Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s Interests
Part 1. Developed Countries’ policy and their impact on India’s interests
India’s strategic interests with developed countries can be identified as follows:
In the coming decades, Asia will be the growth engine for the world, and India will be one of the fastest growing large economies contributing to that growth. This presents an immense market for U.S. goods and services, and an opportunity for India to benefit from greater trade and investment – leading to employment and growth for both countries. However, this requires being able to put in place the necessary policy frameworks that give confidence and certainty to the private sector.
The US administration has indicated that it is more interested in negotiating bilateral trade and investment relationships than creating large, multilateral trade pacts. This may be well suited for a partner like India, which in the past has been a challenging negotiator in multilateral settings.
In addition, there is more that Washington could be doing to focus on the key ingredient that will drive both economies in the coming decades: innovation. Much can be discussed as a part of an innovation agenda, and there is a ready-made platform in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which the U.S. and India are co-hosting later this year, to focus on those efforts. Economic negotiations with India are never easy, but given India is poised to surpass the U.S. economy in purchasing power parity terms by 2040, forging greater economic ties and creating a more level playing field for U.S. firms is absolutely in the United States’ economic interest.
At a time when international norms and institutions are being tested, the U.S. and India have stood steadfast in supporting an Indo-Pacific region that protects freedom of navigation and the sovereignty of states – large or small. The U.S. has recognized that a defense partnership with India will be critical to safeguarding these values. As India seeks to modernize its defense capabilities, Washington should become India’s defense partner of choice by continuing to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.
Ultimately, these efforts will allow the U.S. and Indian militaries to work more closely together and open the door for increased cooperation on defense platforms and technologies that will enhance mutual security postures. It will also, however, require interagency cooperation and leadership from the highest levels in the U.S. government. Without cabinet-level commitment and engagement across agencies – Defense, State, Commerce, and others – bureaucratic inertia in the system and a reluctant yet persuadable set of Indian counterparts will make changing the status quo extremely difficult.
It is difficult to find a concept that has such widespread support such as improving connectivity, both within India and across the region. Whether it be improving people-to-people ties, economic and development cooperation, physical infrastructure, energy security and access, or collaboration to address transnational threats, greater connectivity can create tremendous security, economic, and geopolitical value to the United States, India, and countries in the region.
Fortunately, a lot of work has already been done to identify areas where the U.S. could support and benefit from improved connectivity. To name just three opportunities:
(1) Strengthen U.S.-India cooperation to address regional challenges that have global repercussions, ranging from transnational terrorism to trafficking-in-persons.
(2) Create pathways where U.S.-based innovation and technology can play a critical role in contributing to the region’s development. For example, U.S. leadership in the energy sector can have a transformational effect on energy security and access, where India has set an ambitious goal of bringing online 175GW of renewable energy by 2022. Given the leadership the U.S. has shown in this sector, there is an opportunity to unleash the power of U.S. innovation to grow employment and prosperity in both countries.
(3) Continue to use the U.S.-India strategic partnership as an anchor to engage others in the region. Building on the successful trilateral relationship between the U.S., India, and Japan, there are other opportunities to collaborate for peace and prosperity in the region. For example, the U.S. and India should partner with Sri Lanka on maritime domain awareness to help ensure that the Indian Ocean remains an ocean of peace.
For an administration whose foreign policy seems to be focused on getting good deals, no bilateral relationship may be better positioned to take advantage of that mindset than the U.S.-India bilateral. By making tangible progress on transactions that seek to realize the full potential of security and economic cooperation, Washington will bring further meaning to a strategic partnership painstakingly built over the past several years. But it will require a leader-level summit, this year, to put these ideas into motion. Let’s get to work.
The India-US Cyber Security Forum was established in 2001 pursuant to a decision taken during the visit of the then Indian Prime Minister to the United States in 2001. The Forum, which grew out of our counterterrorism dialogue, is dedicated to protecting the critical infrastructure of the knowledge-based economy. Government agencies and private sector participants from India and the United States, working under the Forum’s auspices, have identified risks and common concerns in cyber security and crafted an action-oriented work plan on securing networked information systems.
The Forum focuses on cyber-security, cyber-forensics and related research and works towards enhancing co-operation among law enforcement agencies on both sides in dealing with cyber crime.
CERT-In and US National Cyber Security Division will share expertise in artifact analysis (i.e. analysis of traces of virus / worm software), network traffic analysis, and exchange of information.
Defence services of both the countries will enhance their interaction through exchange of experience in organizational, technological, and procedural aspects.
The science of cyber security provides a mechanism for Indian and American scientists to build trust and address core cyber security challenges, which can later be translated into larger cyber security policy initiatives. Utilizing science diplomacy offers an alternative channel for deeper Indo-US cyber security engagement.
On 18 July, 2005, the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh visited Washington, and in a joint statement with George W Bush, India and the United States agreed to enter into a civil nuclear agreement. This landmark agreement saw an implicit recognition – for the first time – of India as a nuclear weapons power.
The core of this agreement, in the area of nuclear energy, was the emphasis on non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Even though India did not officially join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), through this agreement it was afforded the same benefits and advantages as other leading nuclear powers, like the United States.
While the joint statement and related press releases list a wide range of responsibilities and actions, three essential ones were:
1. India would move to separate civilian and military nuclear facilities. India’s impetus – which was acknowledged by Bush – to continue developing its nuclear facilities has to do with its increased reliance on fossil fuels to meet is energy needs. Thus, safe, civilian nuclear energy would help in the sustainable development of India’s economy.
2. India would place these civilian nuclear facilities under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
3. India would refrain from transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them and supporting international efforts to limit their spread.
The US, for its part, would work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India, including granting India a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which would allow members to trade nuclear material with India even though it was not a part of the NPT. As part of the earlier sanctions, India had been isolated from the NSG.
Instead, achievements of the deal have been measured against different yardsticks — the most important being the burgeoning diplomatic and economic relationship between India and the US — which acquires immense significance when compared to the complete alienation of the two countries following India’s 1974 nuclear test.
India and Japan
The Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Science & Technology. Government of India, New Delhi and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) conduct the India-Japan Cooperative Science Programme (IJCSP) to promote bilateral scientific collaboration between Indian and Japanese scientists. Applications are invited from eligible Indian researchers /scientists to submit proposals for Joint Research Projects and Joint Workshops/Seminars under IJCSP.
The Science & Technology International Cooperation Division of DST has the mandated responsibility of (i) negotiating, concluding and implementing S&T Agreements between India and other countries; (ii) providing interventions on S&T aspects in international forums. This responsibility is carried out by the Division in close consultation on the Indian side with the Ministry of External Affairs, Indian Missions Abroad, S&T Counselors at Germany, Japan, Russia and USA, stakeholders in scientific, technological & academic institutions, concerned governmental agencies and with various industry associations in India.
International Science & Technology Cooperation is realized at two levels, viz (i) Bilateral Cooperation with developed and developing countries, (ii) Multilateral & Regional Cooperation. Presently India has bilateral S&T cooperation agreements with 83 countries with active cooperation with 44 countries. During the recent years the cooperation has strengthened significantly with Australia, Canada, EU, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia, UK and USA. Cooperation with African countries has also been strengthened through India Africa S&T Initiative. The soft prowess of S&T has been leveraged to engage with several countries under India’s Act East policy and with some neighbouring countries.
Marking its debut in the Indian solar sector after its investment announcement of $20 billion, Japan’s SoftBank won its first solar power project in India. The Japanese firm won the 350 megawatt (Mw) project, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM), through its joint venture (JV) company SBG Cleantech.
SoftBank had tied up with Foxconn and Bharti Enterprises to invest in the Indian solar energy sector, committing $20 billion. This is its second bid participation after the AP solar park and the first win for any power project through its JV, SBG Cleantech.
There is deepening military cooperation between the two countries amid heightened tensions in the region. The countries have agreed to further bilateral and multilateral military exercises involving the armed forces of both countries. In 2015, Japan became a permanent member of the annual Malabar naval exercise, originally a bilateral naval drill between the United States and India.
In 2016, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) dispatched the 19,000-ton JS Hyuga — the lead ship of the Hyuga-class of helicopter carriers — to participate in the 2016 iteration of the Malabar exercise.
During the 2016 Indo-Japanese Defense Ministerial Meeting, India and Japan agreed to explore setting up a Maritime Strategic Dialogue and a possible joint bilateral naval exercise for 2017. However, neither the new bilateral framework for the discussion of maritime security issues nor the exercise were mentioned by the ministers.
Indian and Japanese defense and foreign ministry personnel have been holding a lower level recurring maritime security dialogue for years. Since 2012, the Indian Navy and JMSDF have held the Japan-India Maritime Exercise.
Japanese and Indian defense officials interact through a number of bilateral forums including the 2+2 Dialogue, Defense Policy Dialogue, and a Coast Guard-to-Coast Guard cooperation dialogue. In 2016, India and Japan also set up the first dialogue between both countries’ air forces.
During last year’s defense ministerial meeting, Japan purportedly pressed India to clarify its position on the South China Sea territorial disputes. (India’s position on the South China Sea disputes has been murky as The Diplomat reported in 2016.)
However, India-Japan defense and security cooperation remains a work in progress. A case in point is that despite the pledge to deepen bilateral defense ties and the establishment of a Joint Working Group on Defense Equipment and Technology Cooperation, the May 2017 statement did not contain an update on a $1.3 billion defense deal over the procurement of 12 Japan-made ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious search-and-rescue aircraft for the Indian Navy.
Defence cooperation is an important pillar of the India-Russia strategic partnership. It is guided by the Programme for Military Technical Cooperation signed between the two countries which is valid, at present till 2020. It enshrines the interest of the two governments to further develop and strengthen the military and technical cooperation in the sphere of research and development, production and after sales support of armament systems and various military equipment. The two sides also have periodic exchanges of armed forces personnel and military exercises.
India and Russia have an institutionalized structure to oversee the complete range of issues of military technical cooperation. The India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), set up in 2000, is at the apex of this structure. The two Defence Ministers meet annually, alternately in Russia and India, to discuss and review the status of ongoing projects and other issues of military technical cooperation.
There are two Working Groups and seven Sub-Groups under the IRIGC-MTC, which review and discuss an array of military technical issues. In 2008, a high level committee called the High Level Monitoring Committee (HLMC) was set up with Defence Secretary from the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of India and Director of Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) from the Russian Federation as its co-chairs.
Bilateral projects currently underway include indigenous production of T-90 tanks and Su-30-MKI aircraft, supply of MiG-29-K aircraft and Kamov-31 and Mi-17 helicopters, upgrade of MiG-29 aircraft and supply of Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher Smerch.
Over the years, cooperation in the military technical sphere has evolved from a purely buyer-seller relationship to joint research, design development and production of state of the art military platforms. Production of the Brahmos cruise missile is an example of this trend. The two countries are also engaged in joint design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and Multi-Role Transport Aircraft.
Joint exercises between the two Armed Forces are held under the title “INDRA”. In the year 2014, Joint exercises of Army, Navy and the Air force were conducted. Joint exercises for the year 2015 for all the three services are under consideration.
Given the fact that Russia and India have similar views with regard to a more just world order, including the international architecture of energy security, it would be short-sighted to limit the energy partnership to a purely bilateral agenda. Russian and Indian energy companies could operate very successfully outside of their respective countries. There are plans to supply raw materials to Essar oil refineries in India from Venezuela, where a joint venture between Rosneft and Venezuela’s PDVSA is currently extracting.
This particular deal is an example of building a global supply chain that will include Rosneft’s foreign production assets, as well as the oil refning capacity of Essar and the well-developed distribution network in India.
