Indian Foreign Policy
THE NEED FOR NEW DIPLOMACY
the dawn of the new millennium, India has not only emerged as a nuclear weapon
state but also as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is
expected that barring unforeseen catastrophic events, India would emerge as one
of the three pillars of the world economy in the next two decades. Over the last
two decades, India has recorded an average annual growth of around 6% and in
terms of purchasing power parity it is now the world’s fourth largest economy.
Foreign exchange reserves have gone up from US $ 1 billion in 1991 to US $ 140
billion today. The size (GDP) of the economy has since doubled. It is being
predicted to be redoubled by 2010 by a steady annual growth of around 8%.
2005 witnessed a tectonic shift in India’s global position first the
US state department expressed its readiness to transform India into a great power. Then came the exhilaration over the visit of the remarkably mellowed president, Pervez Musharraf. It was followed by the onrush of platitudes and obfuscation from the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, and the announcement of yet another “strategic partnership”. Subsequently, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, did a walkabout in Jakarta, before being chosen to speak for the whole of Asia at the 50th anniversary of the Bandung conference. Finally, there was one more high-level “strategic dialogue” with the Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi. UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, also breezed into New Delhi to reiterate India’s greatness and a virtual endorsement for India’s claim to the coveted sea of Security Council.
For a country that has spent the greater part of the past five decades wallowing in its glorious past and lamenting its dismal present, it has been a significant turnaround. The heady optimism that first manifested itself in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee years has persisted in the first year of Manmohan Singh.
India, it would seem, is finally taking off. More to the point, the country is setting its sights high. We want to be a permanent fixture at the UN Security Council and we don’t want to settle for anything less than the high table.
According to Ms Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs, Princeton University wrote in her book “A New World Order”:
“The G-20 was -- is a network of finance ministers of 20 major economies, the G-8 plus many countries you might expect: South Africa, India, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea. These are countries that if you're trying to regulate a global economy, you have to have as part of your network. What is less noticed is that after the East Asian financial crisis, there were all these calls for a new global financial architecture, and Jeff Garten, the Dean of the Yale Business School said we need a global central bank, and lots of other people have said that it's time to revise the Breton-Woods Institutions. Well, what did we get? We got a network of finance ministers. That is the lynchpin of whatever new global financial architecture we have.”
India’s foreign policies, fortunately, have enjoyed bipartisan political support domestically, markedly from the 1990s onwards. The year 2004 witnessed a change of political complexion of the Government in India raising uncertainties in international quarters that under Congress-led Government foreign policies may revert back to the Nehruvian mould. Initial pronouncements by the new Government and especially its new foreign minister created some confusion. However, international realities and global security environment soon forced the new Government to prudently stick to the earlier general direction.
Constancy of operational factors/considerations is not the hallmark of the international situation. It is a rapidly changing world, where increasingly the global security environment undergoes changes rapidly and new equations are struck and new doctrines postulated by United States unilateralism, at times in immoral contradiction of its established and declaratory policies e.g. compromising on counter-terrorism against Islamic Jehad and condoning Pakistan's WMD proliferation.
While the turn of the millennium augured well for the general direction of Indian foreign policies under two separate political dispensations with an over-emphasis on a US-India strategic partnership, the last few years of the 21st Century indicated otherwise.
A notable feature of India's foreign policy has been its strong advocacy of general and complete disarmament. With nuclear disarmament being accorded the highest priority, India has taken several initiatives within the United Nations and outside towards this end. In 1988, India presented to the third Session of the UN General Assembly devoted to disarmament an action plan for ushering in a nuclear weapons free and non violent World Order. In order to highlight international concern about the unprecedented nuclear arms race, India was also a member of the Six-Nation Five-Continent Joint Initiative in the 1980s. But while India has, and will, remain committed to nuclear disarmament, to be achieved in a time-bound framework, it has consistently and in a principled manner opposed such discriminatory treaties as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has refused to give up its nuclear options until all countries in the world including nuclear weapon states embrace the idea of nuclear disarmament in a phased manner.
As a founder member of the United Nations, India has been firmly committed to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and has made significant contributions to its various activities, including peacekeeping operations. India has been a participant in all its peacekeeping operations including those in Korea, Egypt and Congo in earlier years and in Somalia, Angola and Rwanda in recent years. India has also played an active role in the deliberations of the United Nations on the creation of a more equitable international economic order. It has been an active member of the Group of 77, and later the core group of the G-15 nations. Other issues, such as environmentally sustainable development and the promotion and protection of human rights, have also been an important focus of India's foreign policy in international forums.
India’s foreign policies first significant change in direction, attendant with change in India’s economic policies took place under the stewardship of a Congress Prime Minister from South India and not belonging to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, namely Prime Minister Narasimha Rao,. He was the initiator of India’s ‘New Look’ foreign policies. PM Narasimha Rao’s ‘New Look’ foreign policies arose from the prevailing international environment at the end of the Cold War, the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and its global countervailing power and the need for India to detach its foreign policies from domestic minority vote bank considerations and also to focus on neglected regions. Hence the thrust for a strategic partnership with Israel in West Asia and the ‘Look East” foreign policy. So also was the quest for a substantive relationship with the United States. This was not to the liking of many of the Congress Party hierarchy.
Over the last two decades, India has recorded an average annual growth of around 6% and is now the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. Foreign exchange reserves have gone up from US $ 1 billion in 1991 to US $ 140 billion today. The size (GDP) of the economy has since doubled. We hope to redouble it by 2010 by a sustained annual growth of around 8%. Several recent studies suggest that India will be one of the three largest economies in the coming two-and-a-half decades.
India’s demographic trends and India human resource base constitute two of India’s strongest assets. India’s ‘over-population’ liability of yesterday is now an asset. Some 550 million Indians out of India’s billion-plus strong population are below the age of 25. The middle class of over 300 million is rising steadily. We have the second largest reservoir of trained manpower. India’s universities and centres of higher education turn out over 2 million under-graduates every year. India’s IT workforce is 650,000 today, and will exceed 2 million by 2010.
India’s capabilities in high technology areas, including developing India’s own super-computers, complete nuclear fuel cycle facilities and placing India’s own satellites in orbit, are now proven. India’s comparative advantage in knowledge-driven areas of economic activities has made it attractive both for outsourcing IT-enabled services and as a Research & Development hub. 190 out of the 500 Fortune companies already outsource to India.
We hope to maintain India’s comparative advantage in areas well into this century. The IT segment of the Indian economy itself is expected to grow from US $ 1.5 billion in 2002 to US $ 17 billion in 2008. We are trying to replicate this achievement in areas of biotechnology, biogenetics and pharmaceuticals.
It would be prudent to bear in mind that what India has achieved is within a largely unfavourable social, economic, technological and international environment, and mostly on India’s own effort, without the benefit of special relationships and access to markets that most other major economic powers, other than China, have had.
But notwithstanding these achievements and prospects, the economic challenges are many and daunting, and remain: unconscionable levels of poverty; wide income and economic disparities; regional imbalances; a large and largely backward rural and agricultural sector; infrastructure constraints; chronic shortage of energy resources; and lack of adequate access to markets in the region and beyond. India’s share of world GDP is less than its share of the world population by 9 per cent.
The last few years of the 21st Century in terms of international/political developments impacting on India’s foreign policies presents the following broad picture:
• United States with its tactical obsession with Pakistan has placed the emerging USA-India strategic partnership on the back-burner. India is no longer a priority for USA.
• Russia at long last has realized that it is no longer a “natural ally of the West”. The post-Cold War knee-jerk reaction of forging a strategic alliance with China has not brought the desired fruits. Russia may look for resurgence on its own strengths.
