India Indo-Pacific Relations

India Indo-Pacific Relations

This article deals with various facets of ‘India Indo-Pacific Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’, which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Indo-Pacific as the new Geopolitical Construct

  • The idea of the Indo-Pacific was originally conceived in 2006-07.
  • The Indo-Pacific region combines two regions, i.e. the Indian Ocean and the West Pacific Region.
India Indo-Pacific Relations

Why this word has gained eminence?

  • The Indo-Pacific Region consists of
    • 63% of global GDP
    • 50% of global maritime trade
    • Rich in natural resources
  • The increasing geopolitical connection between the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific Ocean in the geo-economic and security dimensions. The security and economic dimension of Pacific  and Indian Ocean can’t be seen separately.
  • The shift of economic Center of gravity: The global economic Center of gravity has shifted eastwards towards Asia due to the rise of China and India. Hence, the geo-strategists have started to view the Indian Ocean and West Pacific as a single entity. 
  • The growing eminence of India: Due to the increase in India’s economic and strategic importance in global affairs, the world expects India to play a constructive role in the security, growth and development of the maritime environment of the region
  • Reaction to Chinese aggressiveness: The block led by the US wants to take India on board in its positioning against the aggressive posture of China in the region. 

Benefit to India

  • It will help raise India’s geostrategic profile and make her a prominent player in the whole Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
  • It provides an opportunity for deeper cooperation with countries like Japan, the US, ASEAN, Australia etc.
  • The Indo-Pacific concept helps India counter the Chinese String of Pearls Policy of China.
  • It will help India and the world ensure peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and secure Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs).
  • The concept is in line with India’s Act East Policy.


Challenges for India

  • India has limited naval capacity and a lack of military bases in the region.
  • India will have to balance its continental and maritime strategies. Given its volatile borders, India can’t take responsibility for the security of such a vast maritime area.
  • In the scheme of things, the USA is putting India against China to check the Chinese rise and safeguard its interests.

Non-Aligned Movement

Non-Aligned Movement

This article deals with ‘ Non-Aligned Movement – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’, which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Introduction

  • The term ‘non-alignment’ is the foreign policy adopted by some countries during the cold war, which refused to align with either the capitalist bloc led by the USA or the communist block led by USSR.
  • Some Western scholars have confused non-alignment “with isolationism, neutrality and non-involvement. Non-alignment is not neutrality. It simply means taking an independent stand based on the merit of each issue.


Formation of NAM

  • The Congress of Vienna (1814–15), where the neutrality of Switzerland was acknowledged, is where the idea of not aligning a nation’s policy with others first emerged.
  • The origin of the Non-Aligned Movement can be traced back to the late 1940s, when former colonies were gaining independence and the world was divided into two blocks, i.e. Capitalist Block led by the USA and Communist Block led by the USSR. The newly independent countries faced the dilemma of joining either of the blocks. But NAM gave the third path of remaining non-aligned. 
  • Three leaders played the main role. 
    • Jawaharlal Nehru: India
    • Gamal Abdal Nassar: Egypt 
    • Josip Tito: Yugoslavia  
  • Among the first architects, Nehru would be especially remembered. Nehru believed that countries of Asia & Africa should build up an alliance of solidarity to fight neo-imperialism. 

Non-Aligned Movement
1947 Nehru called Asian Relations Conference (ARC) in New Delhi.  
1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia was held as African nations started to gain independence.  
1956 In July 1956, Egypt’s Nasser, India’s Nehru and Yugoslavia’s Tito met on the island of Brijuni on the Adriatic Sea and came up with an unspoken alliance that bound them together.   
1961 The first NAM meeting was held in Belgrade and pushed for alternative economic order.   
2021 Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has completed 60 years.

Impetus for Non-Aligned Movement

  • The most crucial reason was the economic. Almost all the members were newly independent ones who needed trade and financial support from all the nations. Joining one of the groups would have limited that ability.
  • Need for peace, without which development wasn’t possible. 
  • Need to be secure from global threat perceptions emanating from Cold war politics.
  • Ending the possibility of neo-colonisation of old imperial powers.


Conditions to become a member

Five conditions were necessary to become a member of NAM

  1. Independent foreign policy 
  2. Oppose colonialism in all forms  
  3. Shouldn’t be a member of any of the military blocs
  4. Shouldn’t have concluded any bilateral treaty with any of the two superpowers
  5. Shouldn’t have allowed military bases on its territory to a superpower.

Erosion of NAM

The authority and relevance of NAM have reduced over time, especially after the end of the Cold War and the emergence of the USA as the world’s sole superpower.

  1. The first challenge to the economic ambition of NAM states was posed by the Third World debt crisis of the 1980s, which forced the NAM states to approach Bretton Woods institutions. 
  2. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the Unipolar world led by the USA. In such a situation, the rationale of NAM was challenged.  
  3. Several significant NAM powers started to distance themselves by the early 1990s. Argentina left the grouping in 1991. War tore apart Yugoslavia. India was forced to go to the IMF due to the Balance of Payment crisis.

Goals & achievement of NAM

  • One primary goal of NAM was to end colonialism. Hence, NAM supported the freedom movements in colonies and gave the status of full members to those who led these movements.
  • It also condemned racial discrimination and lent full support to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa & Namibia. 
  • NAM made a significant contribution to the preservation of peace and disarmament. It lowered Cold War tensions as fewer states joined military blocs. 
  • NAM states succeeded in altering the composition of the UN. In the later forties and fifties, deliberations in the UN organs were dominated by Big 2. But with the emergence of NAM, they had a majority in General Assembly which they used to espouse its cause. 
  • NAM raised a voice for economic equality & called for establishing a New International Economic Order (NIEO). Even after the end of colonialism, the old colonies were still treated as raw material supplying appendages, and Neo Colonisation was in place. 


Is NAM relevant today?

No, NAM is irrelevant

  • NAM was the product of the Cold War and bipolarism. With the end of the Cold War & fall of the USSR, NAM has lost its relevance. 
  • NAM has accomplished all its charted goals i.e. 
    • Colonies have gained independence.
    • Apartheid has been dismantled.
    • Foreign bases have lost their significance.
    • More particularly, when alliances have been disintegrating, where is the importance of non-alignment? 
  • Lack of Leadership: The statesmen who started NAM had a vision, today NAM has none.

Yes, NAM is relevant

  • Although the world has become unipolar, the US and G-7 powers are virtually waging an aggressive war of neo-colonialism in the world by forcing developing nations to open their markets. Hence, the developing countries of the south need to assert their independence and act together. NAM can be a good platform for that
  • The world is still divided into nuclear haves and have-nots. Western nations are attacking the sovereignty of third-world states on frivolous reasons of human rights violations. Countries of NAM must continue to stay and act together. 
  • Catalyst to foster South-South co-operation: NAM can be an important deliberation stage of the ‘economic south’ to reach a common stand on new issues like the environment, climate change, terrorism etc.

India-Israel Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Israel Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Brief History

JL Nehru

  • The israel-Palestine conflict was one of the first issues that independent India had to deal with in the UN.
  • Before voting in General Assembly,  Nehru received a letter from Albert Einstein requesting India’s support for a resolution on the partition of Palestine. Nehru answered that India could not support this. Nehru favoured the idea of a united Palestine and not one divided by religion. Perhaps he was influenced by our own experience of partition and strongly favoured a federation of two states.
  • India recognised the state of Israel soon after it was created in 1948 but it did not establish diplomatic relations.
  • Hence, Nehru was neutral – supporting Arabs and accommodating the Jews.

Indira Gandhi

  • India adopted a hardcore pro-Palestine stance.
  • Although Arab nations supported Pakistan while Israel supported India in the 1965 and 1971 wars, India branded Israel as the aggressor in the Six Days War (1967) and Yom Kippur war (1973).

Rajiv Gandhi

  • Rajiv Gandhi, educated at Cambridge University, signalled a fresh Indian approach towards Israel and though unable to reverse the traditional Indian pro- Arab foreign policy completely, initiated a number of moves in favour of Israel.
  • He also held a meeting with Shimon Peres, his Israeli counterpart, at a UN session in 1985.
  • In 1987, allowed the Israeli Tennis team to play in India at the Davis Cup.

