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Foreign Policy In 2013

PAK, CHINA, US CHALLENGES

By Obja Borah Hazarika

Research Scholar, School of International Studies, JNU

New Delhi, Jan 14 : The gruesome killing of two soldiers by Pakistan’s troop who crossed the Line of Control (LoC) yet again in violation of the ceasefire pact on Tuesday last underscores two key issues: What is New Delhi’s strategy vis-à-vis neighbour Islamabad?. Two, the direction of its over-all foreign policy?

Alas, the LoC incursion highlights that New Delhi policy continues to be reactive and based on the fallacy that Islamabad would mend its way and endorse the various peace overtures like initiating talk, putting in place a new visa regime, reviving sports ties et all. Thereby, signalling that nothing much of Indian foreign policy has changed, it’s all about maintaining “strategic autonomy”.

Currently, South Block’s strategy is aimed at aiding her domestic transformation and negotiating her way into the upper echelons of decision-making in world politics. Whereby, it actively seeks partnerships with nations and participating in international groupings to achieve its goals.

Undeniably, India in 2013 will be pressed under immense foreign policy challenges ranging from tough negotiations with her neighbours, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, to navigating her way with the US and other important powers in order to achieve greater international recognition for her “emergent” power status. Add to this, its role in multi-lateral groupings will also continue to come under the international scanner given India’s growing influence and power in global politics.

Besides, China’s role will continue to be of keen interest. The all-weather China-Pakistan relationship will remain the biggest foreign policy challenge for India in the subcontinent. Also, its ties with both Nepal and Myanmar continue to be on the upswing. Kathmandu continues to remain without a Constitution which has prolonged its political instability and Yangon has gained strategic significance with its leaders’ recent “change of heart”, which not only freed Aung Sang Su Kyi but also held elections. Thus, India’s strategic moves with both countries need to be calculated to match China’s influence.

Pertinently, New Delhi’s ties with Beijing continue to be conducted out of financial and trading compulsions. It will also continue to face the challenges of the unresolved border, water sharing and dumping of Chinese goods issues.

Further, continued friction with China over issues like Tibet and Beijing’s overwhelming presence in the sub-Continent will consume much resources of Indian foreign policy. Such acrimony in bilateral relations may hamper a united front on the international negotiating table like trade and development talks, intellectual property rights meetings and climate change forums, which will adversely impact not only these two nations, but the entire Global South.

New Delhi’s ties with Bangladesh will remain daunting tasks especially on water-sharing and illegal immigration issues.  It would need to mobilize foreign policy resources to make inroads into Sri Lanka to offset the overbearing Chinese economic presence. A dedicated effort is lacking on India’s part to continue close relations with Maldives and Bhutan, traditionally considered friendly.

India’s relations with Russia will remain shorn of optimum enthusiasm and cooperation given the loss of defence contracts, the Telecom sector row and the Kundankulam impasse of 2012. New Delhi faces the challenge of restoring relations with Moscow to a higher plane given the economic, military and strategic benefits such a relationship would beget.

In regard to India’s relations with the European Union, Japan, South Korea, and Australia will remain founded on commerce. The challenge will be to ensure the continuance of such a relationship and ensure that it segues into a strategic partnership.

In addition, South Block’s ties with Africa and Latin America will continue to be guided by economic considerations considering the energy deficit it currently faces. Countering China’s vast presence in these two continents will be a daunting challenge.

Notably, the “Beijing Consensus” and the “Mumbai Consensus” will face-off in these two Continents.  India must be the side with economic deals which rake in benefits not only for the investor but for the locals also. Perhaps greater stress on combining development projects with Indian investments would give it an edge over China.

India’s relations with the several multilateral and regional groupings have become an important facet of its foreign policy.  New Delhi’s growing influence in the world is measured by its increasing participation in groups like BRICS, IBSA, and BASIC.

Although, India-ASEAN relations have been elevated to a strategic partnership, opening up of the North-East as a focal point between India and ASEAN remains a challenge. Cultivating friendly relations with the countries which are part of these groupings buttress India’s role as an important international player.

A major challenge for Indian foreign policy will be to ensure that the country remains a preferred investment destination given the fall in growth figures. The low rate of growth and the downgrading of banks by international ratings agencies are a cause of concern for South Block. Wherein, it needs to maintain an international image of a healthy and robust economy in order to attract fresh doses of much-needed foreign investment.

Importantly, India’s policy challenges will continue to encompass global issues like resource shortage, fuel crisis, inflation, terrorism and climate change. The world will increasingly look towards New Delhi to shoulder responsibilities befitting an international player with regard to combating these global malaises.

The test before India will be to convince the world of the paradox that India is both an “emergent power” and a power with teeming millions reeling under abject poverty, rendering it incapable of shouldering a greater burden in fighting global issues.

Finally, India’s relations with the US will remain its most important in the near future. Although, mixed signals are being sent by the Obama Administration regarding its “pivot” to Asia, New Delhi must ensure that it does not figure as an aggressively revisionist “emerging” power, with ambitions of overhauling the international framework supported by the US.

Upsetting the reigning hegemony with overt ambitions, accounts for poor diplomacy and India, must refrain from sending out such signals.  Though India has largely agreed to Washington’s agenda on most fronts like Iran, some other battles being fought by South Block like a just economic order and a climate regime favourable to the Global South should not be compromised.

The UNSC permanent seat and induction into the export control regimes will remain other foreign policy challenges. India’s entry into these bodies is important as they will buttress its global player status and thereby raise her global significance. This will give India a stronger voice in the international forum which will help India secure her interests.

Clearly, the country’s foreign policy will continue to be about fulfilling her national interests. India seeks a greater global role as well as a prosperous internal economic situation. Therefore, much of India’s foreign policy will be dedicated to harnessing every available opportunity to realize these goals. But what about new strategy? —- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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