• China despite a phenomenal rise in trade with India and a flurry of visits by senior Chinese leaders to India has yet to give up its strategic nexus with Pakistan. China continues with the military build-up of Pakistan and establishing the infrastructure of a Chinese military presence in Pakistan.
• The Indian sub-continent or so called South Asia presents a dismal security environment. Pakistan strategically buoyed by American political, economic and military aid continues with its illusions of strategic parity with India and has not displayed any indicators of political maturity or conflict resolution. Turmoil and conflict continues in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh under the present political dispensation is anti-Indian and emerging as an alternative base for Pakistan’s proxy war against India.
India’s Strategic Perspectives
As the centre of gravity of world power and international focus have, shifted from the Euro-Atlantic region to Asia which, regrettably, is also the scene of several issues of discord. It is here in Asia that the questions of peace and security will be decided by the equations and interactions in the next quarter century among these five powers — China, India, Japan, Russia and the US. The foreign policies of all these powers are undergoing changes in varying measures. Hence the tectonic shift in the USA’s India policy and Beijing’s unwonted expression of desire for improved relations with India. A new role, as a major regional military and economic power, also beckons India to make its contribution in the making of a new Asian equilibrium of peace and security.
Talking about the future of India, first we have to take note of which India we are talking about. There are six divisions in India. First is the affluent India comprising of southern states. Second is BIMARU (meaning Sick) India, with states like Bihar, MP and UP coming under this division. Third is North East India comprising of all the North East sates. Fourth is Tribal India and India of Insurgency—both Internal and External insurgency movement. The Ultra left and the various nationality struggles being waged in Southern and the North Eastern part of the country come under the category of internal insurgency. While the Islamic movement and the insurgency movement in J&K falls under the category of external category. States like J&K come under this category. Fifth is Island India comprising of islands like Andaman and Nicobar. The last division is ‘India incorporated’ that is traveling at a high speed with its networking. Addressing a particular India is just not possible in value judgement as there will be crisscross between these issues.
Defining India’s new policy initiative today, is an objective convergence in many areas, in the area of values as well as interests, not least over the big issues of the day: democracy, fundamental freedoms, economic vitality on the one hand; and terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, maritime security and international peace and stability on the other.
India’s new strategic and diplomatic thinking hinges on the following major aspects:
• Security and countering global terrorism;
• Economic growth and integration of Indian economy with world economy ; and
• A greater role in global decision-making process particularly in the South Asia and Third World.
With unprecedented military, economic and technological preponderance, the US dominates the scene. Europe is reunited, at peace and engaged in consolidating its political unity and economic integration. NATO, a remnant of the old order, without a security role in Europe, has found something to do in the heart of Asia in Afghanistan.
European military meddling in Asian countries (as part of a NATO force) could revive bitter memories of the oppressive imperial era and hinder the process of reconciliation between pacific Europe and a resurgent Asia.
The US has established a firm presence in several regions of Asia. China’s emergence as the pre-eminent Asian military and economic power is another dramatic development of the last decade. A new role, as a major regional military and economic power, also beckons India to make its contribution in the making of a new Asian equilibrium of peace and security. Russia with its vast Asian stretch, and Japan, the world’s second largest economy and a military power of note are equally significant players in the unfolding “Asian drama”.
India’s strategic perspectives have been shaped by geography, history, it’s own native culture vision, and geopolitical realities and imperatives. Geographically, a few facts are particularly relevant.
First, that India is both a continental and maritime nation with a territory of over 3 million sq kms, a land frontier of 15,000 kms, a coastline of 7,500 kms, and a population of 1.1 billion, the second largest in the world.
Second, its location at the base of continental Asia and the top of the Indian Ocean gives it a vantage point in relation to both West, Central, continental and South-East Asia, and the littoral States of the Indian Ocean from East Africa to Indonesia.
Third, India’s peninsular projection in the Ocean which bears its name, gives it a stake in the security and stability of these waters. Nehru once said: “I look at India….on three sides, the sea, and on the fourth, high mountains….History has shown that whatever power controls the Indian Ocean, has in the first instance, India’s sea borne trade at her mercy, and in the second, India’s very independence itself”.
Fourth, it shares borders with eleven neighbours, most of whom do not share borders amongst themselves.
Fifth, it is an energy deficient country located close to some of the most important sources of oil and natural gas in the Gulf and Central Asia and adjacent to one of the most vital sea-lanes through which 60,000 ships transit every year.
Its natural features, particularly the high wall of the Himalayas to the north, and the vast Indo-Gangetic plain, incline natural movements to and from the north-west of India, from West and Central Asia to the plains. Curiously, while the plains attracted invaders, conquerors, and military campaigns, from Greece (Alexander) to Central Asia (Babur), the reverse was not true, though the 4th century B.C. Mauryan emperor Ashoka did leave his mark in Afghanistan through his edicts eschewing war and exhorting Buddhist non-violence and peace.
Historically, India has been a fundamentally ‘open’ society. It has received and absorbed major influences from outside, like Islam and Christianity, and radiated cultural influences, outward. It was, with the Arab, Persian and Sinic civilizations, a source of cultural influence in Asia. India was one of the great well-springs of human intellectual and spiritual achievement, of the metaphysical insights of Hinduism, and the pacific mission of Buddhism. It is customary to talk of strategic perspectives in terms of ‘hard’ power: India’s strategic perspectives were those of trade, religion, culture, spirituality, and the arts; and later, the political morality of Gandhi.
The end of the Cold War coincided with a balance of payments crisis, the liberalization of the Indian economy and the phenomenon of globalization. The revolution in information and communications technologies offered us the opportunity to transcend the limitations imposed by colonialism and its legacy of hard frontiers of the 20th century. Educated sections of India’s society found themselves in a good position to take advantage of globalization, though in parenthesis, it is ironic that the shrinking of the world as a result of technology and communications should be accompanied by an evolution of border controls that all but chokes travel and movement for the peoples of the developing world.
As the 21st century world is changing, so the leadership role is changing too. The emergences of India as an increasingly open society and economy, the self-confidence that comes with having world-class capabilities, having tested a nuclear weapon, all seem to be leading the Indian political class to set a new strategic agenda. India increasingly defines itself in apposition to China, to the EU, with a core focus (like everyone else) on its relationship with the United States. There is also a deliberate attempt to build up India’s links with the key emerging economies (China, Brazil, South Africa and now a changing relationship with Russia). India’s distinctive role and interests have been clear both in the WTO breakdown at Cancun, and the subsequent progress in Geneva last June. India’s aspiration for a permanent seat on the Security Council (strongly supported by the United Kingdom) fits the same pattern.
One of India’s primary strategic challenges is to restore India’s traditional linkages with the region and re-integrate ourselves to India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood, especially the region west of India to Central Asia and beyond, what has been called a strategic historical deficit.
With this in mind, we have been active in trying to take advantage of arrangements like SAARC, ASEAN, BIMST-EC, the Mekong-Ganga Initiative, and trilateral cooperation with Thailand and Myanmar. We realize that not all India’s neighbours may be comfortable with this vision and India’s place in it. Bearing that in mind, we have been ready to enter into normal, preferential, asymmetrical and free trade and development arrangements with those of India’s neighbours who are willing, provided of course India’s security concerns are not compromised.
The biggest challenge to this vision comes of course from India’s western neighbour. India’s quest for a return to the grain of historical contacts to India’s north-west, gives us a vested interest in peace with Pakistan. It is not an accident that virtually every major initiative for peace, be it Simla, or Lahore or Agra, or Srinagar, has come from India.
21st century India faces peculiar security challenges. We live in a dangerous neighbourhood. Few other countries in the world face the full spectrum of threats to their security as India does, from low intensity conflicts to an unfriendly nuclearised neighbourhood. India’s response to such an environment has been anything but militaristic.