When it comes to implementing bilateral projects, Russian and Indian energy companies have already formed strong working relationships. Transforming these ties into a strategic partnership could be benefcial for both sides, helping create mechanisms for the mutualisation of risk in long-term capital-intensive projects. The joint work being carried out by Rosneft and OVL on the Vietnam Shelf could serve as an example of such a partnership.
Partnership with Russia could also give Indian companies a boost in terms of increasing their chances when competing for foreign assets.
However, neither Russian, nor especially Indian companies have the technical capabilities to carry out drilling operations in the Arctic region. A technological partnership with western oil and gas giants is therefore necessary, so only minor shares in joint ventures may be allocated to Indian companies.
The renewable energy sources (RES) market is enjoying a real boom period in India, while it has barely even begun to form in Russia. The government of the Russian Federation has set the goal of increasing the share of renewables in the energy balance up to 4.5 per cent (currently it accounts for circa 1 per cent) and has introduced measures to stimulate the use of green energy. In order to achieve this goal, the Government has adopted a package of incentives that involves holding tenders for Capacity Delivery Agreements (CDAs) guaranteeing a return on investment and even a certain amount of proftability.
However, as payment for the CDA, the developer must ensure that equipment for the power generation facility is produced locally (after 2019, the minimum level of localization will be set at 65 per cent). As the Russian RES market is in the initial stages of the development, a certain exchange of experience would be useful for Russian companies and regulatory bodies as to how to organize auctions for the selection of production capacities and then how to integrate these capacities into the network for future operation.
With the softening of the requirements of Russian legislation on the localization of RES manufacturing, the Russian market could be of interest to Indian companies – the wind turbine supplier Suzlon, for example.
Indo- France Military Cooperation
India and France have decided to further crank up military-to-military ties, including joint combat exercises, as well as enhance cooperation in maritime security and counter-terrorism towards expanding their bilateral strategic partnership. They have also agreed to “strongly support” projects for defence manufacturing under the “Make in India” initiative as well as promote defence technology and R&D cooperation.
French Naval Group-DCNS, of course, is also among the four contenders for Project-75 (India), under which six advanced stealth submarines are to be built in India through collaboration between a foreign ship-builder and an Indian shipyard for an estimated Rs 70,000 crore. The French armament company is already involved in the construction of six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks in Mumbai under the over Rs 23,000 crore Project-75.
The two sides have agreed on a range of measures to expand military-to-military ties, which includes enhancing the scope of their joint exercises, in particular the “Varuna” naval exercise scheduled for early 2018.
At a France-India summit, the countries signed a number of agreements. One of them, announced without fanfare, was a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement “welcomed” by both sides.
Up to six Areva EPR units could be built at the new Jaitapur site in Maharashtra – giving some 9600 MWe and more than doubling Indian nuclear capacity – illustrate the potential benefits of nuclear trade to both nations.
USA’s foreign policy towards Asia and the Pacific:
Security trends in Asia in the first six months of 2017 appeared to emphasise that challenges first identified in 2016 would persist and intensify for regional states. However, one important new variable was introduced to the mix. The Trump administration has left Asian countries – US allies, partners and adversaries alike – unsure of what to expect. Indeed, a hallmark of the new president’s diplomatic style is embracing unpredictability. In the meantime, threats continue to intensify across the region.
Meanwhile, although US–China relations had not experienced the kind of turbulence that many analysts had expected, when the United States’ ‘One China’ policy was openly questioned, problems may arise. Moments of tension have already presented themselves. Since Trump’s inauguration, there have been two aerial encounters with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force over the East China Sea, one in February and one in May, after which the US Air Force labelled Chinese conduct unsafe and unprofessional.
China continues to flex its muscles within its air-defence identification zone in the area, which it declared in 2013. In June, the US administration announced the approval of the first major US arms package for Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen was inaugurated in May 2016 (the first package overall since December 2015).
While the US has left the South China Sea issue on the backburner, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has taken a different approach under the stewardship of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose country chairs the ten-state grouping in 2017. It nevertheless appears that ASEAN and China have not come to a consensus on any serious binding mechanism to manage territorial disputes. Meanwhile, the China Coast Guard continues to exercise jurisdiction at the furthest reaches of Beijing’s ‘nine-dash-line’ claim, a claim found to be invalid under international law in a July 2016 award by a five-judge tribunal at The Hague.
Australia’s interest in restoring the ‘quad’ strategic grouping between it and India, Japan and the US was met with cold water from New Delhi, which reportedly rejected Canberra’s request to take part in this year’s Malabar exercise. Instead, the Australian and Indian navies held their first exercise off Western Australia. Canberra continues to wrangle with an impassioned domestic debate on the future of Asia and Australia’s place in that future – be it US- or China-led.
While the above accounts for mostly expected and ongoing security challenges that had carried over from the Obama administration, the Trump administration has also contended with unexpected challenges. For example, the Islamic State-linked Maute Group plunged the southern Philippine city of Marawi into crisis in the final days of May, triggering a weeks-long siege by the Philippine Armed Forces and US advisers to recapture the city.
Heading into the second half of 2017, all eyes in Asia will return to the US. The Trump administration, impeded by scandal at home, has yet to fill key Asia-related appointments in the US departments of defence and state, giving the appearance that US Asia policy remains rudderless for the moment.
With the trajectory of the US in Asia more uncertain now than at any point since the end of the Second World War, Asia stands at a crossroads. If the regional security architecture is on the cusp of transformation, 2017 may well be the starting point for that change.
USA’s supply of sophisticated arms to Pakistan is India’s major cause of anxiety to her security. India shares a tragic past with Pakistan and there is no denying of the certainty that those arms be used against India. India-US relations have been strained over USA’s Af-Pak approach to deal Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. USA has not even invited India in major conferences such as London conference, Istanbul conference etc. on Afghanistan. USA’s intervention in bilateral dispute on Kashmir between India and Pakistan is also against India’s interest.
ii. Logistics Support Agreement (LSA)
LEMOA stands for Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), a tweaked India-specific version of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), which the U.S. has with several countries it has close military to military cooperation. It is also one of the three foundational agreements — as referred to by the U.S.
The three agreements — Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) are referred to as the foundational agreements which the U.S. signs with countries with which it has close military ties.
They are meant to build basic ground work and promote interoperability between militaries by creating common standards and systems. They also guide sale and transfer of high-end technologies.
LEMOA gives access, to both countries, to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment. India and the U.S. already hold large number of joint exercises during which payments are done each time, which is a long and tedious process. Under the new agreement, a mechanism will be instituted for book-keeping and payments and officials, who will act as nodal points of contact, will be designated on both sides.
The agreement will primarily cover four areas — port calls, joint exercises, training and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. Any other requirement has to be agreed upon by both sides on a case-by-case basis.
Geo-political balance against China’s hegemony
China’s economic influence is palpable even among countries with which it shares adversarial security equations, thus leading to analyses that a number of countries would want to align with Beijing on economic matters, and with Washington on security matters. This deceptively simple demarcation hardly plays out easily in the complex geopolitics of the 21st century.
China’s economic ventures, including the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are seen to have strategic objectives. The connectivity corridors and their economic outcomes for China are ingredients of Beijing’s sense of distributing public goods in the international system as a great power. But it is still unclear what the trade-offs for the Chinese largesse are and what opportunity costs countries are willing to pay for entangling themselves with Chinese geopolitical and geoeconomic designs.
What does all this entail for U.S. global leadership, and its engagements with countries that are concerned about an aggressive China, yet are equally entangled in the Chinese economic web? The jury is still out on the nature of the U.S.-China dynamics and its implications for global geopolitics. However, if one thing is clear, it is that the pursuit of hegemony and the balance of power game is a constant; only the actors change.
Today, one of the biggest challenges for the United States is to use old and new tools of statecraft ranging across strategies of both cooperation and coercion to manage the rise of China. The United States, at present largely perceived to be on the retreat from global leadership, faces a China which, under its mercurial leader President Xi Jinping, has dumped the “hide and bide strategy” and fully embraced the “China Dream” strategy that wants the world, and the United States in particular, to recognize that China’s time has come.
The risk of Russia’s involvement in low-intensity military conflicts has been growing since the early 2000s. Instability along many stretches of the border has forced Moscow to increase its military presence in the neighboring areas. Russia has military bases in high conflict risk areas, notably South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Moldova, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Also, Russia cannot take a hands-off approach to developments in Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine and will likely become involved in a potential confrontation in the Korean Peninsula or Iran and a possible escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.
The number of regions where military force could be used to protect national interests has recently increased. These include not only areas within the national borders but also in the regions that were part of the Soviet Union’s zone of military and political responsibility during the Cold War. In 2013, the Kremlin proposed deploying Russian peacekeeping forces on the Syrian-Israeli border on Golan Heights. Negotiations are underway to establish a Russian air force base in Cyprus in direct proximity to the Russian naval base in Tartus, Syria.
Russian peacekeepers help maintain peace in the frozen conflicts in the CIS countries following civil and international conflicts of the 1990s. A new potential source of military conflict developed on the Russian-Ukrainian border in 2014. Taken together, it means that Russia will be unable to reduce its military presence on its border in the near future. Moreover, the current tendency is to expand the area of its military presence. This is increasing the risk of Russia’s involvement in military conflicts as a peacekeeper or the guarantor of the status quo.
Russia has acquired a new geopolitical status in recent years. It has reaffirmed its claim to a strong and independent role in international affairs, which its Western partners put in question after the Soviet Union’s dissolution. The military operation in Syria has helped Russia become a key factor in the post-conflict settlement and has demonstrated Russia’s fundamentally new military and political capability. The Astana format of the Syrian settlement, which Moscow has initiated, provides for addressing the key security issue in the Middle East without Western contribution, if necessary.
At the same time, Russia maintains dialogue with regional powers – Turkey and Iran, which had no decision-making power under the Western scenario or had limited influence on the settlement in Syria.
The achievements of Russia’s foreign policy are obvious in the post-Soviet space. In his speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Vladimir Putin focused on the issue of NATO’s military expansion towards the Russian border. Ten years later, the issue of NATO expansion has been practically removed from the agenda.
Russia used a favorable situation to launch an active policy and thereby moved the frontier of its confrontation with the West further away from its border. This frontier now lies in the Middle East, the Balkans and the domestic policy of the United States and the EU. As a result, many post-Soviet security issues have lost their geopolitical dimension; they are no longer burdened by the Russia-West confrontation.
Now that the Ukrainian crisis has moved down the international agenda and the Russia-West frontier has been shifted away from the post-Soviet space, the frontier countries can focus on internal affairs. Many post-Soviet countries feel that they don’t need to worry about their security and can use this respite to calmly review their priorities without external pressure.
However, the West may eventually resume or even strengthen its pressure on Russia’s interests in Eastern Europe, disregarding Russia’s requests for a collective European security system. In this event, Moscow will have to apply the same old methods to make US policy more realistic, that is, by shifting the geopolitical frontier to the Western Hemisphere, away from its front door.
The establishment of a military base in Venezuela or Cuba, political involvement in Panama or Mexico, and the encouragement of anti-American coalitions in Latin America would be a forced but the only possible measure to reduce US pressure on Russia in Europe in the 2040s and 2050s.
Russia’s increased resources and new standing have presented it with two interconnected questions. They are of crucial significance for long-term foreign policy planning, but they can be difficult to see amid the current euphoria after Russia’s recent successes.
Indo Japan 2-2 Dialogue
The 2+2 format draws on a framework Japan used for its strategic interactions with the US, France, Russia and Australia. From 2010, India and Japan began direct interactions between their foreign and defence secretaries; this was raised to the level of the respective ministers in 2014. There is little doubt that 2+2 will provide a powerful new vehicle to discuss issues. But bureaucracies in both countries need to resist being seduced by the idea that process alone can resolve the issues in the relationship.
