India has to leverage its ‘swing’ status, engage with all and align with none

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Shyam Saran: Premature power

In the first half of the first decade of the new millennium, India’s emergence as a major political and economic power became an acknowledged reality worldwide. It was able to shed its nuclear “outlier” status to be accepted as a de facto nuclear weapon state with full access to international nuclear energy commerce. Indo-US relations achieved an unprecedented density across the board. Even China, usually seen as an adversary, sought a strategic and cooperative partnership with India. A permanent seat in the UN Security Council seemed within reach.


There were positive trends in our own troubled neighbourhood. Relations with Pakistan achieved remarkable improvement with long outstanding issues being addressed in a new spirit of realism. In Nepal, there was promise of a democratic transition with India, for once, on the right side of history. While Bangladesh continued to cause concern, relations with Bhutan, engaged in its own democratic transition, reached unprecedented levels of mutual trust and extended cooperation. The growing integration of Indian and Sri Lankan economies, under the historic Free Trade Agreement, helped keep political relations in balance despite the tensions generated by ethnic turmoil in the island country. By 2006, India enjoyed a regional and global environment supportive of its developmental objectives. Its strategic autonomy had unmistakably expanded.

However, since then, India’s external environment began to change in a clearly adverse direction. Domestic turmoil in Pakistan and resurgence of cross-border terrorism brought the bilateral peace process to an uncertain pause. In Nepal, the Maoists and political parties failed to consolidate multi-party democracy. The Indo-US nuclear agreement ran into political opposition at home and relations with China appeared to shift to a more adversarial pitch. While the nuclear agreement eventually did go through by the end of 2008, it was a lonely positive. The current picture remains grim but there may be some opportunities appearing on the horizon as we enter the decade 2010-2020.

India’s vulnerabilities in the next decade will be centred mainly in its neighbourhood. While the Indian subcontinent is a single geopolitical unit, it is fractured into several states, each with its own dynamics. As the largest country in the region, India’s security concerns have always encompassed and will continue to encompass the entire subcontinent. This dictates a strategy that neutralises vulnerabilities inherent in these political divisions, specifically ensuring that India’s neighbours do not become platforms for hostile activities against it by current or potential adversaries. Otherwise, India’s ability to overcome an adverse, or leverage a potentially favourable, global environment will confront severe constraints.

The management of our neighbourhood should enjoy the highest priority in the next decade. Episodic engagement and crisis-management must yield place to a long-term focus on the following elements:

The economic integration of South Asia, with a willingness to implement significant and, if necessary, unilateral trade and economic liberalisation measures favouring our neighbours. This will give them a stake in India’s growth and propriety.


Improving and upgrading connectivity among all countries of the region, through roads, rail, air and electronic links. Without this infrastructure in place, regional economic integration will remain a chimera; and,


Significantly expanded cultural diplomacy to leverage the strong and enduring cultural and linguistic affinities we share with our neighbours.
Our engagement with our extended neighbourhood in the Gulf, Central Asia and South-East Asia must be built on the solid foundation of our subcontinental policy. With Russia, emerging convergences on the geopolitical front should take us beyond the largely military hardware relationship we currently have.

What is the outlook for the global environment in the next decade? What are our strengths and likely vulnerabilities?

India’s rising profile as a major emerging economy with significant strategic capabilities makes it an increasingly indispensable partner in the construction of emerging security and economic architectures both in Asia and the world, and in dealing with cross-cutting issues such as terrorism, climate change, global trade and finance.

The resilience its economy has shown in the wake of the continuing global economic and financial crisis positions India somewhat better than China, since India’s growth is mostly domestic demand-driven and not linked to an artificially-maintained low exchange rate. In a landscape of several rising powers, India’s rise is likely to be more sustainable than other largely export-driven economies.

Nevertheless, our task is complicated by the fact that the geopolitical environment continues to be in a state of flux. Its eventual denouement remains unpredictable. During 2009, there were worries in this country over a possible Sino-US or a G-2 condominium. The anxiety today is about the impact of rising tensions between them. A polarised international landscape will constrain India as much as would a collusive arrangement between major powers. India will need to manage its relations with major powers in a subtle and sophisticated manner, leveraging its “swing” status wherever possible, engaging with all, but aligning with none.

But this contemporary non-alignment does not allow India to sit out the great issues of our time and seek comfort in a policy of interminable fence-sitting. This is like being dealt a hand in the geopolitical card game but refusing to play.

This tendency is partly the result of becoming a premature power. India’s relative power globally has outstripped the indices of personal and social well-being, unlike in the established industrialised powers, where they have historically moved in sync. We will need to overcome the ambivalence this creates and embrace a more proactive regional and global role in line with our national power. A seat at the high table should be sought not as an end in itself but as an opportunity to negotiate arrangements conducive to our economic and social development, and the overall welfare of our people. That should be for our agenda for the next decade.

(The author was India’s Foreign Secretary and until recently the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy
 

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22 Feb 2010 - Keynote Address -Nirupama Rao, Foreign Secretary, India

Address by Foreign Secretary at the 3rd MEA-IISS Seminar 22 February 2010, London “Perspectives on Foreign Policy for a 21st Century India”

Mr. Adam Ward, Director of Studies,
Distinguished Participants

I am delighted to be here today to open the MEA-IISS Seminar and to speak to such an august gathering of diplomats, scholars and experts. The MEA-IISS Foreign Policy Dialogue has, from modest beginnings, now become a dynamic platform, facilitating wide-ranging exchanges between scholars and experts from India and the UK.

Given the rather broad canvas of the topic that I have been asked to speak on, I have structured my presentation along the following lines. First, a delineation of our foreign policy priorities, and how our approach is shaped by a globalizing world. Thereafter, I shall focus on the three issues – climate change, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and terrorism - which form part of this seminar today. I will conclude with a few remarks on India’s neighbourhood.

Our Republic is sixty years young this year. And, our foreign policy also has a trajectory that covers almost the same period. As the country has grown, so also our foreign policy has evolved and adjusted to the growing demands and challenges posed by rapid economic growth, the situation in our neighbourhood, the realization of our interdependence and integration into global markets, and our consciousness of what India stands for in a changing and often turbulent world as a pluralistic democratic country that has created a successful standard for managing diversity. As far as the last aspect is concerned, some call it the power of the Indian example, of a big country that symbolizes the universal values of inclusiveness, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence. This self image is not new; in fact, from the very early years of the founding of our Republic, there has been awareness that our ability to manage diversity and respect pluralism would as some scholars have noted, be “a source of (India’s) legitimacy in the international system”.

It is a foreign policy truism that our aim is to secure an enabling environment to achieve the overriding domestic goal of all round, socially inclusive development. The corollary to this is that a free and democratic India is a source of stability and a force for moderation in the region. India accounts for more than 70% of the population and more than 80% of the GDP of South Asia. We want to widen our development choices. We have a keen sense of our potential to be a great power by virtue of our population, our resources and our strategic location. A fundamental goal of India’s foreign policy is to create an external environment that promotes the fulfillment of our economic growth targets and ambitions. And, these include three dimensions – capital inflows, access to technology and innovation, as well as the promotion of a free, fair and open world trading system that recognizes the development imperatives of a country like India. This requires a peaceful and stable neighbourhood and external environment, a balanced relationship with the major powers and a durable and equitable multilateral global order.

We close the first decade of this century with the realization that the intersection, and the overlap, between the national and the global is an undeniable reality. Consequently, the challenges before us – be it sustaining economic growth rates, putting in place poverty alleviation strategies, addressing the challenge of climate change, energy security or global security issues, in particular the threat posed by international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, etc – all require collaborative approaches.

That we live in an increasingly inter-dependent world was clearly demonstrated as never before during the global economic and financial crisis of the last year and more. The global financial downturn has seen negative rates of growth, a rising tide of unemployment which is yet to be quelled, rising trends of protectionism in the developed world, particularly, and a welcome introspection about the need to reform global financial institutions and systems of financial regulation and governance. That we are in a period of transition where the rapidly resurgent economies outside the traditional circles of global economic dominance are setting a new pace and direction in regional and international growth and development is an absolute truth.

At the global level, India has worked with our international partners to address the complex challenges to revive the global economy. The 2008 global economic and financial crisis triggered the further evolution of the G20, of which India is a key constituent. At the Pittsburgh Summit, the G-20 was designated as the premier forum for international economic cooperation. We see the G-20 process as a move towards a more representative mechanism to manage global economic and financial issues. The Group has taken some positive steps in this direction, for instance by committing a shift in IMF quota share to dynamic emerging markets and developing countries. Simultaneously, the new global realities require that we revisit and reorganize existing governance models which were put in place over six decades ago. In this regard, a dynamic global political and security order requires the urgent reform of the UN Security Council as well. We see our case for permanent membership of the Security Council as valid and legitimate.

