Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao says Pakistan is hypnotically obsessed with India but she and her bosses too are fixated on a coveted prize, a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. The mandarins of New Delhi must be pleased as punch to have had over to visit leaders of all five permanent member countries in quick succession. Inexorable appears the march but will India find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? And, if it does, what are the implications for itself as well as for Pakistan?
First in was David Cameron of Britain, who arrived during the summer and offered unstinting support, whetting local appetite for the main American course. And, did he fail to disappoint? No sir, Barack Obama set the cat amongst the pigeons by endorsing India for the seat, the first time ever by the US. India rejoiced while Pakistan recoiled.
But a careful examination shows him adhering closely to what he told Bob Woodward in the book, Obama's Wars. In lieu of the seat, he expects India to resolve Kashmir. At a press conference with Manmohan Singh, Obama characterized Kashmir as a long-standing dispute making the latter stutter that the K-word was not scary. Only then did Obama hand over the endorsement in India's Parliament but couched in such diplomatese that countless local hair were split over when "the years ahead" would dawn.
Next waltzed in Nicolas Sarkozy of France. The French, like the British, have consistently seen merit in India's case. Sarkozy though, true to type, proved an enigma. He first tagged on the applications of Africa, the Arabs and pretty much the rest of the world onto India's, befuddling his hosts, who are willing to concede as equal aspirants only "self-appointed frontrunners" Germany, Japan and Brazil. Just as they were about to give up on him, Sarkozy warmed the cockles of India's heart by throwing in 2011 as early as when it could make it.
But soon came the caveat. Sarkozy, just like Obama before him, cautioned that with great power status came great responsibilities. Whereas Obama wanted India to be more mindful of human rights violations of countries such as Iran and Myanmar, Sarkozy wanted India to send military forces to keep world peace. With India already being one of the foremost contributors to UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world, the mandarins of New Delhi must have been left wondering what more was being asked of them.
No matter, three down, two to go. By now the state jets were landing at Delhi airport almost on top of one another. Wen Jiabao, the leader India was least looking forward to, came with the master key to entry. Shortly before his visit, WikiLeaks revealed China's opposition to any council expansion. Indian hopes were up nevertheless but Wen remained inscrutable, willing only to acknowledge an understanding of India's aspirations. No one in India knew quite what to make of him and since Wen was off to Pakistan next, all the country could do was wait with clenched teeth to hear what he would say there.
Rounding off the passage to India was Dmitry Medvedev. Relations between Russia and India have frayed considerably since the heady days of the cold war, so much so that Russia has waffled on India's bid. Medvedev signaled that the waffle still needed baking, voicing support for India while reiterating that reforming the council was tough and required consensus.
All the while Pakistan protested vociferously against what it deemed an indulgence of Indian hegemonism. But what will India gain with a permanent UN seat? Could it block Pakistani claims on Kashmir? True a permanent member wielding veto power can stonewall but the veto seems unattainable for seekers since they themselves have forsaken it. And, while India sees red when the K-word is uttered in the UN by Pakistan, no ascension to permanency can make it strangle the latter. Nor can it efface any past security council resolutions.
So then, what is it? Nothing comes to mind but the obvious, the acceptance that any arriviste craves. Even that appears a false hankering because ever since its early years, Gandhi's legacy and Nehru's charisma burnished the country with global influence disproportionate to its economic and military capabilities. A bee once in one's bonnet is hard to get rid of though. And, as every journey must have a fitting end, India has found a destination to its liking.
Flush with cash, New Delhi wants to beef up its military. All of the recent visitors bar China are major suppliers of defence equipment to India. As bees flock to honey, they arrived armed with catalogues of the most terrifying stuff. Inherent was a delicate diplomatic quid-pro-quo. The more arms you buy from us, the more we will push your candidacy. As Islamabad keeps raising the bar for India's seat, so too will India have to up its arms binge.
Lost in Pakistan's current rhetoric was its vote in October to put India in the security council for two years beginning January 1, 2011. Once on, we will never get off is the new mantra of India's brave. India seemingly returned the favor by taking in stride the sale of Chinese nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Is there more afoot than meets the eye?
Every country is entitled to its obsession. Pakistan's is obvious. By continually thumbing its nose at a NATO mired in Afghanistan, it has put the K-word in spotlight, albeit on the backstage. A deal has been blessed by the powers that be. Both the seat and Srinagar are not far away.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this writing are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of League of India, its Editorial Board or the business and socio-political interests that they might represent.