Germany and India’s geo-political interests in Asia
The Indian Ocean has emerged as Germany’s “strategic and diplomatic priority”, now gaining significant place in its geo-strategic and geo-economic calculation. It seems that Germany is all set to enhance its engagement with regional powers, extra-regional powers and other Indian Ocean littoral states to secure its security and economic interest. Germany’s fundamental interest in the Indian Ocean is to protect its trade and economy by ensuring safe and secure sea lanes, freedom of navigation, absence of ‘state and non-state sea control’, stability on land, and humanitarian aid and reconstruction measures during natural disasters.
Germany wants to ensure safe and secure trade through the Asia-Europe shipping route (via the Indian Ocean) — one of the world’s largest containerised trading lanes, and maintain free passage through key choke points, namely, the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca. Currently, Germany’s core security interest in the Indian Ocean region– safe and secure sea lanes — is shared by its European Union (EU) partners and other western partners.
How are India’s interests in multilateral organizations, like the UN, being affected by the policies/politics of major developed countries?
Russia, UK, Germany and Japan are major developed countries which affect India’s interests at multilateral levels:
Shifting geopolitical dynamics driven by the rise of China, international sanctions against the Kremlin, and its never-ending economic stagnation point to imminent changes for India-Russia relations in the coming years.
The Kremlin played a key role in facilitating New Delhi’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Moscow pushed forward India’s membership in order to dilute China’s dominance in the group. Its efforts likewise played vital role in maintaining the Russia-India-China trilateral format, during which the nations reconcile on a mutually shared vision and responsibility for the future of the Eurasian continent. The Kremlin also perceives such meetings as vital steps for pushing forward its ideological agenda of a multipolar world and challenging Western dominance, but India maintains a far more pragmatic vision.
New Delhi has great capacity to effectively respond to structural and geopolitical shifts and is extremely skillful in learning to adjust to changing power dynamics. For instance, in 1971 India signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union to balance Sino-U.S. rapprochement. After the end of the Cold War, India was keen on joining the Moscow-led Eurasian movement and agreed to embrace institutional cooperation with Beijing. The impetus was to secure its geopolitical ambitions as well as resist Washington’s threats to roll back New Delhi’s nuclear goals and possible interventions in a regional dispute with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir.
Currently the geopolitical realities in the region are changing again. Growing Chinese power and Indian ambitions mean that sooner or later both nations will start confronting each other more. The new setting prescribes the need to revise previous formats of interactions and seek diversification in foreign policy. Given Moscow’s weakness and growing dependence on Beijing, India will need to look for another strong player to maintain its geopolitical ambitions.
The Kremlin could still help New Delhi with some of its cutting-edge technologies and international diplomatic support, but India will ultimately keep shifting to the pro-Western orbit. Despite augmenting trade volumes, Russia’s exports to India are barely 2 percent of India’s total imports and in an economic sense, Russia’s struggling economy has little to offer to India in the long-term. The Kremlin’s growing political and economic dependence on Beijing ultimately means that the current momentum of Russia-India relations will be imminently challenged in the upcoming years.
For New Delhi, the anticipated shift will necessitate rational support for its independent foreign policy, which aims to diversify political relations while nurturing the goal of keeping “India first.”
Britain and India have had long-lasting economic and trade-based ties. In 2015, UK-India bilateral trade in goods and services was valued at £16.33bn. Britain was the third-largest direct investor in India in the 21st century after Mauritius and Singapore. For decades, Britain has used its historical connections with India to gain an advantage over trade competitors.
But now, as India embraces its status as the third largest economy in the world, forecasts by the British Council show that by 2050 “India’s working age population could be larger than that of the US and China combined” and “its economy thirty times larger than today”. This presents an opportunity for the UK.
Brexit could change everything, however, and the UK’s handling of its approach to India will make or break its future relationship.
The EU accounts for 18.7 per cent of India’s exports and 13.8 per cent of imports, making the EU India’s largest trading partner for both imports and exports. The EU’s diplomatic service states that there is “untapped potential” for a trade deal between the EU and India to continue growing, highlighting the textile and agricultural sectors as target areas. But numerous administrative difficulties have stalled a full- flowing trade agreement with India. The EU and UK blame each other for the difficulties.
Bilateral relations between India and Germany are founded on common democratic principles and are marked by a high degree of trust and mutual respect. India was amongst the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with the Federal Republic of Germany after the Second World War. Relations grew significantly following the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. In the last decade, both economic and political interaction between India and Germany has enhanced.
Today, Germany is amongst India’s most important partners both bilaterally and in the global context. India and Germany have a ‘Strategic Partnership’ since 2000, which has been further strengthened with the Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC) between the two Governments which allows for a comprehensive review of cooperation and a platform to identify fresh areas of engagement. India is among a select group of countries with whom Germany has such a dialogue mechanism. The 3rd IGC was held in New Delhi on October 5, 2015.
Germany and India cooperate closely on the issue of UNSC expansion within the framework of G-4. Both countries consult each other in G-20 on global issues such climate change, sustainable development, etc. There have been consultations between the two countries on regional and international issues such as UN issues, International Cyber Issues, Disarmament & Non-proliferation, Export Controls, East Asia, Eurasia, etc The 3 rd India-Germany Dialogue on Cyber Issues was held in New Delhi in November 2016.
Developing Countries’ policy and their impact on India’s interests
Policy interests of key developing countries with India.
Against the general perception that it is the developed countries that have been providing aid to relatively poor counterparts, there has occurred, since the turn of the century, a significant spurt in the volume of development cooperation among the countries of the South. South-South development cooperation continued to make remarkable progress even during the Great Recession that started in 2008. With the economic slowdown in developed countries, developing economies have been considering SouthSouth Cooperation as an alternative source of support.
Further, it provides them an option to avoid the conditionalities of DAC and multilateral institutions like the IMF. South-South development partnership includes trade, foreign direct investment, credit relations and development assistance. Although most South-South trade is intra-regional, supra-regional trade is also increasing.
Major donors like China, India, Brazil and South Africa are considered to be regional powers and together they contribute 25 per cent of the global domestic product and have 40 per cent of the world’s population.22 Even though all these emerging donors have to deal with domestic economic problems and poverty, they have captured international attention through the rising levels of development assistance they provide to other developing countries.
The socio-economic structure of these new donors defines a ‘dual position’ as developing countries on the one hand and development partners in their external relations on the other.23 Even though the emerging donors have been perceived as a threat to the dominance of the traditional donors, the assistance they give continues to be only a small proportion of the total aid provided by traditional donors. Contrary to the popular understanding, South-South development cooperation is not a recent phenomenon.
In fact, it has a long history. Countries like India and China have been providing development assistance to other developing countries, particularly in their neighbourhood for more than five decades. The Bandung Principles – a ten-point declaration on promotion of world peace and cooperation – have been considered by many developing countries as their main guidelines in development cooperation.
These principles were adopted by the first Africa-Asian Conference in 1955 at Bandung, Indonesia. The Bandung Conference paved way for the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that marked the beginning of a collective voice for the South in the bipolar world of the 1950s. The Bandung Principles continue to be the guidelines for not only the Non-Aligned Movement and G-77, but also for the entire South-South development cooperation.
A major criticism raised against traditional donors and major multilateral donors is about attaching macroeconomic and governance conditionalities in their development assistance programmes. However, conditionalities are seldom attached by the donors of the South. Moreover, they have greater flexibility and less procedural delays. Unlike traditional development cooperation flows from the North, geographical proximity has been a major determinant in most of the southern bilateral development cooperation programmes. It may be partly due to cultural or historical reasons or to promote local stability and security or boost the image of the donor in the region.
In recent times, traditional donors direct their development assistance more towards social sectors like health and education of the recipient countries. Southern donors, however, provide a sizeable part of their assistance for investment in infrastructure and productive sectors, with a relatively smaller share for social sectors.28 Promotion of their own trade and investment interests has also been an important reason for many southern countries providing development assistance. Assistance from the emerging donors for different development projects is often tied in varying degrees
Traditional donors have raised several concerns about the development cooperation programmes of the emerging donors of the South. Since most of the Southern donors do not report details of the amount involved in their development cooperation to DAC or any other body, it is very difficult to get an idea about the magnitude of South-South development cooperation. Lack of transparency makes quantitative analysis of development cooperation of emerging donors of the South difficult. Official secrecy of different donors and recipients has several negative consequences including corruption.
India’s engagement at major multilateral platforms with key developing countries
The Group of 15 (G-15) is an informal forum set up to foster cooperation and provide input for other international groups, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Group of Seven. It was established at the Ninth Non-Aligned Movement Summit Meeting in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in September 1989, and is composed of countries from Latin America, Africa, and Asia with a common goal of enhanced growth and prosperity.
The G-15 focuses on cooperation among developing countries in the areas of investment, trade, and technology. Membership has since expanded to 18 countries, but the name has remained unchanged. Chile, Iran and Kenya have since joined the Group of 15, whereas Yugoslavia is no longer part of the group; Peru, a founding member-state, decided to leave the G-15 in 2011.
The G-24 was established in 1971 by the Group of 77 (G-77) as one of its Chapters, and formally created in 1972 with the following objectives:
1. Keep under review the course of the international monetary situation, take due cognizance of the studies entrusted to the Executive Directors of the IMF at the recent meeting of the Board of Governors, and keep the countries members of the G-77 informed;
2. Evaluate events in the monetary field, as well as any decisions which might be taken by a single country or group of countries within the framework of IMF, relating to the interests of the developing countries; and
3. Recommend within the field of its competence to the Governments of the G- 77 coordinated positions in the third session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, as well as in other forums, and consider any other action as might be necessary, including the convening of a world monetary conference within the framework of the United Nations.
In 1976, during the Third Ministerial Meeting of the G-77, the terms of reference of the G-24 were expanded to include issues related to development , and as a consequence, topics falling within the work of the institutions that comprise the World Bank Group. The landscape of global economic and financial governance has undergone profound changes with an important bearing on the role and value added of the G-24. First, in recognition of the structural transformation in the global economy and following the recent spate of financial crises, global economic and financial leadership has shifted towards greater inclusivity with developed and developing countries working together.
At the same time, new developing country groupings have emerged as important interlocutors in global discussions. Second, the agenda confronting the global community has broadened and become more complex, as reflected in the deliberations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The G-24 has experienced instances where its nature, mission, and structure have been re-examined consistent with the evolution in world dynamics.
The BASIC countries (also Basic countries or BASIC) are a bloc of four large newly industrialized countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – formed by an agreement on 28 November 2009. The four committed to act jointly at the Copenhagen climate summit, including a possible united walk-out if their common minimum position was not met by the developed nations.
This emerging geopolitical alliance, initiated and led by China, then brokered the final Copenhagen Accord with the United States. Subsequently, the grouping is working to define a common position on emission reductions and climate aid money, and to try to convince other countries to sign up to the Copenhagen Accord. However, in January 2010, the grouping described the Accord as merely a political agreement and not legally binding, as is argued by the US and Europe.
The four countries also said they will announce their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 31 January 2010 as agreed in Copenhagen. Furthermore, the grouping discussed the possibility of providing financial and technical aid to the poorer nations of the G77, and promised details after their Cape Town meeting in April 2010. This move was apparently intended to share richer nations into increasing their funding for climate mitigation in poorer nations.
Established in June 2003, IBSA is a coordinating mechanism amongst three emerging countries, three multi ethnic and multicultural democracies, which are determined to:
• contribute to the construction of a new international architecture
• bring their voice together on global issues
• deepen their ties in various areas
IBSA also opens itself to concrete projects of cooperation and partnership with less developed countries.
