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It throws lights on - Emergence of India as a global power, Indo-Pacific strategic arc, continued rise of China as a global power, increasing economic and strategic weight of East Asia, the Arc of Freedom and Prosperity, Pivot to Asia, the Heart of Maritime Asia and Pacific, India’s tough neighborhood, India’s relations with Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal,When the two bull fight; the ultimate victim will be the nearby small calf. India’s destiny and its South Asian neighbors.

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  1. 1. 1 IINNDDIIAA:: TTRREEAADDIINNGG IITTSS PPAATTHH TTOOWWAARRDDSS AA WWOOUULLDD BBEE GGRREEAATT PPOOWWEERR SSTTAATTUUSS Keshav Prasad Bhattarai Emergence of India as a global power has inspired Australia to coin a new strategic term - Indo-Pacific strategic arc. Two other contributing factors for the emergence of the Indo- Pacific as a single strategic arc -- according to the Defense White Paper of Australia 2013, released recently are -the continued rise of China as a global power and the increasing economic and strategic weight of East Asia. Six years ago, in August 2007 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressing the Indian Parliament had explained how the confluence of Indian and Pacific Ocean extending from India to Indonesia, Australia and Japan, has become “The Arc of Freedom and Prosperity”. Abe termed the region as broader Asia where the strategic partnership between Japan and India plays “pivotal” role for such pursuits. President Obama’s “pivot” to Asia is also based on the economic rise and strategic development in the region - that Robert D. Kaplan says “The Heart of Maritime Asia and Pacific”. Since November 2011 including President Barrack Obama major foreign policy makers of United States then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, have vociferously begun to claim that United States is a pacific country and would lead America’s Pacific Century. They were equally enthusiastic in increasing its engagement with India and Indonesia that accounts one quarter of the world’s population. In the word of Clinton these two countries are “two of the most dynamic, significant democracies" in the world and key strategic player from the Indian Ocean to the Strait of Malacca and from there to the Pacific. In substance, whether it is United States, Japan, Australia, Japan, or Vietnam - their expectations on India is high. All they want India play a significant strategic role as a counterweight against China - which they deem as major threat to their security and major stakes in the region. Obviously, they have reasons for their expectations. With its size, population, rapidly expanding economy, naval capability, nuclear weapons, and its unique geography in the Indian Ocean, has given India an imminent position in the strategic waters of Asia-Pacific. However, three factors have persistently overshadowed India’s march towards its great historic journey. First, its political institutions – like the cabinet, parliament, and relevant central government agencies have hardly shown their stomach for those appealing expectations. Second the developmental needs of millions of people in dire poverty and the size of its economy and its military spending that is nearly three times smaller than that of
  2. 2. 2 China, does not allow it free hand to meet the expectations of other global powers – while they themselves are in economic trouble. Borrowing the words from Shashi Tharoor - a tough neighborhood, is the third factor that has snatched from India the blessed strategic assets and opportunities vis-à-vis to China. Moreover, the third one is perhaps the most critical and complicated. For example - chest thumping on punishing its smaller South Asian neighbors that do not toe with the line and exploiting their political and economic difficulties that were due to their poor political management of their internal differences, has been a favorite but odd Indian game for years and decade . Take case of Nepal. In his recent book - Pax Indica, Shashi Tharoor himself a Minister of State for Human Resources in Manamohan Singh’s government and a noted academician, quotes a former Indian diplomat Rajiv Sikri who wrote ” Indians have taken Nepal too much for granted. India’s approach towards Nepal has been dismissive and neglectful. The Indian government and public have never shown adequate sensitivity to Nepali pride and uniqueness.” Tharoor further admits that “India has an evident stake in Nepalese stability” but ironically, India’s Nepal policy that has been best described by Sikri and quoted by Tharoor has created chain of incessant instability in Nepal. SSoouutthh AAssiiaa iiss IInnddiiaa’’ss DDeessttiinnyy bbuutt .. .. .. During his visit to Bangladesh in September 2011, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh made a remarkable speech at Dhaka University. In his speech, he unequivocally expressed his sincere belief that “India will not be able to realize its own