India’s growth in the four years preceding the onset of the global financial crisis was around 9%. In 2008, with the advent of the global financial crisis, India’s growth slowed down to 6.7%. Forecasts for the current year are for a growth rate of 7.75%. Today, India has emerged as the third largest economy in Asia. It is a trillion dollar economy and has joined the ranks of the top ten economies of the world. In a knowledge- and technology-driven world, India has demonstrated certain unique strengths – our IT exports for the current year are poised to touch the $50 billion figure; the December 2009 index of industrial production surged month-on-month by a record 16.8%. Cumulative industrial growth is pegged at around 9%. The most noticeable feature of India’s economic growth is that it is driven primarily by domestic demand.

Yet, we also need to acknowledge that while average growth of around 7% over the past few years has resulted in material difference for India this has not been enough. To abolish poverty in India and to meet our development needs, we need to keep our economy growing at 8-10% every year for the next 20 years. As the literacy levels of our largely young population go up, we will have to ensure that their employment needs are also met which means that we require a rapidly expanding economy and the infrastructural growth of our cities and manufacturing sectors, so that we can reap the advantage of this demographic dividend for our economic growth. This also means that nation building or socio-economic transformation in India would continue to be primary concern of our foreign policy and this is accordingly reflected in our positions on issues such as global trade and climate change.

I will now turn to the three specific issues that are a part of your deliberations. In doing so, I do not in any way wish to influence or set the tone for your discussions. Instead, I will merely share India’s perspective on these issues.

Climate change

Climate change is one of the most important global challenges facing us. For India, it is not merely an environmental issue, but is intrinsically linked with the growth prospects and developmental aspirations of our people. Its impact on the pace of our development is a very clear and continuing concern.

Our developmental imperatives project a general trend of growth in energy consumption in India. We expect that fossil fuels will remain an important element of our commercial energy mix. The emerging paradigm of global action on climate change must, therefore, acknowledge every human’s claim to global carbon space and take account of our differential capacities. Despite 17% of the global population, our own GHG emissions today are currently only 4% of the global total. Even with 8-9% growth per annum, our energy use has been growing at less than 4% per annum. We are concerned that the developed countries tend towards ignoring, implicitly, the huge adaptation challenge that we face with climate change. Today we spend 2% to 2.5% of our GDP on meeting adaptation needs. There is need for stable and predictable financing from the developed countries, and this we believe should not rely on market mechanisms but, rather, on assessed contributions. There is also need for a global mechanism whereby climate friendly technologies can be disseminated to the developing countries.

As a country vulnerable to and already suffering from the impacts of climate change, India has an important stake in the success of the on-going multilateral negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We are aware of our responsibilities as citizens of the globe and have participated in the negotiations in a constructive manner. It is in this spirit that we conveyed our voluntary mitigation obligations to the UNFCCC in January this year. We were of course disappointed that an agreed programme of action mandated by the Bali Roadmap could not be achieved at Copenhagen. The Copenhagen Accord was perhaps the best that could be managed under the circumstances. It is a political document that can serve the purpose of contributing to the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol and on Long Term Cooperation. It can complement these core international agreements but cannot be a substitute for them. Our collective effort should now be to bring the significant points of convergence reflected in the Accord into the larger multilateral process under the UNFCCC in order to ensure a balanced, comprehensive and above all, an equitable outcome, at the Mexico Conference by end-2010.

Nationally, we have adopted an ambitious Action Plan on Climate Change, which is not merely mitigation oriented, but is located within a larger perspective of sustainable development. Prime Minister has set up a high level Council on Climate Change to coordinate national action for assessment, adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Our announcement of the voluntary domestic target of reducing the energy intensity of our GDP growth, excluding emissions from the Agricultural sector, by 20-25% by 2020 in comparison to the level achieved in 2005 reflects India’s seriousness in addressing the issue of climate change with commitment and focus, even as it seeks to meet the challenges of economic and social development and poverty eradication.

Till date, the global energy market has been susceptible to non-market considerations which give energy issues an unpredictable and strategic edge. We believe that these vulnerabilities are best addressed through a participatory global energy model and by pursuing a truly open, transparent, competitive and globally integrated energy market. The reality as we know is quite the reverse. Therefore, we visualise that, as a developing country, an emissions reduction strategy to be comprehensive has to embrace both conservation and efficiency. With a large and rising demand for energy, we assess nuclear technologies to be a viable long-term solution in helping us correct the skew in our energy mix. The underlying determinant in this calculus is the environmental dimension and the associated costs of large-scale deployment of traditional carbon fuels, particularly coal. In this regard, nuclear power generation, despite its high entry level costs, provides a way out, particularly in relation to the wider issues of global warming and climate change.

Nuclear disarmament & non-proliferation

I am aware that concerns are voiced over the possible proliferation dimension in the use of nuclear energy. This should, however, not deter us from pursuing the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. India is fully cognizant of the safety and security implications arising from the expansion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We must instead work together with our partners to help reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.

The challenges of nuclear terrorism and nuclear security have to be addressed. We have been affected by clandestine nuclear proliferation in our neighbourhood. We are naturally concerned about the possibility of nuclear terrorism. We have, therefore, taken the lead at the UN General Assembly on an effective law-based international response including on WMD terrorism. India has joined the Russia-U.S. led Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. We believe that the Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010 hosted by President Obama will be an important milestone in our efforts to build international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism.

The constructive and forward-looking approach that was adopted towards India in September 2008 by the NSG has enabled full international civil nuclear cooperation with India as also our nuclear energy cooperation agreements with major partners including the United States, Russia, France and the UK. These constitute not only a long overdue recognition of India’s standing as a country with advanced nuclear technology and responsible behaviour but have also opened up significant opportunities for technical collaboration. I believe that this change would also serve as an important step towards strengthening international partnerships to ensure that advanced nuclear technologies are only utilized for peaceful purposes.

You are well aware of India’s long-standing commitment to global, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament. As early as 1988, our then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi presented one of the most comprehensive proposals to achieve a nuclear weapon free world to the UN General Assembly. In 2006, India tabled a Working Paper on nuclear disarmament to the UNGA. We feel encouraged by some recent positive steps. President Obama’s administration has signaled US willingness to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its nuclear strategy and to work towards a nuclear weapon free world. The renewed debate underway on this issue harmonizes with our long held positions.

We have identified some initiatives that I believe could be explored further as building blocks of a new global, verifiable nuclear disarmament framework. These include: a global agreement on ‘no-first-use’ of nuclear-weapons and non-use against non-nuclear weapon states; measures to reduce nuclear danger through de-alerting, reducing salience of nuclear weapons in security doctrines and preventing unintentional or accidental use; a Nuclear Weapons Convention prohibiting development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons and on their destruction etc..

We hope that we can achieve progress in the Conference on Disarmament. We will support the emerging consensus in the CD to adopt a programme of work. Last year, we supported the work plan including commencement of negotiations on the multilateral FMCT. On this latter issue, which we see as an important non-proliferation measure, India has had a consistent position – we are willing to negotiate a multilateral, non-discriminatory, effectively and internationally verifiable FMCT.

Terrorism

Terrorism poses an existential threat to the civilized world. It is a pivotal security challenge for India and in our neighbourhood. Terrorists have sought to undermine our sovereignty, security and economic progress, aided and abetted by forces beyond our borders. Our embassy in Kabul has faced vicious suicide bomb attacks twice, in 2008 and 2009. The Mumbai attacks of November 2008 and the more recent outrage in Pune, have once again demonstrated the barbaric face of terrorism. Terror groups implacably opposed to India continue to recruit, train and plot attacks from safe havens across our borders.

Open democratic societies such as India face particular challenges in combating the threat of terrorism. The United Kingdom is also familiar with this debate. We are acting nationally to address this through legal, institutional and administrative measures. We have recently amended the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 to reinforce the legal and punitive provisions, including financing aspects of terrorism. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been established as a federal body for investigation and prosecution in respect of terrorist acts with all-India jurisdiction. Regional hubs have been created for the National Security Guards. The National Multi Agency Centre (MAC) has been strengthened and made functional round the clock.

At the same time, it is clear that the threat from terrorism cannot be dealt with through national efforts alone. Global outreach and linkages among terror networks are now quite evident and they are becoming more active. The global nature of the threat has been recognized widely. Global efforts to tackle the problem also need to be intensified. Terrorism needs to be countered collectively and expeditiously. It is time that the international community works towards early adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that was tabled at the UN over a decade ago in 1996. We must act jointly and with determination to meet the challenges posed by terrorism and to defend the values of pluralism, peaceful co-existence and the rule of law.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me turn to our neighbourhood. From India’s perspective, the goal of ushering in a peaceful, stable and prosperous neighbourhood is predicated on enabling each of our neighbors to pursue the shared objective of the development of our peoples. We do not see this as a zero sum game but as a cooperative endeavor, requiring collaboration rather than confrontation, so as to enable each of our neighbours to grow. We do not see this as a compulsion but as a natural choice voluntarily made; a corollary of the inter-dependent world we live in. We believe that our strengths place us in a unique position to actively support the socio- economic development in our region.