The establishment of IBSA was formalised by the Brasilia Declaration of 6 June 2003, which mentions India, Brazil and South Africa’s democratic credentials, their condition as developing nations and their capacity of acting on a global scale as the main reasons for the three countries to come together. Their status as middle powers, their common need to address social inequalities within their borders and the existence of consolidated industrial areas in the three countries are often mentioned as additional elements that bring convergence among the members of the Forum.
The principles, norms and values underpinning the IBSA Dialogue Forum are participatory democracy, respect for human rights and the Rule of Law. The strength of IBSA is the shared vision of the three countries that democracy and development are mutually reinforcing and key to sustainable peace and stability. Trade between IBSA partners has increased significantly since the Forum’s inception and indications are that the target of US$ 25 billion by 2015 will be readily achieved.
IBSA keeps an open and flexible structure. IBSA does not have a headquarters or a permanent executive secretariat. At the highest level, it counts on the Summits of Heads of State and Government. Numerous Summits have been held with IBSA having concluded its first round of Summits of Heads of State and Government Summits in 2008. In 2013, the second round of Summits will be completed.
India’s foreign policy interest in Central Asia
The subject of Indo-Central Asian relations is not a new one. Close bonds of history have always linked the two, with this region being accepted as India’s “extended neighbourhood”. It is pertinent to underline that the centuries old relationship between the two regions has evolved through cultural interaction. Several facets of the cultures, civilisations and intellectual histories of the two regions suggest that they evolved not in isolation, but through reciprocal cultural enrichment.
In modern times, however, the importance of Central Asia to India is not merely civilisational and historical, but also geopolitical and economic. Central Asia is of great strategic importance to India. There is enormous scope for pragmatic and profitable engagement between the two. The focus of relationship between the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and India can be defined by the importance of Central Asia for peace and stability in our region. Despite India’s current under-involvement in CARs; these countries offer great opportunities, which if availed would help in consolidating India’s short and long-term foreign policy goals in this region.
International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), is a multi modal transportation established in 12 SEP 2000 in St. Petersburg, by Iran, Russia and India for the purpose of promoting transportation cooperation among the Member States. This corridor connects India Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Islamic republic of IRAN, then is connected to St. Petersburg and North European via Russian Federation.
The INSTC was expanded to include eleven new members, namely: Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Armenia, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Turkey, Republic of Ukraine, Republic of Belarus, Oman, Syria, Bulgaria (Observer).
Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement
The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) is an agreement between Malaysia and India to strengthen bilateral trade. The agreement is in line with the recommendations given by the Joint Study Group which contained members from both the parties.
Strategic partners of India in the Gulf Countries Council (GCC)
India-GCC relationship is growing stronger by the day as both realise the potential and importance of each other. Trade and commerce is the most important pillar of the India-GCC relationship. Success of high volume of trade and commerce between India and GCC revolves around a high degree of trade and economic complementarily as both caters to each other’s economic demands. GCC countries, with large hydrocarbon reserves are crucial for India’s energy requirements while the region has been a good market for Indian products.
But the success of the bilateral economic relationship has not been translated in to a stronger political and strategic partnership. In this context, this monograph analyses India’s engagement with the GCC countries and argues that as India emerges as a major global power, it is important for India to engage with the ‘extended neighbourhood’ more meaningfully. It emphasizes the point that India should engage with the GCC countries, and build consensus on political and security and strategic issues affecting them.
As the region is going through rapid political changes in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, it becomes imperative for India to engage with these countries looking beyond the economic relationship with the GCC countries. Though there have been some endeavors in recent years in this regard, there is still a lot of room need to be covered.
With the end of the Cold War, India’s relations with the United States began to improve. So, too, did India’s economic performance and prospects. These changes created an environment more conducive to the development of India-U.A.E. economic relations. By the mid-2000s, India’s economic ties with the Emirates had grown stronger. This was underpinned by the contributions of the 2.6 million Indian expatriate workers and the injection of billions of dollars of Indian foreign direct investment into the Emirates’ economy, particularly in the real estate sector.
Since the government of Narendra Modi took office in 2014, India and the U.A.E. have moved relatively quickly to consolidate their existing ties and to explore new areas of cooperation. During this time, they have elevated the relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, with the expressed intention of extending their cooperation to the security and defense spheres. This essay discusses these recent developments, with particular attention to the role of Pakistan as a constraining factor in India-U.A.E. relations going forward.
Significantly, there is also evidence that India and the U.A.E. have begun to break free of the constraints that have impeded the development of their relationship on the diplomatic and strategic fronts.
These developments have taken place in a period marked by intensified engagement by the Modi administration with West Asian and Southeast Asian nations on the one hand, and the increased pressure experienced by the Gulf Arab countries, particularly the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, as a result of plummeting oil prices and the rising costs and risks of the military campaigns in Yemen and Syria.
Beginning in the early 1990s, India’s relations with West Asian nations gradually improved. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014; however, the pace of progress in the development in India-West Asian relations has quickened. The forging of a comprehensive strategic partnership with the U.A.E. is indicative of this dramatic change.
The expansion of the scope of this bilateral relationship to encompass defense and security elements signifies that the continued advancement of India’s relations with its West Asian neighbors is no longer hostage to the Indo-Pakistan rivalry, though it remains subject to other regional and domestic pressures and constraints.
India’s Immediate Neighborhood
India’s disputes with Pakistan
For India, security is the top issue, brought into stark relief by three near simultaneous bomb blasts in Mumbai this month that killed at least 23 people and which analysts suspect was the handiwork of a domestic militant group.
Until recently, India had refused to resume peace talks until Islamabad took action against Pakistan-based militants and brought to justice those behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Afghanistan is a major source of friction. The two countries have long competed for influence there and Pakistan is deeply suspicious of a rise in India’s presence there since the fall of the Islamabad-backed Taliban government in 2001. Pakistan accuses India of using Afghanistan as a base to create problems inside Pakistan, including backing separatists in Baluchistan province.
India denies the accusations, saying its $2 billion aid is focused on development. India is worried that negotiations with the Taliban and the US pullout would give Pakistan an upper hand in Afghanistan and offer anti-Indian militants a base.
This rivalry is complicating US-led efforts to end an intensifying Taliban insurgency and bring stability to Afghanistan almost 10 years after the Taliban were ousted. The US drawdown has also pushed Washington to work harder in getting India and Pakistan to normalise ties. The divided, mostly Muslim Himalayan region of Kashmir is at the heart of hostility between the neighbours and was the cause of two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. The third was over the founding of Bangladesh.
Separatists began an insurgency against Indian rule in 1989. Since then tens of thousands of people have been killed. India accuses Pakistan of supplying militants with arms and funds, while Islamabad says its role is limited to moral support. Both countries want to boost trade, particularly important for Pakistan’s weak economy, but Islamabad has yet to grant India a “most favoured nation” trade status over concerns its market will be flooded with cheap Indian goods.
The two countries disagree over use of the water flowing down rivers that rise in Indian Kashmir and run into the Indus river basin in Pakistan. Pakistan says India is unfairly diverting water with the upstream construction of barrages and dams. India denies the charge. No immediate progress is expected here.
Indian and Pakistani forces have faced off in mountains above the Siachen glacier in the Karakoram range, the world’s highest battlefield, since 1984. The two sides have been trying to find a solution that would allow them to withdraw troops, but India says it is unwilling to bring its forces down until Pakistan officially authenticates the positions they hold. Pakistan has said it is willing to do so but on the condition that it is not a final endorsement of India’s claim over the glacier, one source of meltwater for Pakistan’s rivers.
India’s disputes with Bangladesh
It’s an obvious case for two border countries to involve in conflicts due to some or the other issues. We have friendly relations with Bangladesh but at times Bangladesh has been accused by India for cross-border terrorism.In a survey, 70% percent of Bangladeshis expressed a favorable opinion and perception of India. Historically and Culturally the two nations have been considerably close to each other.
1. Construction and operation of Farakka Barrage by India to increase the water supply in the river Hoogly.
2. Land Agreement with regards to sharing of enclaves between India and Bangladesh.
3. Bangladesh has consistently denied India transit facility to the landlocked North Eastern Regions of India, famously known Silliguri Corridor.
4. Illegal Bangladeshi immigration in India.
Ruling governments of both the nations are leaving no stones upturned to resolve issues. Bangladesh and India exchanged 162 adversely-held enclaves on August 1 at the stroke of midnight, ending one of the world’s most complex border disputes that had lingered since seven decades, which is a positive sign. Generally there are no anti-nation and anti-state sentiment in Bangladeshi people. But this anti -state and anti-nation sentiment depend on some specific issues, Bangladeshi people like India for specific reasons and hate India for specific reasons.
Bangladesh got Independence in 1971 by strong Liberation War against Pakistan. During liberation war India helped Bangladesh by various ways such as India gave shelter millions of Bangladeshi refugees within India,
In culture; there are various similarities between Bangladeshi and Indian, basically Indian West Bengal and Assam, Tripura. The Bengali language is one of them; there are good relation and communication between both Bangladesh and these provinces of India. In addition, Bangladeshi Hindu religious people have a boost religious communication and relation with India. Moreover, Bangladesh shares border on three sides with India
Finally, India recently is working for Bangladesh development and investing in various sector like infrastructure and electrical sectors. Furthermore, 1 million Indian have been working in Bangladesh garment sector, most growing economic sector in Bangladesh and praised for receiving boost remittance from overseas. In addition, recently India has proposed Bangladesh to give $1 billion loan for infrastructure development.
First, after 1971 aspect, according to historians view that Indian’s activities were not good towards Bangladesh. Historians say India made some treaties with Bangladesh government by force such as Bangladesh defense policy, foreign policy, economic policy, security policy, etc. India started domination on Bangladesh which was not acceptable to Bangladeshi people because couple of month ago they have become free from Pakistan domination by a long historic fight , and Bangladeshi people took India’s attitude like this as now India is dominating us , we are going to Indian domination like Pakistan ,again.
India’s disputes with China
Bilateral Issues between China and India
There are factors within and outside between China and India which still impacts their relations, for instance, border and Tibet issues are more prominent and recently, the water issue has also surfaced in the bilateral relations between China and India. These bilateral issues will not only effect on their present relations but have a negative impact on their future relations as well; it will also affect the process of their rise and the peace and stability in and outside the region.
The main problem between the two countries is the Border question, which is a historical one. The Border issue is rooted in the disputed status of the McMahon Line, which defines the border between India and Tibet. India recognizes this agreement as the basis for its territorial claim while China objected the validity of McMahon Line which was drawn in 1914 Simla convention because China believes that it was not a party to Simla Convention so it is not bound to accept the boundary demarcated by Simla convention.
India claims 43,180 squares Kilometers of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by China including 5180 square kilometers cede to China by Pakistan under a 1963 China-Pakistan boundary Agreement. On the other hand China claims 90,000 square kilometers of territory held by India in Arunachal Pradesh3. There has not been a remarkable progress in resolving the border dispute between the two sides due to the importance of Aksai Chin to China because it is the main link between Tibet and Xinjiang province of China and Arunachal Pradesh to India is crucial to stability in India’s north-eastern insurgent affected areas4.
After the 1962 war, relationship between China and India remained hostile for several decades. India’s grant of statehood to Arunachal Pradesh in the late eighties (February 1987) which China claims as a part of South Tibet caused the hostility on the bilateral relations to such an extent that another border war seemed about to happen. China claimed the major territorial concessions in populated areas of Arunachal Pradesh particularly Twang because Chinese claim it to be central to Tibetan Buddhism given that the sixth Dalai Lama was born there.