PV Narsimha Rao

He established full diplomatic relations (1992). Reasons for this were as follows

  1. In 1990-91, there were internal divisions in the Arab world related to the Gulf War. In the Kuwait crisis, PLO supported Iraq while Arabs supported Kuwait.
  2. Domestically in India, the economy needed a push and the USA was the only country that could give India the needed financial muscle. India understood that the US financial assistance is tied to India opening up its relationship with Israel.
  3. Jordan (in 1991) and Egypt (in Camp David Accord-1978) has already signed a peace treaty with Israel.
  4.  China too gave diplomatic recognition to Israel.
  5. Arab countries through OIC were trying to internationalise Kashmir Issue.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

  • Expansion of India-Israel relations in several fields, including defence.  Israel supplied, much needed ammunition to India during the Kargil War.
  • India continued to extend its support to the Palestinian cause, although the intensity had diminished.

Manmohan Singh

  • Vastly expanded relations with Israel, especially in the defence sector and this undoubtedly had some impact on India’s stand on Palestine.  While India continued to vote in favour of the UN resolutions, it stopped co-sponsoring many of them.

Narendra Modi

Policy of Dehyphenation

India wants to maintain its relationship with both Palestine and Israel, and strengthen bilateral ties with each separately.

Instances showing this

  • PM Modi made a standalone visit to Israel without travelling to Palestine and later also made a standalone visit to Palestine without travelling to Israel (both first such instances).
  • India increased its trade and security partnership with Israel but also voted at the UN General Assembly against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
  • Tilt towards Israel but without being hostile to Palestine.

Decoding this bonhomie

  • India using the Dehypenation Policy to secure her national interests.
  • There are three players in the Middle East i.e.
    • Israel: Jew
    • Saudi Arabia: Sunni
    • Iran: Shia
    • By engaging with all without favouring any, India would be seen as a non-partisan party in that area.
  • Palestine issue is hanging for 6 decades and is not the main issue in the Muslim world now. It has been taken over by Shia- Sunni rivalry epitomised in Syria & Yemen civil war. India is using this opportunity to rebalance its relations.
  • Military support provided by Israel since the Kargil conflict of 1999 and assistance provided by Israel in agricultural and water technologies to some Indian states has led to direct interactions between Indian state governments.
  • Both regimes i.e. Netanyahu and Modi are ultra-nationalist in character.
  • Israel, the only non-Muslim nation in the Middle East can be an important ally in the fight against ISIS.

Why Israel matters a lot to India?

1 . Defence Cooperation

  • India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the third-largest defence supplier to India after Russia & the USA.
  • Israel has supplied ammunition during Kargil War and Howitzer guns during the 1962 war.
  • Israel has also pledged support to the ‘Make in India’ mission in the defence sector. Israel has vast experience in the Military-Industrial Complex which they had developed indigenously and therefore was not bound by End User Licensing Agreements (EULA).
  • To make our borders safe, India intends to use hi-tech anti-infiltration systems used by Israel.
  • RAW and Mossad have links that go back to 1968 when RAW was created. India has cooperated with Mossad to get vital intelligence about radical Islamic groups. The Field Officers of RAW  are also trained by Mossad today.  In 19767, Mossad even trained Indian Field Officers of RAW to carry out airstrikes to destroy the Pakistani Kahuta plant where RAW had found out secret nuclear enrichment done by Pakistan to develop a nuclear bomb.
  • India has acquired a large number of defence-equipment including
    1. Heron-I drones
    2. M-46 field guns
    3. Barak 8 LRSAM Missiles
    4. Spyder anti-aircraft missiles
    5. Spike Anti-Tank Missiles
    6. Phalcon AWACS
    7. Night vision technologies

2. Agricultural Cooperation

  • India is a water-stressed nation with annual per capita availability of water being less than 1500 cubic meters. Israel is also a water-scarce nation with a per capita availability of water less than 200 cubic meters, yet, is an agriculture exporter to the European Union. It has achieved this fiat as Israel has become the global leader in drip irrigation and has pioneered desert agriculture.
  • Many states have signed MoUs in the field of agriculture
    • Maharashtra: To address the farming crisis in Vidarbha & Marathwada
    • Rajasthan: To developing Olive Plantation
  • Israel has also set up Indo-Israel Agriculture Project Centre in Karnal.

3. Water  Management

  • Israel’s expertise includes
    • drip irrigation
    • recycling of urban wastewater 
    • desalinisation of seawater 
  • IDE, an Israeli company, has built several desalination plants in India, including Chennai.

4. Trade Relations

  • India’s total trade with Israel is $6.06 billion in 2014 with a trade balance in India’s favour  (57%).
    • Exports: Mineral fuels and oils. 
    • Imports: Natural or cultured pearls and precious stones, worth $1.20 billion. 
  • Since 2010, the two countries have been negotiating a free-trade agreement for goods and services.

5. Tourism

  • India is among the favourite tourist destinations for Israelis.
  • Kasol Valley is known as Mini-Israel & Goa is also among the favourite spots.

6. Startups

  • Israel is a country of Startups and thus, its expertise and advice on Startup India Programme could definitely give a boost to this programme.

7. Space Cooperation

  • ISRO & Israeli Space Agency are cooperating on a number of projects
  • India and Israel signed MoU on Atomic Clocks which is of importance in GPS Satellites (used in NAVIC / IRNSS System).
  • India and Israel have also signed MoU on electric propulsion for small satellites.

8. River Clean-up

  • Israel has high tech technology for cleaning rivers which can be used in Namami Gange Project.  

9. Others

  • Israel has backed India’s entry to the UN Security Council as a permanent member.

Side Topic: Abrahamic Accords

2020: UAE and Israel signed a US-brokered agreement that has come to be known as the ‘Abraham Accord’.  According to the Accord, UAE and Israel would establish formal diplomatic relations and in exchange, Israel would suspend its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

India-Israel Relations

Reason for signing the Accord

  • Iran Factor: Sunni powers like UAE consider Iran as their major adversary instead of Israel in the changed political scenario.
  • Need to reorient their economies: To diversify petrodollar fueled economy,  Arab states need to invest in technology-driven sectors. Israel is the leader in technology in West Asia can aid Arab states.
  • Need to address the threat of political Islam: It is a transnational concept often embodied by the Muslim Brotherhood and one which certain Gulf Arab rulers view as an existential threat to their dynastic monarchies.

Implications on India

Positive implications

  • It has raised the hope of peaceful resolution of the Palestine dispute, easing India’s diplomatic balancing act.
  • It will result in peace in the Middle East and is beneficial for the large Indian diaspora living in the Middle East.
  •  Indians are also the biggest stakeholders in Dubai’s real estate, tourism and Free Economic Zones. This sector is stand to gain due to the rapprochement between Israel and UAE.

Negative implications

  • Israel has the potential to supply skilled and semi-skilled manpower to UAE (and Arab countries), particularly from the Sephardim and Mizrahim ethnicities, many of whom speak Arabic. This will increase the competition for the Indian diaspora in the Middle East.

India-Maldives Relations

India-Maldives Relations

India-Maldives Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Maldives Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Brief History

  • The archipelago of Maldives consists of 1192 islands, of which roughly 200 islands are inhabited with an estimated population of 430,000.
  • The Maldives was a British colony since the mid-1880s. The Maldives was important for Britishers to secure trade routes with India (the crown jewel of the British Empire).  
  • India – Maldives formal relations began with Maldivian independence in 1965 when India became the first country to give formal recognition to the Maldives.
  • The first state-level visit happened in 1974 when President  Ahmed Zaki of Maldives made an official visit to India.
  • Later, India saved the regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom under Operation Cactus from a Coup attempted by the Pro-Eelam group in 1998.


Key Players in Maldivian Politics

Key Players in Maldivian Politics

Mohammad Nasheed

  • He was elected democratically in 2008.
  • India and Maldives had a cordial relationship during President Nasheed’s tenure. He made his maiden international trip to India in 2008, and India promised a $100 million loan to improve the tourism industry in the Maldives.  
  • But subsequent coup d’état in 2012 led to his fall. In 2013, he lost to Abdullah Yameen in a rigged election. 

Abdullah Yameen

  • He came to power in rigged elections in 2013.
  • He started his autocratic rule and declared an emergency in 2015. 
  • Later, he went close to China, posing a threat to Indian interests. 
  • During President Yameen’s time in office, Male-New Delhi relations turned sour because of his pro-China stance.