destiny without the partnership of its South Asian neighbours.” Therefore, to establish the relations of friendship and trust with its neighbors, and consolidate a “peaceful and prosperous regional environment in South Asia” was the highest priority of his government. Prime Minister Singh knows – India’s destiny remains in South Asia, but unfortunately, the level of trust between India and its South Asian neighbors has reached at the historically lowest ebb. Let us see the state of relations between India and Bhutan. India’s relations with Bhutan were termed as excellent example of good neighborly relations – characterized by the highest level of mutual understanding, trust, and cooperation -an example of seamless relation with a country of 700,000 people for over five decades. But, when Bhutan was preparing for the second round of its parliamentary elections last month, India out of a sudden withdrew all subsidies that it had been providing to Bhutan. This left the prices soaring up and the discontents of the people were poured into the streets. The opposition PDP party that blamed the ruling party failing to bring Bhutan’s relations with India to a solid foundation successfully exploited the difficulties of the people for electoral gains. The ruling DPT party of Gigme Y. Thinley was defeated with mere 15 seats in a 47-member body, while in an election held in 2008 it had secured all the parliamentary seats except two. It was presumed that the ruling DPT would win the majority of seats but with reduced margin than in 2008 and in the first round, it had polled better than the then opposition party.
  3. 3. 3 Earlier in Bhutan hardly a voice could be heard against India except among few families whose members or relatives who were forced to flee the Druk Kingdom, but after the July elections huge mass of public have begun to accuse India in meddling in its internal affairs. India may produce many reasons – technical and commercial, but no one is there to subscribe the idea that it was not intended to affect the election results. Moreover, the reason is more than simple –in June last year during the Rio+20 Earth Summit Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley had a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in the sidelines of the Summit. Chinese premier expressed his country’s willingness to establish diplomatic relations between the two and solve border problems that is due since Tibet came under Chinese control. Notably, Bhutan is the only country among China’s 14 neighbors that does not have diplomatic relations and the second country after India that has not signed any border agreements with China. Further reasons that have angered India are given as Bhutan under Thinley government imported some 20 buses from China. India feared an enhanced bilateral trade between Bhutan and China might take a strategic meaning in due course. Times of India (TOI), has highlighted some other reasons for India’s strained relations with Thinley’s party. They include Bhutan’s enthusiasm in reorienting its foreign policy with intention to expanding its diplomatic relations with UN big five that according to TOI is against its stated policy. After India agreed to replace the Indo-Bhutan Treaty (1949) with a new one in 2007 that dropped 1949 treaty, provision that was binding Bhutan to follow Indian guidance in its foreign policy. A new treaty with India and a full-fledged democracy introduced in 2008 naturally inspired Bhutan to reorient its foreign policy with new confidence that resulted in extending its diplomatic relations from 21 in 2008 to 53 in 2013. In a recent article in Global Times a Chinese scholar Liu Zongyi has accused India treating little more than potential protectorate even in 21st Century and observed “India won't allow Bhutan to freely engage in diplomacy with China and solve the border issue. Besides, India will continue its stance on the Sino-Indian border dispute and strengthen its strategic posture.” Please read China, Bhutan, Nepal, And India: Strategic Reflections On Quadrilateral Relations – Analysis, Eurasia Review, August 22, 2012 for the critical strategic pulls between India and China on Bhutan. MMaallddiivveess,, IInnddiiaa,, aanndd CChhiinnaa Maldives - a country of nearly 1200 islands - most of them uninhabited and with some 300,000 population, has gained global prominence after China became a maritime power with its new found wealth since the beginning of this Century. To sustain its resource driven and manufacturing based economy, China naturally is much concerned for the secured shipping routes in Indian Ocean and major sea-lanes. China’s rise and its deep concern for its maritime security have given Maldives prominent strategic focus among policy makers in New Delhi and Beijing. Since 2000, series of high-level visit has taken place between Maldives and China. Most prominent among them were the visit of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongi in Maldives in May 2001 and President Maumoon Abdul Gyaoom’s visit to China in September 2006.