First, India is located at the centre of an arc of fundamentalist activism, terrorism and political instability between North and East Africa and South-east Asia that has witnessed some of the most dramatic acts of terrorism over the last decade, from the US embassy bombings of Nairobi and Mombassa, through incidents in Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bali and Jakarta, not to forget the Bombay blasts of 1992. In the catalogue of terrorist events, it is not often realized that, the Bombay blasts were, arguably, the original act of mass terrorism, eerily similar in modus operandi and targets to 9/11 in its synchronized, serial character and targeting of state and economic symbols.
Second, though innately pacifist through its history, India has, since independence, faced aggression and conflicts with its two largest neighbours. At least one has been openly hostile and adventurist through this entire period. There are unresolved territorial and boundary issues with the other. Talks have commenced with both, but the situation is not yet such that we can lower India’s guard.
Third, India faces on a daily basis, a proxy war from across its borders using terrorism and local insurgencies. There are also spillovers of internal conflicts in neighbouring countries and threats to internal security from extremist movements from within.
Fourth, India is faced with an unfavourable nuclear and missile environment. Apart from two declared nuclear weapon states with whom we have had a history of aggression and conflict, and proliferation emanating from, and to, the region, we have to contend with the possibility of WMDs falling into the hands of terrorists and non-state actors in India’s vicinity.
Fifth, we have to contend with instability and failing states in India’s neighbourhood providing the breeding ground for terrorists and other non-state actors.
Last, the maritime security environment requires more attention. As already indicated, the Indian Ocean region from East Africa to South-east Asia is an area busy with fundamentalist, terrorist, and militant, separatist or extremist organizations, and criminal syndicates involved in trafficking in drugs, arms and humans, and piracy. 60,000 ships, and much of the energy from the Gulf to East Asia, transit through the Straits of Malacca every year.
It has important ports and three vulnerable choke-points at Bab-el-Mandab, the Persian Gulf and the Malacca Straits. As the recent tsunami and countless cyclones of the past have shown, it is also a region prone to disasters.
These security concerns are not unique to India. To some degree, most nations face them in some degree or the other. But few face them all together like India does. But what they underline is a convergence of India’s security concerns with those of the international community at large, and with the US in particular, over fundamentalist activism and terrorism; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; security of shipping, energy and the sea-lanes in the Indian Ocean region; and peace and stability in Asia. In all these, India finds itself at the front-line.
Economic deficit. First, the energy deficit. India is a heavily energy deficient country. Of all the variables that could hinder India’s economic progress, energy scarcity and dependence are probably the most serious. 70% of India’s crude oil is imported. Per capita energy consumption presently is only 1/5th of the world average. Considering a high growth rate of around 8% of GDP per annum in the coming years, growth of oil demand is projected to be 6% per annum. If so, dependence on oil imports could rise from 70% to 80-85% over the next two decades.
It is therefore imperative for us to look for cost-effective and long-term alternatives to meet India’s energy requirements. Indian oil companies are currently actively involved in a search for energy in the form of oil and gas fields, pipelines, LNG, and other new and non-conventional sources. But most hydrocarbon resources underline India’s dependence on limited reserves, and others, for this critical requirement. They also carry scope for avoidable strategic energy rivalries.
If indeed India is to realize its economic potential, India needs alternative sources of energy. Foremost among those available, is nuclear energy. India has indigenously developed technologies for nuclear energy. But, as in many other areas of dual use or high technology, India faces serious impediments of access to materials and components. India’s nuclear tests were a response to an increasingly untenable security environment. We have already announced a restrained and responsible doctrine for its role in India’s security. India’s nuclear energy and security programmes are separate. Restrictions against India’s nuclear energy programme are anachronistic. US and India have now commenced a dialogue through the NSSP and the energy dialogue to address some of these restrictions. Their easing will impact favourably on India’s economic prospects over the next 2-3 decades.
The second constraint is a technology deficit. Technology control regimes going back to the Cold War, and restrictions on transfer of dual use, nuclear and space technology imposed after India’s first atomic test in 1974, remain. One of the reasons for the economic gap between India and other comparable countries is the restrictive and discriminatory technology regimes imposed against India for 30 years. If India is to play its part as an engine of growth and factor of stability in Asia, it should be in the interest of the US and others that such regimes are liberalized as quickly as possible.
The third is the agricultural deficit. Agriculture is still India’s chief livelihood. From a chronically famine-prone and food deficit country, India has moved to becoming first self-sufficient, and now a food exporting country. Yet, most agriculture in India is still that of subsistence farmers. While they do not have the benefit of access to, and integration with, the world economy, they suffer from the vagaries of both nature and the globalized market.
This is an area where the interests of the rich countries and their farmers, both traditional and commercial, diverge. We are trying to address the issue of a fairer deal to the problems of this vast agricultural sector, in the WTO. Unless this issue is addressed as an issue of livelihood that affects 600 million people in India alone, we run the risk of a schizophrenic economy where one half prospers from the globalization, and the other suffers. This would be neither socially nor politically sustainable.
The last issue is the global decision-making deficit, or India’s place in the major decision-making bodies of the world. If globalization is inexorable, multilateralism has to be its life sustaining mechanism. The world has changed dramatically since the constitution of the United Nations and its present composition of Security Council members. In the interim, the bipolar, confrontationist edifice of the Cold War has collapsed. The Cold War structure of global governance stands dismantled, but an enduring replacement that can address the economic and security challenges of India’s times and the future, is not in place.
As a new order struggles to be born, the obvious reality in India’s increasingly globalized world is the growing interdependence among nations. No one country, whatever it’s economic, technological, and military eminence, can take on the exclusive responsibility of ensuring peace and order in the whole world. In Asia alone, new powers, like China and Japan, have emerged. The European Union may have suffered a jolt, but the idea remains powerful. Russia may be facing problems of transition, but is too important to ignore. A unipolar world is clearly not a sustainable proposition in the long run. India’s vision of a multipolar world is one of partnership among the nations. It does not visualize the creation of poles in opposition to one another. It has sought geometries across continents, like the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Forum, the Russia-China-India consultations, the Group of Four for United Nations Security Council reform. The early reform and reinvigoration of the UN system to reflect changed ground realities acquire a certain urgency in this context. By any criteria — size, population, economy, military power, role in international peacekeeping, responsibility in international affairs, future prospects, etc. India is a natural candidate.
Now let us discuss some of the factors that prevent India from realizing its potential to contribute to international peace, stability and development. Asia hosts a diversity of political experiences and experiments ranging from monarchies and military dictatorships, to nascent and established democracies. The region also faces the menace of terrorism and trafficking in, and proliferation of arms and drugs. In the midst of this, India stands as a bulwark against fundamentalism and extremism, a centre of economic gravity, a beacon of democracy despite challenges of human diversity, poverty and economic disparity, a bastion of stability, and a symbol of peaceful coexistence and non-violence.
The task before the statesmen of the 21st century is one of forging working partnerships to create a stable equilibrium of peace and cooperation in which none of the five powers viz. China, India, Japan, Russia and the US feels trapped in an environment of hostility; none is threatened with exclusion and none feels emboldened to walk into a seeming vacuum causing a clash of interests with another power.
Over the past few months, there have been a number of articles in international press extolling the rise of China and India in the world economy. Phrases like 'the two Asian giants' have become commonplace. More fanciful commentators have concocted new terms like 'Chindia' to herald the rise of this new global force. Futurologists have speculated about a 'tri-polar' scenario of the US, China and India dominating global affairs in a decade or two from now.