Ibrahim Mohammad Solih

  • He was elected in 2018 as the new President after defeating Abdullah Yameen. 
  • India’s engagement has significantly grown since President Solih came to power, particularly in development partnerships. 
  • Narendra Modi had attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Solih.
  • India announced $1.4 billion in financial assistance to bail out its debt-trapped economy. 
  • Solih also visited India on his first overseas trip since assuming the presidency (Dec 2018).

India-Maldives Cooperation

India-Maldives Relations

Strategic Importance

  • The strategic importance was realized for the first time during British rule. The Maldives is located just 700 km from the strategic Lakshadweep island chain, 1200 km from the Indian mainland and around major trade routes of India. Hence, Maldives is crucial for securing the trade routes of India. 
  • India has various Military assets in the Maldives for surveillance purposes in the Indian Ocean, making Maldives part of our security grid. India and Maldives also cooperate to contain piracy in the region. 
  • India has the ambition to be a ‘Net-security provider’ in the Indian Ocean region, and this calls for close military and naval ties with the Maldives. 
  • 50% of India’s external trade and 80% of her energy imports transit through the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) in the vicinity of Maldives.
  • Islamic State and Lashkar e Taiba are gaining ground in the Maldives due to the rise in Islamic fundamentalism and extremism. 

Economic Relations

  • India and Maldives signed the Comprehensive Trade Agreement in 1981, after which trade flourished. 
  • Bilateral trade between India and Maldives stands at US$ 289 million (2018). 
  • While the exports from the Maldives to India are not of much significance, the imports to the Maldives from India quite substantial. 
  • State Bank of India (SBI) is one of the major banks operating in the Maldives.
  • Taj Hotels of Tata Group are an important component of the tourism industry of Maldives. 
  • Indian tourists also account for close to 6% of Maldives’ tourists each year.

Multilateral Cooperation

  • The Maldives has supported India’s permanent membership candidature at UNSC and has also voted in favour of India for a non-permanent seat for 2020-21. 
  • Both India and Maldives are part of 
    • SAARC 
    • Indian Ocean Rim Association
    • Commonwealth 
  • India and Maldives have always supported each other in multilateral platforms such as the UN, the Commonwealth, the NAM, and the SAARC. 
  • Maldives is part of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), where Pakistan frequently raise its voice on the Kashmir Issue. Hence, Maldives is an important ally that plays a part in safeguarding Indian interests in OIC.

People-to-People Relations

  • Maldivian students attend educational institutions in India.
  • Maldivian patients fly to India for super-speciality healthcare.
  • India Cultural Centre (ICC) in Male was inaugurated in 2011, which conducts yoga, classical music, and dance courses. 
  • Hindi commercial films, TV serials and music are immensely popular in the Maldives.
  • India has assisted in developing the following
    • Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital
    • Maldives Institute of Technical Education (now called the Maldives ​Polytechnic)
    • Technology Adoption Programme in Education Sector in the Maldives 

Indian Diaspora

  • 22,000 Indians live in the Maldives, making it the second-largest expatriate community of Maldives. 
  • 25% of the doctors and teachers in the Maldives are Indians.

Other

  • The Maldives was the first country to receive the Corona vaccine from India.
  • India has funded and assisted in forming and constructing the National College of Policing and Law Enforcement in the Maldives. It will help strengthen law enforcement and deal with drug trafficking and Islamic radicalization in the Maldives.
  • Maldives supports India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN. 
  • In 2015, India launched Operation Neer to help the Maldives by providing water aid after a major fire broke out at the Male Water and Sewerage Company. 

Indian Initiatives for the Maldives

  • India has announced $500 million assistance for the Greater Male Connectivity project (GMCP) to connect Male to three neighbouring islands – Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands. GMCP would be the largest civilian infrastructure project in the Maldives.
  • India also provides training to the Maldivian Defence Forces.
  • Major completed development assistance projects by India include Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Maldives Institute of Technical Education, Construction of National Police Academy etc.
  • Grants for projects under High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs): These include ambulances, Convention Centre, drug rehabilitation centre, police station up-gradation, development of Addu Tourism zone etc., in the Maldives. 
  • Water-Aid: India has provided large-scale assistance to the Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2014 Male water crisis under Operation Neer.
  • Mission Sagar: India launched Mission Sagar to provide assistance to Indian Ocean Region Nations during the Corona period. Under the project, INS Kesari was dispatched for Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros, to provide food items and COVID related medicines.

Issues in India-Maldives Relations

Chinese Presence

  • Maldives is part of China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
  • The Maldives has provided a base to the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean, which has the potential to disturb the Balance of Power in the region.
  • China and Maldives signed a controversial Free Trade Agreement with China in 2017. But with the regime change, Maldives’ new government has decided to pull out of FTA with China, realizing the one-sided nature of the FTA).
  • The Maldives has earlier cancelled Infrastructure contracts given to Indian companies in favour of Chinese Companies (e.g., GMR’s contract for building Male’s Airport). 
  • Chinese Debt Trap: Chinese loans are 1/4th of Maldivian GDP, which the Maldivian economy can’t service on its own.

GMR Issue

  • In 2012, Maldives annulled the $500 million contract with GMR Group to develop a modern International Airport near Male. Later the project was transferred to a Chinese company.

Growing Radicalization

  • Maldives has provided the maximum number of terrorists per capita to ISIS. 
  • Radical Wahabi and Salafi ideologies are on the rise in the Maldives. 

Growth in Anti-India Feelings

  • India Out Campaign‘ gained momentum in 2022 demanding Indian military personnel to leave the Maldives. The campaign started on social media but was later led by Yameen.

Uneasiness over Indian Military installations in the Maldives

  • Earlier, Maldives had asked India to withdraw 2 Indian ALHs operating in the Maldives.
  • Maldivian refused to extend visas of 26 Indian navy personnel.  

Increased bonhomie with Pakistan during Abdullah Yameen’s (previous President) reign

  • During Pakistan’s Army Chief’s visit in 2018, Maldives announced joint patrolling with Pakistan Navy to guard Maldivian Exclusive Economic Zone challenging the Indian position in the region.

Way Forward

  • India should enhance investment cooperation with the Maldives.
  • India should pursue a ‘Free-Purse’ policy of aid with the Maldives to counter the Chinese plans in the country.
  • While dealing with smaller neighbours like the Maldives, India needs to become a lot more magnanimous, staying faithful to its own “Gujral Doctrine.”
  • SAARC and IORA should be used to work on lingering concerns.

To guide India-Maldives relations, five basic principles of Gujral doctrine are relevant to Nepal, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, i.e. India would not ask for reciprocity but do all it could in ​good faith and trust.

India-Myanmar Relations

India-Myanmar Relations

India-Myanmar Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Myanmar Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’, which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Historical Bonds

  • Two Indian monks named Tapusa and Bhallika promoted Buddhism in the Myanmar region in ancient times. Ashoka, during his reign, also sent missionaries to Myanmar or Burma.
  • Rulers of Myanmar, since ancient times, have been majorly Kshatriyas, and their origins can be traced back to India.
  • Britishers exiled Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor, to Yangon in Myanmar and the Konbaung King of Myanmar to Ratnagiri.
  • When Britishers annexed Burma in the 19th century, they administered Burma as the province of India until 1937, when Burma was separated from British India and made a separate colony.
  • Yangon was once a centre for India’s independence struggle. General Aung SanBurma’s independence hero, was a close friend of Netaji. 
  • In 1951, India and Burma established diplomatic relations in modern times through a treaty of friendship.
India-Myanmar Relations Timeline

Importance of Myanmar for India

Myanmar is vital for India because  

  • Myanmar is an integral part of India’s Act East Policy. 
  • Myanmar can act as transit for North East.
  • It is the only Indian neighbour of ASEAN. Hence, Myanmar can serve as India’s Bridge to ASEAN.

1. Connectivity

It can be seen in the following aspects

1 . Bridge to ASEAN

Projects in which Myanmar is important include

  • IMT Highway: Highway connecting Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand and passing through India, Myanmar & Thailand. 
  • BCIM Project: Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar are part of this project. 

2 . Important for connecting North East

  • Myanmar is essential for the connectivity of North-East India with the rest of the world. 
  • The important projects in this regard include Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project.