The greatest threat to peace and stability in our region emanates from the shelter terrorists find in the border of Afghanistan-Pakistan and in Pakistan itself. The recent international approaches to Afghanistan, in particular the London Conference last month, are focusing on security and reintegration, development, governance and regional and international cooperation. The issue of reintegration should be tackled with prudence, the benefit of hindsight, foresight and caution. We believe that any integration process in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led, and should include only those who abjure violence, give up armed struggle and terrorism and are willing to abide by the values of democracy, pluralism and human rights as enshrined in the Afghan Constitution.

For the Afghan Government to take greater ownership of security, it is imperative that Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are properly trained and equipped. Similarly, in order to stengthen governance and institution-building, priority should be accorded to building adequate capacity to deliver on developmental objectives. It is self-evident that for this process to be enduring, Afghan ownership should go hand in hand with Afghan leadership.

Afghanistan is centrally placed to emerge as a trade, transportation and energy hub connecting Central and South Asia. The international community must work together to realize this potential. Growing economic interdependence would complement efforts to promote peace and prosperity in the region.

India is an important neighbour of Afghanistan and we share undeniably close ties that have endured through the centuries into present times. Our focus there is on development activity with the aim to build indigenous Afghan capacities and institutions. This will enable an effective state system to improve the delivery of goods and services to Afghan people. Our assistance, now over US$ 1.3 billion, is spread over a large number of provinces in Afghanistan. In addition to several small and medium development projects, India has built the Zaranj-Delaram road and the power transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul. We are also constructing Afghanistan's new Parliament building, a symbol of our common commitment to pluralism and democracy. At the recent London Conference, we have announced new initiatives in the agriculture sector and in institutional capacity building.

Our relationship with Pakistan is complex. Out of our desire for peaceful and good-neighbourly relations with Pakistan, we have repeatedly taken initiatives in the past to improve the relationship. You are aware that the dark forces of terrorism sought to erase the good that stemmed from such well-intentioned initiatives. We are now making another attempt of dialogue with Pakistan. However, calls of jihad, hostility and aggression continue to be made openly against India. This reflects the real and tangible difficulties that we face in dealing with Pakistan. If the process of normalization that we desire with Pakistan, is to be sustained and taken forward, effective action against such groups by the Government of Pakistan is an absolute must.

Under pressure and faced with the threat of terrorism in its own country, Pakistan has initiated some steps to fight this scourge. But these steps are selective. Distinctions between Taliban, Al Qaeda and terrorist outfits such as LeT are now meaningless, since they are now in effect fused both operationally and ideologically. We have consistently maintained that Pakistan should bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice expeditiously and in a transparent manner. It should act decisively to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its territory.

As I said previously, India is making another sincere attempt to initiate dialogue with Pakistan. I have invited my counterpart, the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan to Delhi for discussions later this week. We hope we can build, in a graduated manner, better communication and a serious and responsive dialogue to address issues of concern between our two countries.

With Sri Lanka our political relations are close, trade and investment have increased exponentially, and there is broad-based engagement across all sectors of bilateral cooperation. We view the conclusion of the military operations against the LTTE as providing an opportunity to finally achieve a lasting political settlement acceptable to all communities, including the Tamils, within a united Sri Lanka.

Our relations with Bangladesh have acquired further substance and scope in recent months, particularly after the very successful visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in January this year. Our security related cooperation has developed positively as also our cooperation in infrastructural development in Bangladesh, for which we have announced a US $ 1 billion concessional Line of Credit.

It is a universally held truth that India’s economic growth has a positive impact on our region. Today, with sustained high economic growth rates over the past decade, India is in a better position to offer a significant stake to our neighbours in our own prosperity and growth. We have made unilateral gestures and extended economic concessions such as the facility of duty free access to Indian market for imports from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. We have put forward proposals multilaterally within the framework of the SAARC or the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation where we have assumed asymmetric responsibilities.

Turning to our extended neighbourhood, it is evident that with the rapid rise of China and India, the global and regional situation is being re-defined. There is much that is said about China’s rise and its implications for India. There is both competition and collaboration in the dynamic equilibrium of our relationship with China. Both our countries have always thought in civilizational time-frames. Even as we are discussing the unresolved boundary question, we have ensured that there is peace and tranquility in our border areas. China has emerged as India’s largest trading partner. We are consulting each other on global issues such as multilateral trade negotiations, climate change, and in the G-20, etc.

In the decade ahead, India will have to, as one writer noted recently, provide itself with “the widest possible field of vision” when it comes to China. This will entail not only a multi-dimensional approach to developing relations with China but also creating our menu of strategic options to ensure that we are able to protect and promote our interests effectively in our region.

Key elements in the India-China relationship like imbalances in bilateral trade, the unresolved boundary question, our dialogue on water resources with regard to the trans-border rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Sutlej point to the complex and evolving nature of our dialogue. The rapid growth of our economies has engendered a search for resources by both countries in third countries and regions across the globe. In some cases we have developed patterns of collaboration with the Chinese, in others, we have been in competition. This is the reality of the relationship. In our own region, which remains geo-politically unstable, China has an enduring strategic relationship with Pakistan, and a growing presence in other neighbouring countries. We are conscious of these leverages that China has developed in our region and realize fully that our relations with China cannot be uni-dimensional, or seen through a narrow prism. Our own relations with our South Asian neighbours acquire crucial importance in this scenario. Our economic strength and increased commitment to the economic development of our neighbourhood in South Asia, sustained dialogue at the leadership level, security-related dialogue especially as it relates to better border management, cooperation in health, education and environment-related sectors, and creating the infrastructure for better intra-regional connectivity and transportation, together with the attraction of India’s soft power are all factors that can be, and are being, mobilized in this context.

With Japan, we are developing the foundations of “strategic global partnership” with a strong economic and strategic content. Recent years have seen a qualitative shift in relations with defence dialogue and security cooperation emerging as important aspects of our relations. Our relations with the United States are in a new and transformative phase, with convergences in foreign policy priorities, and shared approaches to some of the most complex regional and global challenges of our times – from countering terrorism to working together for energy security, mitigating the impact of climate change to maritime security, nuclear security and safeguarding the global commons to name a few areas. With Russia, our strategic partnership has been continuously strengthened, and our multi-faceted relations span a number of sectors including defence, nuclear energy, space research, science and technology and hydrocarbons. Our ties with France have been further enhanced through regular summit-level meetings and the triad of cooperation in the civil nuclear, defence and space sectors. The India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) and the Russia-India-China (RIC) cooperation forums have also helped us engage more closely with these countries in forging ties of dialogue and cooperation on economic and development-related issues.

India’s engagement with the ASEAN has grown manifold over the past decade and half and is set to get a fillip with the conclusion of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement.

Myanmar is an ASEAN member country with which we share a border of more than 1640 kms. We have advocated engagement with Myanmar since it is a close neighbour of ours. It is important for India to ensure a peaceful periphery with Myanmar. We strongly believe that any political reform process in Myanmar should be peaceful and not cause instability within that country or on our borders with it. We have urged the Government of Myanmar to take forward the process of national reconciliation and political reform and broad-base it to include all sections of society, including the more than 18 ethnic groups in the country.

On the security architecture for the region, there is a need to evolve a balanced, open and inclusive framework for Asian countries and major non-Asian players to interact and cooperate to address traditional and non-traditional security challenges. The ASEAN Regional Forum has provided a useful model for such cooperation based on dialogue and consensus in diverse areas such as counter terrorism, trans-national crimes, maritime security, disaster relief, pandemics and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. India is also a member of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). We have also partnered with the international community in deploying an Indian naval presence for anti-piracy escort operations to ensure maritime security in the Gulf of Aden.

Before I finish, let me say a few words about our relations with the UK. The UK is an important interlocutor for us in the bilateral, EU, G8 and global contexts and our multi-faceted bilateral relationship has intensified specially since its upgradation to strategic partnership in 2004. Our engagement is most wide-ranging including high-level visits, parliamentary and official-level exchanges, business interaction and cultural interchanges. President Pratibha Patil was on a State visit to the UK from 27-29 October 2009. There have been regular exchanges of visits at the Prime Minister-level. Institutional linkages have continued through regular FOCs, JWG and India-UK Round Table. Our trade and investment partnerships are both-ways and expanding rapidly. India is the second largest source of students to UK with about 31,000 students. Science & technology is a focus area for our two countries. On 11 February 2010, we signed a Joint Declaration on civil nuclear cooperation which will give a new dimension to our already multi-dimensional and vibrant ties.

Once again I want to say how delighted I am to be with you this morning and to be given the privilege to be a part of your deliberations. I have no doubt that the MEA-IISS relationship will scale greater heights in times to come which is a tribute to your vision and long-term perspective about the need for the world to engage India more closely, to forge understandings, and to promote more inclusive dialogue with key stakeholders on both sides. I wish the deliberations of the seminar success.
 

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India's growth in power calls for a rethink of strategic policies

Since the the end of the Cold War, the Indian strategic community has vigorously debated its international policies. Three broad perspectives are contending for dominance: internationalism, liberalism, and realism.

