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India & The World:HIGHS, LOWS & CHALLENGES, By Dr. DK Giri, 4 January, 2018 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 4 January 2018

India & The World


By Dr. DK Giri

(Prof of International Politics, JMI)


We are into a New Year! It is a time for reflection on the year gone by and preparing for the challenges befalling. Activists, planners and experts do this once every year. It’s a good idea to learn from mistakes, build on successes, and strategise to cope with challenges and to grab opportunities. What was the year for India in its international role? And how should India brace up in 2018 apart from responding to exigencies?


To be sure, there have been many highs of India’s foreign policy in terms of diplomacy, leadership, presentation and posturing, and a few lows which would challenge these very attributes in 2018. I would pick three of the high points, although not in chronology or significance, which breaks the mould -- Doklam standoff with China, de-hyphenating Israel and Palestine, and International Court of Justice (ICJ) victory at the UN.


To recall, preceding Doklam standoff, India and China have been involved in military conflicts -- Sino-Indian war of 1962, Nathu la and Cho la clashes in 1967, Sino-Indian skirmish of 1987, and Doklam in 2017. In 1962, India lost the war, China grabbed quite a bit of our territories, and makes further claims on Indian territory such as Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, and other border areas. The 1962 war keeps haunting us as it had resulted in many border disputes, still to be resolved. Nathu la clashes took place between 11 and 15 September, 1967, and the Cho la military duel with China occurred for a day in October, the same year. The claim to the disputed border land in Chumbi Valley led to these clashes.


India is said to have secured a “tactical victory” over China in these clashes, pushed back the attacking Chinese Army, the PLA. The skirmish of 1987, the third India-China military conflict occurred at Sumdorong Chu Valley, Arunachal Pradesh. But both countries decided to de-escalate their deployments and restart the dialogue. The skirmish ended without bloodshed.


The Doklam stand-off began on 16 June, 2017 and ended on 28 August, 2017, lasting for 72 days, the longest military stand-off between the two countries. The conflict subsided without an actual military confrontation. This was also a conflict which occurred in a third country, Bhutan. India stood up against China to defend a part of Bhutanese territory, invoking a friendship treaty signed between New Delhi and Thimpu. It was quite tense taking both the countries to the brink of war; and the conflict abated in the face of India marshalling good will support from its powerful allies. Although the details of the resolution of the conflict are shrouded in a bit of mystery, the credit of the cessation of conflict goes to India’s political leadership and diplomatic skills.


The second highpoint of India’s international politics is its historic victory in the election in the United Nations General Assembly, of India’s Judge Dalveer Bhandari against the British Judge Christopher Greenwood to the ICJ. This was the first time that a permanent member of the UN Security Council contested directly against a non-member for the post of Judge at the ICJ. India won the elections overwhelmingly securing 183 votes out of total of 193 member-countries, as the British judge withdrew from the contest.


The Indian victory marked a full circle in history, as it defeated the United Kingdom which had colonised India for about three centuries. It also signified India’s rise in the world as a major power and decline of the UK, once the premier power of the world


The third highlight in 2017 was India delinking Israel from Palestine in its approach to the Palestinian issue. Traditionally, India dealt with Israel at par with Palestine, in fact, taking the latter into confidence. Observers felt that India’s attitude towards Palestine was driven by the large Muslim vote bank at home. The current regime under Prime Minister Modi delinked the two, and built an independent line of diplomacy with Israel. The NDA regime recognised and reckoned with Tel Aviv critical support to India in defence and in other developmental and trade relations. NaMo broke new ground by being the first PM to visit Israel and it is said to have touched the highest point of India-Israel relations.


Arguably, the Indian vote in UN against recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, following the US declaration to shift its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, could have dented India-Israel relations. One could debate endlessly India’s vote, but New Delhi has managed to maintain good relations with its ‘close’ friend Israel, and Israel’s worst enemy Iran, plus other Muslim countries opposed to Israeli occupation of Palestine territories. Importantly, the Israeli Prime Minister’s scheduled visit to India this month is still on.


Evidently, the act of Palestine’s Ambassador to Pakistan participating in a rally organised by Hafiz Saeed, internationally declared terrorist, will ignite a rethinking of India’s approach to Palestine problem. Palestine has recalled its Ambassador after New Delhi protested strongly.  But, it is found that the Ambassador had been, on occasions, meeting the terrorist groups working against India. So, in the New Year, India’s Palestine policy will be the first challenge to India’s foreign policy.


The second challenge would be India’s dealing with her neighbours. NaMo started well by inviting all our neighbours to his swearing-in function. He earned an unusual reputation in his first visit to Nepal, but gradually, and more so in 2017, our relations with it plummeted to a new low. In Nepal, the anti-India feeling now is higher than ever before. In fact, the Communist Parties of Nepal won the last general elections on an anti-India plank. Our relations with Pakistan have gone worse, as it continues to harbour terrorists and just recently, treated shabbily Kulbhushan Jhadav’s wife and mother, much to the annoyance of not only South Block but Parliament, cutting across party lines. 


China is making in-roads into India’s neighbourhood -- Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives. New Delhi will have to deal with Beijing’s aggressive and expansionist approach towards India. Also, in dealing with China, India will have to retain the goodwill and friendship of Russia, its traditional and long-term friend. The challenge is to maintain the balance between India and the Quad (India-Japan-Australia-USA) plus Israel on one side, and Pakistan and China on the other. India would also need Russia’s active support, or at least its neutrality in countering ChinPak axis.


Finally, as India inches ‘close’ to Israel it will have to retain goodwill and active alliances with the Muslim world. On Kashmir, the Muslim world’s neutrality counts for India. As India decisively shifts from its non-aligned position to making strategic alliances, its diplomacy would have to embrace the challenge of contributing to shaping the new world order and balancing the antagonistic forces in its favour.


Obviously, the new order is more uncertain than ever before with the single super power equivocating on issues, the former super power clawing back off and on and the new super power being a suspect inasmuch as its world view is undefined and unclear whereas its expansionism evident. Dealing with China, no doubt, is the biggest challenge for India in the New Year and some years to come. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)


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