In the same way, as China seeks return of Arunachal Pradesh on religious grounds, India demands the return of the sacred Mount Kailash Manasrovar in Tibet, since it is a sacred place associated with the Hindu religion. However, ease on border and overall border relations began to improve following the border agreements in 1993 and 1996 between the two states. Since then, both sides have agreed to keep working on the border issue and resolved that any disagreement on border issue should not be allowed to affect the overall bilateral relations.
The two sides have also pursued Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) along the border which includes mutual troop cut, regular meetings of local military commanders and other confidence measures. Further, an additional step was taken for the resolution of border disputes in 2003 when both the sides appointed Special Representatives to address the border issue.
In all the times, water was regarded as a precious commodity and is essential for human existence. That is why, its possession bestows power. The preciousness and possession in geopolitical mechanics makes water a strategic commodity and its role as a strategic asset or vulnerability cannot be over-estimated. Thus, seen in this context, water can become a source of both contention and cooperation in the context of contemporary world.
In case of China and India, water issues are becoming major area of concern between two states. In fact, many strategic thinkers are arguing that disputes relating to water will be major source of conflict between the two countries in the future. China’s plan of constructing big dams and diverting the water of rivers to its own advantage has discontented in India. As there are four rivers that flow from China to India, the two countries must have a better understanding relating to water sharing and other attending benefits out of these rivers. However, China’s strategic advantage over these rivers makes it possible for her to counter-balance India on many other issues.
A deep analysis of the water issues between the two countries is quite relevant here. There are four rivers descending from four directions of Mount Kailash in the Nagari region of Tibet to the Indian subcontinent.
This strategic advantage of China on water resources coupled with the differing positions on Line of Actual Control (LAC) and China’s claims on the territories that are parts of India further complicate the water issue between the two. However, the more and more complicating problem is that there exist no agreements between China/ Tibet pertaining to water resources. There is no reliable information on the present or proposed water related developments and projects in the upper regions of the rivers that flow into India from Tibet have not been addressed.
India being the lower riparian, will be vulnerable to any major storage projects planned on the Yarlung Tsangpo. Due to the political situation between the two countries, it is hard to imagine China playing the role of a responsible upper riparian by releasing re-regulated flows from power houses immediately book into river. China’s consumption requirements and long distance transfers of waters will undoubtedly hurt interests not only India but also of Bangladesh.
The problem gets more complicated in the absence of international law on shared waters and when one such was attempted, China voted against the convention on the law of the Non-Navigational uses of International water courses in the UN General Assembly.
China views that India is treating Dalai Lama in India as government in exile in Dharmsala which is just 200 miles away from China’s border. Further, the presence of more than 1,00,000 Tibetans refugees in India and India’s continued willingness to provide shelter to the Dalai Lama is a continued source of irritation in China-India relations. Also China alleged that the Dalai Lama and his associates are provoking the suicides by publicizing a “self-immolation guide” on the internet and “openly encouraging Tibetans within Chinese border to carry out self-immolations” against the China. So the presence of Dalai Lama and his anti-China Activities in India have negative implications for India- China relations.
Policy Interests of Himalayan States with India
While Nepal and India have close historical, religious and cultural ties, Nepal’s strategic ties with India date to the Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 signed between the Nepalese monarch and the British East India Company. As per the treaty, large parts of the Nepalese kingdom (including parts of present day Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim) were annexed by the British empire, a British resident was stationed at Kathmandu, Nepal agreed to defer to the British with respect to its foreign policy and Gorkhas were recruited in large numbers by the British for military service.
Nepal regained some of the lost territory when the monarch helped the British during the 1857 uprising. However, even today Nepal lays claim to certain parts of Indian territory, like Kalapani, along the India-Nepal border.
Modern day India and Nepal signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1950 which in addition to respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity granted rights to Nepalese and Indian citizens to reside and work (and even obtain citizenship) in India and Nepal respectively. Further, India granted Nepal the right to transit trade across its territory and to the use of Indian ports for importing and exporting commodities free of customs duties. Furthermore, Gorkhas still form a key part of the Indian army.
Over the decades New Delhi has consistently sought to influence Nepalese politics, sometimes directly, often indirectly. India was instrumental in helping the Nepalese monarch regain his traditional power and reduce the powers of the powerful hereditary prime ministers, the Ranas.
While supporting the Nepalese monarchy, India also gave refuge to the Nepali Congress party for decades and helped the democratic movement. This often led to tension and friction between Kathmandu and New Delhi. In 2005 New Delhi helped broker the 12-point understanding between the Maoists and Nepal’s other political parties enabling the rebels to emerge from the underground. India also played a key role in convincing King Gyanendra to step down.
While supportive of democracy in Nepal, New Delhi is apprehensive of the growing power of the Maoists. Not only does India fear that Maoists in India would benefit if their Nepalese counterparts came to power but India is also concerned that Chinese influence will grow in Nepal.
While India and Nepal share close ties, as seen from the high peaks of the Himalayas the Nepalese leaders have always feared absorption by India, not just of a physical nature but also economic and cultural. The fear of physical absorption increased after India’s role in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 and Indian absorption of Sikkim in 1974.
In addition to these issues there are also various sins of omission and commission which have hurt Indo-Nepal ties. India’s relations with its neighbors in South Asia—all of whom are smaller in size than India—have never been amicable and tension-free. India has often acted as the big brother and not taken adequate notice of how its behavior is perceived in these countries.
India’s water disputes
India knows how scarcity of water and a sense of being deprived can quickly spiral into violent protests causing damages to properties and human casualties. The situation looks more alarming as a UN report estimates that by 2030, water demand in India will grow to almost 1.5 trillion cubic metres from approximately 740 billion cubic metres (2010 estimate).
Brahmaputra River and India-China-Bangladesh relations
Trans-boundary rivers are important for the development of all riparian regions and it’s no different with the Brahmaputra River. As an upstream riparian region, China maintains an advantageous position and can build infrastructure to intentionally prevent water from flowing downstream. Owing to previous tendencies where the Chinese have been reluctant to provide details of its hydro-power projects, there’s a trust deficit between the two neighbours.
China’s dam-building and water division plans along the Brahmaputra (called Yarlung Zangbo in China) is a source of tension between the two neighbours, despite the two having signed several MoUs on strengthening communication and strategic trust. As lower riparian countries, India and Bangladesh rely on the Brahmaputra’s water for agriculture. China has now plans to build four more dams on the Brahmaputra in Tibet. Both New Delhi and Dhaka worry that these dams will give Beijing the ability to divert or store water in times of political crisis.
India, for its part, has built dams on the Teesta River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, to utilise the flow of the Teesta during the dry season. This prevents the river from supplying irrigation water to Bangladesh–the last stop on the Brahmaputra before it drains into the Bay of Bengal. Remember, some 100 million Bangladeshis rely on the river during the dry season.
Kosi River and frayed relations between Nepal and India
India recollects 2008 Bihar floods with pain. The Kosi embankment near the Indo-Nepal border broke on August 18, 2008, causing the river to change its course. It affected over 2.3 million people, destroyed 300,000 homes and 800,000 acres of cropland in north Bihar. Going by the experts’ opinion, this tragedy was allowed to happen. Since 1954, when the Kosi Agreement was signed between India and Nepal, talks between the two governments have stalled and water rights issues have not been addressed. As a result, the first dam had remained neglected for decades and a proposed partnership for a second dam didn’t take off.
Nepal, which is reeling under poor sanitation and power blackouts every day, intends to find a place as a hydropower hub of Asia. The country is exploring opportunities to provide for its own power needs as well as those of its neighbours.
What role does water play in stimulating international conflict?
Water remains a politically contested issue in much of South Asia. The region is facing water shortage and agrarian difficulties, and it will continue to face increasing demands on energy and water with rapid industrialisation. Over-extraction of groundwater is of particular concern, with an estimated 23 million pumps are in use across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Moreover, salinity and arsenic contamination affect over 60 per cent of groundwater in the Indo-Gangetic plain.
Combine these factors with the impact of climate change that’s reducing the amount of water in the Brahmaputra basin and changing the patterns of water flow. Under such circumstances, the increasing need for power and stable water levels could prompt reconsideration in bilateral water-sharing treaties in future. Freshwater is a precious commodity and a strategic asset whose importance in geopolitics cannot be underestimated.
Contours of India’s engagement with the key regional organizations
India is today a member of several trans-regional, regional and sub-regional groupings. As India rises, there is recognition that for its own interests it needs to consider the wider regional as well as global interests. On the one hand, India today sees global and regional multilateral mechanisms as platforms to engage with the outside world to meet the expectations from a rising power. On the other hand, India needs global and regional multilateral organisations to meet its own rising aspirations.
A ‘new narrative’ in world politics of the twenty-first century is the ‘power shift’ from the West to the East. Though some scholars continue to challenge the notion that there is a major power shift underway. At the core of this new narrative is the rise of China and India. Recent years have increasingly seen the inability of existing global institutions effectively managing international crises. Within this context, a continuing debate is the role of rising powers in global governance and their impact on world politics.
Like other rising powers, India’s ‘willingness’ and ‘ability’ to take on greater international responsibilities is debated. However, there are some instances where India has been playing an active contributing role in global governance in issue areas such as climate change and multilateral trade negotiations. The paradox of India’s rise is that while there is a clear positive trend in its role in global governance, regional governance remains locked in geopolitics.
South Asia is a region where despite the existence of a pan-South Asian organisation SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) for over three decades, it is yet to implement a single all SAARC project. The South Asia Satellite launched in May 2017 is case in point. The failure of SAARC framework meant that India’s ability to contribute to regional governance has been severely limited, if not completely closed. As India’s strategic interests widens in South Asia and beyond, it finds itself in direct geopolitical competition with a rising China whose interests and influence has been rapidly growing in these regions.
The ‘pattern’ of South Asian security dynamics has not changed, but with its rise, India’s security interests has expanded beyond the confines South Asia. India’s own interests to safeguard its interests in its neighbourhood and to reach out to nations in the Indo-Pacific region, on the one hand and China’s growing strategic entry in South Asia, on the other has reinforced the strategic rivalry between India and China both in the subcontinent as well as in the wider Indo-Pacific region. Hence, there is a growing tendency of India finding itself in the ‘Asian supercomplex’. It is within this strategic context that India’s perceptions towards regional and subregional institutions have been evolving.
From the ‘narrow focus on free trade arrangements and security alliances’ that existed up until the 1970s, the concept of ‘regionalism’ has undergone drastic changes. By the mid-1980s, a worldwide phenomenon emerged which came to be known as the ‘new regionalism’. In the new regionalism, the level and process of regionalisation takes place at interregional, interstate as well as subnational (subregional) levels. Moreover, the new regionalism is ‘extroverted’ rather than ‘introverted’ and thus supports ‘open regionalism’.
India’s Evolving Regional Approach
The bipolar politics greatly shaped India’s approach towards regionalism in the post-independence period. India was not averse to the idea of regionalism per se, but the notion of ‘region’ for the Indian leadership then was much broader that encompasses the entire Asian continent. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru actively initiated and participated in several political conferences involving nations from South and Southeast Asia in the 1940s and 1950s including the Asian Relations Conference that was held in New Delhi in 1947, the Colombo Conference in 1954 and the Bandung Asian-African Conference of 1955.
Even as India remained wary of the idea of regional cooperation in South Asia, by the late 1970s the need for a regional forum was felt and the thinking gained momentum. India showed initial hesitation for two reasons. First, India was concerned that a regional organisation may give the smaller neighbours to ‘gang up’ against it. This would have direct impact on its approach in dealing with its immediate neighbours negating its most preferred approach of bilateralism and open room for ‘regionalising’ bilateral issues. Second, India was also wary of majority decision-making being institutionalised. It felt this might affect its ‘freedom in foreign affairs’.