Internationalists argue that international politics can be co-operative and that a relentless commitment to negotiations, international institutions and morally informed diplomacy can trump competition and violence. Internationalists oppose alliances and want India to champion the cause of the weak and poor.


Liberals see in globalisation the means of lifting India into a first-rank power. For them, economic strength and interdependence will promote co-operation and peace. To reap the benefits of globalisation, India must align with the United States and jettison its leadership of the developing countries.

Realists insist that the world is a competitive place, co-operation is fleeting, and military power and violence are the staples of international relations. For India to be a great power, it must be a first-rate military power above all. Realists see the US as an unreliable, waning force. India must therefore look after itself.

Internationalists suggest that nuclear proliferation in the end can only be ensured through verifiable global disarmament. Liberals would support arms control measures such as nuclear reductions, a test ban, and a fissile material cutoff. Realists oppose disarmament and want no limits on India's growing nuclear arsenal.

Internationalists would promote negotiations with Pakistan towards a regional solution of Afghanistan's troubles and bilateral deals with Islamabad on Kashmir, terrorism and other differences. Liberals would support a regional accord on Afghanistan and a bilateral deal with Pakistan, but would put regional trade and energy at the heart of any long-term solution. Realists would have India put troops into Afghanistan if necessary and use force against a terror-exporting Pakistan.

In the past decade, Indian policies have inclined towards liberalism, but as the country's power grows one can expect an intensifying debate over its international relations.

Taken from a seminar given by Professor Kanti Bajpai at Policy Network yesterday; www.foresightproject.net; www.policy-network.net
 

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Shifting Geopolitics Realigns Indian Relations

NEW DELHI - India has shifted back into a closer relationship with Russia as New Delhi perceives a growing threat from China while the U.S. Obama administration has focused on engaging traditional foe Pakistan to aid its Afghanistan campaign, defense analysts said.

While New Delhi signed a $2.1 billion contract with the United States to purchase six P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft in January 2009, India and Russia closed the year by signing an agreement on nuclear cooperation and resolving the long-standing Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier dispute. India agreed to pay $1.2 billion above 2004's contracted price of $800 million for the ship.

The countries also finalized the joint production of a fifth-generation combat jet for $10 billion, and the Indian Navy has decided to buy additional MiG-29K aircraft from Russia worth about $1.2 billion.

India and Russia signed a nuclear cooperation agreement in December 2009 that offers India better terms than the Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement, which has yet to become operational, Indian officials said.

The Russians have offered a lifetime supply of fuel for reactors it would build in India and to transfer nuclear energy technology. India and the United States still have not concluded a crucial pact on reprocessing spent fuel, the primary hindrance to implementing a civilian nuclear cooperation deal signed in 2008, the officials said.

With India viewing the possibility of a war with China as ever more plausible, the govern-ment needs to buy weapons and equipment from various sources, including Western sources, said Zach Mathews, retired Indian Navy commodore and defense analyst. But the country also relies on easily acquiring advanced weaponry from Russia, where there are few political hurdles, he said.

Indian defense planners, meanwhile, are preparing a military doctrine that envisions fighting China and Pakistan at the same time.

China is already making its presence felt in the Indian Ocean region, where it could come into conflict with Indian maritime interests, an Indian Navy official said. China has established a military base in the Coco islands, leased from neighboring Myanmar; is helping build the Gwadar Pasni port in Pakistan; has established good relations with several African states and has some leverage with Iran, the official added.

China's feverish military modernization is the most destabilizing factor for Indian national security, the official said.

The annual Indian Defence Ministry report of 2009-10 describes what it views as China's growing threat to the region: "China's stated objectives, in their White Paper of National Defence in 2008, of developing strategic missile and space-based assets and of rapidly enhancing its blue-water navy to conduct operations in distant waters, as well as the systematic upgrading of infrastructure, reconnaissance and surveillance, quick response and operational capabilities in the border areas, will have an effect on the overall military environment in the neighborhood of India."

PREPARING FOR CHINA
India has begun improving its infrastructure and road system along its border with China, a senior Indian Army official said. Special troops are being trained to deploy along the Chinese border, and tenders have been floated to buy ultralight 155mm guns along with a variety of helicopters and light combat tanks.

The Air Force has procured C-130J aircraft from the United States to speed deployment of troops, and efforts are being made to improve surveillance and search assets, including through UAVs.

India and China fought a brief battle in 1962 over a border territory issue. The border between India and China is currently defined by a 4,056-kilometer Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is neither marked on the ground nor on mutually acceptable maps. Efforts since the mid-1980s to have a recognized LAC have made little headway.

The dispute involves the longest contested boundary in the world; both nations claim the same 92,000 square kilometers of territory.

India and Japan have also upgraded their defense relations and in December 2009 established a long-term framework to review defense ties on a regular basis. Maritime security dialogue between the two nations has been taking place for some time.

Indo-Japanese strategic ties are part of an effort to counter China's growing influence in the area, said Mahindra Singh, retired Indian Army major general and defense analyst. The dependence of Japan and India on oil imports from the Arabian Gulf is another major driver behind their growing relationship, Singh said.

India and Bangladesh also signed three security-related deals during the Jan. 11-14 visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi. The pacts relate to treaties on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, mutual transfer of convicted prisoners, and cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, organized crime and illegal drug trafficking.

India is concerned that Bangladesh may drift toward China. There have been reports that China has access to Bangladesh ports and may try to locate a military base there, Singh added.

PROCUREMENT DELAYS
The United Progressive Alliance government, which came to power for the second term in May 2009, hiked the defense budget by 34 percent to $28.9 billion for the current financial year, which ends March 31, but a cumbersome Defence Ministry bureaucracy still slows procurement. The result is that not a single 155mm artillery gun has been procured since 1986 because of a cautious political process that has led to several foreign bidders being blacklisted on corruption charges.

The Indian Army desperately needs 155mm/52-caliber guns, a senior Army official said.

India is preparing for possible conflict with China and Pakistan, but New Delhi cannot afford to overreact on a border issue with China, Singh said.

"Both China and India cannot afford to have a war in the near future, as their economic growth path would be severely derailed," Mathews said. ■
 

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America’s global war against Islamic jihad : India’s geostrategic concerns

War begets war. Peace does not always beget peace. Chanakya said: war and peace are integral parts of statesmanship. Both tricks should be played on the basis of historic necessity of policy priority of the State, the King’s and his subject’s interests. The saying is a part of practical foreign policy of ancient and modern times.

The ashes of the First World War were pregnant with the seeds of the Second World War. End of the Second World War was heralded by the onset of much hyped Cold War; combination of wars of weapon race, nuclear proliferation, ideological conflict, and economic war and finally America’s bloody proxy-war in Afghanistan. In between Surrender of Japan and onset of Cold War there were America’s wars in the Koreas and Vietnam and ideological shadow dancing around Cuba. Taking into consideration America’s interventionist policies in Latin America any student of history would develop doubts if the post-1945 super power is not really a warmongering nation and susceptible to intervening anywhere in the world in the ruse of securing the Free World and maintain USA’s status of a militarized imperialist super power. Another political philosophy that is on the threshold of acceptance by most nations, barring the Russian Federation and China, that the USA has inherited the imperial and colonial era right of intervening anywhere in the world in the ruse of defeating arms proliferation, removing dictators whose existence they do not like and of course Islamist jihad, fundamentalism and resurgence. Modern American history is replete with such instances. Necessarily or circumstantially some European and Asian countries join the US led coalition. In the changed global milieu India has also voiced support to America’s global war against terrorism (read Islamic Jihad).

The USA is now bogged down in the Arabian Peninsula, neighbouring Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.


Credit: maps.com

The map above will give some idea about the dimension of US involvement in the major Muslim countries minus certain North African Muslim nations and Central Asian Republics, which also profess Islam.

Besides the countries shown in the map US involvement in Egypt, Libya and several West African countries is rated as hegemonistic in nature. Similar is the lesson drawn from US involvement the Balkans, creation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo from the post Cold War ruins of Yugoslavia. The US involvement in Georgia, Ukraine and Armenia etc countries still smack of the whiffs of the Cold War heat. Efforts to squeeze out Russian influence on the East European countries are palpably perceivable. The advancement of the US in the Central Asian countries, economic competition with China and Russia and tacit US support to the Islamic jihadis in Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Ossetia raise suspicion that America is still pursuing the policy of encirclement of the Russian Federation and isolate it from its former and existing federating units and nationalities. While we propose to discuss US and Chinese presence in the Central Asian Republics (CAR), for the purpose of this essay, we propose to discuss the aspects of US’s war against Islamic countries in the Middle East and in our geopolitical proximity in Afghanistan and Pakistan. India has strong geostrategic interest in the entire region including the Muslim countries in the CAR region.