  4. 4. 4 Amid political dissension emerging in Maldives against President Gyaoom’s long autocratic rule, pressures were building around New Delhi to accommodate the opposition. According to renowned Indian strategic analyst C. Raja Mohan when reports began to appear in Indian press that China planned to lease a few islands from Maldives and turn some of them into a potential naval base, India hastily sent its Defense Minister Pranab Mukharjee to Male in April 2006. The visit especially meant to hand over a modern fast attack craft to improve the policing of Maldives’ waters as a gesture to strengthen the privileged partnership between India and Maldives. Political dissension continued to grow. Movement for democracy got momentum and the election held in October 2008 ended 30 years of Gayoom presidency. Mohamed Nasheed was elected the President. However, in the first round, Gayoom had secured 40.1 percent of votes and Mohamed Nasheed had polled only 25.1 percent. Indian tilt in favor helped Nasheed garner the support of all oppositional candidates. India did not want to conceal its successful diplomacy in affecting election results. To welcome the peaceful transition to democracy and express its solid support behind the newly elected President in Maldives, India dispatched a high-level delegation led by Vice President Hamid Ansari to attend the swearing in ceremony. Few months later in July 2009 India’s top defense and foreign policy officials from National Security Advisor to foreign and defense secretaries visited Maldives to work out a new strategic partnership. Defense Minister A.K. Antony visited Maldives in the following month. In course of attending the 17th SAARC Summit in Maldives Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement that according to C. Raja Mohan was aimed at preempting any Chinese military advances in the island country. China during the same event announced the opening of its embassy in Maldives and a grand opening ceremony was held immediately thereafter. Earlier China was looking Maldivian affairs from its Embassy at Colombo, while Maldives had opened its embassy in Beijing in 2007. And the strategic agreement signed between India and Maldives was enough for Maldivian opposition. It stirred anger among the public and eroded the support of security forces in favor of government. Political polarization heated up. It was followed by the formation of an opposition alliance. In December 23, that year tens of thousands of demonstrators came to street against the Nasheed government in the name of Islamic values. In January 2012, Nasheed’s government arrested chief judge of the Maldivian criminal court, on charges of misconduct. It caused the public outburst erupt. Most dreadful was the development when even the security forces declined to obey the Nasheed government and President Nasheed was forced to resign on February 7. Later Nasheed has said that he was forced to resign "at gunpoint" by police and army officers. According to Raja Mohan, Nasheed later said that he was under great pressure to sign a defense agreement with China; he refused, but the warned India that the new rulers may tilt towards Beijing.