Side Topic: Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project

  • Kaladan Multimodal Project can act as an alternate outlet for North Eastern states and an alternate route to connect to mainland India.
  • It will connect Kolkata (port) => Sittwe (port in Myanmar) => Paletwa (river port on Kaladan river) => Mizoram (via road).
  • The project will boost employment and lower the food prices in the region, but the intrusion into the area will threaten local heritage.
Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project

Side Topic: BCIM Corridor

BCIM Corridor will start from Kunming and end at Kolkata, passing through Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar.

BCIM Corridor

Why China wants BCIM?

Southwest China is landlocked & poor. China hopes, the BCIM corridor will 

  • Provide an outlet to Yunan province
  • Boost trade & tourism in the region

Thereby reducing poverty and extremism in its southwest region.

Advantages of BCIM

  • For Act East Policy and North East 
    • BCIM project is in line with India’s Act East Policy. 
    • Indian states of the North East will come into the mainstream.  
  • It can help in containing insurgency in North East by providing economic prosperity.
  • Exploiting each other’s trade complementarities, i.e. China’s manufacturing, India’s Service sector, Bangladesh’s low-cost manufacturing and Myanmar’s cheap labour and raw material. 
  • BCIM project will help in creating Energy Corridor as 
    • South-West China (Yunan Province), Bangladesh, Myanmar and Assam have petroleum resources.
    • This region has vast potential for Hydro-Electric Energy.
  • It will lead to a revival of Kolkata port. Earlier, Kolkata’s importance was lost due to its unnatural isolation from its natural eastern neighbourhood.
  • It will help exploit a huge market as the region hosts nearly 50 crore people & a growing middle class with increasing per capita income.
  • Tourism in the region will get a boost as well.

Problems

  • Ethnic insurgency :
    1. Fighting between Myanmar Army and ethnic Kokang rebels based near the Chinese border. 
    2. United Wa State Army runs a parallel government in North Eastern Myanmar. 
    3. Indian North Eastern states are themselves hit by insurgency.
  • China insists on making it part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and India is not part of BRI.
  • Due to this project, India’s trade deficit with China will increase further. 
  • The region is also hit by communal violence involving Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.

Side Topic : IMT Highway

  • It will connect Moreh in Manipur to Mandalay in Myanmar to Mae Sot in Thailand.
  • India and Thailand have constructed their part. Only Myanmar is lagging because of political instability.  
IMT Highway

2. LNG / Energy

  • Myanmar has extensive reserves of natural gas.
  • Myanmar’s gas is attractive for India  because 
    1. Proximity: Easy to transport via pipelines.
    2. Untapped: Indian Companies like ONGC Videsh can buy a stake.
    3. It can usher prosperity in North-Eastern states.
  • ONGC has already invested $1.6 billion in Myanmar gas for a 30% stake in Shwe gas fields. 
  • Jubilant Energy and Reliance are also working in shallow water blocks in Myanmar.
  • Note: China is far ahead as Chinese investments in the energy sector in Myanmar has been $ 8 billion.  


3. Trade & Investment Opportunities

  • Myanmar’s economy is opening up. Hence, there are immense investment opportunities for Indian companies.
  • India imports beans, pulses and forest products from Myanmar while it exports steel and pharmaceutical products to Myanmar. 
  • Myanmar is also helpful in ‘Make Outside India’ because of Free Trade Access to ASEAN Market.  
  • There are extensive untapped Natural Resources (oil, gas, teak, copper & gemstone) in Myanmar, which can aid the growth of the Indian economy.
  • Myanmar is the second-largest supplier of beans and pulses to India.  
  • There has been a massive presence of Indian companies in Myanmar. Tata Motors has established a truck assembly plant in Magway. Apart from that, GMR, TVS motors, Birla Corporation, ITC hotels, Shree cement and Bharti Airtel are the notable Indian companies in Myanmar.
  • State Bank of India has also acquired the commercial license for banking purposes in Myanmar.
  • India is also trying to build a Buddhist circuit in association with Myanmar, where India intends to promote tourism and create jobs.

4. Security

  • Insurgents in North East, especially Naga groups, find safe havens in Myanmar where the border is not fenced and free movement of people is permitted due to the 16 Km Free Movement Regime.
  • In 2015, Indian troops reportedly crossed into Myanmar to target an NSCN (Khaplang) military camp. India & Myanmar are now helping each other in containing insurgency by not allowing insurgents to take shelter in each other’s territories. 
  • Myanmar is a part of the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Thailand and Laos) and has become an important transit country for illegal drug trafficking. In 2010, India and Myanmar established the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on criminal matters, which has emerged as the core legal instrument to address issues related to drug smuggling. 
  • India has been a significant arms supplier to Myanmar. India has supplied T-55 tanks, transport planes and naval crafts to Myanmar. 
  • In 2006, both concluded an MoU on intelligence sharing and training of Myanmar military personnel. 

Side Topic: Rohingya Issue

  • Many Muslims were taken by the Britishers from Bengal to Burma from 1823 onwards when the British occupied the Rakhine state of Myanmar. After the independence of Burma in 1948, these Muslims stayed back in Burma. These are known as Rohingyas in Myanmar. 
  • According to the 1982 Citizenship law of Myanmar, the Rohingyas were not recognized as an official ethnic group and, since then have become stateless in Myanmar.
  • In 2011, ethnic violence broke against the Rohingyas under a radical and rightist Buddhist monk known as Ashin Wirathu. It led to the mass exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh, India and Thailand. Those who remained in Myanmar were ghettoized and persecuted. 
Rohingya Issue
  • There are around 40,000 Rohingyas in India. The Indian government has decided to deport the Rohingya Muslims as
    • They have immigrated to India illegally. 
    • These illegal immigrants, living majorly in Kashmir, are susceptible to recruitment by terrorist groups and thus constitute a security threat to India. 
    • The influx of Rohingya Muslims to India also disturbs society’s demographic pattern and social, political, and cultural stability.

5. People to People Contacts

  • Buddhism reached Myanmar from India. 
  • Both nations had excellent relations for centuries. Even during British colonialism, both Myanmar and India had almost a free movement of people & goods.
  • Many Tribes in North East, like Nagas, have a population on both sides of the border. 
  • India has a two-million diaspora in Myanmar.

6. Multilateral Engagements

  • ASEAN: Myanmar is the only ASEAN country that shares a land border with India.
  • BIMSTEC: Myanmar is a member of BIMSTEC.
  • India and Myanmar are part of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation.
  • SAARC: Myanmar was given the observer status in SAARC in August 2008. 

Issue: China Factor

  • Myanmar shares a 2,100-km border with China. 
  • Myanmar is part of OBOR, and China is building a following in Myanmar
    • Kyaukpyu port
    • Pipelines and Rail connecting Kyaukpyu to Yunan. 
  • Myanmar is important to provide an outlet to the underdeveloped South Western Province (Yunan).
  • Energy: China has invested $ 8 billion in the Energy sector.
  • Debt Trap Diplomacy: China holds 40% of Myanmar’s debt.
  • Myanmar’s military equipment is 80% Chinese.
  • With Ethnic conflict going on in Myanmar & its porous borders with China, Myanmar requires Chinese assistance to cope with the situation. 

Advantages of India over China in Myanmar

  • India prefers to give ‘Development & Human Capital Formation loans” while China indulges in ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’. 
  • India can help Myanmar in building up strong democratic institutions.   
  • India is investing heavily in Myanmar. E.g., Sittwe Port and Kaladan Multimodal Project . 
  • Both are part of Multilateral Forums like  BIMSTEC and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.
  • Cultural Ties: India is the birthplace of Buddhism, and most of Myanmar’s population follow this tradition.  


Constraints

1. Military Coupe

  • In a Coupe in February 2021, the Military (Tatmadaw) has taken the control into its hand and has placed “State Counsellor” Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. It was in response to her party’s landslide victory in the general elections in which the military-backed party was defeated badly.
  • In the absence of strong democracy, India cant invest freely in Myanmar. Apart from that, the coupe will strengthen the Chinese presence in Myanmar as Western pressure on Myanmar to restore democracy will force the military leaders to go near China. 

2. Rohingya Problem

  • A large number of these refugees have also fled to India. 
  • Sittwe port and Kaladan Multimodal Project also passes through Rakhine Province.
  • Due to state persecution of Rohingyas, an insurgent group in the firm of the Rakhine Rohingya Salvation Army has arisen.

3. Chinese Factor

China is investing in large projects in China as part of its ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’. Ports like Kyaukpyu are alleged to be part of China’s String of Pearls strategy to contain India.