That since 1986 Sino-Indian border has not suffered any major disruptions as compared to the incessant firing incidents and infiltration on the Indo-Pak borders makes the Sino-Indian border almost an ideal example of good neighbourly relations. Sometimes commentators negate the process of CSBMs citing that this has not yet resulted in resolving the Sino-India boundary question. But keeping in mind the magnitude of complexities involved this gradual evaluation of CSBMs has not only preserved peace between these two Asian giants but also generated great deal of mutual trust and understanding giving hope to the prospects of final resolution of the border problem. This optimism rests not on euphoria, but on the solid base of growing shared interests and understanding between the two countries. There is a tendency to contrast the slow pace of Sino-Indian CSBMs with China’s fast recoveries of CSBMs with her newly acquired friends like Vietnam and Russia. Here, once again, one must appreciate that compared to, Sino-Indian interactions, China’s links with these two countries have been far more deep-rooted and extensive, and this is further reinforced by their ideological, institutional and cultural similarities. By comparison, friendly relations with India during the 1950 were essentially superficial, and its experience of 1962 devastating. It is in this context that CSBMs have played the critical role preparing both sides to find ways and means of working together. Global changes have also played their roles in further facilitating this process. And as a result, in the 1990s as both China and India envision their future role in this new expanded strategic spectrum of the 21st century Asia, their CSBMs become an absolute imperative towards achieving their common goals of peace and development. And looking at their track record of last 20-25 years, this gradual evolution of Sino-India CSBMs not only proves ‘that they both quite appreciate this new piecemeal approach to their complicated ground realities but this also gives hope of both these countries gradually coming closer and emerging as friends (may be partners) for the forthcoming Asian century of the next millennium.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and an entourage of a hundred delegates visited India in April 2005, highlighting his four-nation tour of the Subcontinent. Premier Wen Jiabao first visited India in 1994 as head of an international liaison department of the Communist Party of China. The current visit was not only intended to greet India’s political leaders but survey its economic landscape. It seemed clear that the Premier was intent to focus on potential Sino – India economic cooperation. In this vein, he visited the city of Bangalore, India’s IT giant Tata Consultancy Services, telecom giant Huawei Technology's R&D centre, the Indian Institute of Sciences, and the Indian Space Research Organization. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Jiabao exchanged views on the border and emphasized a willingness to agree on an acceptable and fair solution by the Joint Working Group. Furthermore, India reiterated that Tibet Autonomous Region was an integral part of China while China reciprocated by declaring Sikkim as clearly demarcated within Indian territory. However, questions linger about the Aksai Chin are and Arunachal Pradesh and the resolution of these boundaries will mark beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship with China. Prior to departing for Beijing, the premier addressed hundreds of students at Dogra Hall at India Institute of Technology in Delhi and stated that, "India and China are not competitors but can complement each other and work toward an Asian century."
Indo-Chinese relations have seen a degree of normalization and engagement. These two big giants are the future in Asia. Their evolving relationship (which in economic terms is both competitive and cooperative) is going to be an important factor for the rest of the world to observe and react to.
United States-India Relations
US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice’s high profile whirlwind tour of Asia in March has once again focused attention on the continent’s crucial place in global security and stability. During her visit, Rice explicitly acknowledged India ’s rising global profile and sought India ’s partnership in maintaining regional and global stability. Despite some glitches such as the US opposition to the Indo-Iran gas pipeline project and Indian opposition to the sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan , the visit reflected the changing framework for Indo-US ties. Secretary Rice reiterated that the US has no intention of attacking North Korea
The US and India have often been referred to as ‘estranged democracies’. Perhaps history itself is to blame. It is a striking historical coincidence that India came under the grip of colonialism just as the US found its independence. When India gained independence, the world entered the period of the Cold War. As if destined to ignore each other, the US and India looked in different directions. Today, more than ever, the US and India realize that they share common values and security concerns; and that there is an objective convergence of interests. It is crucial that India and the US work together with the international community to find a new order for the 21st century.
Richard N. Haass, Director, Policy Planning Staff in U.S. Department of State he said “One of the major challenges and opportunities of the post-post-Cold War world is the integration of China and India into the international system. This is already happening. We are encouraged by Beijing’s entry into the WTO last November and its cooperation in the war against terrorism. With India, the Bush Administration had already opened before September 11 an unprecedented dialogue between India’s two countries -- the world’s two largest democracies. Since then, in India’s common response to the terrorist threat, we have developed new and deeper relations across the board….. We thus must continue to try to integrate Russia, China, India, the Arab world, African countries, and others into India’s efforts to create a better future based on India’s common values. This is an era of new partnerships.”
The latest visit of the Indian Prime Minister to USA gains its significance from the Indo-US relations ever since 70’s and 80’s. This relation has been growing very well for the following reasons; first; the rise of economic factor between both the countries, second; the increasing role played by the Indian community in USA, third; cooperation between both the countries in Software. The nuclear testing by India in 1970 as well as 1998 remained an irritant in the Indo – US relation.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said “India and the United States share a fundamental commitment to democracy and believe they have an obligation to the global community to strengthen values, ideals and practices of freedom, pluralism, and rule of law. With their solid democratic traditions and institutions, they have agreed to assist other societies in transition seeking to become more open and democratic.”
The United States, State department has expressed its readiness to transform India into a great power. From the Indian standpoint, there are new signs of seismic shift in the US attitude towards India. Rice’s statement for a regional power status for India and a willingness to supply Super-Hornets with transfer of technology and providing American civilian nuclear technology to deflect the Indian irritation at F-16 sales to Pakistan and prevent the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline to coerce Iran into abandoning its nuclear ambitions, though a pie in the sky, needs to be pursued and explored. The technology of the newest F-18s would go a long way to make India’s indigenous LCA and MCA program feasible and give India the ability to manufacture its own fourth generation MRCAs, thus sparing foreign exchange, eliminating total foreign dependency and upgrading technological expertise. The proverbial unreliability of America as an ally, of which Pakistan has the bitter experience, should be weighed and co-operation with Russia for the development of fifth generation aircraft continued. The Swedish Grippen, French Mirage and Russian MiG 29 purchases fill the present need, but offer no overwhelming advantage. The Swedish planes are not as advanced and deserve no consideration. It would be better to negotiate with Dassault for the more advanced twin engine Rafele or local manufacture for the Russian MiG 35 and further co-operation for more advanced planes.
Clearly, New Delhi will never forget those dark and dismal days in 1993, when America’s Bill Clinton put pressure on Russia’s seldom-sober president, Boris Yeltsin, to cancel an agreement for the sale of cryogenic engines and space technology from Russia to India. Yeltsin had just broken up the Soviet Union barely a year ago and all he wanted to do was stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his newfound American friends. Canceling a contract with New Delhi was worth a bottle of top-class Stolichnaya. At stake for New Delhi was the budding space research programme of the Indian Space Research Organization that the Soviets had so recently promised to help their old Indian friends to build.
The question is, why was Bush willing to go so far to back India? Many in the Washington beltway point at a rising China that is beginning to have the nerve to challenge Number One America. The point is, in an extraordinary concatenation of circumstances, India’s instinctive mistrust of China since 1962 has found an empathic chord in the Bush-Condi-Burns triumvirate. So when the archetypal Nehruvian, K. Natwar Singh, told Condoleezza Rice, only half-jokingly, that she couldn’t smile at the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, more cheerily than at him, it looked like something was seriously up.
Relations with Pakistan:
India has to tend its own relationship with Pakistan with care, patience and perseverance. Considering that India cannot give up Kashmir and Pakistan cannot forcibly take it, Pakistan’s pointless agitation and jehadi terrorism should be expected to continue by fits and starts. Nevertheless, the current peace dialogue and the congenial atmosphere built after the Kashmir earthquake has raised a hope that it may proceed to a settlement of the problem on the basis of a large measure of autonomy for the Kashmir Valley as well as "Azad Kashmir"(POK) and the northern areas under Pakistan’s control.