As voices grew among the smaller neighbours for the establishment of SAARC, India decided to join the regional grouping after ensuring that ‘unanimity on decisions at all levels, exclusion of bilateral and contentious issues, and unanimous approval for external assistance or intervention’ form the basic principles of the regional forum. The birth of SAARC marked a new chapter of regionalism in South Asia. It was the first regional organisation represented by seven countries of the region.
Sharing close historical, cultural, and geographical ties with all nations of South Asia, the region remains critical for India’s internal stability and development as well as in reaching out to the outside world. New Delhi also has its own self-interest to make the SAARC project work. The reason for this is not so much India’s belief in the future of SAARC but, more importantly, because a ‘dead SAARC at India’s behest will only make India’s neighbourhood policy more difficult and its international image more unpalatable’. The roots of the new thinking could be found in the “Gujral Doctrine” that, in essence, sought to accommodate India’s smaller neighbours with good faith and trust without seeking reciprocity.
In the past, one of the reasons why India was not keen about SAARC resulted from its belief that ‘India is unlikely to accrue substantial economic benefits from any SAARC arrangements’. A key principle that guided India’s new regional approach since the 1990s was the notion of ‘collective prosperity’. Even as collective regional prosperity began to emerge in speeches of Indian leaders, political differences within SAARC remained an obstruction.
An important dimension of ‘new regionalism’ is the ‘bottom-up approach’. The idea of sub-regional approach opened up new ways to build regionalism in South Asia. Some have described this as ‘sub-regionalism approach to regional integration in South Asia’ and ‘SAARC takes the road to sub-regionalism.’ This approach allowed New Delhi to circumvent the SAARC mechanism while addressed the much-needed collaboration with those neighbours willing to push for regional integration in South Asia.
The first such ‘collaborative sub-regionalism’ was experimented with South Asia Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ) in 1997 involving four SAARC nations (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) with the aim to enhance ‘regional solidarity and promoting overall development within SAARC’ with an emphasis on project-based development.1 In 2000, the South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme in the SAGQ was launched with assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) with six priority sectors that included transport, energy and power, tourism, environment, trade, investment, and private sector cooperation, and information and communication technology. During this period, India also supported and participated in promoting other sub-regional and regional forums outside the SAARC framework.
In the same year SAGQ was launched, India became a founding member of The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) involving South and Southeast Asia nations (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand). BIMSTEC’s key objective was to initiate cooperation among the littorals of the Bay of Bengal with particular focus on commerce, investment, technology, tourism, human resource development, agriculture, fisheries, transport and communication, textiles, leather.
By the turn of the century, India further pushed its eastward drive when it set up another sub-regional grouping with the mainland Southeast Asian nations. In 2000, India along with five of the Mekong nations (Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) established the Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC). The MGC emphasised cooperation in the field of tourism, culture, education, and transportation linkages. In the same year, India and South Africa together launched the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) along with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Yemen, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique.
The IOR-ARC’s main objectives were to promote sustainable growth and balanced development; economic cooperation for shared and mutual benefits and remove impediments and lower barriers towards a freer and enhanced flow of goods, services, investment, and technology among the member-states. These initiatives suggest that India recognised the benefits of cooperation in maintaining good relations with its neighbours.
The Indian policy makers came to accept with various degrees of candour that India has a greater responsibility to work for the evolution of constructive and cooperative neighbourhood relationships, not only because it is big, but also because it is more resourceful. Furthermore, India would, perhaps, reap greater advantages in its overall foreign policy initiatives, if it enjoy a greater support and understanding of its neighbours and its efforts and attention is not unduly trapped within the South Asian region.
However, the reorientation of India’s regional approach that began in the early 1990s, particularly with the launch of the ‘Look East’ policy followed by the ‘Gujral Doctrine’, took strategic dimensions only in the mid-2000s. By the turn of 20st century, the stakes for New Delhi to recalibrate its regional policy became even more urgent owing to developments both within India as well as in the neighbourhood, both having direct implications on India’s regional diplomacy.
India also strengthened its engagements with sub-regional groupings. For instance, membership in the sub-regional forum BIMSTEC was not only expanded to include Nepal and Bhutan in 2004 but also the forum decided to set up a permanent secretariat, and Dhaka was finalised as the location at the third BIMSTEC Summit in 2011. India also began to push for physical connectivity with its neigbhours both to integrate the region with its economy as well as to tie these economies to its own. An important policy calibration has been to open up its frontiers to its neighbours for border trade. The need to push for SAARC regional connectivity, urgently, was also seen in the context of China’s growing involvement in trans-national connectivity in the region.
As part of the new thinking on regionalism of the 1990s, the realisation of deep interdependence in the security realm among South Asian nations where India cannot insulate itself also pushed New Delhi to reframe its regional security approach. This thinking allowed India to see itself as a regional leader as well as collaborate with neighbours in ensuring regional order and stability. A bilateral exercise launched in 1992 between India and the US, the Malabar, began as a familiarisation exercise between the navies of the two countries acquired greater geopolitical content by the mid-2000s involving interoperability exercises and with participation from more countries, though it revert back to the bilateral exercise following protest from China.
The Indian Navy also began hosting the Milan exercise in 1995 with South and Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Singapore) with the aim to foster closer cooperation among navies of countries in the Indian Ocean region.
With growing concerns over China’s rapidly expanding footprints in the Indian Ocean region and increasing non-traditional security threats, India also launched maritime cooperation with neighbouring Sri Lanka and the Maldives in 2011. A tripartite maritime security cooperation was signed in July 2013 with the aim to buttress maritime cooperation to secure sea routes in the Indian Ocean.
Recognising the need for wider participation on the emerging issues of the Indian Ocean, New Delhi took the lead in creating new platforms for exchange of views among the IOR littorals. Giving a renewed push to the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), at its 13th meeting of the Council of Ministers in Perth, Australia in November 2013, Indian External Affairs Minister announced New Delhi’s plans to host the Track 1.5 Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD) to bring together scholars, experts and policy-makers from the Indian Ocean regional grouping to exchanges views.
Similarly, India hosted the first Trilateral Dialogue on Indian Ocean (TDIO) in November 2013 involving Australia, Indonesia and India. In the Indo-Pacific region, India’s role in shaping the emerging economic architecture of the region further opened up when its became a member of the ASEAN-led East Asia Summit (EAS) that emerged as a forum ‘for strategic dialogue and cooperation on political, security and economic issues of common regional concern and plays an important role in the regional architecture.’5 India endorsed all the six priority areas of regional cooperation within the framework of the EAS that include environment and energy, education, finance, global health issues and pandemic diseases, natural disaster management, and ASEAN Connectivity.
Importantly, in 2012, ASEAN and the six FTA Partners of ASEAN, which includes India, launched the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and India has been actively participating in the RCEP negotiations.
Coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a renewed push to the efforts towards an integrated neighbourhood by launching the ‘Neighbourhood First’ approach towards South Asia and demonstrated greater political will to shape the emerging security and economic dynamics in the wider Indo-Pacific region through the ‘Act East’ policy (Bhatnagar & Passi 2016). In the South Asia context, new hopes was raised of the revival of SAARC when Prime Minister Modi invited SAARC leaders to his swearing-in ceremony and after his speech at the 18th SAARC held in Kathmandu (Sidhu & Mehta 2014).
A couple of recent developments suggest that India is willing to push for regional integration in South Asia. When Pakistan expressed its reservations on the SAARC-Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) during the Kathmandu Summit in 2014, India along with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal initiated a sub-regional initiative to enhance connectivity and signed the BBIN-MVA in 2015. In another initiative, India has shown generosity to its neighbours with its ‘gift’ of the South Asia satellite that can be used by neighbours for communication purposes. Here again, Pakistan is the only country that have opted itself out of the project.
At the sub-regional level, the Modi government further strengthened groupings such as the BIMSTEC, the SESEC/BBIN and the MGC as part of the Act East policy with the aim to accelerate the integration process in the region. For instance, India pledged to contribute 32 per cent of the annual expenditure on BIMSTEC’s permanent secretariat in Dhaka. Similarly, during the eighth MGC Senior officials’ Meeting held in New Delhi on 7 April 2017, India offered 15 more scholarships to the Mekong countries together with existing scholarships.
Another development that underlines India’s eastward drive at the sub-regional level is the expansion of the SASEC programme of the ADB to include Myanmar as its seventh member. The inclusion of Myanmar is seeing as ‘key to realizing greater connectivity and stronger trade and economic relations between the SASEC sub-region and the countries of East and Southeast Asia’ (PIB 1 April 2017a).
In the Indian Ocean region, the government has taken major policy initiatives to promote collective action and integrated maritime security coordination. Prime Minister Modi’s vision of the Indian Ocean region was outlined in 2015 in the acronym SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region).
BIMSTEC: India’s Road to Regionalism
With the regional grouping SAARC making little headway, the idea of sub-regionalism to push for regional integration has become the prime driver of India’s regional integration building in South Asia and beyond. This could be seen both in the economic field as well as in the security domain. The BIMSTEC is a classic example of the incremental approach to regionalism. The unique position of the seven-member BIMSTEC presents itself fittingly in New Delhi’s diplomatic calculus. The strategic salience of the BIMSTEC for India can be ascertained when seen through India’s sub-regions.
The BIMSTEC connects three important sub-regions of India — Nepal and Bhutan in the Himalayan sub-region; Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal sub-region; and Myanmar and Thailand in the Mekong sub-region. BIMSTEC is the only forum that brings together India’s strategic peripheries (South, East and North) under one single grouping. Furthermore, it also keeps geopolitical concerns at bay as regional players such as China and Pakistan are not members of BIMSTEC.
The BIMSTEC is also at the centre of New Delhi’s engagements with other various regional and sub-regional groupings in India’s eastern neighbourhood with its members often are also members of other regional and sub-regional groupings in their respective regions and sub-regions. For instance, Myanmar and Thailand are members of ASEAN and Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) while Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal are members of SAARC and BBIN. Bangladesh and Myanmar are also members of the four-member sub-regional BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) forum along with India and China. The progress of BIMSTEC, therefore, could help regional integration of the entire north-eastern Indian Ocean region with the Bay of Bengal at the centre.
India’s strategic interests in these sub-regions have been growing over the recent years both as a result of India’s own domestic interests as well as because of enhanced Chinese influence and presence in these geo-strategic sub-regions. The China factor has emerged as a major area of geopolitical concern in India’s engagements with the nations in these sub-regions. Islamabad’s unwillingness to be part of regional cooperation where India is involved was clearly demonstrated with its opposition to the SAARC-MVA and the South Asia satellite.
The prospect for bilateral and regional cooperation along India’s western border remains limited with no signs of improving ties with its arch-rival Pakistan, even though India made significant efforts from 2003-2007 and then in 2011-2013 to enhance connectivity and give a fillip to bilateral trade. Delhi’s strategic spaces to manoeuvre and its ability to take its regional diplomacy to a new level, particularly the ‘Act East’ policy will largely depend on its engagements with its eastern neighbourhood. BIMSTEC along with other regional and sub-regional forums where India is a member are platforms to achieve these objectives.
Implications and Challenges
If China is the factor pushing India to play a more active role in the region, the question is, would India undertake regional initiatives in the absence of the China factor. One may argue that the urgency to recalibrated its regional approach would have been missing without China in its regional calculus. But at the same time, there is no denying the fact that India has been increasingly taking regional initiatives for its own self-interest and the wider regional interests, particularly in areas such as the maritime domain. Even as India’s sheds off its traditional inhibitions to shape regional governance, several issues continue to pose challenges to India’s role as a regional leader.