4. Project Delays

There is widespread discontent against India over continuing delay in the completion of flagship projects — Kaladan and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway.


5. Insurgencies

  • India’s North-East is hit by insurgencies, making the completion of projects with Myanmar extremely difficult.
  • Sittwe port lies in the Rakhine province, which has been destabilised due to the Rohingya crisis.
  • Moreover, the Kaladan project is disrupted by the activities of the Arakan Army.

6. Economic Development

  • Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in Asia. Infrastructure in Myanmar is almost non-existent. Hence, Private Indian capitalists hesitate to invest.

India-Japan Relations

India-Japan Relations

India-Japan Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Japan Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’, which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Brief History

India-Japan Timeline

Till Independence

  • The relations between India and Japan can be traced back to the 6th century when Buddhism from India reached Japan. 
  • The Japan- India Association was set up in 1903, post which the direct political exchanges began.
  • Rabindranath Tagore had a close relationship with Okakura Kakuza.
  • SC Bose sought Japan’s help in his fight against Britishers. Azad Hind Fauz was the brainchild of Japanese Major Fujiwara. 
  • The sole dissenting voice of Judge Radha Binod Pal at the War Crimes Tribunal struck a deep chord among the Japanese public that continues to reverberate to this day. 

Post Independence relations

  • The diplomatic relations between the two countries began with the signing of Japan’s Peace Treaty with India in 1952, thus starting the formal ties between the two countries.
  • India was one of the first countries to extend diplomatic ties, with the invitation to the Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951. The relations were further strengthened by the mutual visits of Japanese Prime Minister Nobuke Kishi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

Cold War Period

  • The relations between the two countries suffered a setback during the cold war years, as Japan aligned with the United States while India chose to adhere to a Non-alignment policy. 
  • Further, the relations were hampered when Japan took a neutral stand during the Sino-Indian border war of 1962.
  • Japan’s economic engagements with East and South-East Asian nations deepened during the 1970s and 1980s. Due to India’s domestic ferment and problems during the Cold War, Japan always perceived India as a chaotic and desperately poor nation, having no potential to be a partner in the near times.
  • During this period, nothing substantive came out till the fall of the USSR, barring Suzuki’s investment.

1990 – 1998

  • Two events had a marked impact on Indo-Japanese relations & these were 
    • Fall of USSR leading to end of the cold war.
    • The process of liberalisation started in India.
    • India began to improve its relations with the USA. It also led India to strengthen its ties with other allies of the USA.
  • Japanese Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) started to flow into India, which helped plug the economic development gaps. 
  • In 1991, Japan was among the few countries that bailed India out of the Balance of Payment crisis.
  • In 1993, Narsimha Rao’s Look East policy started & played an essential role in shaping India’s ties with Japan. 
  • Till 1998, bonhomie was seen in bilateral relations between India & Japan. 

Pokharan II Nuclear Explosion & Japanese Reaction

  • In 1998, Nuclear tests were conducted during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime.  
  • After the test, Japan became a vocal critique of India at the regional and international levels. Japan even went on to cut its economic aid to India. It was natural for Japan to condemn such foreign policy behaviour as it had been the only nation in the world to have witnessed the horror of an atomic bomb attack. Along with that, as Japan enjoyed protection under the nuclear umbrella of the US, it perceived a new nuclear power as a threat to its security.
  • It marked the lowest point in Indo-Japanese bilateral relations. Japan pressurised India to roll back its nuclear program. 

Beginning of New Era

  • PM Yoshiro Mori visited India in 2000 & signed a landmark treaty called ‘Global Partnership in 21st Century ‘. Subsequently, Japanese sanctions were lifted in 2001.
  • India is the only country with which Japan has Annual Summit Meetings alternating between Delhi & Tokyo.
  • 2011: India and Japan signed CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement). 
  • 2014: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade.
  • 2017: Shinzo Abe visited Ahmedabad, and he inaugurated the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) project funded by Japan. The railway operation will commence in 2023.
  • 2020: Yoshihide Suga became the new Prime Minister of Japan (after Shinzo Abe voluntarily retired due to his health condition). Suga is expected to continue the policies of Shinzo Abe and maintain good relations with India.  
  • 2022: 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Different Aspects in Indo-Japan Relations

Different Aspects in Indo-Japan Relations

1 . Export -Import

  • Japanese brands such as Sony, Yamaha, Honda and Toyota have become household names in India.
  • Suzuki’s partnership with the Indian automobile company – Maruti is the largest Indian car manufacturer.
  • India and Japan signed CEPA in 2011. India feels the CEPA is an alliance between Japanese technology and the Indian labour force. Under the provisions of CEPA, 94% of tariffs were eliminated. As a result of CEPA, bilateral trade between the two countries increased to  $17.6 billion (2018-19)
  • India exports petroleum products, iron ore, chemicals, fish, clothing and machinery to Japan while it imports electrical machinery, transport equipment, plastic materials and precision instruments. 

2. Japanese FDI

  • Japan is the 4th largest investor in India. $28.16 billion in Japanese FDI has come to India between April 2000 and June 2018.
  • 1800 Japanese companies are operating in India.
  • India established the “Japan Plus” office in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 2014 as a “one-stop” location for resolving problems Japanese companies face.  

3. Largest Donor

  • Japan is the largest development assistance donor & 30% of the total ODA from Japan comes to India.
  • Some projects funded by Japan
    • Delhi Metro   
    • Mumbai -Ahmadabad High-Speed Rail  
    • Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC)
    • Bangalore-Chennai Expressway
  • These loans are given at very favourable terms. E.g., Financial assistance for Mumbai-Ahmadabad Freight Corridor consists of a soft loan of ₹90,000 crores at an interest rate of 0.1% over 50 years. The re-payment of the loan is to begin after 15 years of receiving the loan. 

4. Currency Swap Agreement

  • In 2019, India and Japan signed a $75 billion currency swap agreement. Hence, in an emergency, India can get $ 75 billion in dollars or yen at a pre-determined exchange rate and later return it at the same exchange rate.

5. Security Issues

  • Japan signed the Declaration on Security Cooperation with India in 2008, only the third country to have such a security relationship after the USA and Australia.
  • The rise of China serves as a significant reason for the realignment of partnerships in the region. Both India and Japan have unsettled territorial claims with China. E.g., conflict over Senkaku island(Japan vs China) and conflict over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh (India vs China).
  • The National Security Strategy of Japan announced in 2013 has included India as a primary driver in maintaining the balance of power in Asia disturbed by a rising China.
  • Malabar Exercise: India, US & Japan conduct an annual naval exercise to ensure freedom of navigation. It is mainly aimed at China, emerging as the revisionist power in the Indo-Pacific region. 
  • Quad: It is an informal strategic forum between India, Japan, USA and Australia. Also labelled as “Asian NATO”, it is the brainchild of Shinzo Abe and mainly aimed at containing the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Japan is helping India build strategic infrastructure in North East and Andaman and Nicobar. 
  • US-2 Amphibious Aircraft: India is planning to buy US-2 Amphibious Aircraft from Japan which can land both on land and water. This deal has strategic importance as this will be the first arms deal since World War 2, in which Japan will make an overseas military sale.
US-2 Amphibious Aircraft

Important note: The reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution allows Japan to boost strategic cooperation with India. The amended Article 9 (since September 2015) allows Japan to send military aid to friendly states that including India) if they come under attack from another state. This amendment has opened up new avenues of strategic diplomacy between India and Japan.

Side Topic: Senkaku Island Issue

  • Senkaku Island dispute involves the issue of sovereignty over eight uninhabited islands and rocks in the East China Sea
  • Japan and China have conflicting claims on these islands. 
    • These islands have been under Japan since 1895. After World War 2, the US took over these islands but returned them to Japan in 1972.
    • China started to assert historical claims over Senkaku island in the 1970s.
  • Although uninhabited, these islands are important because
    • Close to important shipping lanes
    • EEZ offers rich fishing grounds
    • They lie near potential oil and gas reserves.
    • Control over these islands helps in maintaining military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region
Senkaku Island Issue

6. Nuclear Agreement Signed

  • Japan and India have reached a broad agreement in 2015 on Civil Nuclear Cooperation. It will provide India access to the Japanese nuclear market and its technology.
  • Along with that, as most of the nuclear parts are made by Japan, India found it tough to order nuclear technology from the US, France, and Russia in the absence of a deal with Japan.