This article was first published on Dec 27, 2010, here
Swaraj to Embark on China and Mongolia Visits
China had earlier said that the visit of the External Affairs Minister will further enhance political trust between the two countries.
NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is leaving for China today on a 4-day visit. She will participate in a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
She will hold talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi tomorrow. This will be Swaraj’s first meeting with Wang after he was elevated last month to be the state councillor.
China had earlier said that the upcoming visit of the External Affairs Minister will further enhance political trust between the two countries.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had said that the visit would also elevate the China-India strategic cooperation partnership.
Sushma Swaraj will be also on a two-day visit to Mongolia from 25th of this month. This will be the first visit of Swaraj to Mongolia. The last visit of Indian External Affairs Minister to Mongolia was 42 years ago.
During her visit, Swaraj will co-chair the 6th round of India-Mongolia Joint Consultative Committee meeting, IMJCC, with Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar, covering a range of issues including, inter alia, political, strategic, economic, educational and cultural ties. The last meeting of IMJCC was held in New Delhi in 2016.
During her visit, the Minister will also deliver the keynote address at the Kushok Bakula Birth Centenary Celebrations in Ulaanbaatar commemorating the birth anniversary of Late Venerable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, a highly revered Buddhist leader and monk from Ladakh, India and a former Ambassador of India to Mongolia.
Bakula Rinpoche as the longest-serving Indian Ambassador to Mongolia made a seminal contribution to the promotion of India-Mongolia ties.
Oli’s India visit: Resetting Bilateral Relations for Mutual Benefit
The principal purpose of the visit was to remove the mistrust that had emerged in the bilateral relations.
After a brief interlude of turbulent bilateral relations starting September 2015, a U-turn appears to have been effected in India-Nepal relations after the December 2017 elections in Nepal. Prime Minister Modi congratulated the top three political leaders of Nepal over the telephone on December 21 for holding the elections successfully.
Exactly a month later, he congratulated the UML chairman and then PM-in-waiting KP Sharma Oli over the UML-led left alliance attaining a majority in Parliament and offered India’s unconditional support for and commitment to work with the new government in Kathmandu.
As part of confidence-building measures, on February 1, Modi sent External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as special envoy to discuss bilateral relations with the left alliance leaders, and especially with Oli. Media reports indicated that the Swaraj visit took place upon a special request from Oli to Modi. During that visit, Swaraj conveyed Modi’s message and also invited Oli to undertake an official visit to New Delhi after assuming office.
The U-turn culminated in Prime Minister Oli’s three-day official visit to New Delhi starting April 6. The visit is widely rated as most successful and historical. In contrast to Oli’s previous visit in February 2016, as well as to the visits made by Prachanda and Deuba in September 2016 and August 2017, respectively, the current visit of Oli has been characterised as remarkably different.
First, Oli was received at the airport by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is second in rank in the Modi cabinet.
Second, not only was Oli’s first foreign visit to India but even his first official meeting as PM took place with Indian business leaders on which occasion he invited Indian investors to Nepal.
Third, the two leaders held a one-on-one meeting for over one hour at Modi’s residence before the delegation level meeting. Such one-on-one meetings rarely happen during visits of high level delegations to India.
Fourth, other than the 12-point regular joint statement, three special statements on agriculture, rail linkages up to Kathmandu, and inland waterways were issued during the visit.
Fifth, for the first time in the last three years, the joint statement did not mention internal issues of Nepal such as amendments to the new constitution, the inclusion of minorities, Madhesi, etc.
Last, but not the least, both leaders found synchronization between their favourite development frameworks – ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Bikas’ and ‘Samriddha Nepal Sukhi Nepali’.
Purpose of the Visit:
The principal purpose of the visit was to remove the mistrust that had emerged in bilateral relations in the wake of Nepal’s adoption of the new constitution and India’s reservations about some of its provisions.
The relationship had reached a new low when Nepal unilaterally recalled its ambassador and cancelled its President’s India visit in May 2016.
A thaw emerged only after the completion of the Parliamentary elections in December 2017.
While addressing Nepal’s Parliament before his three-day India visit, Oli said that “the visit is aimed at deepening the relations that have subsisted between Nepal and India since ages.”
From the Nepali point of view, the other purposes of the visit could have been to seek India’s support for economic development, move forward on the implementation of past agreements and ensure a mutually cooperative relationship.
Nepal also wanted to re-frame its bilateral relationship with India in the context of recent domestic and regional developments.