The British and US interference in the Middle Eastern countries have become a saga of blatant political-military and espionage thrusts of the big powers on the disarrayed Arab and Persian peoples. Installation of Shah Pahlavi as the monarch of Iran and CIA (Operation Ajax) and MI6 clandestine operations to remove Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, simply because he was opposed to foreign intervention in Iran and he had nationalized Iran’s oil industry, was as bitter as the assassination of President Salvador Allende of Chile. This perverted energy policy of the US and its allies later brought about the Islamic revolution in Iran under Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini in 1979. The Iran revolution instantly brought about Islamic resurgence from Morocco to Mindanao in the Philippines. Islam and Islamic countries had started undergoing revolutionary resurgence strengthening the concepts of Wahhabism and Salafism and unleashing the forces of militancy. Journey back to religious orthodoxy was buttressed by armed militancy as a perceived means of liberation of Islam from the perfidious modern forces represented by the Western Jewish and Christian powers.

If hunger for oil and energy had prompted the USA and UK to intervene in Iraq, it finally germinated the seeds of Shia Islamic jingoism. Around the same time another storm was brewing in the region. December 1979 witnessed another upheaval in Afghanistan, a neighbor of the USSR, Pakistan and Iran, direct Soviet intervention in the beleaguered country. USA’s desire to humble the Cold War rival USSR hustled Washington to get involved in the Afghan cauldron. It is propagated that the USA had intervened in Afghanistan by supporting the mujahideens after the Soviet attack. Now it is known, as revealed by Chalmers Johnson, a former naval officer and a Japan and Asia scholar, in his book Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire: “The USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan was deliberately provoked. In his 1996 memoirs, former CIA director Robert Gates writes that the American intelligence services actually began to aid the mujahudeen guerrillas in Afghanistan not after the Soviet invasion of that country, but six months before it. In a 1998 interview with the French weekly magazine Le Nouvel Oberservateur,former president Carter’s National Security Adviser,”Zbigniew Brzezinski, unambiguously confirmed Gates’s assertion…

“According to the official version of history,” Brzezinski told the Nouvel Oberservateur, “CIA aid to the mujahideen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed it was July 3, 1979, that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet intervention.”

When asked whether he regretted these actions, Brzezinski replied:
“Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.”

Without revisiting the prolonged mujahideen wars in Afghanistan, US, Saudi and Pakistani involvement, it can be stated that the US orchestration of secret warfare to invite the USSR in its Vietnam in Afghanistan has now turned to America’s third Vietnam. The US and UK’s invasion of Iraq was the second Vietnam. America’s fourth Vietnam is taking shape in Pakistan. It would seem that the eclipsed imperial power, the United Kingdom, and the successor imperialist power the USA, are prone to invoke wars simply not because of ideological divergences with the Communist giants, but mainly for securing their imperial outposts like Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam and energy rich nations like Iran and Iraq and strategic geopolitical entities in Venezuela, Panama. Mexico, Colombia, Guyana and Ecuador in South America and the oil and gas rich countries in Central Asia and the countries in the rim nations of Caspian Sea and Black Sea. Jumping from one war to another has characterized the successive US regimes and its allies like the UK and some of NATO members.

America’s Mission Afghanistan aimed at dismantling the USSR and score victory over the Cold War rival was impregnated with the seeds of another war: Islamic Jihad vs the US and other western powers, basically termed as the holy war against the Jews and the Christians. International strategic observers agree on the common point that original US involvement in Afghanistan followed by sudden withdrawal and Pakistani entrance via the Taliban train had created a cruces of Islamic jihad that witnessed birth of the al Qaeda, transformations of Taliban outlook as a religio-political philosophy of the resurgent Islamic groups that has created a crescent of upsurge of the Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines.

The al Qaeda-Taliban movements have attained the stature of new Islamic ideological bedrock almost like what Communism did to the global upsurge against western imperialism. The entire Islamic world has been influenced by this neo-religious resurgence, which believes in armed struggle for establishing the supremacy of Islam. These forces are also active in the European and American countries in addition to countries in Asia and Africa. There are tons of written books and documentations to prove that Osama bin Laden was patronized by the CIA, ISI and Royal Saudi intelligence agencies. The al Qaeda was born in the thick of Afghan thrust by USA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in 1989. The Arab volunteers and associates had maintained distinct identity from the Pakistani tanzeems and regular troops and the seven- party lose coalition of the Afghan Mujahideens. Osama’s alienation from the USA and Saudi Arabia started soon after US’s involvement in Iraq-Kuwait war in 1990, on the ground that Saudi Arabia had allowed non-Islamic military troops to defile the holy land of the Prophet.

Without narrating minute by minute extracts of the war between the USA and al Qaeda it should be sufficient to say that Osama bin Laden had started training his cadres in Afghanistan-Pakistan. Under US pressure he had set up militant training camps in Sudan and began searching for nuclear material and weapons. On Feb. 26, 1993 a 500-kilogram bomb was exploded in a garage under World Trade Center in New York, killing six and injuring 1,042. Osama bin Laden’s associate Ramzi Yousef, a person of Pakistani origin, was responsible for the blast. It was a rehearsal for the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers.

Between 1995 and September 2001 al Qaeda mounted at least 8 major attacks on US targets including the apocalyptic attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre on 9/11/2001. The USA promptly retaliated by attacking Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The US military’s Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was launched, along with a number of coalition allies. The UK joined the war in 2002, naming the intervention Operation Herrick. Later the NATO forces also joined the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Incidentally India also accorded support to the US invasion. The Russian Federation had also extended tacit support as the Taliban regime was not acceptable to any orderly modern nation state. Indian presence in Afghanistan is limited to developmental and reconstruction works, despite assassination of several civilian Indian employees and ISI engineered attacks on the Indian embassy at Kabul.

Over last 8 years the USA and allies have been waging a war, in which victory is nowhere in sight. President Obama’s recent Afghan surge plan may not make significant dent on the war situation. Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda groups are sheltered in the remote areas on Pakistan and Afghanistan borders. Despite aerial bombings and ground operations the al Qaeda in Pakistan-Afghanistan appear to be an elusive enemy that has transformed itself as the fountainhead of global Islamic Jihad, as against America’s global war against terrorism. India had extended moral and diplomatic support to the USA. Pakistan is running with the hare and hunting with the hounds; pursuing two diametrically opposite objectives. It is receiving huge largesse from the USA in the ruse of fighting terrorism and using major part of the grant and aid to strengthen its armed forces to take on India in any future war. It is also sheltering and supporting the Afghan Taliban leaders and top leaders of al Qaeda. Pakistan assisted the Afghan Taliban Shura to be held in Balochistan and persuaded Washington not to use the drones in Baloch territory. There are reliable reports that the ISI had accommodated Mullah Omar in a Karachi safe house in recent past. The quagmire in Pakistan and Afghanistan is so complicated that the USA may find it difficult to extricate itself in an orderly manner. The USA had earlier exited from Iran and Vietnam amidst chaos and indignity.

The Afghan broth cooked by the USA, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and their allies has transformed the global Islamicist philosophy and battlefront actions significantly. The Iran revolution had kick started rebirth of Islamic resurgence and the oil rich Muslim countries realized that they had two potent weapons to confront the tormentors of the Arab and Islamic world-the British imperialists and the American neo-hegemonists. The new gained confidence coupled with historization of bitter memories of imperialist highhandedness, poverty, deprivation and sense of loss of identity generated a new surge in the Islamic world; forcing a vast majority to seek out the root-identity and adopting a neo-militant movement for asserting religio-political identity through organized armed struggle; often named Jihad against the kufr tormentors, historicized nearly over three centuries.

While the Afghan broth was in the process of cooking the USA and allies realized that another oil rich country was slipping out of their orbit and their once-upon-a-time puppet Saddam Husain was emerging as another Frankenstein. Saddam (meaning one who likes to confront) had, as a member of the Ba’athist party, opposed the coup by General Abd-al-Qasim (pro-USSR) which had deposed the British-US puppet king Faisal II of Iraq. Later in 1959 Saddam was allied to the UK and USA when the Ba’athist army officers overthrew Qasim. The US viewed Saddam as a bulwark against communism. However, his action of nationalization of the oil industry had upset his western friends. However, the Iran revolution had upset the political balance in the region. Encouraged by US and UK and with tacit support of China, France and Russia Saddam attacked Iran. Lavish US funding of Saddam has been acknowledged by many scholars.

Saddam’s relationship with the USA soured after he attacked Kuwait in 1991 and even made tactical moves to proceed against Saudi Arabia. Saddam’s overstaffed and under equipped army was routed by the US led allied counter attack. By 1998 the USA adopted a new doctrine of “regime change” if some governments failed to conform to US estimation and strategic interests and if such a regime confronted the geostrategic and geo-economic interests of the USA and its allies. In October 1998, removing the Hussein regime became official US foreign policy with enactment of the “Iraq Liberation Act.” Enacted following the expulsion of UN weapons inspectors the preceding August after some had been caught spying for the US, the act provided $97 million for Iraqi democratic opposition organizations to establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq. This legislation contrasted with the terms set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which focused on weapons and weapons programs and made no mention of regime change.