7. Indian diaspora

  • Indian merchants have been settling in Japan since 1870. But their number increased exponentially during World War I when Japanese goods were sought to fill the void of European goods. 
  • In recent years, there has been a change in the composition of the Indian community with the arrival of a large number of professionals. These include 
    1. IT professionals & engineers working for Indian & Japanese firms 
    2. Professionals in management, finance, education, and S&T research
  • Nishikasai area in Tokyo is emerging as “mini-India”.

8. Multilateral Cooperation

India and Japan are members of the following multilateral organisations 

  1. G-4: Both India and Japan are demanding a permanent seat in UNSC. 
  2. G-20
  3. Quad  

9. Other Cooperations

  • India and Japan are jointly working on Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) announced in 2017 to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 
  • India will supply rare earth metals to Japan for making defence and high tech electronics. At present, China is the biggest producer of rare earth.
  • Varanasi has been declared as Kyoto’s sister city.
  • India and Japan have started conducting the Annual Bilateral Space Dialogue to enhance bilateral cooperation in outer space. 
  • Japan will train 30,000 Indian youth in the next ten years by setting up a Japan-India Institute for manufacturing.
  • ISRO and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are working on a joint lunar polar exploration (LUPEX) mission. In 2024, the mission aims to send a Lander and Rover to the Moon’s south pole.
  • India & Japan complement each other 
    1. Japan has an ageing population, while India has a young population. 
    2. They have surplus capital & we need capital.
    3. India has resources; they have the technology.
    4. India’s has prowess in services, and Japan has excellence in manufacturing. 

Issues

  • Due to project delays and bureaucratic hurdles, Japanese firms do not find it easy to do business in India.
  • India has refused to join the recently concluded RCEP.
  • Rising Trade Imbalance: The higher minimum standards on everything in Japan acts as an entry barrier for Indian companies and products, reducing dynamism in investment.  
  • Both had a diverging interest in economic issues like E-commerce rules and data localization (Osaka track). 
  • At WTO and its Doha Round of Talk, both India and Japan are in the opposite camps. 
  • Despite CEPA India-Japan trade, it has not produced the anticipated results.
  • No Concrete Achievement by Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC): Since the 2016 launch, AAGC has not been able to move beyond the vision statement or provide an alternative to Chinese OBOR. 
  • Japan is concerned about its intellectual property in defence technology transfers.
  • India is part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as well as BRICS. 

Commonwealth and India

Commonwealth and India

This article deals with ‘Commonwealth and India Relations – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


About

Members

Association of nations that were colonies of England previously.
Total Members: 54 nations  
Newest Entry: Rwanda 
Secretariat London
Head

King Charles III
It was announced at CHOGM (2018) that Prince Charles would ‘succeed’ Queen Elizabeth as the head of the Commonwealth.  
Secretary-General Present: Patricia Scotland (2018-)
Commonwealth and India

Requirement

  • Almost all the members are former colonies of England. 
  • Member nation has to be a democracy and follow the rule of law.
  • Those member nations where democracy is side-lined on military coups etc., are suspended from Commonwealth.


Why did India join?

  • Membership of the Commonwealth helped India to improve her economic ties with other nations and seek aid from England.
  • Membership also provided India with an additional channel to conduct her foreign relations.
  • As a Commonwealth member, India can promote the interests of people of Indian origin living in various Commonwealth Nations.


Indian role in Commonwealth 

  • India has fought against racism in South Africa, Zimbabwe etc.
  • India has influenced other members of the Commonwealth to protect the interests of people of Indian origin.
  • During the Chinese aggression of 1962, Commonwealth countries extended moral support and assistance to India.


CHOGM

  • CHOGM or Commonwealth Head of Governments Meet is the meeting of Heads of Governments of Commonwealth nations.
  • The first CHOGM was held in Singapore in 1971.
  • Latest: 25th CHOGM was held in London (April 2018) 
  • Theme: “Towards a Common Future“.


Relevance of Commonwealth  in today’s world

  • Commonwealth has gradually moved away from political issues to social and economic issues to make itself relevant again. It played an important role in ending apartheid and colonialism in the Cold War period. 
  • Because of its composition (54 nations), if the Commonwealth can agree on something important, it is already a prototype of a global idea.  
  • Commonwealth makes it incumbent on member states to hold free, fair and credible elections. 
  • Commonwealth gets a lot of credit for helping end military rule in Pakistan in 2007, and it played a pivotal role in championing the boycott of Apartheid in South Africa.
  • It would be wrong to caricature the Commonwealth as a relic, given that countries with no historical connection with the “British Empire” (Mozambique and Rwanda) have decided to join. These countries can see the value of a global voluntary association of equal member states cooperating to pursue commonly held goals.
  • The Commonwealth provides an international platform for small states in particular. Of 54 member states, 32 are classified as small states. In many other global arenas, these voices are often not heard. 
  • Commonwealth Games held once every four years is a popular event and is looked forward by all the world.
  • After BREXIT, the role of the Commonwealth has increased. The leaders of Great Britain want to leverage Commonwealth as an alternate platform after their exit from the EU. 
  • In CHOGM 2018, there were substantive statements on the Blue Charter on Ocean Governance and on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment, which could together counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 


Problems faced by Commonwealth

  • Commonwealth is a relic of old times and a tool of the UK to maintain her fast losing position as super-power.
  • The grouping has no political or economic power. Considering its declining importance, former PM Manmohan Singh skipped two CHOGM meets, and Narendra Modi didn’t attend the last one.

SAARC and India

SAARC and India

This article deals with ‘SAARC and India Relations- UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


About South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

Members

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Bangladesh
  3. Bhutan
  4. India
  5. Maldives
  6. Nepal
  7. Pakistan
  8. Sri Lanka
SAARC and India

Headquarter

  • Kathmandu, Nepal

Last Summit

  • Held in Kathmandu (Nepal)  in 2014

Secretary General

  • Arun Bahadur Thapa of Nepal

Objectives

  • Promote welfare economics.
  • Collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia.
  • Accelerate socio-cultural development in the region.

Type of Organization

  • Decisions are taken by consensus
  • The organization reflects the South Asian identity of the countries based on shared history, language, religion, cuisines, etc.

Important Statistics

  • SAARC comprises 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and 4% of the global economy.
  • 35% of the global youth resides in the SAARC region
  • South Asian nations also make an integrated “condominium” of common rivers, a mountain system, an ocean and a conjoint ecological system.

Timeline

1980 The idea of regional political and economic cooperation in South Asia was first raised in 1980
8 Dec 1985 The first summit was held in Dhaka
Last Summit Kathmandu (Nepal) – 18th Summit in 2014

Critical Evaluation

It was formed to promote regional development and improve ties among nations. But SAARC has not been able to generate the benefits of cooperation. The reasons for this are as follows:-

1. Political reasons

  • The boundary dispute between India and Pakistan has overshadowed the functioning of SAARC. 

2. Economic reasons

  • Low inter-regional trade: While organizations like ASEAN record trade of 20%, SAARC’s trade figures are at a dismal low at about 3%.
  • GDP of SAARC nations except India is small, hampering the effective economic relations among them. 
  • Other nations fear that competition would lead to injury to the industry of other members.

3. Historical reasons

  • Different nations have fought wars and past differences in the past, which hamper cooperation in present times.

4. Geographical reasons

  • This region has poor infrastructure. Hence, economic connectivity is low due to poor road transport. 

5. Fear about India’s Big Brother attitude

  • India constitutes 70% or more of SAARC’s area and population and has political conflicts with all her neighbours. 5 members have common borders with India but not each other. They perceive India as “Big Brother” and fear using the SAARC to pursue hegemony in the region.

6. Others

  • SAARC is an organization of countries not of equal stature-economically, geographically & politically.
  • There is an increase in Chinese influence on SAARC nations like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Maldives.

But even after that, SAARC provides a platform to meet and discuss important issues with hostile nations such as India and Pakistan, even during tense moments.


China  factor in SAARC

  • China holds an observer status in the group.
  • All SAARC nations except India and Bhutan are part of OBOR. 
  • Pakistan, China’s all-weather friend, also demands a more participatory role for China in the SAARC grouping. 
  • China is building large scale infrastructure in SAARC nations. E.g., China has started CPEC with Pakistan, the Hambantota project with Sri Lanka, FTA with the Maldives and the railroad pact with Nepal.
  • Pakistan is pursuing its regional connectivity goals exclusively with China through CPEC. 

