India's Regional Diplomacy: Getting the States Involved

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by ejazr, Jun 21, 2011.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    India's Regional Diplomacy: Getting the States Involved - Indian Express
    C. Raja Mohan

    India's regional diplomacy has never been as intense as it is now. This month alone, for example, has high level political, security and military exchanges with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China.

    While Delhi’s frenetic new engagement with the neighbours is welcome, India must get its chief ministers involved more actively in the pursuit of foreign policy interests.

    Some chief ministers of states bordering sensitive neighbours have already acquired an indirect role in the shaping of India's regional policy. Delhi should not treat this as an exception to the rule but as an opportunity to make India's regional policy more effective.

    India’s neighbourhood diplomacy, by definition needs to address many trans-boundary problems -- from water sharing to terrorism, and illegal migration to environmental protection.

    Many state governments and their political classes have big stakes in the negotiations between India and its neighbours. Sometimes the central political leadership has deferred to the concerns of the states in dealing with the neighbours.

    None of this has been more visible than on Delhi’s policy towards Colombo over the years, especially on the question of Tamil minority rights.

    Before he arrived in Colombo, Shivshankar Menon made the customary call on the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, this time the new incumbent, Jayalalitha. Tamil Nadu is not the only case where local concerns have an impact of foreign policy making at the centre.

    Do note the growing political concerns in Assam at the Chinese plans to build dams on the Brahmaputra or the consequences in Himachal Pradesh at Beijing’s management of upstream waters of the Sutlej river.

    Our North-Eastern states are acutely sensitive to the developments in China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Many of India’s ambitious plans to transform the bilateral relationship with Bangladesh, for example, have had to be put on hold until the elections in West Bengal, whose cooperation is essential for the resolution of outstanding issues with Dhaka.

    Although Kolkata had a huge stake in the way Delhi worked with Dhaka, the communist Cms -- Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya -- did not take active interest in promoting ties with Bangladesh. The CPM boss in Delhi, Prakash Karat was more interested in opposing relations with the United States and Israel rather in demanding a transformation of India’s relations with its neighbours.

    One hopes the new chief minister Mamata Banerjee will recognise the contributions that Kolkata can make in building stronger relations with not only Bangladesh, but also Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.

    It might be recalled that when Capt. Amrinder Singh was the chief minister of Punjab, he helped engineer important breakthroughs in trans-border cooperation with Pakistan.

    The specific contribution of the chief ministers from the border states in any given political context would depend on many variables. But their active involvement would give a broader basis for engaging the neighbours and explore solutions that are based on enlightened self-interest of the people living in India’s borderlands.
     
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  3. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    There is certainly an increased focus by the MEA on regional countries this year. The idea of getting chief ministers involved in foreign policy which has traditionally been a central portfolio is interesting and innovative.

    A lot of states have borders with foreign countries and a selective panel or comittee can be formed and CM level to discuss common issues related to economics and security. For example, WB, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram to work with Bangladesh.

    Another CM panel of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur to work with Burma. Similarly, a CM panel with Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka might help in improving understanding and reconciliation with Tamils as well as improve relations with India as a whole.

    It might have be taken with friendly countries first before we actually go ahead with say China or Pakistan for example but its an interesting idea that Raja Mohan has come up with.
     

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