leaving economic diplomacy in the dust.

Contrary to India’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad’s statement in December 2019, India has not allowed Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE to conduct 5G trials in India. Second, as already apprised of, for realists, military power has always taken centre stage, and for the majority of them, “hard power” is the true power not only for status but also for survival. The recent territorial conflict between India and China at Galwan Valley, and attempts of China to prevent the WHO from investigating the origins of the COVID-19 virus, which is said to have originated in Wuhan, China, indicate towards the two nations’ non-cordial bilateral and multilateral relations.

During the epidemic, the whole globe faced severe supply shortages, owing largely to intentional Chinese actions (Simon J. Evenett, 2020). According to the campaign initiated by India, Japan, and Australia, i.e., the Supply China Resilience Initiative, nations are now looking for alternatives to supply chains that are unstable owing to China. Also, because discussions on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union have been restarted, although after an 8-year hiatus, India may continue to seek new market opportunities and diversify in order to minimize reliance on China on a variety of issues.

The MEA is guilty of portraying an inflated picture of India’s prowess as the world’s vaccine production powerhouse. With the exception of India, Bhutan, and the Maldives, this foreign policy blunder has allowed China to increase its vaccine-related diplomatic operations in South Asia. India pledged to supply 30 million AstraZeneca doses to Bangladesh by June, but has barely supplied 7 million. Due to an unexpected halt in vaccine supply from New Delhi, Dhaka has been obliged to accept a gift of 5,00,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China. Nepal has received 8,00,000 doses from China in response to an increase in illnesses.

One can only hope that the current health crisis, which, according to the Lancet journal, will result in one million deaths by 1 August, will force the MEA to pause and chart a new course that will help India achieve economic prosperity rather than wasting its meagre resources on pyrrhic victories in border battles.

India-US Relations: In April, 2021, the United States had delayed clearance for exporting raw materials for production of vaccines in India, a reason was offered later by the States albeit a dent originated in India-US ties. The ramifications of the same may be observed in the near future. Following COVID-19, India may find it more difficult to oppose US requests for a stronger military partnership; in the long run, the US may be unsure if India can compete with China and subsequently, what may be expected from the United States is that it will not gamble entirely on India, but rather on Beijing or somewhere in the centre.

As the world transitions to a post-COVID system, India must not only seek to solve fundamental infrastructural shortages in the health sector and elsewhere, but also increase its position in the liberal international order. India, in particular, must establish itself as an effective Asian force that can provide a counterbalance to China. This is where the United States will come in handy. It is critical for the United States and India to collaborate in order to strengthen international governance and the institutions that serve as the foundation of the global order. Another significant step for India may be to gain a permanent membership on the Security Council. The most serious flaw in India and the United States’ Indo-Pacific alliance is their policies toward China; these policies must be aligned with China.

The covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to a halt and highlighted many countries’ weaknesses in the healthcare sector, and a stronger US-India relationship partnership can make an important contribution toward improving global institutions such as the United Nations Security Council and the World Health Organization’s leadership.

CONCLUSION

For human survival in a post-pandemic world, a slew of domestic measures, particularly in health, food processing, manufacturing, and job creation, are urgently needed. Much of this, however, will be determined by the government’s available resources and the degree of fiscal flexibility it can afford without jeopardizing fiscal prudence and macroeconomic balance. This, in turn, will heavily influence the direction, scope, and pace of our renewed realism reconfiguration of our foreign policy calculation in the next years and decades. Because the diplomatic capacity for ambitious foreign policy goals will be restricted, Indian foreign policy in the post-Covid-19 era is unlikely to be business as usual. However, Covid-19 may have provided the world’s least interconnected area with just such a chance. Covid-19 will also offer up new regional prospects for collaboration, particularly under the auspices of SAARC, an endeavour that had some preliminary success during the first wave of the epidemic. India might benefit from focusing the region’s collective attention on “regional health multilateralism” to encourage mutual aid and cooperative action in health emergencies like this. Classical geopolitics in South Asia should be elevated to the level of health diplomacy, environmental concerns, and regional connectivity.