George Bush began formally making his case to the international community for an invasion of Iraq in his September 12, 2002 address to the UN Security Council. Key US allies in NATO, such as the United Kingdom, agreed with the US actions, while France and Germany were critical of plans to invade Iraq, arguing instead for continued diplomacy and weapons inspections. After considerable debate, the UN Security Council adopted a compromise resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized the resumption of weapons inspections and promised serious consequences for noncompliance. Security Council members France and Russia made clear that they did not consider these consequences to include the use of force to overthrow the Iraqi government. However, the mysterious issue of WMD and Iraqi nuclear programme were used as a cover and the US and UK intelligence community fabricated intelligence to suit the war-policy of Bush administration. Saddam was a confounded and conceited dictator, more sadist than Hitler. But, the US had no mandate to remove him.

But, the ruses used by the USA and UK to mount attack on Iraq for “regime Change” had ushered in a dangerous international foreign policy that had prompted the US Congress to pass a legislation to “liberate” a country. In post Second World War this was the worst example of imperialist intervention with massive destruction of lives and properties in a country, Iraq, where the ruling clique was obnoxious and the innocent peoples were at the mercy of the ruling family clique. From 1983 to present day USA’s Iraq war has witnessed more loss of lives and destruction of properties and transplantation of al Qaeda brand Islamicist resistance against the western powers. Though invited, India had declined to be a part of the coalition against “the axis of Evil” a concept developed by Bush administration. History would sure ask of America if Iraq was one of the evil powers at par with North Korea what prevented it to pass legislation for regime change in North Korea! US intervention in Iraq has been one of the worst human tragedies in modern times. Unfortunately, the US President and UK Prime Minister cannot be tried for war crimes, like smaller fries from Serbia and other countries.

Seeding of Islamic jihad in Iraq was directly connected to US led attack on the country. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is playing an active role in the insurgency situation. Initially it was led as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Group of Monotheism and Jihad) by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He died in 2006. Non-Iraqi fighters played key role in AQI network. The movement is now led by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, probably an Egyptian. The group has taken over from al-Zarqawi’s original organization, Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. It owes allegiance to bin Laden’s al Qaeda and identifies itself as Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR) (“Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers”). Al Qaeda in Iraq is still active even after death of al-Zarqawi. The AQI had been responsible for 45 violent incidents in Iraq in 2009 in which over 300 people lost lives. American claim of eradication of al Qaeda from Iraq is not fully correct.

Intervention in Iraq, it is said by many pundits, was aimed at capturing the country’s oil resources. Vice President **** Cheney broadly supported this objective. Funnily enough in December 2009 a consortium led by China’s top oil producer National Petroleum Corp, France’s Total and Malaysia’s Petronas signed a deal for developing the Halfaya oil reserves in southern Iraq. Most American commentator’s observed that China and France reaped the benefits of tremendous national losses suffered by the USA simply because its leaders were more emotionally jingoistic than pragmatic geostrategic thinkers.
Similarly the rise of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (western and northern Africa) has started worrying the USA, France, Spain, the UK and other European countries. A look at the combined map of North Africa and Europe would give an impression that militant Islam is stridently germinating its bacterial colonies in the heart of Europe, most of them allies of the USA. For the sake of brevity we do not include details of violent incidents in the affected region.

Briefly speaking the Al Qaeda in Maghreb depends on affiliated groups and groups franchised by Jawahiri and Osama. Most important affiliated groups are Tunisian Combatant Group (two of its members had assassinated Ahmed Shah Masood of the Northern Alliance; Takfir wal Hirja (Egypt), Ikhwan ul Muslimeen (Egypt), Al Gama’at Al Islamiyya (Egypt), Armed Islamic Group-GIA (Algeria), Asbat al- Ansar (Lebanon), Bayat al-Iman group (Jordan), Libyan Islamic Group, Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Salafist Group for Calling (originated in Egypt) etc. The USA is not yet directly involved in military combats with these groups but special operation groups of the CIA are actively perusing the activities of these groups. Taken together with the Arab world, Afghanistan and Pakistan the map of al Qaeda affected areas appear to be a vast zone of active combat. It is yet to be seen how long the USA and its allies can refrain from direct intervention.

The rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser had acted as a political elixir amongst several Muslim countries. That was an age of assertion by the Muslim nations, though militarily and economically they were far behind the colonial masters. The Iran revolution coupled with rise of Islamic resurgence in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had generated turbo effect into the combined forces of political buoyancy, militarist consolidation and religious fundamentalist resurgence. The USA and its allies were intoxicated with the glorious achievement of demolition of the Berlin wall, success in roping in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for waging a proxy war against the USSR in Afghanistan and final demolition of the Communist monolith.

The West, in its intoxication over defeat of the USSR, ignored the infamous historic acts of general Zia-ul-Haq which transformed Pakistan to a theocratic country, as theocratic as Saudi Arabia. In December 1978 Zia-ul-Haq announced promulgation of Nizam-e-Mustafa, Sharia Law, to be implemented in every walk of life. To him goes the credit of pushing Pakistan to the path of retardation and resurgence of militant Islam that destabilized country, its neighbours, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The new dispensations even allowed Pakistani jihadis to take part in Chechen, Bosnian and Kosovo rebellion. The Inter Services Intelligence was converted as a tool of exporting jihad.
Till his death in 1988 Zia had promulgated series of ordinances, mainly Hudood Ordinance, Zina (adultery) Ordinance, regularization of Rajm (Stoning to death), compulsory midday prayer in government offices (Salat Al Zuhur), Zakat and Usr Ordinance (compulsory donation), introduction of Riba (no interest on loans) etc. Even after his death, during Benazir regime, the paranoid Islamists promulgated the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance-1990 that permitted victim of a crime the right to inflict on the offender. The USA, the purse provider of Pakistan, ignored the seeding of Jihad initiated by Zia and subsequent governments, which led to the mushrooming of jihadi tanzeems and growth of al Qaeda and Taliban influenced religious terrorism that has become endemic in entire South Asia and has rooted in UK, USA, Germany, Spain, France, Netherlands and other western countries, in addition to countries in South East Asia and Africa.

Had the USA exercised some restraint on Zia and subsequent regimes and maintained its presence in Afghanistan after Russian withdrawal, the unbridled growth of Islamicised Wahhabi and Salafi jihad campaign could have been controlled to a great extent. Lavish funding of the mujahideens and allied tanzeems in Pakistan and Afghanistan on the one hand and recalcitrance to exercise geopolitical control made the USA squarely responsible for growth of terror campaign and emergence of al Qaedaism and Talibanism as new philosophies of jihad for chunks of global Muslim population. We shall discuss in brief the main jihadi groups in Pakistan and how they are connected to al Qaeda and Afghanistan Talibans.

The scenario can be examined from tangential intervention of the USA and allies in Somalia and Yemen. Somalia, wrecked by civil wars, clan rivalry and rivalry between warlords came to a point of anarchic madness after Siad Barre regime failed to restore order and survive wars against the warlords. Famine, death and degradation of human values invaded the backward and underdeveloped country in the crucial Horn of Africa. The USA stepped into Somalia initially with a humanitarian mission of distribution of food under Operation Restore Hope. Gradually its forces (nearly 1500) and allied troops got bogged down in the same old policy “restoration of order and installation of a regime acceptable to western standard. Between 1992and 1994 the USA received a severe beating in Somalia in the hands of frenzied clan warriors and finally withdrew with a tally of over twenty US lives lost. It is relevant to mention that Pakistani terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad was involved in the Mogadishu massacre of US soldiers. Now he lives in Bahawalpur under the very benign eyes of the ISI. India cannot forget Maulana Azhar for whose release from Indian jail IC 814 was hijacked and taken to Kandahar. Azhar had confessed that in 1993 he traveled to Nairobi, to meet with leaders of al-Ittihaad al-Islamiya, an al-Qaeda aligned Somali group. He also helped to bring in Yemeni Arab mercenaries to Somalia to fight against the US and allied forces.

The next round of war in Somalia between Ethiopia (supported by USA and allies) and the Islamic Court Union (ICU) and Islamist allies witnessed partial victory of Ethiopia and the Transitional Federal Government. Some elements of US army also followed the Ethiopian forces allegedly to hunt down al Qaeda elements. It is now established that Somalia has become a strong fort for al Qaeda affiliated organisations especially southern areas controlled by Hizbul Islami, IUC and various pockets in Putland area in the north east. Eritrea is reportedly supporting the al Qaeda forces. Frequent clashes between the Islamicists, al Qaeda affiliated forces and the tottering Federal government continue to haunt the Horn of Africa. Obviously Somali pirates dominate parts of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean region. US intervention in Somalia has created an explosive situation in Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan.