  5. 5. 5 Nasheed’s Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, a Stanford PhD and former UN bureaucrat replaced Nasheed. In May 2012, the new president visited Delhi, reiterated his commitment to long-standing friendship with India, and emphasized adherence to all previous agreements as the continuation of the previous Nasheed government. However, in November 2012, in a dramatic move, Maldives announced the cancellation of its International airport contract given to an Indian GMR company with 77% stake in the operation. GMR and its partner – Malaysian Airport Authority with 23 percent share had won the contract for the development and operation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) during Nasheed’s presidency in June 2010. The $ 500 million contract was awarded for a period of 25 years through a global tender conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Washington, a member of the World Bank. While the new Maldivian government claimed that the contract was signed under dubious conditions, was unlawful and the parliament had objected it. In early December, reacting on Male’s arbitrary decision the Indian government announced to freeze $25-million budgetary commitment including the suspension of construction of a national police academy in Maldives including other infrastructural commitments that India had made to Maldives earlier- including a threat to face the worst. This has helped the relation between Delhi and Male reached at the lowest ebb, never experienced before. WWhheenn ttwwoo bbuullll ffiigghhtt,, tthhee uullttiimmaattee vviiccttiimm wwiillll bbee tthhee nneeaarrbbyy ssmmaallll ccaallff There is a Nepali proverb, -- that means when two bulls fight; the ultimate victim will be the nearby calf. The destiny of the smaller South Asian countries is not much different than the poor calf tied between the two bulls fighting each other. India has suffered worst time in its history. It lasted for centuries. Even today, it is under gravest security threat from its neighbors. Several radical Islamic forces sheltered in its neighboring countries and ultra leftist and separatist forces from within the country are equally posing critical security risk to its larger national interests. In such a situation, India may expect and may need better understandings from its neighbors like Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, or Bangladesh for its major security stakes. As a nation, it has right to demand it with its neighbors and issue threats against any activities that may undermine its security. But, it does not mean that India has right to weaken the security of its smaller neighbors. Some pertinent questions have always echoed the South Asian sky - can India claim always right in its policy with its smaller neighbors and their vital security? Has not it ignored the independence and sovereignty of its neighbors in the name of enhancing its security? Can it justify all its actions against its smaller neighbors on the norms it has developed for itself? There are so many others, but the answer - many nos. What is diplomatically, politically or morally wrong when at times its smaller neighbors initiate some political moves to assert their independence of action as a sovereign nation – an inborn inclination of every ruler of any country at every time of history?
  6. 6. 6 Yes, at times, they have used China card and may use it in future. Similarly, it is a known fact that India itself had used Soviet card against United States, China, and Pakistan when it thought its security was threatened. When needs be America uses India card, China uses Pakistani card and Russia card. Any country anywhere has adopted it in its foreign policy. India is an inspiration for many countries in the world including its neighbors. Its great democratic institutions have always stood tall in the period of crisis period it suffered since independence. The freedom of press, its tremendous intellectual assets, and supremacy of law have always vigorated its best security against all the odds. Only two things I think are there that have not helped India gain its right place in world as well as in the region. First- in its six decades of democratic practices, many times the government has to succumb to the cruel pressures of its parliamentary arithmetic - while developing and running foreign and defense policy. That has time and again compromised its vital security in the region. Second, India itself has to devise new insights in developing its strategic policy to deal with its neighbors like China or Pakistan independent of its relations with other neighbors. It is not politically or strategically right to tie up its relations with them with its rival power in the region. It must find some space and freely accommodate its smaller South Asian neighbors to enjoy its independence with a bit more enthusiasm without challenging India’s vital security interests. They know it better than India itself that their survival and progress cannot be assured if they play against major Indian interest. What has India gained in all these years in its policy towards its smaller neighbors as a demanding big power? Instead, in every New Year it has experienced stronger anti Indian feeling institutionalized in its neighborhood. Naturally, in South Asian case when they become anti Indian, they turn out to be sympathetic to China. In other words, India is helping China gain its friends at its own cost and has chosen to live with tougher neighborhood. In most cases, it is so because of its miscarried domestic political adventure and at other times by its strategic shortsightedness. It has also enjoyed pleasure to press its mighty weight against these smaller neighbors in some unjustified way. This way, India, has further damaged its vital strategic interests in these countries- that lie near its soft underbelly. India has yet to realize - bold, confident, and stable democratic countries in India’s neighborhood are its best security in the region against its strategic rivals – a challenge that it has to accept with a lion’s spirit. The God had blessed India many good friends in South Asia, but Indian diplomacy that has gained more expertise in collecting enemies than good friends and thus has belied the God himself. And a would be great power has to begin its long journey from its next door if wants to be true to the great expectations of all the major and smaller world power of modern times. kkppbbnneeppaall@@ggmmaaiill..ccoomm Eurasia Review August 11, 2013 wwwwww..eeuurraassiiaarreevviieeww..ccoomm//aauutthhoorr//kkeesshhaavv--pprraassaadd--bbhhaattttaarraaii//