Ritik Tyagi is a student at National Law University, Jodhpur pursuing his bachelors in law with a keen interest in Public Law, International Relations and the economy, having worked with Professors and Lawyers for publications.

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

Why Nepal’s Maoist finance minister is talking about legalizing black money?

Published

on

Despite being the oldest sovereign nation in South Asia, Nepal is also the most unstable nation of the subcontinent. For example since Nepal’s republican era of 2006, Nepal has got 12 Prime Ministers in 15 years. Even during multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy from 1990 to 2006, Nepal saw 15 Prime Ministers in 16 years. This tendency is reflected even in times of nondemocratic and transitional periods of past. If constant political history is an indication, Nepal is prone to repeated governmental build-ups and break-ups.

Nepal’s volatile governments naturally mean volatile plans and policies, which is reflected in the budgetary announcements. Interestingly, it is only Maoist and Maoist-background Finance Ministers in Nepal who have introduced budgetary provisions making provisions whitewashing black money.

Recently, Janardan Sharma, the Finance Minister representing CPN (Maoist Center) party of the coalition government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba, the President of Nepal’s oldest surviving party Nepali Congress, introduced a controversial provision for black money. On 10 September, while presenting his replacement bill to replace budget announced by erstwhile Government led by KP Sharma Oli, Finance Minister Sharma said investments in mega projects  such as international airports, tunnels, roadways and railways do not necessarily require to disclose their sources of revenues.

Such provision, main opposition CPN-UML leaders and majority of Nepal’s economic experts say, would whitewash all black money assembled by Nepal’s power elites and comprador capitalists.  Nepal’s largest-selling English daily The Kathmandu Post has termed it the ‘Thief’s Route’.  Post editorial has talked about its domestic and international implications. It has written, ”this move comes at a time when the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a regional, inter-governmental, anti-money laundering body of which Nepal is also a member…. The ramification can be disastrous for Nepal.”

This budgetary provision of incumbent Maoist Finance Minister Sharma has gained critical uproar from all quarters. However, this gains vocal support from Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoist ideologue and former Vice-Chair of Maoist who defected Maoist in 2015 to form his party. During his tenure as Finance Minister when the Government was led by Maoist’s Chair Prachanda for the first time in Nepal in 2008, Bhattarai has also introduced similar provision. He had legalized illegal property of individuals by self-declaring the worth of their property. This specific program was called ‘Voluntary Disclosure of Income Source’ (VDIS).

Though not implemented owing to widespread ire, Dr. Bhattarai had introduced plans of hydropower investments with no mandatory provisions of revenue source disclosure. Supporting the provision of his former comrade, Dr. Bhattarai has said, ”It is nice to legalize black money. Here is the tendency to do illegal works by black money. Whether it is black or white, it is right to invest in productive and employment-generating sector.”

It was the 180-degree departure in Maoist principle coined by its ideologue Dr. Bhattarai himself.  Before launching 10-year-long Maoist violent armed insurgency in 1996 which resulted in killing of more than 17 thousands Nepali, Bhattarai had handed over 40-point demand to the then PM Sher Bahadur Deuba on 4 February. In 39th. point, Dr. Bhattarai had written, ”Corruption, smuggling, black marketing, bribery and the practices of middlemen and so on should be eliminated.”

This starting demand opposing black money and ongoing defense of the same in the name of ‘productive investment’ displays how Nepali Maoist comrades have deviated from their own principles. Another coincidence is that they are the coalition partner of the Government led by the same Prime Minister Deuba to whom they have put forth their 40-point demand before launching violent Maoist armed insurgency before coming into mainstream politics in 2006.

Why Maoist and Maoist-background leaders are vocal supporters of black money?