Bangladesh’s antagonistic posture receives encouragement from both Pakistan and China. India should deal firmly with its provocations on the border, its sheltering and nurturing of Indian insurgents and its undeclared policy of encouraging its surplus population to infiltrate and settle down in neighbouring Indian states.
India and Pakistan do not identify the same issue to be the root cause of the inter-state tensions. For India, terrorism is the core issue that has alienated it from its western neighbour. The terrorist attacks in Kashmir, and in the rest of the country are an enormous source of concern for both the Indian government and its people. These acts of terror are costing countless innocent lives, wreaking havoc, and making life uneasy for all Indians. Terrorism threatens the very stability of the country, especially in Kashmir.
Declaring that both countries wish to resolve the Kashmiri conflict expediently and peacefully, India and Pakistan have sat at the negotiating table on numerous occasions. Nonetheless, a solution is yet to be reached. In 1999, both parties affirmed their hopes of settling the Kashmiri conflict, yet no real solid progress was made. At the Agra Summit in July 2001, negotiations ended in a deadlock over the issue of Kashmir. Although many such meetings have failed to provide a solution, each country is also guilty, in other capacities, of slowing progress at one point or another. Pakistan, shortly after the Lahore Summit, tried to infiltrate Indian Kashmir via Kargil. This action deftly reversed any warm feelings the two countries had begun to nurture after the summit in Lahore a few months earlier. Much earlier in the 1970s, India infuriated Pakistan when it encouraged, trained, armed, and financed the Mukti Bahini in its nationalist objective of creating a nation in East Bengal, independent of Pakistan. This policy led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, simultaneously depleting the geographical size of Pakistan by about a half.
The Pakistani government’s continued stubbornness poses a strong challenge to India’s foreign policy. Pakistan’s “invader” mindset is evident from non-compliance with past treaties, support of cross border terrorism, view of historical events and the names of its missiles. It is simplistic to view Pakistan as a monolith. In actuality, Pakistan has a sizeable amount of diversity across ethnic groups, religious sects, and political ideology. Unfortunately, such diversity is not represented in its military dominated government. Moderate factions are often held at bay by the government’s backing of fundamentalist forces and its promotion of a paranoid world view to its populous. Suppression both ethnic and political diversity has lead to numerous dissident factions seeking regional autonomy or a change of government. Despite a façade to the contrary, the Pakistani government shows no sign of significant or lasting change regarding Islamic fundamentalism which threatens the region and beyond. American policies based on encouraging Pakistan to restrain zealots, cooperate in capturing Osama bin Laden, and maintain stability in Afghanistan is very limited. Pakistan’s incorrigible behavior is the very problem. Pakistan misdirects American aid and furthers the very bothersome habits it is designed to eradicate. In the long term, Pakistan is a moribund nation, and American realization of this reality by preparation of contingency plans to deal with the consequences would provide true security in the region.
Considering that Pakistan’s staunchest ally, the United States is strengthening its ties with archrival India, and its other supporter, China, in following a policy of peaceful co-existence, Pakistan has come to realize that it needs to make new allies to prosper. Thus, India–Pakistan rivalry finds a new arena in Southeast Asia. Pakistan also sees itself as a counter-balance to India’s influence in the South Asian region, straddling, as it does, at the highly strategic meeting point of the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. Following in the footsteps of India’s ‘Look East Policy’, Pakistan launched ‘Strategic Vision East Asia’, to find friends in previously unexplored territory. Although a decade behind India’s policy, Pakistan’s ‘Strategic Vision East Asia’ has made great strides in wooing the nations of the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations).
The Asian Context: Relations with the East Asian Countries
Asia is in transition, it is undergoing a cataclysmic change in the economic and diplomatic sphere. How will the four principal pillars emerging in the Asian structure - China, Japan, India and South East Asia(ASEAN) – work and compete together will decide the destiny of this Continent. The Indian-Chinese evolving over the next decade will be a major issue and their respective relationships in and with South East Asian countries will be part of the emerging picture. The impact of SAFTA, SAARC, BIMSTEC, and ASEAN will be important parts of the changing Asian picture.
Regarding India’s economic development, one sees a positive sense of change, opportunity, ambition, and self-confidence. Trend growth in India’s economy has risen roughly 1% point every decade for the last three decades, and has been at 5% plus for almost 20 years. The graph is accelerating. Last year, India grew by over 8%. Forecasts this year are for about 6.5%. Goldman Sachs suggested last year that, given the right economic reforms, India was quite likely to be the only big emerging market economy to grow at above 5% systematically every year through until 2050.
One of the encouraging signs of last year’s growth pattern – likely to be repeated this year – was that growth was spread across all three sectors (agriculture, services, manufacturing). The manufacturing sector is the one most likely to expand employment.
The five reasons why there is fundamental strength in the Indian economy: it is now almost 13 years into a slow but steady reform process, increasingly opening up the economy; it has an innate entrepreneurial capability and culture.; it has great human capital in terms of volume and educational quality; education is a key factor and the system produces a large number of highly skilled individuals; it is the world’s largest democracy which is above all secular.
India’s ambitions for regional openings are striking too. The groupings of SAARC and SAFTA are there already. But through India’s “Look East” policy we can see an increasing ambition to link-up with the ASEAN countries, to provide a new bridging link through BIMSTEC to the big political economies of South East Asia.
Since India became a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN, the collaboration has transcended the realm of functional cooperation to cover political and security dimensions. India participates in a series of consultative meetings with ASEAN which include the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Post Ministerial Conferences (PMCs) 10+1 and 10+10. Since July 1996, India has been an active participant of the ARF. It views the ARF as valuable process in promoting stable relationships between the major powers, and as a useful complement to the bilateral alliances and dialogues between India and ASEAN Member Countries, which are at the heart of the region's security architecture.
Reflective of India's interest in intensifying its engagement with ASEAN, both sides are now in the process of finalising an ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity document to be signed at the Third ASEAN-India Summit on 30 November 2004 in Vientiane. This document would set out the roadmap for long-term ASEAN-India engagement, which would be executed through the implementation of a Plan of Action to be attached to the Partnership document.
India’s economic integration with East Asia in the emerging East Asian community would also fit the Look East Policy pursued by India since 1991 as a part of which India became a dialogue partner of ASEAN. The Indian economy is rapidly integrating with the East Asian production networks especially in critical knowledge-based parts of the value chain. The Indian enterprises are also developing their own production networks incorporating East Asian countries. With rapid growth of intra-regional trade, East Asia has emerged India’s largest trade partner surpassing the US or EU accounting for nearly 40 per cent of her global trade. With FTAs being evolved or studies with all the ASEAN+3 countries, India’s is virtually integrated with East Asia. With a US$ 650 billion economy growing at 7-8 per cent pa, a sizeable large middle class and strong macro-fundamentals, India is able to add its own dynamism to the East Asian community.
Large requirements of infrastructure investments, booming demand of final consumption goods in India may help to smoothen, the process of macroeconomic adjustment that may arise following the move towards float exchange rate regimes in some Asian countries. The demographic trends also provide a source of complementarity between India and East Asia. With age-old civilisational links with East Asian countries, India feels much more integrated culturally with the region besides the geographical contiguity with China, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. With its well developed transport and trading links with west, central and south Asia, India could also act as a bridge between these regions and East Asia. Some observers find that India’s participation in the East Asian community could also make it more balanced. JACIK approach to East Asian integration is catching a popular imagination and is a preferred option over the ASEAN+3 approach as recent surveys of young Asian leaders suggest.
Voices emanating from different parts of the region support pan-Asian cooperation and integration. Against this background, we will examine the relevance of a broader approach and outlines a roadmap for regional cooperation in Asia in detail.