Mutual Feeling to Mend Relations:
For its part, India too undertook unilateral steps towards course-correction. This, despite all those internal issues in Nepal that had created the rift in bilateral relations remaining unaddressed.
There could be many reasons for India’s course correction.
First, since India values democracy, Modi personally felt that the public mandate in favour of the UML-led left alliance needs to be respected and that India should support institution building in Nepal under a popular government.
Second, this realization in New Delhi may have also been occasioned by changes at the bureaucratic level — those officials who dealt with Nepal affairs ever since the constitutional promulgation process had left their desks in the foreign office and agencies from March 2017 onwards. It is possible that new officials posted in key positions and tasked with following Nepal perhaps started looking at the bilateral relationship from a different perspective.
Third, domestically, Modi came under tremendous pressure to improve relations with neighbouring countries and especially with Nepal with which India shares a multi-layered relationship. The Indian media was particularly critical of Modi’s Nepal policy in the post-constitution period.
Fourth, the more than 70% voter turnout and the active participation of Madhesis and Janajatis in Nepal’s three-level elections – local, provincial and federal – under the new constitution forced India to revisit its earlier position, shed reservations on the constitution and modify policy towards Nepal.
Even as India reached out to the new government in Kathmandu, the Oli government had its own reasons to respond positively to the Indian overtures.
First, it needed massive developmental assistance to fulfil its poll promises like roads, rural electrification, drinking water, irrigation, jobs, hospitals, industrial zones, railways and airports.
Despite China’s increasing economic cooperation with Nepal, India continues to remain Nepal’s largest trading and business partner.
Further, India is the only transit country for Nepal’s third country trade despite having signed a transit agreement with China in March 2016.
Second, the Oli government also realized the requirement for massive funds to implement federalism through the creation of the necessary administrative infrastructure in the provincial capitals.
Since China opposed federalism in Nepal, the Oli government was not sure about receiving Chinese financial support for that purpose.
Therefore, it decided to explore the prospects for India’s support in this regard. And third, politically, Oli might have felt that rapprochement with India could prevent the formation of a non-UML government in Kathmandu given the slow progress in the unification of the two left parties and intra-party factionalism in the UML. If such a situation were to unfold, Oli could seek the support of the Terai-based parties to remain in power.
Therefore, despite winning the elections on a nationalist plank by projecting India as an interfering neighbour, Oli chose New Delhi as his first port of call. He was well aware of India’s obsession about every new Nepali PM undertaking the first official visit to India. He could undertake the visit with confidence without being apprehensive of its fall-out on Nepal’s relationship with China because the latter, in a statement issued in March 2018, appreciated Nepal’s effort towards adopting an independent foreign policy and “developing friendly and positive relations with its neighbours.”
Earlier, China had also advised Nepal to maintain good relations with India. Chinese analysts argue that such a rapprochement between New Delhi and Kathmandu could create the ground for trilateral cooperation and successful implementation of BRI projects in the Himalayas.
No doubt, the purposes of the visit have been achieved and a new phase of relationship has begun with India acknowledging Nepal as an ‘equal partner’. While the visit has set a new tone in the relationship, it has also brought fresh challenges to the fore in terms of each country addressing the other’s concerns.
Certainly, the challenges are more for India than they are for Nepal. There is a trust deficit in Nepal because of the Indian reputation for delaying implementation of various projects. This has sent a wrong message to Nepal that the delays are deliberate.
After Oli’s latest visit, which has created new expectations in Nepal, India needs to seriously address this problem of delivery-lag.
Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
Commonwealth to Take Action on Cybersecurity by 2020
The declaration is the world’s largest and most geographically diverse inter-governmental commitment on cybersecurity cooperation.
LONDON (England): The Commonwealth countries have unanimously agreed to take action on cybersecurity by 2020.
In a landmark declaration at the end of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, the leaders of 53 countries agreed to work closely to evaluate and strengthen their cybersecurity frameworks and response mechanisms.
A release issued, termed the declaration as the world’s largest and most geographically diverse inter-governmental commitment on cybersecurity cooperation.
It followed an announcement by the UK government pledging up to 15 million pounds to help the Commonwealth nations strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities. It also aims to tackle criminal groups and hostile state actors who pose a global threat to security.
The leaders also expressed their strong support for the multilateral trading system and adopted a six-point connectivity agenda to boost trade and investment links across the Commonwealth.
They also agreed on a bold, coordinated push to protect oceans from the effects of climate change, pollution and over-fishing.
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