Revenue nondisclosure provision mainly comes in tenures of Maoist Finance Minister like Janardan Sharma and Baburam Bhattarai. Other political parties have not vocally supported such malicious programs in Nepal.

Many suspects Maoist have huge illegal money grabbed in times of their 10-year-long violent armed insurgency when they did loot banks in capital Kathmandu and other economic centers of Nepal. Maoist had levied their ‘revolutionary tax’ to all working people and business activities in their vast swatches of base area. Forced donations and extortion further increased their revenues.  Bartil Lintner, a famed Swedish journalist-turned-author, in his Oxford University-published book titled ‘China’s India War’described Nepali Maoists as ‘one of the wealthiest rebel movement in Asia.’

Maoists, even after their entry into mainstream politics after Comprehensive Peace Accord of 21 November 2006 and terrorist delisting by State Department of the US on 6 September 2012, have not disclosed their party transactions. Nor there is any extensive research about net worth accumulated by Maoist during their underground violent armed insurgency in Nepal.

This legislation, if implemented, will force Nepal to sleepwalk towards money laundering, black money funneling and possibly terrorist financing. If big chunk of black money is invested in big income-making and employment-generating productive sections, its long-term impacts would be skyrocketed. This results in opaque financial activities.

 As an aid-dependent and remittance-receiving country from almost all economic powers of the world, legalizing black money  does not bode well not just for Nepal but also for its immediate giant neighbors-India and China. Nepal does not deserve to be the South Asian heaven of black investment and terrorist financing in the name of mega infrastructural projects.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Kabul: Old Problems are New Challenges

Published

on

Source: Twitter

It has been some three months since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, precipitously and without large-scale bloodshed. This came as a complete surprise for the global community—but for the Taliban just as well, although this was what they had long been striving for. Perhaps, this could explain the contradictory situation in the country as of today.

On the one hand, the Taliban leadership is supremely confident in their ultimate victory, and they are determined to keep the power at any cost. The Taliban proceed from the premise that the way the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) existed throughout 1996 to 2001 never ceased to exist, with the last two decades marked by the fight against foreign military intervention and a puppet regime. Accordingly, this is the basis for the Taliban to consolidate their power through rigid theocratic institutions. There is hardly reason to believe they would take a different approach, which means foreign actors could only advocate a certain “liberalization” of these institutions, accounting for the current trends in international development.

On the other hand, the Taliban’s activities tend to ignore the economic aspects, which are still of fundamental significance as they are instrumental to resolve the pressing problems that the Afghani face, while having an impact on the country’s domestic stability and the long-term viability of the regime. So far, the Taliban have mostly been “patching up the holes” welcoming relief efforts from abroad. The recently announced “food for work” programme requires material support rather than mere slogans.

This can be explained by the following reasoning. Caught in the grip of conservative religious, ideological and political views, the Taliban lack any meaningful experience in modern state-building. As for the subjective circumstances that need be accounted for, these include the Taliban’s heterogeneity, contradictions between orthodox believers and pragmatists in the movement’s leadership, and close to none of sufficient control over the Taliban’s “rank-and-file”. The confrontation between the conservatives holding key offices in the government and the pragmatists continues, and it may even grow worse. Further changes in the government’s configuration will testify to the dynamics of Afghanistan’s overall domestic evolution amid the new circumstances.

Persisting historical contradictions between the Taliban (mostly ethnic Pashtuns) and the many ethnic minorities (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras) are potentially dangerous for the new regime in Kabul. With the Taliban being reluctant to form a truly inclusive government rather relying on one that only purports to be such and with ethnic minorities willing to establish something like a front of resistance to the new authorities, these contradictions are becoming ever more visible.