The leaders of the seven member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); met for their "annual" summit” in Dhaka on November 12 and 13, 2005. As usual the SAARC meeting was high in magniloquence and low in content. SAARC meetings had been occasions for India and Pakistan to spar over Kashmir. Now, with the active engagement of Islamabad and New Delhi, it is being hoped that fresh energy can be infused into the region on the economic front.
At summit after summit, in declaration after declaration, SAARC leaders have referred to goals such as poverty reduction, preferential and free trade, and the need to establish good neighbourly relations in general terms. Yet precious little forward movement has taken place compared to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) or even the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) grouping that comprises China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
In this summit also a marked anti-India stance by some countries of the south Asia like Bangladesh and to a certain extent Nepal was visible. The attempt to include China in the grouping is been seen in the Indian diplomatic circle as an attempt to undermine India’s importance in the region/grouping. As of today India is way ahead in all fields as against combined strength of all the other nations. If China is allowed to join the grouping then there is a possibility of India being marginalized as the regional power which the countries of south Asia and also China intends to do.
According to a retired Foreign Secretary, Indian policy towards neighbours has suffered from a sense of "superiority and neglect". Prime ministers and foreign ministers often feel shy and hesitant in visiting neighbouring capitals and senior diplomats falter on the count of being polite and courteous towards their neighbouring counterparts. There is a lingering shadow of the British imperial mindset on the Indian bureaucracy when it comes to dealing with neighbouring countries and their citizens. If India has to emerge as a constructive and decisive factor in Asian and world affairs, it has to carry its neighbours along by playing a helpful role in their political stability and economic prosperity.
The European Community in general and France & Germany in particular offers India the potential for working towards a more multi-polar world. The European Community with the rising value of the “Euro” and its attraction as an alternative to the US dollar in terms of global nesting of financial reserves and trading leads to the prospects of the emergence of an alternative “Euro Trading Area” to the Dollar.
Cooperation between the European Union and India has always been good, but for many years the full potential of relations remained untapped. Now, however, EU-India ties are entering a new era, as new relationship has developed exponentially in terms of shared vision, goals, challenges and achievements.
India is changing, dramatically and fast. Though the EU is India’s largest trading partner and main source of foreign investment, there are differences on the economic chapter of the plan, too. The EU feels that if the potential of the Indian market is to be realised, India must speed up its economic reforms. The EU would like India to tackle "high and discriminatory" tariffs/taxes, non-tariff barriers and FDI restrictions and improve its infrastructure. Without India moving on these fronts, the EU fears it will remain EU’s 14th trading partner behind China, Brazil and South Africa.
The rising economic strength of the Euro coupled with the political independence of countries like France and Germany offers an attractive foreign policy challenge to India. India also enjoys the luxury of being a lucrative market for European defence equipment sales. A selective use of this option by India could help Indian foreign policy planners to elicit favourable political responses for India’s national security and economic interests.
The last few months have witnessed interesting developments on the nuclear front. Pakistan has agreed to send samples of centrifuges to the IAEA for tests to determine whether the Iranian centrifuges originated from Pakistan. Additionally, the Pakistani government was under tremendous pressure from the United States to hand over Abdul Qadeer Khan and possibly even the former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg for questioning. Pakistan seems to be hedged its risk by signing a deal with the Chinese Government to build the Chashma-2 nuclear reactor. This reactor would produce plutonium that could potentially be diverted to the nuclear weapons program.
On March 28, 2005 at the India International Centre Auditorium the then Foreign Minister of India Mr. Natwar Singh delivering an inaugural Address at the conference “Emerging Nuclear Proliferation Challenges,” said:
“….India has developed a comprehensive indigenous infrastructure and a pool of skilled manpower in the nuclear sector, to meet both its energy requirements generated by the development aspirations of a billion people as well as to enhance national security. India’s nuclear programme, civilian or strategic, has not violated any international obligations. At the same time, conscious of the responsibilities that such technologies bring, we have taken stringent measures to safeguard them. We are committed to further strengthening India’s regulatory framework in this regard in keeping with changing technical and security challenges. India has never been and will never be a source of proliferation. This has been reiterated at the highest political levels and is an article of faith of India’s foreign policy.
….India remains ready to participate in agreed and irreversible steps to prepare the ground for such a Convention. During the Cold War, it was said that a ‘nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought’. The need now for all the nuclear weapon States is to reaffirm this logic. In parallel to this reaffirmation, the nuclear weapon States should take visible steps to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in their strategic calculus. Since nuclear weapons are not really usable, efforts should be directed at taking steps, in the first instance, towards reducing their importance in security approaches. India believes in this approach and has therefore followed a policy of “No First Use”. A step in this direction would be a global No-First-Use agreement. An agreement by Nuclear Weapon States ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states would also be an important step. The nuclear weapon States should also take practical steps to lower the alert status, through gradual de-alerting actions of their strategic weapons, consistent with the defensive role of nuclear weapons. Such concrete steps would reaffirm the solemn commitment of the international community, in particular nuclear weapons States, to nuclear disarmament and mark concrete progress in that direction.”
Since Independence, India has endeavored to carve a balanced niche in the world as an old civilization and a new nation in a hostile neighborhood. It avoided Cold War entanglements as much as possible while chartering a Non Aligned independent course in a time when all its neighbors and allies were gravitating to wither of the two inimical camps. It stood for the cause of developing and the poor nations. India’s foreign policy rose to the challenge posed by the end of the Cold War and the sudden disappearance of its most trusted friend and supporter –the Soviet Union. Though the initial outlook in the early 1990’s seemed bleak, the post-Cold War era presented a unique opportunity to engage countries based on strategic and economic grounds. Overall, the first decade of the post Cold War era was a difficult time as foreign policy often tilted to compensate for previous leanings. Overtime, India’s policy has matured into a balanced engagement of the major powers, and strategically important regions. India must continue to engage while avoiding entanglements. Its alliances must be limited by mutual goals, and not be forced to serve as a wedge in larger rivalries. Foreign policy must tread a focused path between advancing long term goals and agile enough to respond to abrupt changes.
India has repeatedly reiterated that it has no designs on its neighbors and wishes to live in peace within its current borders. It would be foolish for it to harbor ambitions to be a world power and match the current hegemon. It is important however, for it to be able to withstand the notorious bullying history of America, the sole super power and its increasing ambition to assert its power as the “Globo-Cop”. Pakistan is proverbially manipulable and unstable. Its insecure status made it turn on a dime against its vicious child, Taliban.
It is the only potential base source to threaten India for a remote possibility of a hostile America. Thus it becomes imperative for India to be friendly and co-operative with America without sacrificing its own national interest. India’s security lies in having a nuclear triad (land, air and more important sea). Thus the development of nuclear submarines with ICBMs should be a top priority.
India needs to have, if not the ability of air superiority against China and Pakistan, then at least enough offensive and defensive (radars, AWACS, MRCAs and SAMs) assets to prevent China or Pakistan from achieving air superiority. The lessons of Yugoslavia and the two Iraq wars by America have been thoroughly studied by China and it would be foolish of India not to be prepared for the contingency of this newest offensive strategy. Thus we need to improve India’s surveillance satellite capability along Pakistani and Chinese borders and have greater UAV numbers and sophistication. We do not wish a repeat of Kargil.
Keeping sea lanes of commerce open and projecting power requires a strong blue water navy. The dominance of the seas by Athens, the Portuguese, Britain and America should teach us the value of being a naval power. We have no desire to project India’s power beyond the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. India’s navy needs two or preferably three aircraft carriers with support ships of Aegis type destroyers and hunter attack submarines like Akula or Scorpenes with capability of indigenous construction, and four squadrons of advanced P3C Orion equivalent planes for surveillance and anti-submarine warfare.