The US officials aver that bin Laden spent $3 million to recruit and airlift elite veterans of the Afghan jihad to Somalia via third countries, such as Yemen and Ethiopia. Several hundred foreign veterans of the Afghan jihad, expelled from Pakistan in 1993, also joined the Somali jihad after passing through Sudan. Tariq Nasr Fadhli, a radical Islamic leader from Yemen, who fought under bin Laden against the Soviets in Afghanistan, was behind bringing Yemeni mercenaries to fight in Somalia. Laden later claimed responsibility for the deaths of the 18 U.S. soldiers in Mogadishu. In a 1997 interview with CNN, Laden gloated that al-Qaeda had trained and organized the Somali fighters who did the actual fighting. This tactic, developed by the Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors) in their war against the Soviets, was the same one al-Qaeda forces used to bring down two U.S. helicopters near Gardez, Afghanistan, during Operation Anaconda in early March 2002. In conclusion, it may be said that Somalia has all the potentials to become another Jihad territory confronting USA and its allies. A redeeming feature is self proclaimed independence by British Somaliland and Putland. These are emerging as stable areas in the vast anarchic Somali territory.

Yemen was the birthplace of Osama’s father. According to a Yemeni terrorism expert Saeed Obaid, “Al-Qaeda started in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, but it was raised and nurtured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other places. Now it is clear that it is coming back to its roots and growing in Yemen. Yemen has become the place to best understand al-Qaeda and its ambitions today.”

The Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is in firming up stage. Yemen’s collapsing government is busy with Shia-Sunni civil war in the north, secessionist activities in the south and crumbling economy. The Yemeni tribes were easily drawn to al Qaeda. Thousands of Yemenis have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq; many returned to Yemen. A good number of Yemeni al Qaeda fighters are still in Pakistan-Afghanistan and Somalia. In 2000, al-Qaeda militants rammed the USS Cole with an explosives-packed speedboat off the southern city of Aden, killing 17 US sailors.

It is reported that Wuhayshi and his deputy, Said al-Shihri, a Saudi national and former detainee at the U.S facility at Guantanamo Bay, are leading the al Qaeda outfit in Yemen and they work in close collaboration with the al Qaeda group in Saudi Arabia. The Yemeni group has collaboration with Bayat al-Iman Group of Jordan, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Al-Itthihad Al-Islami of Somalia, Islamic Army of Aydin (Yemen), Lebanese Partisans League, Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group and other al Qaeda affiliated groups in the Middle East and Africa.

The Yemeni movement and other al Qaeda affiliated activities in the region are guided by Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen of Yemeni descent now living in Yemen. Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the Nigerian, who tried to blow up a US aircraft over Detroit on Christmas day, was motivated by Awlaki. He was trained in Pakistan also. Awlaki’s relationship with Major Nidal Hasan, the assassin at the US military base at Fort Hood, Texas, begun at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in northern Virginia and continued via e-mail from Yemen.

The USA, UK and the government of Yemen with full support of Saudi Arabia are engaged in air strafing and bombing of suspected al Qaeda hideouts in Yemen. With the joining of many Guantanamo Bay detainees the al Qaeda outfit in Yemen has become a serious strategic concern to the USA. Washington is apprehensive about Osama bin Laden shifting his operational HQ to Yemen, if he is pursued relentlessly by the NATO forces and Pakistan. Presence of Osama in Yemen is likely refresh the fire of Islamic revolution in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab countries in the region. The affiliated groups in west, north and central Africa are likely to be revitalized. Yemen, therefore, has emerged as newest theatre of warfare for America. According to the New York Times the USA was likely to spend nearly 250 million Dirham in 2010 for training the Yemeni army, deputing special operations groups from the CIA and for funding Yemen in acquiring modern gadgets to eradicate al Qaeda menace from the territory. This appears to be tall order and Yemen may become another al Qaeda black hole to suck in lots of US resources.

Majority of these countries are vital to India’s energy interest and are in the orbit of geostrategic concerns. Any military confrontation in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa automatically generates in India internal political concerns and concerns about energy supply and stability of the trade route. India is considered a major power in this region and cannot remain unaffected by internal convulsions and US military involvement in these countries. Indian Muslims are an inalienable part of the Ummah and some sections develop misperceptions that India is an active partner of the USA in its war against global terrorism (read Islamic Jihad). Indian foreign policy has always been independent of any Block interests-Soviet or USA. India has reasonably well established relations with Iran, present regime in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria and other countries north and west Africa. India has binding interests in the Gulf of Oman, Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf and the Arabian Gulf in the oil rich region. USA and China have also emerged as major energy players in this region. China now intends to have permanent bases in this region with a view to exploiting Iranian, Saudi and other Gulf country’s oil resources. India should emerge as good a player as China is.

On the other hand India cannot afford to be harsh to Yemen, though Delhi is aware of increasing al Qaeda influence in the country. Aden on the tip of the Yemeni territory is vital from energy, trade and military point of view. The Gulf of Djibouti, the Red Sea region and the Indian Ocean front near Somalia have attained crucial strategic status. To prevent Somali and other pirates the USA, EU, India and China have deployed their naval vessels in the region to protect the vital sea routes. Al Qaeda’s predominance in Somalia and Eritrean bellicosity poses serious regional threat in this vital area of geostrategic interest. Yet India cannot be seen as a partner of the USA in its war against Islamic Jihad. At the same time India cannot distance itself from geopolitical and strategic obligations as a self-declared partner of the USA in its war against global terrorism. These concerns require well calibrated response bilaterally and multilaterally. India never supported US/UK war against Iraq, though it was critical of the dictatorship of Saddam Husain.

India has always maintained cordial diplomatic, economic and other bilateral relations with Iran, other Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. India’s support to the USA to refer Iran’s nuclear policy to the United Nations was criticized at home by all the opposition parties. Many Gulf watchers believe that India’s action was not motivated by its national interest. It is understood that Iran’s nuclear capability (when acquired) will not be aimed at India. Many questions were raised about Indian support to the USA on Iran nuclear issue. The USA was fully aware of Pakistan-China-North Korea nexus in developing nuclear warheads. It did nothing to alert India and tried all possible tricks to prevent India from carrying out its own tests. In the bargain India failed to achieve the objectives of Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline; while China clinched the deal for Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan-China gas pipeline and other lucrative oil deals with Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf and African countries.

India’s presence in Afghanistan is a continuum of previous policies of supporting a democratic and non-Islamist regime in the war torn country. India’s smooth relationship with the Northern Alliance was a bulwark against the combined forces of the Taliban and Pakistan. India had actually established a hospital at Farkhor in Tajikistan, just 2 km from Afghan border. It treated Northern Alliance personnel injured in battles against the Taliban. Later this hospital was shifted to Afghan territory when the Northern alliance improved its hold. Later the BJP government and Tajikistan government signed an agreement in 2002 to establish an India airbase at Farkhor. The airbase was commissioned in 2007, where Indian air force men and machines are located to protect Tajikistan from any possible attack by Afghan jihadists and other enemies. An army detachment is also based at Farkhor. So far, there has been no objection to the Indian base at Farkhor from the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SOC) powers-Russia, China and all the CAR countries.

Another geostrategic area that may invite US intervention is the Central Asian Republics, rich in oil and gas and passing through ideological transition and economic stagnation. The CAR countries are oil and gas rich, especially the Caspian Sea bordering areas of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Besides the above two Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are also energy rich countries. Prior to the breakup of the USSR the Soviet Russia used to exploit the energy resources. What was earlier Russia-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan triangle has started turning to Russian-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan-China quadrangle. The pipelines shown in the map below clarify vividly as to how China is tapping the energy resources of the CAR countries. Earlier Russian-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan energy axis was vital to the stability of the region and an important source of supply to the European countries.


Credit: Asia Times

China has also signed energy accords with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Its existing accord with Iran, Saudi Arabia and African (Sudan, Nigeria etc) countries are indicator of China emerging as the second largest energy consumer only after the USA. This would mean that by 2030 China would leapfrog to the pinnacle of economic growth to the detriment of USA and allies and even Japan, India and Russia. According to M. K. Bhadrakumar, IFS (Asia Times-24.12.09) “Growing nervousness in Washington about the Chinese pipeline was quite palpable. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a rare hearing in July regarding China’s geopolitical thrust into the Central Asian region. Testifying at the hearing, Richard Morningstar, the US special envoy for energy, underlined that the US needed to develop strategies to compete with China for energy in Central Asia. This was perhaps the first time that a senior US official has openly flagged China as the US’s rival in the energy politics of Central Asia. US experts usually have focused attention on Russian dominance of the region’s energy scene and worked for diminishing the Russian presence in the post-Soviet space by canvassing support for Trans-Caspian projects that bypassed Russian territory. In fact, some American experts on the region even argued that China was a potential US ally for isolating Russia. Certainly, 2009 was a turning point in American discourses on Chinese policies in Central Asia. As China’s Turkmen gas pipeline got closer to completion, US disquiet began to surface.”