Both the new government in Kabul and the global and regional communities are increasingly concerned with the spike in subversive activities in the country perpetrated by militants of various ethnic backgrounds affiliated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. All this negatively affects the domestic situation, with a potential to undermine the Taliban regime itself, while posing additional risks for regional stability. The situation is gravely exacerbated by the deplorable state of Afghanistan’s economy, which could lead to famine in the very near future. Taken together, these circumstances demand that the Taliban take decisive steps to normalize the situation. As Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, recently noted, events in Afghanistan may lead to a catastrophe if the Taliban do not act in a timely manner.

At the same time, it is obvious that such an Afghanistan would not survive without external aid and assistance. Internationally, the situation is rather favorable for the new Afghanistan regime, particularly with the Taliban engaging in dynamic international activities. It is crucial for today’s Kabul to handle three principal tasks:

  • establishing working relations with the neighbouring states as well as regional and global powers with a view to having the Taliban struck from UN sanctions lists and obtaining official international recognition for the new authorities;
  • securing a positive international image of Kabul under the Taliban;
  • receiving large-scale foreign humanitarian aid.

The Taliban miss no opportunity to make statements at all levels, claiming they are ready to engage with the global community in comprehensive cooperation, abandoning support for international terrorism and extremism and willing to attract foreign investment from a wide range of countries into Afghanistan’s economy.

If we explore the stances taken by various members of the international community as regards the new regime in Afghanistan, we will notice that their positions have several points in common, all of which are important for a peaceful and stable situation in the region. These principles include preventing instability in Afghanistan from exacerbating, the need to form an inclusive government that represents the interests of all ethnic and political forces, building a state on the foundations of respect for contemporary human rights, putting an end to terrorism and extremism proliferating outward from Afghanistan, etc.

At the same time, countries demonstrate significantly different approaches to the Afghanistan profile. The United States and the European Union have taken the toughest stance with regard to the Taliban, although both are ready to launch relief efforts to avoid a humanitarian disaster that is fraught, among other things, with new waves of refugees. Unlike Europe, Washington regards the Taliban issue as more complex and complicated. First, the United States needs to “come to grips,” both politically and psychologically, with the shock and humiliation brought by the inglorious end to the Afghanistan escapade, which delivered a huge blow to the image and reputation of the U.S., both among its allies and worldwide. Washington also needs to resolve the issue of Afghanistan’s assets being relieved as quickly as possible—something that the Taliban, as well as many members of the international community, including Russia, insist on.

As far as Moscow and a number of other countries are concerned, the United States should be the one to provide a significant amount, if not the bulk, of foreign financial aid to Afghanistan moving forward. We should keep in mind that the practical steps taken by the United States concerning Afghanistan will largely serve as a model for the entire collective West. Everyone in Washington is aware of this. However, the United States is still pondering as to the best modes of interaction with the Taliban, exploring the possibility to participate in humanitarian and other programmes in Afghanistan. This is evidenced by the contacts that have already taken place.

Unlike the leading Western nations, many countries in the region, primarily Afghanistan’s neighbours, have de facto begun to foster active and dynamic links with the Taliban. Pakistan has become the main lobbyist for the recognition of the new regime in Kabul, as Islamabad hopes to ensure its place as the primary external influence on the new government in Afghanistan. Beijing has taken a similar stance. Many experts argue that China may come to be the leading external force in Afghanistan, seeing as it is ready to develop economic ties with Kabul provided the latter prevents anti-Chinese Uyghur Islamist militants from penetrating into China from Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan accords with Beijing’s long-term interest in actively involving the country in implementing its strategic Belt and Road Initiative.

Turkey is now eyeing the opportunities for bolstering its standing in Afghanistan. Central Asian nations, particularly Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, are visibly active in the area as well. Tajikistan is sounding something of a discordant note, openly proclaiming that it does not recognize Afghanistan’s regime in its current iteration. Dushanbe’s concerns are easy to understand especially if one recalls its negative experiences from the 1990s. However, the OSCE and the SCO cannot help but be concerned over the aggravation in Tajikistan–Taliban relations. India is also wary of the new regime in Kabul. Iran, like Pakistan, has long-standing historical ties with Afghanistan, and it is taking a “favourable pause” while striving to assist in advancing international cooperation in Afghanistan affairs. In the Islamic Middle East, the regime change in Kabul has been met with an equivocal response, ranging from enthusiasm of radical Islamists to restraint and certain wariness.