India needs more air and naval bases on the coastal areas of India’s eastern and western coastlines. The army needs sturdy armored personnel carriers, India’s own tanks, howitzers and ammunition. We need to stop buying everything from Israel, South Africa, Russia or other nations and emphasize collaborative manufacture of ammunition, night vision devices, radars, anti-tank and other missiles. India’s land borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh need to be fenced, monitored with sensors and UAVs and adequately dotted with army concentrations with supportive air power from attack aircraft and helicopters. India’s aging MiG 21 fleet could be used for ground attack and air support for it’s infantry and armored divisions, but we need a larger compliment of attack helicopters like the Hind. Above all this must be done without neglecting India’s economy (a potentially fatal blunder of America). Thus we must rein in it’s budget deficits, improve it’s governance, root out corruption, modernize it’s agriculture and industry and redress the grievances of the poor and minorities and continue the growth of it’s middle class, the best medium for fostering a vibrant democracy.
Finally spending a billion or two for the Arrow or Patriot-2 ABMs is only a temporary reprieve. America which is spending hundreds of billion dollars has no hope of being immune from a Russian nuclear attack. The ABM technology is still unreliable and can be swamped by decoys and sheer numbers. Sooner or later, Pakistan will, and China already has too many nuclear tipped missiles to be countered by India’s ABMs. This is not to belittle the saving of even a single city, but ultimately peace and detente will have to be achieved by Mutually Assured Destruction, the basis of cold war detente between the Soviets and Americans.
India is mixing innovative diplomatic cocktails that blend trade agreements, direct investment, military exercises, aid funds, energy cooperation and infrastructure-building. Proposals include an Iran-India-China natural-gas pipeline, an India-Myanmar-Thailand highway, a Delhi-Hanoi rail link and free-trade pacts with China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
"Now, for the first time, you're seeing an opportunity for all three major players to develop themselves and engage with the continent. It's sort of like the rise of Britain, France and Germany, but on a larger scale." Tharoor, who is an under secretary general of the United Nations, stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity.
As trade ties and personal contacts grow, India is increasingly reaching beyond its borders to protect its ocean-going commercial vessels, to sign trade agreements and to buy oil fields - activities that pit it against its most powerful Asian neighbors, notably China.
In the post Cold War era, two main and often opposing trends emerged. The first was a willingness of the international community, particularly the US to play a mediating role in settling conflicts from Northern Ireland to East Timor. Associated with this trend was the break up of larger countries into smaller nations of Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States of the erstwhile USSR. Simultaneously, neighboring states realized the benefits of economic interdependence coalesced into trading blocs. Among the most notable groupings are NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), European Union, and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). India in the early 90’s seemed ill suited to cope with the changes in the global environment. It was largely dependent on the former Soviet Union for military equipment and spares. India’s economy was highly regulated and centrally controlled and its ties with the US remained limited.
During the late 80’s and the 1990’s, the end of the Cold War heralded realignment in global relations. India engaged new friends, maintained steadfast contact with old friends, and an ever watchful eye over enemies. India started its journey of economic liberalization, and the Gujral doctrine dampened hegemonic fears among neighbors. India extended its influence into the distant neighborhoods of Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The tenure of Prime Minister Rao witnessed burgeoning economic and political relations. Astute foreign policy laid the cornerstone in the foundation of India’s post Cold War foreign policy, and subsequent administrations advanced this agenda.
India established economic and diplomatic relations with Israel and deepened ties with the Arab states. India’s economic engagement of ASEAN continued at a steadfast rate throughout the 1990’s. Relations with the US gradually thawed and even blossomed. Overall, the pre-Cold War Indo – US ties were held hostage to the larger Cold War agenda and to US-Pakistan relations. The 1980’s brought about a rapprochement in Indo – US ties due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, India’s desire to open its economy, and clandestine Pakistani acquisition of nuclear weapons. The post Cold War era reduced the confinements of the past, and new administrations in both countries sought to increase ties. The Clinton administration’s simple message “it’s the economy stupid” allowed both governments to set aside some past disagreements and focus on mutual economic growth. Relations with Russia continued to mature and involved a long standing multidimensional approach involving security, military, and economic links.
Despite the upswing in India’s global contacts and the post Cold War era bonhomie, Pakistan remained a sore point due to its obduracy in Kashmir and support of cross border terrorism. The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan allowed Pakistan to redirect trained mercenaries towards Kashmir in order to achieve long sought goals. As tensions between India and Pakistan flared over various reasons, President Clinton repeatedly offered unsolicited American services and at one time even asked China to play a role. Indian policy treaded a difficult course of exposing Pakistan’s role in cross border terrorism.
At the same time it avoided internationalizing the Kashmir issue and invite serious meddling. Internationalization would play into Pakistani hands of devaluing the bilateral Simla Agreement. One notable event borne out of over zealous efforts at peacemaking was the Robin Raphel fiasco. It inadvertently questioned the legitimacy of the Indian Union and threatened burgeoning Indo – US ties. India’s diplomats successfully raised objections and prevented further carelessness by the Clinton Administration.
India’s engagement of Southeast Asia was dubbed as “Look East Policy.” India’s economic engagement of ASEAN continued at a steadfast rate throughout the 1990’s and reaped dividends in the form of trade agreements, increased contact between people, and the establishment of sub-regional grouping such as BIMSTEC (Bangladesh India Myanmar Sri Lanka Thailand Economic Council) and GMC (Ganga Mekong Cooperative). These groups worked towards free trade agreements, common development of infrastructure, and integration of national economies into the global economy. In addition to an economic dimension, India’s engagement was motivated by strategic reasons.
China’s economic and military interaction would restrict India’s role in Southeast Asia. India capitalized on ASEAN’s concern about Chinese influence to bolster its position. India’s northeast region would serve as a launch pad for economic interaction and revitalize an ailing portion of the country. India’s engagement of Myanmar despite significant Chinese influence indicated broad goals of engaging neighbors on economic and strategic terms. Indo – Myanmar ties formed the first and critical step in India – Southeast Asia ties while improving security in the Northeast region and paving the way for future economic development.
In a stunning move India carried out three nuclear tests on May 11, 1998. As the Clinton administration preached nuclear morality, India retorted with an additional 2 tests on May 13, 1998. India “gate crashed” into the exclusive nuclear club. Despite bravado about a de-nuclearizing India from a non proliferation regime in Washington the world accepted India as a nuclear reality. The usually economically savvy Clinton administration sought to replace incentives with economic sanctions in order to punish India. In retrospect, the economic sanctions overwhelmingly failed. The dialogue between India and the US resulted in a lengthy exchange on mutual security situations.
India voluntarily agreed to the principle of the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) as a way of calming American apprehensions. Pakistan soon retorted to India’s tests. Despite disclosed nuclear capability, a conflagration between India and Pakistan in the spring of 1999 did not escalate to a nuclear exchange. Furthermore, it amply demonstrated the success of Indian policy and marginalized Pakistan for promoting instability. On the other hand, the Kargil imbroglio served as a convenient way for the West to continue the Indo – Pak dyad to encompass nuclear tensions. The region was dubbed the most dangerous place in the world and serve as a vehicle for numerous peace making attempts and a Presidential visit.
The fears of the most dangerous place in the world were confirmed in an unimaginable way on September 2001 as terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, while Pakistan obstructed attempts to capture him. After the 9-11 attacks, Pakistan was forced to officially turn against the Taliban and aid US efforts. India was driven by economic and strategic compulsions. It. offered significant aid to the US in the initial phase of the War on Terror. According to India, the 9-11 attack sharply focused attention on Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror.