Traditional issues in South Asia such as territorial disputes (particularly the Kashmir dispute), regional rivalry with Pakistan (which is likely to increase as a result of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project), and lack of trust with its smaller neighbours. In the wider Indo-Pacific region, China’s growing military and economic power is and will remain a major challenge as the two compete for leadership in the Indo-Pacific region.
India is increasingly taking the lead to improve regional governance in key areas including socio-economic development, maritime, energy, water, cyber, space and security. In any community building project the people of the region are the most significant component. India’s various capacity-building efforts in South Asia, the Mekong region, and in the island nations of the Indian Ocean contributes to good regional governance.
Sustainable development and management has been at the core of India’s cooperation at the regional and sub-regional groupings and this will have implications on regional recourses such as water and energy. The necessity to adopt such an approach in regional cooperation will only grow with issues such as climate change, rise in sea-level, energy scarcity, food security, natural disasters, etc. likely to force countries to work together to shape the emerging ‘development regionalism’ narrative in the region.
Perhaps, India’s role in regional maritime security governance is the most visible and significant in recent years. Not only is India providing new ideas and initiatives in shaping the discourse on regional maritime security, but also its peaceful settlement of maritime boundary dispute with Bangladesh has demonstrated the country’s respect for international norms in sea governance.
The initiatives to strengthen a new maritime order in the Indian Ocean region by creating mechanisms both with its immediate neighbours such as the Sri Lanka and Maldives but also with other regional and extra-regional players will have long-term implications for the evolving dynamics of the emerging security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region. India’s initiatives have been laying the ground for the emergence of ‘security regionalism’ in the maritime domain. India is beginning to demonstrate that it has the intent and the capability to maintain a stable regional order at sea. In fact, several analysts argue that India is beginning to take up leadership role particularly in regional maritime governance.
India and ASEAN
The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. India’s focus on a strengthened and multi-faceted relationship with ASEAN is an outcome of the significant changes in the world’s political and economic scenario since the early 1990s and India’s own march towards economic liberalisation. India’s search for economic space resulted in the ‘Look East Policy’.
The Look East Policy has today matured into a dynamic and action oriented ‘Act East Policy. PM at the 12th ASEAN India Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, in November, 2014, formally enunciated the Act East Policy.
Apart from ASEAN, India has taken other policy initiatives in the region that involve some members of ASEAN like BIMSTEC, MGC etc. India is also an active participant in several regional forums like the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting + (ADMM+) and Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).
India’s relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of our foreign policy and the foundation of our Act East Policy. The up-gradation of the relationship into a Strategic Partnership in 2012 was a natural progression to the ground covered since India became a Sectoral Partner of the ASEAN in 1992, Dialogue Partner in 1996 and Summit Level Partner in 2002. There are, in total, 30 Dialogue Mechanisms between India and ASEAN, cutting across various sectors.
India has set up a separate Mission to ASEAN and the EAS in Jakarta in April 2015 with a dedicated Ambassador to strengthen engagement with ASEAN and ASEAN-centric processes.
In 2012, ASEAN and India had commemorated 20 years of dialogue partnership and 10 years of Summit level partnership with ASEAN with a Commemorative Summit in New Delhi under the theme ‘ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace and Shared Prosperity’ on 20-21 December 2012. The Commemorative Summit attended by the Leaders from all the 10 ASEAN countries endorsed elevating the partnership to a ‘Strategic Partnership’. The Leaders also adopted the ‘ASEAN-India Vision Statement’, which charts the future of ASEAN-India cooperation. Two major events that were organized in 2012 in the run-up to the Commemorative Summit included the 2nd ASEAN-India Car Rally and Shipping Expedition of INS Sudarshini to ASEAN countries.
As a reflection of the interest of ASEAN and India to intensify their engagement, the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity, which sets out the roadmap for long-term ASEAN-India engagement, was signed at the 3rd ASEAN-India Summit in 2004 in Vientiane. A Plan of Action (POA) for the period 2004-2010 was also developed to implement the Partnership. The 3rd POA (2016-20) was adopted by the ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers Meeting held in August 2015. Furthermore, ASEAN and India have identified priority areas for the period of 2016-2018 and are already implementing activities under it, which would contribute towards successful implementation of the 2016-2020 Plan of Action.
Political Security Cooperation: Faced with growing traditional and non-traditional challenges, politico-security cooperation is a key and an emerging pillar of our relationship. Rising export of terror, growing radicalization through ideology of hatred, and spread of extreme violence define the landscape of common security threats to our societies. Our partnership with ASEAN seeks to craft a response that relies on coordination, cooperation and sharing of experiences at multiple levels.
The main forum for ASEAN security dialogue is the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). India has been attending annual meetings of this forum since 1996 and has actively participated in its various activities. The ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) is the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN. The ADMM+ brings together Defence Ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States on a biannual basis.
India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India’s fourth largest trading partner. India’s trade with ASEAN has increased to US$ 70 billion in 2016-17 from US$ 65 billion in 2015-16. India’s export to ASEAN has increased to US$ 30 billion in 2016-17 from US$ 25 billion in 2015-16.
Investment flows are also substantial both ways, with ASEAN accounting for approximately 12.5% of investment flows into India since 2000. FDI inflows into India from ASEAN between April 2000 to May 2016 was about US$49.40 billion, while FDI outflows from India to ASEAN countries, from April 2007 to March 2015, as per data maintained by DEA, was about US$38.672 billion.The ASEAN-India Free Trade Area has been completed with the entering into force of the ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Service and Investments on 1 July 2015.
ASEAN and India have been also working on enhancing private sector engagement. ASEAN India-Business Council (AIBC) was set up in March 2003 in Kuala Lumpur as a forum to bring key private sector players from India and the ASEAN countries on a single platform for business networking and sharing of ideas. AIBC organized the ASEAN-India Business Leadership Conclave 2016 on 21 July 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
ASEAN Multilateral Division offers project-based financial assistance to ASEAN countries. Financial assistance has been provided to ASEAN countries from the following Funds:
ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund: At the 7th ASEAN-India Summit in 2009, India announced a contribution of US$ 50 million to the ASEAN-India Fund, to support implementation of the ASEAN-India Plans of Action, which envisage cooperation in a range of sectors in the political, economic and socio-cultural spheres for deepening and intensifying ASEAN-India cooperation. Projects worth approx. US$ 48 million are under various stages of implementation or processing. In order to take the development and capacity building initiatives forward, PM has proposed enhancing the ASEAN-India Fund with an additional grant of US$ 50 million at the 14th ASEAN India Summit in Vientiane in September 2016.
ASEAN-India Projects: India has been cooperating with ASEAN by way of implementation of various projects in the fields of Agriculture, Science & Technology, Space, Environment & Climate Change, Human Resource Development, Capacity Building, New and Renewable Energy, Tourism, People-to-People contacts and Connectivity etc.
Some of the prominent projects, which are either ongoing or in the final stages of approval are as follows:
Space Project envisaging establishment of a Tracking, Data Reception/Data Processing Station in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and upgradation of Telemetry Tracking and Command Station in Biak, Indonesia; Setting up of Centres of Excellence in Software Development & Training in CLMV countries; e-Network for provision of tele-medicine and tele-education in CLMV countries, Quick Impact Projects in CLMV etc.
Apart from the above projects, India has been supporting ASEAN, especially CLMV countries under the Initiatives for ASEAN Integration, which include projects on Training of English Language for Law Enforcement Officers in CLMV countries and Training of professionals dealing with capital markets in CLMV by National Institute of Securities Management Mumbai, scholarships for ASEAN students for higher education at Nalanda University, Training of ASEAN Civil Servants in drought management, disaster risk management, sustainable ground water management etc. To boost People-to-people Interaction with ASEAN, India has been organising various programmes including Training Programme for ASEAN diplomats, Exchange of Parliamentarians, Participation of ASEAN students in the National Children’s Science Congress, ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks, ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series, ASEAN-India Students Exchange programme, ASEAN-India Media Exchange programme etc.
India and BIMSTEC
BIMSTEC more naturally lends itself to regional integration—physical connectivity as well as economic cooperation—than Saarc which is dominated by India and Pakistan and hamstrung by tensions between the two. Therefore, Bimstec seems an attractive alternative to Saarc.
For India, making Bimstec work is important as for years, it has blamed Pakistan for holding back Saarc. As the biggest member of Bimstec, it’s up to India to take all members with it and show tangible results.
In terms of connectivity, Bimstec has at last three major projects that, when finished, could transform the movement of goods and vehicles through the countries in the grouping. One is the Kaladan Multimodal project that seeks to link India and Myanmar. The project envisages connecting Kolkata to Sittwe port in Myanmar, and then Mizoram by river and road. India and Myanmar had signed a framework agreement in 2008 for the implementation of this project. It’s yet to be finished.
Another is the Asian Trilateral Highway connecting India and Thailand through Myanmar. The highway will run from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar and represents a significant step in establishing connectivity between India and Southeast Asian countries. The project is expected to be completed this year.
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) have signed a pact for the movement of goods and vehicles among them. The pact, which was signed last year, is awaiting internal clearances of some members. Trial runs of trucks between Bangladesh and India have begun.
Bimstec also lends itself to sub-regional economic cooperation—something proposed by India and other member countries of Saarc. The grouping has not progressed much in terms of economic cooperation or physical connectivity since the mid-1980s when it was formed. So, under Bimstec, economic cooperation between Sri Lanka and India’s southern states could take off if all sides sign off on it.
Similarly, BBIN could prove itself as a regional economic sub-grouping, given the willingness of all the countries in the grouping to cooperate.
North East of India and BIMSTEC
Arguably, India’s primary objective within BIMSTEC is to develop the Northeastern region by integrating it with existing trade networks while capitalising on future opportunities. According to the Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, BIMSTEC could be a “potential game changer” for the Northeast’s overall development. While considering the potential of BIMSTEC to bring trade, transport, tourism and other linkages to the states of the Northeast, the foreign secretary, prior to the third summit, said, “It is in our interest to make sure that our northeast does not fall behind, that it develops as well in a manner that is commensurate to its potential.”
To this end, Myanmar is crucial to India’s economic engagement with Southeast Asian countries. The country shares a 1643 kilometre border with the Northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Under the Indo-Myanmar Trade Agreement of 1994 (which has resulted in increased bilateral trade ever since), formal border trade is conducted through the designated custom posts at Moreh in Manipur to Tamu in Myanmar, and Zokhawthar (also known as Champhai) in Mizoram to Rih in Myanmar, while an Integrated Check Post at Moreh-Tamu trade point is expected to be completed in 2015.
In enhancing sub-regional cooperation, extending current transit and transport connectivity is vital. While several trade routes existed between India and Southeast Asian countries prior to British colonial intervention, they were disrupted as a result of the narrow business and imperial interests of the British. In the post-independence period, trade and cultural exchanges have, for the most part, remained stagnant and road connectivity between India and Myanmar underdeveloped.
Following the inclusion of the Northeast as an indispensable element of India’s LEP in 2003, new possibilities have emerged. The planned extension of the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Road will link Mandalay with the Trans-Asian Highway, while states that possess modern medical facilities such as Assam and Manipur are being touted as possible destinations for medical tourists from Myanmar.
The prospect of cooperation between Myanmar and the Northeast has brightened in the context of ongoing reform and reconciliation processes in the former pariah state. After several decades of international isolation, Myanmar is opening up to foreign investment; and India, as its immediate neighbour, has the added advantage of exploring its valuable resources such as gas and oil. Unlike other regional forums, BIMSTEC does not have an overt political or security agenda to pursue.