The way the situation in Afghanistan will evolve is a matter of fundamental importance for Russia’s national interests, primarily when it comes to ensuring security in Central Asia, within the SCO as well as in the greater Eurasian context. Long-term stability in Afghanistan cannot be ensured without a truly inclusive government and without the Taliban taking on clear commitments to counteract instability, terrorism, extremism and drugs flows spreading outwards and to prevent mass migration into adjacent regions. Kabul and the entire regional community need a peaceful, stable, and neutral Afghanistan, a country that lives in peace and harmony with its neighbours and a nation that is actively involved in economic cooperation in the region.

The international community may benefit from Russia’s experience in promoting domestic consensus in Afghanistan. Several international formats have great importance in this regard, such as the Moscow Format, the extended “Troika” (Russia, the United States, China + Pakistan), which was particularly highlighted by President Vladimir Putin in his recent address at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is particularly important that these formats complement each other rather than compete in terms of their influence on the processes.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

South Asia

Is Nepal an Indian colony?

Published

on

photo: Wikipedia

In yet another dictation, India has told Nepal that nationals of other countries will not be allowed to use the new 35-km rail link between Jaynagar in Bihar and Kurtha in Nepal, due to “security reasons” (The Print, November 25, 2021). The 34.9-km narrow gauge section was converted into broad gauge by India and handed over to Nepal in October this year.  Nepal protested India’s dictation resulting in operational delay. Ultimately India softened its “order” to the extent that “third country nationals can travel on the railway within Nepal, but they won’t be allowed to cross over to India,”

Nepal is perhaps the only country where the head of India’s premier intelligence, Research and Analysis wing is accorded a red carpet welcome as he calls on the Nepalese prime minister (amid popular protests). Not only the RAW’s chief but also the external affairs minister and army chief often visit Nepal with a handy list of  les choses a faire (things to be done). For instance when the Indian army chief visited Nepal, he reminded the PM that there are 136,000 pensioners in Nepal whose pension bill is disbursed by India. The army chief freely intermingled with pensioners as if Nepal was a colony and he was viceroy.

There are about 32,000 Nepalese Gorkhas currently serving in the Indian Army’s seven Gorkha Rifle regiments (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th), each of which has five to six battalions (around 800 soldiers each).

Nepal resents its image as a contributor of mercenary soldiers to India and Britain. So it wanted to stop sending Gurkhas for recruitment to the two countries by amending the tripartite In 1962, Sino Indian conflict, the Gorkhas stayed loyal to India though  the Chinese used loudspeakers daily against the company of Major Dhan Singh Thapa, PVC,  to withdraw as they were from Nepal. The Nepalese troops returning to their native villages were pooh-poohed on their journey back home.

The total pension bill for the 1, 27,000 pensioners (90,000 defence and 37,000 Central and State Government as well as paramilitary), and serving soldiers remitting home money is around Rs 4,600 crore. It works out to Nepalese Rs.  6400, which is larger than the NR 3601.80 crore defence budget of Nepal.

The Nepalese still resent India’s hand in assassinating Nepal’s king Birendra and his family (‘Indian hand in Nepal massacre’. The Statesman January 11, 2010).

Nepal’s predicament

Nepal is a landlocked country dependent on India in many ways. In the past India blocked supplies to Nepal at least four times forcing it to capitulate to India’s diktat to stave off starvation.

Nepal is contiguous to Tibet. So it has to balance its relation with both India and China. As China has influence on Nepalese communists so India can’t dare subdue Nepal fully. India always regarded Nepalese prime minister Oli a hard nut to crack. It was Oly who amended national map to re- exhibit areas annexed by India within Nepalese territory. India heaved a sigh of relief when Nepalese Supreme Court ousted Oli and appointed Sher Bahadur Deuba as the prime minister until the next general elections.   Deuba remained listless to popular protests against the Supreme Court’s decision.