The US has air bases in the CAR region. The Karshi-Khanabad Air Base is located in southern Uzbekistan not far from Tajikistan; Manas Air Base is situated just north of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The United States began leasing both Soviet-era bases during the US led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. They are used primarily to station soldiers, refueling jets, and cargo planes. Each airfield houses roughly 1,000 U.S. troops and civilian contractors. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional security body whose members include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan has been pressing the USA to close down these bases. The Kazakh opposition parties have demonstrated several times demanding US withdrawal. Geostrategic experts feel that USA is trying to stick to its bases in the CAR with a view to counter balance Moscow’s influence on its former federated units. China is apprehensive that USA has plans to aid and abet the Uyghur Islamic rebels who are fighting for independence of the Xinjiang province of China, terming it as East Turkestan Republic. It may be noted that al Qaeda and Pakistani jihadist groups are also associated with Uyghur rebels.

China also suspects India for assisting and abetting the Tibetan rebels who rise up at regular intervals, despite severe Chinese oppression. Xinjiang and Tibet has common borders. Some Chinese strategists aver that Washington, Moscow and Delhi are working in tandem to encourage the Uyghur rebels. To counterbalance such pressure China periodically puts pressure on India by making strident demands on Arunachal Pradesh and other disputed areas. China also works overtime to enhance military cooperation with Pakistan by supplying it with missile technology, aircraft production and other ancillary military hardware. India’s CAR policies are yet to crystallize with distinct bilateral and multilateral nuances apart from objectives of the USA, which considers the CAR region as a future energy reserve to be reversed from the present Russian and Chinese preponderance.

India has no access to the energy resources of Central Asia. If India happens to adopt a pro-active energy policy in near future it can tap the Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russian oil and gas resources along a pipeline running through Iran and consigning the product to India from Bandar Mahashahr or Bandar Imam Khomeini. This would require improving the quality of bilateral relationship with Iran and the other littoral countries. Iran is vital to India’s energy resources as well as a bulwark against Sunni jihadist thrust in India. Hopefully this grandiose idea would catch up with South Block sooner than later.
India’s inability to tap the gas resources of Bangladesh and Myanmar indicate that its energy policies have not coincided with foreign policy and the quality of bilateral relations with these two neighbours. Minor irritants with Bangladesh can now be sorted out taking advantage of a secular and democratic regime now ruling from Dhaka. India’s economic umbrella can get a boost in Bangladesh provided a broader foreign policy is pursued pragmatically. China, on the other hand has signed memorandum of understanding with Myanmar for tapping its gas and oil resources.

India is required to give assistance to the USA in curbing the Islamist jihad in its own geopolitical region, especially Afghanistan and Pakistan. If America and the allies withdraw from Afghanistan in 2011 and if Pakistan turns out to be totally unreliable ally against the international jihadists, India may have to collaborate more stridently with the USA. Spill over of the al Qaeda and the Taliban movement from Afghanistan and Pakistan would prove to be more disastrous than extending limited cooperation to America. This may also become a mutual necessity in near future with a view to contain China’s ambition in these Asian regions and its goal of achieving supremacy in the Indian Ocean region. To frustrate China’s policy of encircling India the US overtures for strategic linkages should not be ignored. But, all care must be taken not to get India involved in America’s global war against Islamic jihad.
 

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TENSE NEIGHBOURHOOD- India has not managed to create friendly surroundings as yet


The management of relationships with neighbours takes priority in any country’s foreign policy. An unfriendly neighbourhood means tensions, the threat of conflict, a diversion of material resources to meet security needs, opportunities for external powers to interfere and distort bilateral relationships, loss of trade benefits and an erosion of diplomatic credibility at the international level of a country seen as unable to solve problems at its own doorstep.

Conversely, a stable, friendly and peaceful neighbourhood lightens the political, economic and military burden on a country, even as it enhances its capacity to act on a broader international canvas.

How can the theoretically desirable objective of a friendly neighbourhood be achieved in practice? How can that balance of interests be created that would bind neighbours in amity? Is reciprocity the basis or does it require unilateral concessions from the bigger and stronger country? How can fears, prejudices, the weight of history, traditional animosities and such factors be overcome?

What about the role of third countries? Countries seek partnerships beyond their own region for protecting their own political, economic or security interests. Smaller countries fearful of bigger neighbours often reach out to external countervailing powers who, in turn, may have an interest in containing regionally influential powers for larger strategic reasons.

Many in the country hold India responsible for the poor state of its relations with neighbours. India as the biggest country is expected to bear the main responsibility for regional stability, with a display of generosity and with unilateral concessions, especially on the economic side, as tools, now that India’s economy is growing apace and neighbouring countries can be integrated with it to long term advantage.

Such criticism exaggerates India’s capacity to manage its neighbourhood. On many issues of national interest, internal opinion is divided. India’s legal, political and administrative system impedes hard decisions in its own interest, such as on the proper management of its porous borders. Electoral considerations or the preoccupation with its own problems of subcontinental dimensions prevent the requisite degree of attention to neighbours.

India’s record in moulding conditions in its neighbourhood in its favour is poor. After withdrawing militarily from Sri Lanka in difficult conditions in the Eighties, it ceded its central role in shaping developments there, including those leading to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s military defeat. Its ability to now determine the pace and content of the final resolution of the ethnic issue is doubtful. India’s intervention in the Maldives was more successful, but that hardly constitutes a model for a future Indian role in ensuring regional stability. In Bangladesh’s case, in a telling diplomatic setback, India has had to cope with the power-grab there by anti-Indian forces which have pursued unfriendly policies over decades. In Nepal, India supported the rise to power of forces traditionally hostile to it in the interest of a stable Nepalese polity. India finds it difficult to handle Nepal’s internal affairs even though developments there seriously impinge on India’s security.

India is victimized by terrorism directed against it from within its neighbourhood. Pakistan has used terrorism against India as an instrument of State policy, without India being able to find an answer, either on its own or with the support of the international community. India is now living under the shadow of another Mumbai-like attack, which, if it were to happen, could have grave unwanted consequences.

Apart from the Hamid Karzai government castigating Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror, other countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation remain reticent. All, barring Bhutan, have interest in maintaining good ties with Pakistan for motives that include leveraging its hostility towards India to their own advantage, countering Indian domination, and needing to politically manage their own Muslim communities. Saarc conventions on combating terrorism remain ineffective given Pakistan’s complicity with terrorist groups.

The debate about unilateral concessions versus reciprocity is misplaced. A big country has no less responsibility than a small one to protect its interests. A sustained policy of making unilateral concessions is politically untenable. Those who advocate such concessions overlook the conduct of other major powers and, most relevantly for us, that of China. Is China ready to make any such concessions to us on bilateral differences for reasons of good neighbourliness? India tried a policy of unilateral concessions towards neighbours in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, but with no lasting result.

India’s physical domination of its neighbourhood creates problems in itself. Most of its neighbours are very small in comparison, geographically, demographically and economically. The strong civilizational, cultural, linguistic and ethnic ties that India and its neighbouring countries share makes them in reality feel insecure in their separate identities. Projecting India as a threat, a hegemon and a bully is integral to the assertion of their distinctive identities.

India cannot prevent the neighbouring countries from seeking to balance its weight by reaching out to external powers in order to acquire a greater margin of manoeuvre vis à vis India, squeezing concessions from it and obtaining economic and military assistance from powers wanting to constrain India’s rise or imposing costs on it for pursuing independent policies. Pakistan, in its obsessive pursuit of “parity” with India, has been most responsible for bringing outside powers into the subcontinent. The Pakistan-China nexus has sought to permanently neutralize India strategically by transfers of nuclear weapon and missile technologies to Pakistan. Significantly, the United States of America has been complaisant, as it too has favoured a strategic balance between India and Pakistan for ensuring regional peace and stability. Today, China is Pakistan’s biggest defence supplier. The US too has begun supplying advanced arms to Pakistan to reward it for its cooperation in combating the insurgency in Afghanistan. Pakistan is now the recipient of arms assistance from the world’s foremost democracy and its foremost authoritarian State.

In the foreseeable future, India will not be able to shape its immediate environment to optimally subserve its interests. Unless Pakistan ends its politics of confrontation with India, the Saarc region will remain under stress. If the extremist religious forces ultimately win in Afghanistan, the strategic space for them will expand enormously in the region. A triumphant radical Islamic ideology can be destabilizing for the religiously composite societies of South Asia. A Talibanized Pakistan will add to the pressures on India.

The prospects of a border settlement with China remain distant. China has, in fact, increased tensions by reviving aggressively its claims on Arunachal Pradesh. The tactical alliance between India and China at the Copenhagen climate summit should not obscure the deeper sources of India-China problems.

With the Sheikh Hasina government in power in Bangladesh, India’s relations with that country seem set to improve. Bangladesh is showing an unprecedented willingness to deny safe havens to anti-India insurgents and progress on transit issues. The recent visit of the Bangladesh prime minister promises to “launch a new phase” in the ties between the two countries. A solution to the problem of illegal Bangladeshi migration into India, however, will remain difficult.

The success story of India’s relations with Bhutan shows that good relations between India and its neighbours depend on reciprocal goodwill and wise, unprejudiced policies on all sides, without allowing external countries to impede the building of positive equations locally to mutual advantage. There is a core lesson there for all.
 

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