But

  • China is constructing a dam on the Brahmaputra without taking Indian and Bangladeshi concerns onboard.
  • The behaviour of China in other engagements is not so pleasant. For instance, it almost shook ASEAN by bringing Cambodia, which did not even make a final statement nowadays. 

Indian Initiatives for SAARC

1 . SAARC Satellite

  • South Asia Satellite is communication-cum-meteorology satellite by ISRO for the South Asia region. 
  • It was announced in June 2014 & launched in May 2017.
  • It has 12 Ku Transponders, with each nation getting at least One Transponder.
  • India bore the cost of the whole launch and satellite. 

2. Initiatives during Corona Period

India has taken the following measures to help SAARC countries in these challenging times

  1. COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX), developed by India, facilitated various online learning modules. 
  2. SAARC Food Bank mechanism.
  3. Creation of SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund and contribution of $10 million in it.


3. Others

  • SAARC Disaster Management Centre in New Delhi 
  • Immediate medical visa for the entire region.  
  • E-connectivity– online courses and e-libraries.

South Asian Economic Union (SAEU)

All SAARC countries are committed to making South Asia an Economic Union in a phased manner

  1. Free Trade Area (Presently, we are in this stage – SAARC FTA)
  2. Customs Union
  3. Common Market
  4. Common Economic and Monetary Union. 


Bangladesh, Bhutan, India & Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN MVA )

Aim

  • Easing cross-border movement of people and goods

Timeline

November 2014

SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement was proposed at the 2014 summit held at Kathmandu, suspended after objection from Pakistan. 
June 2015

BBIN MVA Agreement signed at Thimpu between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
April 2017 Bhutan decides to withdraw from the agreement. 

Reasons
1. Environment Pollution: Diesel heavy vehicles traffic   
2. Noise Pollution: Heavy traffic will destroy the calm of the valley. 
3. Meagre Economic Benefits: Manufacturing Industry is not strong in Bhutan, so it will not benefit from this agreement 
4. Tourism may be affected. 
5. Opposition from rival parties. 
6. Fear of smuggling activities. 
April 2019

Bhutan Government announced that it would place a bill to ratify the BBIN initiative in Senate soon.

Provisions

  • The agreement removes all obstacles to the movement of vehicles within the member countries. A vehicle from one country can easily go to other without much hindrance. 
  • But vehicles will be allowed to ply only on the stipulated routes and attain specific permits. 
  • Also, drivers of these vehicles will have to carry a valid passport.

Benefits

  • For Nepal and Bhutan, two landlocked countries, this would improve their access to the open seas.
  • It will promote tourism. 
  • Economic interdependence had existed among these countries for centuries, as most of the region was one country before the partition of British India in 1947. later, partition disrupted the lines of communication.
  • South Asian region suffers from poverty, with a significant population living below $1 a day. Also, it is one of the least integrated regions globally. BBIN MVA can help change the scenario. 
  • It can help to counter China’s Belt and Road (BRI) Initiative in these countries. 
  • It will help in improving Logistics Performance Index (LPI) in the region. 

Future challenges

  • Cost  for implementation of the agreement will be borne by the respective countries. Since most of the countries are poor there is apprehension whether they will be ready to spend that amount.
  • Giving transit to India is a sensitive issue in Bangladesh.

Alternatives of SAARC

  • SAARC is not going anywhere. All decisions in SAARC are taken by consensus, and Pakistan blocks all the initiatives taken by India. Hence, Indian Policymakers have started to look for alternatives that exclude Pakistan. 
  • The suggested alternatives include BIMSTEC and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).


Need to revive SAARC

  • SAARC serves an essential purpose as it reflects the South Asian identity of the member countries. 
  • India subcontinent, while geographically is one of the most integrated regions in the world in terms of terrain,  ecosystem,  river system etc.  But its polity, history,  economics, and below-par engagement make it one of the world’s least integrated regions of the world  –  This lack of integration can be overcome by  SAARC. 
  • South Asian countries are closely tied and face similar traditional and emerging issues like terrorism, energy shortage, hydro-politics, climate change.
  • Placing the bet on other platforms such as BIMSTEC is faulty as BIMSTEC can complement but can’t replace SAARC as SAARC is an old organization with a permanent secretariat and well-established conventions. 
  • SAARC is in line with India’s Neighbourhood First policy, of which SAARC could become the central pillar.
  • The European and ASEAN experience is testimony to the contribution of regional cooperation in economic growth.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and India

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and India

This article deals with ‘Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and India- UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here


Information at Glance

Members

  1. China
  2. Kazakhstan
  3. Kyrgyzstan
  4. Russia
  5. Tajikistan
  6. Uzbekistan
  7. India (joined in 2017)
  8. Pakistan (joined 2017)

Headquarters

  • Beijing

Type of Organization

  • It evolved from a border dispute solving mechanism to a regional security organisation in 2004 to a deliberation forum on all subjects. 
  • It works on the norms of consensus, voluntarism and non-interference. 

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and India

Timeline

1996 Shanghai 5 was formed for security and border peace between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia and China.
2001 SCO was formed in Shanghai with 6 members (5 + Uzbekistan). India was also offered membership which it declined.
2017 India and Pakistan became members of SCO.
2019 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit was held in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).
2020 SCO Summit held in virtual format amid COVID-19 pandemic and increased tension between India and China over Galwan standoff. 
2021 SCO Summit was held in Tajikistan

Significance of SCO

It is an important organisation with

  • 3 significant world powers, Russia, China and India, under its umbrella. 
  • 50% of the world’s population.
  • 25%  of the world’s GDP. 


Uniting factors in SCO

  • Countering U.S. hegemony (the U.S. is trying to influence regimes through Colour revolutions).  
  • Economy: To enhance economic cooperation. 
  • Security: Issue of Islamic Fundamentalism, Terrorism, Secessionism/Separatism, Countering Drug Trafficking.

Conflict of Interest in SCO

  • Rising China in Central Asia is a concern for Russia.
  • Russia has created CSTO (a mutual defence alliance) & EEU (the Economic Union of the Eurasian region).
  • China is more focused on the stability of Xinjiang rather than these Central Asian nations or containing NATO.


Importance of SCO for India

Energy security

  • Some of the member countries of the grouping are rich in energy resources – both hydrocarbons and uranium. India, being energy deficient, need these resources. Russia has also mooted the idea of ‘Energy Club‘. 

Security

  • The Eurasian block can play a key role in stabilizing Afghanistan. India has invested heavily in Afghanistan (2 billion $), and India needs to protect its assets there. 
  • SCO can help in forming a joint platform against terrorism & controlling the menace of drug trafficking in the following way 
    • Members share a high volume of information on counter-terrorism through the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO RATS) SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO RATS) based in Tashkent.  
    • SCO conducts annual Military exercises involving ground troops, aerospace & cyber threat.  

Economic integration/ Gateway to Eurasia

  • An important factor is promoting India’s economic integration with the Central Asian republics, which is in line with India’s Connect Central Asia Policy. India is also investing heavily in INSTC and Chabahar Port development.
  • Central Asian Republics provide a huge possibility for Indian Automobile, Banking, I.T. & related sectors. 

Alternative platform for dialogue with Pakistan and China

  • SCO provides an alternate platform for Indo-Pak & Sino-India dialogue to resolve their disputes. 

Other

  • With Russia and China taking the lead, the SCO could even prove a guarantor for projects like the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipelines that India has held off due to security concerns. 


Issues

  • SCO is already dominated by two UNSC Permanent Members, i.e. China and Russia. Hence, it will not be easy for India to have a significant say in such an institution.
  • SCO will be the second regional grouping after SAARC to have India and Pakistan as members. It in itself can limit the effectiveness of SCO, as has been the case with SAARC.  
  • On the issue of terrorism, China and India have different attitudes vis a vis Pakistan based Terrorist Organizations. Also, the definition of terrorism is different for different states – Eg: the Chinese consider Tibetan Freedom Movement as terrorists while India doesn’t. 
  • In terms of connectivity, India has not joined China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project and has concerns over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  
  • SCO is seen as Anti-NATO by the USA and European countries, which doesn’t augur well for Indian ties with the USA and other western allies. 
  • SCO will help in strengthening China-Russia-Pakistan Axis, which is bad for Indian interests. 