Conspiracies to oust Oli

To topple Oli’s government, the Indian embassy in Nepal had been bankrolling corrupt politicians and other members of Nepalese society. Aware of India’s underhand machinations,  Oli

debunked India’s conspiracies during a ceremony to commemorate the sixty-ninth anniversary of the Party’s popular leader Madan Bandari. Oli “accused India of trying to destabilize his government” and alleged “Indian embassy in Nepal was conspiring about the same” He claimed, `Conspiracies were being plotted against him since the constitutional Nepali map amendment’.  He further added, `There is an open race to remove me from the post. No-one thought that a prime minister would be removed from office for printing a map’.

Be it observed that Nepal amended its map when its objections fell flat on India. India’s defense minister Rajnath Singh, went ahead to inaugurate an 80-kilometer-long road connecting the Lipulekh Pass in Nepal with Darchula in Uttarkhand (India). The Indian army chief insinuated that Oli was being prodded by China against India.

India’s ongoing annexation

Besides annexing the three new territories, India had already annexed 14000 hectares (140 km square) of territories in Susta, Tribeni Susta, Lumbini Zone, near Nichlaul (Uttar Pradesh).

Nepal being no match for India could not stop India by the use of force. But, to express its dissatisfaction, it printed 4000 copies of the updated version of the new map and distributed it to India, United Nations, and also Google. Additional 25,000 copies of the map were distributed throughout Nepal.

Concluding remarks

Gorkhas fought well in India’s post-independence wars (Indo-Pak 1965, 1971 and 1999 Kargil War, besides 1962 Sino-Indian War and peace keeping mission in Sri Lanka. Their battle cry is jai maha kali, ayo gorkhali. Three Indian army chiefs (SHEJ Manekshaw, Dilbri Singh and Bipin Rawat) served with Gorkha Rifles.

Nepali citizens have a right to apply for recruitment in Indian armed forces or civil services. Yet, they hate India and find more comfort with China as an ally. Whenever India blockades transit trade to Nepal, the latter fall back upon China for its economic needs. India also forced Nepal to grant citizenship to Indians illegally residing in Nepal.

Despite its economic woes, Nepal is ferociously independent minded. When Oli enacted a new map of Nepal, he was vehemently supported by most politicians including the present prime minister. India is unlikely to compel Nepal to toe its dictates fully. 

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Health & Wellness28 mins ago

Best Extracurricular & After-School Activities to Reduce Stress

Being a student is a fun and exciting experience. However, it is also tightly connected with constant stresses. The lack...

Human Rights1 hour ago

Workers with HIV-AIDS continue to face stigma, discrimination

“Myths and misconceptions” about HIV and AIDS continue to fuel stigma and discrimination in the workplace, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday.  Despite some improvement...

Finance3 hours ago

What can I do with an Economics degree?

A degree in economics will increase your employability in any industry. High-skilled graduates are in high demand worldwide. The wide...

Middle East3 hours ago

Israel-Palestine: Risk of ‘deadly escalation’ in violence, without decisive action

With violence continuing daily throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process urged the Security Council on Tuesday to adopt...

Reports5 hours ago

Amidst Strong Economic Rebound in Russia, Risks Stemming from COVID-19 and Inflation

Following a strong economic rebound in 2021, with 4.3 percent growth, Russia’s growth is expected to slow in 2022 and...

Green Planet7 hours ago

COP-26 Results: High Hopes for Low Temperatures

The 26th Conference of the Parties (COP-26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in...

Economy9 hours ago

An Uneven Recovery: the Impact of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean

Employment rates in some Latin American and Caribbean countries have experienced a relative recovery, although in most, rates fall short...

Trending