Additionally, due to strong economic linkages any downturn in the US economy would adversely impact Indian economic growth and hurt Indian Diaspora in the region. The presence of American military personnel and long term interests in Afghanistan irrevocably changed the security situation for India. Pakistan’s overt cross border terrorism would be checked, and the reversal of the Taliban reduced training camps for future jihadis. On the other, Pakistan secured by American interests would resort to adventurism against India without fear of retaliation as evidenced by December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. In the post 9-11 scenario, India benefited from the removal of the Taliban regime, established diplomatic and economic linkages with Afghanistan, and furthered ties to Central Asian neighbors. India desires a stable Afghanistan that retards the growth of fundamentalist forces and allows India access to the region’s trade and energy commodity. The American engagement of Pakistan is a double edged sword, on one hand it limited Pakistan’s ability to spread the nuisance of terrorism, but it resulted in military benefits that could be potentially directed against India.
During the Bush administration, Indo – US ties acquired a security dimension with regular military exercises and limited access to civilian and military technology. Thinkers in both governments sought to make the two countries “natural allies” and often touted that India could play a pivotal role in America’s Asia policy in the new century. Despite the rhetoric, there are numerous issues of divergence such as American unilateralism, support of Pakistan’s regime that fosters terrorism against India, and future containment of China and Iran. If these points of divergence are not discussed or mutually resolved will unravel ties and threaten to undercut the momentum of Indo – US relations. Furthermore, the US must quietly bury the India – Pakistan dyad, the staple of many public announcements. Any ongoing use of the dyad will seek to accentuate the ridiculous because a reasonable comparison between the countries cannot exist.
Nonetheless, one must note several significant points of convergence such as economic development, balance of power in Asia, stemming of terrorism and policy with regard to Afghanistan. Stability in Afghanistan forms the pivot of India’s political, economic and strategic policy in Central Asia. Any constraints on Indian policy in the region will ease the path of fundamentalist influence. Trends such as the resurgent Taliban and marginalization of minority groups are worrisome as it could unravel the progress of the past 3 years. The success of a representative government in Afghanistan and freedom from the Taliban keeps fundamentalist forces at bay in the region and promotes stability in Central Asia. The establishment of intercultural contacts, strong diplomatic interaction, and aid in the form of food and vehicles are meant to not only promote good will and help a troubled neighbor, but also are a stepping stone to mutually lucrative trade corridor extending into the interior of Asia.
Iran forms the second pillar of India’s engagement in the region. It diversifies India’s engagement of the Islamic world and bypasses Pakistan. American action against Iran will affect India’s policy in Central Asia, strengthen the factors of instability but also could widen the area of instability from Iraq to Afghanistan and promote Islamic fundamentalism.
The Pakistani government’s continued stubbornness poses a strong challenge to India’s foreign policy. Pakistan’s “invader” mindset is evident from non-compliance with past treaties, support of cross border terrorism, view of historical events and the names of its missiles. It is simplistic to view Pakistan as a monolith. In actuality, Pakistan has a sizeable amount of diversity across ethnic groups, religious sects, and political ideology. Unfortunately, such diversity is not represented in its military dominated government. Moderate factions are often held at bay by the government’s backing of fundamentalist forces and its promotion of a paranoid world view to its populous.
Suppression both ethnic and political diversity has lead to numerous dissident factions seeking regional autonomy or a change of government. Despite a façade to the contrary, the Pakistani government shows no sign of significant or lasting change regarding Islamic fundamentalism which threatens the region and beyond. American policies based on encouraging Pakistan to restrain zealots, cooperate in capturing Osama bin Laden, and maintain stability in Afghanistan is very limited. Pakistan’s incorrigible behavior is the very problem. Pakistan misdirects American aid and furthers the very bothersome habits it is designed to eradicate. In the long term, Pakistan is a moribund nation, and American realization of this reality by preparation of contingency plans to deal with the consequences would provide true security in the region.
India faces challenges on its eastern flank. Nepal’s Maoist movement continues to ravage the country despite the involvement of the Nepali army. Borne out of the frustration of a disenfranchised population, it continues to displace government influence. Several truces have been broken, and the onslaughts of Maoist attacks on Nepali forces and on Katmandu continue at an unabated pace. The insurgency must be tackled with a multi-modal that includes military, social and economic means designed to parch the support for the Maoists. Maoist ties to anti-monarchy forces in Bhutan, and terrorist groups in India’s Northeast provide regional enemies with a convenient way to meddle in India’s security matters. Bangladesh’s ongoing struggle, thirty years after a hard won independence, to establish a confident national identity blending Bangla nationalism and Islam will consume resources, affect its interactions with neighbors, and cause internal upheaval. The core problem in India – Bangladesh relations is Bangladesh’s insecurity over its identity which manifests a paranoid suspicion of a larger and more powerful neighbor. Bangladesh often rivals Pakistan in its stubbornness, and its refusal to economically integrate with India despite mutual benefits.
China continues to play dual twin roles of engaging India while simultaneously backing Pakistan and other smaller neighbors acquire military items. Ties have historically been soured due to 1962 war, support of various Northeast terrorist groups and role in Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear program. Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to engage civilian Chinese leadership may bear fruit with cooperation in technology, tourism, and increased contacts. China’s dual strategy towards India can best be seen in the engagement during Prime Minister Vajpayee’s state visit and subsequent reports of Chinese army entry into Indian territory. Various factions within the Chinese government have individual interests; some seek to compete with India while others favor cooperation. The current trend in Sino – Indian relations will likely continue with cooperation on an economic front and competition on a strategic front. Southeast Asia has responded to India initiatives and has proposed closer economic and military cooperation. ASEAN realizes its position between India and China and seek to promote ties with both for their benefit. This region may become the hotly contested area between ascendant India and China because of its ethnic mix, historical background, and economic.
Rapid economic growth is fueled by readily available energy. Unsurprisingly energy has become major focus of policy both internal and external. Books written by government officials now mention energy security as a part of national security. India has invested in a multilateral strategy to gain energy. It involved expansion of indigenous energy as well as involvement in foreign projects. India has explored oil and natural gas options in Nigeria, Sudan and Russia.
Closer to home, energy deals with Iran, Bhutan, and Myanmar are afoot. Energy related projects such as the pipeline across Pakistan into India and another natural gas pipeline from Bangladesh to India seem promising despite occasional flare ups in tension. In the coming decades, energy policy will form an increasingly important component in India’s foreign policy and national security perceptions.
Since Independence, India has struggled to maintain a balanced place in the world as an old civilization and a new nation in a hostile neighborhood. It avoided Cold War entanglements as much as possible while plotting an independent course. It championed the cause of developing nations. India’s foreign policy rose to the challenge posed by the end of the Cold War. Though the initial outlook in the early 1990’s seemed bleak, the post-Cold War era presented a unique opportunity to engage countries based on strategic and economic grounds. Overall, the first decade of the post Cold War era was a difficult time as foreign policy often tilted to compensate for previous leanings. Overtime, India’s policy has matured into a balanced engagement of the major powers, and strategically important regions. India must continue to engage while avoiding entanglements. Its alliances must be limited by mutual goals, and not be forced to serve as a wedge in larger rivalries. Foreign policy must tread a focused path between advancing long term goals and agile enough to respond to abrupt changes.
In the coming decade, India’s foreign policy will aid in choosing allies, forming partnerships based on mutual interests, and in fending off old and new enemies. The issues of international terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, competition for a sphere of influence and acquisition of energy will dominate India’s policy in the foreseeable future. India’s policy should be grounded in present concerns as well as historical dialectics; a patchwork combining the legacy of an ancient civilization, security imperatives of the Raj and its importance as a cultural and commercial crossroad.
In the coming decade, India’s foreign policy will aid in choosing allies, forming partnerships based on mutual interests, and in fending off old and new enemies. The issues of international terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, competition for a sphere of influence and acquisition of energy will dominate India’s policy in the foreseeable future. India’s policy should be grounded in present concerns as well as historical dialectics; a patchwork combining the legacy of an ancient civilization, security imperatives of the Raj and its importance as a cultural and commercial crossroad.