Indian Ocean Region

Indian Ocean Region

This article deals with the Indian Ocean Region.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


What is Indian Ocean Region (IOR)?

Indian Ocean Region
  • The region containing and surrounding the Indian Ocean is known as Indian Ocean Region. 
  • Indian Ocean Region has 51 coastal and landlocked states. Hence, it is a vast region.


Reasons behind the increased importance of the Indian Ocean

  • The Indian Ocean has become the lifeline of world trade (& has been so since time immemorial). The Indian Ocean is important for commerce as 
    • 2/3rd of world oil shipments pass through the Indian Ocean.
    • 1/3rd of bulk cargo passes through the Indian Ocean. 
    • It hosts nearly 40% of the world’s population. 
Importance of the Indian Ocean
  • The Indian Ocean has the world’s most important choke points,  notably the Straits of Hormuz, Malacca and Bab el Mandeb. As these choke points are important for global trade, a number of extra-regional states maintain a naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Eg 
    • US: 5th Fleet in Bahrain & uses the island of Diego Garcia as an air-naval base.  
    • France: Naval bases in Djibouti, Reunion Island and Abu Dhabi
  • Growing Economies: The economies of many Indian Ocean countries, such as India, Malaysia, and Tanzania, are growing rapidly and are attracting huge investments.
  • Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is rich in natural resources containing 
    • World’s 40% oil exploration
    • Nearly 15% of total fishing in the world
    • Mineral and natural resources like iron, copper, Zinc, manganese, gold and silver 
  • China’s aggressive soft power diplomacy and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) Policy have been the most crucial element in shaping the Indian Ocean strategic environment. The US and other nations like Japan, India and Australia are also trying to counter Chinese initiatives. 
  • Security issues:  Indian Ocean Region (IOR) faces many security issues, such as piracy, illegal migration, drug trade etc. 


Changed attitude of India towards  Indian Ocean

  • Indian Ocean Region is the centre stage of 21st-century politics  & India stands geographically right in the middle. South Africa, Iran, Indonesia & Australia are also part of the Indian Ocean RIM family, but none has centrality & attraction like that of India. 
  • India is positioning itself as the “net security provider” in the broader Indian Ocean region.
  • Due to its strategic location and capabilities, India can play a pivotal role in this region. Till now, India has played a positive role and, in the time of need, has readily helped smaller countries of the region such as Maldives (Operation NEER), Srilanka, Bangladesh etc.

Importance of IOR for India

1. Geostrategic Importance

  • India is situated right in the middle of the Indian Ocean. 
  • It is important to secure Indian Ocean Region to protect Indian ships from piracy and stop human trafficking and drug smuggling.
  • 90% of Indian trade passes through the Indian Ocean. Hence, it is vital to protect our Sea Lines of Commerce (SLOC).
  • Energy Security: Most of our oil supplies come from Indian Ocean Rim countries.

2. Protection of assets and islands

  • Its security is important to protect Indian assets and islands situated in the Indian Ocean 
    1. Islands: Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep
    2. Assets: Like Bombay High 

3. Economic Importance

It is the source of resources like

  1. Fishing and aquaculture
  2. Deep sea mineral exploration 
  3. Petroleum reserves like Bombay High 

4. Cultural Importance

  • India has cultural relations with IOR countries dating back centuries.
  • India has been the centre stage of Indian Ocean trade, corroborated by texts like Periplus Maris Erythraei, Jataka Stories, Sangam Poetry etc.

5. Diaspora

  • A large Indian diaspora lives in Indian Ocean Rim Countries and Small Island Nations like Mauritius, Maldives, South Africa etc.

6. Countering China’s influence

  • China’s aggressive soft power diplomacy has been seen as arguably the most critical element in shaping the IOR environment, transforming the entire region’s dynamics. 

7. Other

  • Monsoon Mechanism: The Indian Ocean plays a vital role in keeping the Monsoon mechanism in favour of India.

Chinese threat & String of Pearls

China’s Malacca Dilemma

  • Nearly 360 ships per day pass through the Strait of Malacca.
  • If there is any blockade by a human or natural disaster, it will cause problems for China because 80% of its oil & gas imports & almost 60% of exports pass through this region.
  • Singapore is located on the Malacca Strait and hosts a huge US naval base
  • Andaman & Nicobar Islands are situated near Malacca and can be used to choke the Straits. 
  • To counter Malacca’s Dilemma, China has opted to go for an ambitious String of Pearls strategy.

String of Pearls

  • It is the theory that China is trying to increase its naval presence in the Indian Ocean and counter India by surrounding it.
  • It is developing a string of ports around India for this purpose.
Kyaukpyu  Myanmar
Chittagong Bangladesh
Hambantota Srilanka
Marao Atoll Maldives
Gwadar Pakistan
Djibouti First Chinese Overseas Military Base (overlooks Bab el Mandeb)
String of Pearls

Side Topic: Kra Canal 

  • The Kra Canal aims to address China’s Malacca Dilemma.
  • It is a 100-km canal cutting Thailand into two parts. Kra Canal will link the South China Sea to the Andaman Sea, bypassing the Malacca Strait.
  • It has the added advantage of saving time.
  • Experts believe Kra Canal could benefit India and other economies by taking pressure off the overcrowded Malacca Straits.
Kra Canal

Indian steps  wrt IOR

To counter String of Pearls, India is also making ports 

Andaman & Nicobar Islands It can act as an Iron choke to Malacca
1. Malacca strait is overlooked by Andaman & Nicobar islands.
2. India has established a naval air station here called Baaz.
Chabahar Port India is developing the Chabahar port in Iran.
Duqm port India has signed an agreement with Oman to provide military and logistics support to Duqm Port.
Seychelles India has given a proposal to lease the Assumption Islands from Seychelles.
Myanmar India is investing in Sittwe port as part of its Kaladan Multimodal project.
Mauritius India has developed infrastructure on Agalega Island in Mauritius.
Srilanka India is developing Kakesuthai & Trincomalee ports.
France India and France signed the “reciprocal logistics support” agreement as part of which warships of both nations would have access to each other’s naval bases.  

Making Alliances

Apart from that, India is trying to contain China by making alliances with like-minded nations. These include

  • Making an alliance with Vietnam (Vietnam, too, has issues with China in the South China sea).
  • Malabar practice with US & Japan.
  • Formation of Quad by USA, Japan, Australia and India.


Military Modernisation

  • Agni, Sukhoi, Nuclear submarines, and Aircraft Carriers-Vikramaditya and Vikrant, are not meant for Pakistan but to fight against a powerful nation like China.

Iron Curtain Policy  to counter Chinese String of pearls

  • It is the term given by naval analyst Zang Ming according to which Andaman & Nicobar islands can be used as a metal chain to block Chinese access to the Strait of Malacca.
  • Japan is also helping India to develop Andaman and Nicobar.

Project Mausam

  • It was launched in June 2014.
  • It is a Ministry of Culture project.
  • Aim : 
    1. The project tries to see how the monsoon winds helped maritime trade historically between Indian Ocean-connected countries. 
    2. How winds influenced local economies, scientific quests, modern statecraft, religion, politics and cultural identity


Cotton Route

  • Cotton Route’ has been started to strengthen economic ties between countries in the Indian Ocean rim

Spice Route

  • The Spice Route has been started to revive old links between 31 countries in Asia and Europe with India, particularly spice-rich Kerala.

SAGAR Initiative

  • Announced by the PM of India, the Sagar initiative aims at Security And Growth for All in the Region.

Challenges to India’s role as a net security provider in IOR

  • The capacity of the Indian defence industry to supply naval and military equipment to India and its allies is challenged by the experts. Achieving the status of net security provider can put enormous strain on the country’s finite resources and calls for a manifold increase in existing military hardware. 
  • More focus on territorial boundaries: Due to its pending territorial disputes with China and Pakistan, India is forced to focus on its territorial boundaries.
  • China challenges India’s status in the Indian Ocean through its Belt and Road Initiative and String of pearls.
  • Opposition from other countries. E.g.: 
    1. Seychelles parliament has opposed the lease of Assumption Island to India.
    2. Past Experience of Overseas Deployment of Armed Forces: The recipe of net security provider does encompass ‘Overseas Deployment’ as a vital ingredient. However, the experiences in Sri Lanka continue to have a dragging effect on any thought process involving overseas deployment.