An early conclusion of the planned FTA among BIMSTEC member states is of the utmost necessity for the acceleration of trade and investment in the Bay of Bengal region.
Despite these prospects, there still exists a gap between the region’s immense potentialities and their optimum utilisation. As a sub-regional grouping, BIMSTEC has made little headway in terms of the implementation of its various schemes, while the grouping’s intra-regional trade and commerce has failed to grow substantially over the years. The goal of regional integration has also remained unfulfilled as infrastructural bottlenecks persist. Moreover, a lack of cross-border physical connectivity is a major obstacle to expanding trade and investment between India’s Northeast and BIMSTEC’s Southeast Asian member states.
To date, the private sector’s contribution to BIMSTEC’s goal of forging greater economic and commercial ties has been meagre, and the region is yet to witness any extensive transfer of technology, capital and services among member states. The sluggish economic growth experienced by Southasian countries has likewise cast its shadow over broader economic cooperation. India’s private sector is, however, optimistic about BIMSTEC’s future.
The dissimilar economic credentials of BIMSTEC member states are partly responsible for the present state of affairs. The economies of the grouping vary in terms of their resource bases, the size of their domestic markets, their levels of industrial development, as well as their economic governance regimes. Indeed, BIMSTEC accommodates fast-growing economies such as Thailand, as well as ‘least developed’ countries such as Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The volatile domestic politics of some member countries has delayed BIMSTEC’s progress: the recently concluded third summit, for example, was held after a gap of six years, as most of the members had been preoccupied with their internal political milieus.
Despite these difficulties, India’s leaders must not give up on the organisation. Being a leading member of the sub-regional grouping, India has to play its role in a way that addresses the vital issues facing the sensitive Northeastern region of the country. After years of neglect by the union government, the Northeast has gained prominence in India’s LEP and BIMSTEC primarily due to its geostrategic location and resource potentialities. The importance of this region cannot be underestimated against the backdrop of fast-changing economic and strategic scenarios in India’s neighbourhood and beyond. For India, BIMSTEC’s development and peacemaking potential must be seized.
Look East Policy and MGC
India has excellent relations with all the countries in the MGC; Thailand, with a pro-U.S. policy, is possibly the only odd one out. However, since the Vajpayee government now enjoys good relations with the U.S., there should be little problem in India cooperating with Thailand.
And, if one has the development of India’s northeastern region in mind, one could even be looking at flights in the Imphal-Hanoi or Guwahati-Ho Chi Minh sector as a possibility. Senior Indian diplomats in South-East Asia believe that without the development of the northeastern States, cooperation with South-East Asia cannot be meaningful.
For the MGC project to be effective, the Brahmaputra Valley is a crucial factor. If there exists sufficient trade and industry in this region, overland trade via Myanmar to many MGC countries will become a worthwhile proposition for India.
But what fate awaits the MGC in the long run remains an open question.
As per the Vientiane Declaration, issued by the three Foreign Ministers and three Tourism Ministers who represented the six member nations, they will conduct “strategic studies” for the joint marketing and convening of missions for tourism marketing, launch a Mekong-Ganga tourism guide, facilitate the travel of people in the region, expand multi-modal communication and transport linkages and also promote package tours to cultural, religious and eco-tourism sites of the region. In the field of transport and communications, it has decided to make efforts to develop transport networks, in particular the “East-West” corridor project and the Trans-Asian highway. The highway, of course, is an old proposal made by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
The MGC Six also decided to “strengthen cooperation in the development of IT (Information Technology) infrastructure and networks” and “promote cooperation in air services and li nkages in the region”.
The MGC Six also agreed to promote joint research in dance, music, theatre and traditions; organise round-table conferences for journalists, writers and experts in the fields of literature and the performing arts; conserve and protect heritage sites and artifacts, and set up an information network in these fields.
IN the case of India, “strategic concepts” such as “balancing China” tend to intrude into any thinking with regard to South-East Asia. While China and India may be competitors at many levels, China is far ahead of India in developing relations with South -East Asia. While Western analysts and even South-East Asian nations may encourage India to enlarge its “strategic footprint”, it will be in India’s interests to concentrate on areas of trade and cooperation.
Beyond Myanmar (where India has made belated efforts to compete with the Chinese), New Delhi’s strategic compulsions for the moment appear to be few. There have been some “passage exercises” by the Indian Navy to different South-East Asian capitals recen tly, but the fact remains that a “strategic position” in today’s world can only be based on trade and commerce.
For instance, Indian expertise in IT will be welcome in MGC countries – it is an area that India can build its relations on.
Indian business, clearly, needs to get out of the traditional approach and look to countries where its presence has been weak. In that sense, MGC presents an opportunity. The idea of cooperation must precede cooperation. That is precisely what has happen ed in Vientiane – where a framework has been laid out – and now it is up to the Indian government, business and civil society to take up this cooperative endeavour. Given the myriad agreements and international meetings these days, it is up to the Exter nal Affairs Ministry to ensure that India’s role in the MGC does not suffer owing to bureaucratic neglect. Indian governments are good at drafting and announcing agreements; it is often in their implementation that their weakness has been in evidence.
At Vientiane, it was agreed that Laos would first chair the MGC; the Chair would then rotate in alphabetical order. The MGC ministerial-level meetings will take place when the Foreign Ministers meet for the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and Post-Ministerial Conferences (PMCs) in July every year. The next MGC ministerial meeting will take place in Hanoi in July 2001, where Myanmar will take over its chairmanship.
India’s interest in International Organizations
EU-India cooperation now spans many areas, including foreign policy and security issues, trade and economics, sustainable development and modernisation, research and innovation as well as people-to-people contacts.
The 1994 EU-India Cooperation Agreement provides the legal framework for EU-India relations and has boosted political, economic and sectorial cooperation. Since 2000, EU-India relations have evolved significantly, with the formation of the EU-India Strategic Partnership in 2004. To underpin that Strategic Partnership, the EU-India Joint Action Plan was adopted at the 2005 Summit and subsequently updated in 2008. Summits, ministerial-level, expert-level and sectoral meetings have further extended cooperation between the European Union and India on a broad range of issues.
In addition, regular parliamentary exchanges have taken place, the last one being a triple visit of three committees from the European Parliament to India in February 2017.
EU and Indian Leaders held their 13th Summit on 30 March 2016 in Brussels. Decisions taken at the Summit by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, gave a new momentum to the Strategic Partnership. Leaders endorsed the EU-India Agenda for Action 2020 – a roadmap with practical actions for the next five years covering political, security, human rights, global issues, such as climate change and the Sustainable Development Agenda-2030, sector policy cooperation, for example vis-à-vis energy, environment, ICT, research and innovation, and people-to-people contacts.
The EU and India discuss foreign policy and security matters in a number of fora and at various levels, including at the Summits. The EU High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, last visited New Delhi on 21 April 2017 and reviewed the progress made since the 13th Summit, including in the areas of counter-terrorism, migration and mobility, the water partnership, clean energy and climate change action. Regular foreign policy and security consultations, last held on 25 August 2017 in New Delhi, represent a useful platform to exchange views on the full spectrum of bilateral, regional and global foreign policy issues.
Enhanced foreign policy cooperation has resulted, for example, in India’s participation in the EU-hosted Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in October 2016; and the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region of April 2017; security dialogues are regularly held on counterterrorism, counter-piracy, cyber-security, and non-proliferation/disarmament. The 2016 EU-India Summit adopted a Joint Declaration on the fight against Terrorism.
The EU also values the regular Human Rights Dialogue human rights dialogue with India which provides an opportunity for both sides to discuss a broad range of human rights issues, for example gender issues, religious and minority rights, decent work, and the death penalty, as well as cooperation in multilateral fora.
The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for 13.7% of India’s overall trade, ahead of China (11%) and the United States (9.6%). India is the EU’s 9th largest partner, with the value of EU exports of goods to India amounting to €37.8 billion in 2016. The total value of EU-India trade in goods stood at €77 billion in 2016. Major EU exports to India include engineering goods (37.3%), gems and jewellery (19%) and chemical and allied products (10.7%). The primary EU imports include textiles and clothing (19.8%), chemical and allied products (15%) and engineering goods (15%).
Bilateral trade in commercial services has almost tripled over the past decade, increasing from €10.5 billion in 2005 to €28.4 billion in 2016. In 2016 the EU exported services worth €13.8 billion (top three sectors: ICT, transport and travel), while it imported €14.6 billion (top three sectors: business services, ICT and travel).
The EU is the second largest investor in India (after Mauritius), with an investment stock valued at €51.2 billion in 2015, and is the primary destination for Indian foreign investment.
Given the significant untapped potential in EU-India trade, the two parties have been negotiating an ambitious Free Trade Agreement since 2007, covering, inter alia, effective market access in goods, services and public procurement, as well as a framework for investment including investment protection and rules that frame trade, such as intellectual property and competition. Progress has been made during a number of negotiation rounds, though further discussions are needed on key outstanding issues that include improved market access for some goods and services, government procurement, geographical indications, sound investment protection rules and sustainable development.
India and the UN
India was among the original members of the United Nations that signed the Declaration by United Nations at Washington on 1 January 1942 and also participated in the historic UN Conference of International Organization at San Francisco from 25 April to 26 June 1945. As a founding member of the United Nations, India strongly supports the purposes and principles of the UN and has made significant contributions to implementing the goals of the Charter, and the evolution of the UN’s specialized programmes and agencies.
Historical perspective: Decolonization and Apartheid
Independent India viewed its membership at the United Nations as an important guarantee for maintaining international peace and security. India stood at the forefront during the UN’s tumultuous years of struggle against colonialism and apartheid. India was the co-sponsor of the landmark 1960 Declaration on UN on Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples which proclaimed the need to unconditionally end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations. India was also elected the first chair of the Decolonization Committee (Committee of 24) where its ceaseless efforts to put an end to colonialism are well on record.
India was amongst the most outspoken critics of apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa. In fact, India was the first country to raise the issue in the UN (in 1946) and played a leading role in the formation of a Sub-Committee against Apartheid set up by the General Assembly. When the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted in 1965, India was among the earliest signatories.
India’s status as a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 cemented its position within the UN system as a leading advocate of the concerns and aspirations of developing countries and the creation of a more equitable international economic and political order.
Contemporary Priorities: UN reform, Sustainable Development, Counter Terrorism & Disarmament
India is partnering with like- minded countries to ensure that the focus of the debate on sustainable development remains on poverty eradication and that RIO principles remain sacrosanct in the global discourse on shaping the post 2015 development agenda. India remains committed to addressing Climate Change through a comprehensive, equitable and balanced outcome based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.
India has been advocating “Zero tolerance” approach to terrorism in all its forms. With the objective of providing a comprehensible legal framework to counter terrorism India took the initiative to pilot a draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in 1996 and continues to work for its early adoption.
The Horseshoe: the classical format for high level meeting of the UN Security Council Peacekeeping and disarmament are among the most unique pursuits of the UN because they embody the promise and innate potential of the organization to make the world a better place. India has a proud history of participation in UN peacekeeping operations dating back to the 1950s, having taken part in as many as 43 peacekeeping operations.
India remains the only State possessing nuclear weapons to call unambiguously for a Nuclear Weapons Convention to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. India is committed to achieving a nuclear weapons-free world in a time-bound, universal, non-discriminatory, phased and verifiable manner as reflected in the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan that was presented to the Special Session of General Assembly on Disarmament in 1998. India is today at the forefront of efforts on UN reform, including expansion of the Security Council in both the permanent and nonpermanent categories to reflect contemporary realities.