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 the 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. 
  • Islamic State and Lashkar e Taiba are gaining ground in the Maldives due to rise in the 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.

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.
  • 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.

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

  • In ancient times, two Indian monks named Tapusa and Bhallika were responsible to promote Buddhism in the Myanmar region. 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.
  • Yangon was once a centre for India’s independence struggle.
  • General Aung SanBurma’s independence hero, was a close friend of Netaji
  • In modern times, in 1951, India and Burma established diplomatic relations through a treaty of friendship.


Importance of Myanmar for India

Myanmar is very important for India because 

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

1 . Connectivity

Can be seen in following aspects

1. 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.

1.2 . Important for connecting North East

  • The project which is important in this regard includes Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project.

Side Topic : Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project

  • Kaladan Multimodal Project can act as an alternate outlet for North East 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).
India-Myanmar Relations
  • The project will boost employment and will lower the food prices in the region but the intrusion into the region will create a threat to local heritage.

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, BCIM corridor will

  • Provide an outlet to Yunan Province
  • Boost trade & tourism

Thereby, reducing the poverty and extremism in its south-west region.

Advantages of BCIM

  • 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 in India has petroleum resources.
    • This region has huge 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.
  • Huge Market as the region hosts nearly 50 crore people  & growing middle class with increasing per capita income.
  • Tourism too will get a boost.

Problems

  • Ethnic insurgency :
    • Fighting between Myanmar Army and ethnic Kokang rebels based near the Chinese border.
    • United Wa State Army runs a parallel government in North Eastern Myanmar.
    • Indian North Eastern states are themselves insurgency-hit.
  • China insisting to make 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 the communal violence involving Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.

Side Topic : IMT Highway

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

2. LNG / Energy

  • Myanmar has large reserves of natural gas .
  • Myanmar’s gas is attractive for India  because
    • Proximity : Easy to transport via pipelines .
    • Untapped : Indian Companies likes ONGC Videsh can buy stake .
    • It can usher prosperity in North Eastern states (same done by China wrt Yunan Province) .
  • ONGC has already invested $1.6 billion in Myanmar gas with 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  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.
  • Myanmar is also helpful in Make Outside India because of Free Trade Access to ASEAN Market. 
  • There are large untapped Natural Resources (oil, gas, teak, copper & gemstone)  
  • Myanmar is the second-largest supplier of beans and pulses to India. 
  • There has been a huge 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 a job.


4 . Security

  • Insurgents in North East especially Naga groups find 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 territory 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 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 an important 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

  • A large number of 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 the influence of a radical and rightist Buddhist monk known as Ashin Wirathu.  This led to the mass exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh, India and Thailand. Those who remain are 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 the demographic pattern and social, political and cultural stability of the society.

5. People to People Contacts

  • Buddhism reached Myanmar from India.
  • Both nations have great 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.


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 status of observer in SAARC in August 2008.


Issue: China Factor

  • 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 South Western Province (Yunan).
  • Energy: China has invested $ 8 billion in the Energy sector.
  • With Ethnic conflict going on in Myanmar & its porous borders with China, Myanmar requires Chinese assistance to cope with 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. Eg: Sittwe Port and Kaladan Multimodal Project.
  • Both are part of  Multilateral Forums like  BIMSTEC and Indian Ocean Rim Association.
  • Cultural Ties: India is the birthplace of Buddhism and most of Myanmar’s population follow this tradition. Eg: the ancient city of Bagan, has famous Hindu temples.

Constraints

Rohingya Problem Large number of these refugees have also fled to India.
– Sittwe port and Kaladan Multimodal Project also passes through Rakhine Province.  
Chinese Factor China is investing in large projects in China as part of its ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’. Ports like Kyaukpyu are alleged to part of the String of Pearls strategy of China to contain India.  
Project Delays There is widespread discontent against India over continuing delay in completion of flagship projects — Kaladan and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway.  
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.  
Military Control One-quarter of the seats in both Houses of Parliament are reserved for the military. Hence, the Military yields too much control in Myanmar.

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.  

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.
  • 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.
  • Both had a diverging interest in economic issues like E-commerce rules (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. 
  • 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

Queen Elizabeth 
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. ,
  • Amidst the calls for the position of Commonwealth Head to be more democratically shared or rotated, the announcement of Prince Charles (at CHOGM (2018)) as the successor has also put a dent in its democratic credentials

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
 
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 Decision is taken by Consensus.
Organisation that 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 together also make an integrated “condominium” of common rivers, a mountain system, an ocean and a conjoint ecological system.
SAARC and India

Timeline

1980 The idea of regional political and economical 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. 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-region 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

  • In past, different nations have fought wars and past differences 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 that it might use the SAARC to pursue hegemony in the region.

6. Others

  • SAARC is an organisation 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.

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.

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 in 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.
  • The cost of the whole launch and satellite is borne by India.

2. Initiatives during Corona Period

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

  1. PM Modi convened the SAARC Leaders video conference.
  2. COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX) developed by India will facilitate various online learning modules.
  3. SAARC Food Bank mechanism.
  4. 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. Both for the patient and one attendant.
  • 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, Kathmandu, which was suspended after an 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 included
1. Environment  Pollution:  Diesel  Run  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 will 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 will have to 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 Asia today is home to one of the poorest people in the world with the significant population living below $1 a day. Also, it is one of the least integrated regions globally. This can help change the scenario.

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.
  • Alternatives that are suggested include BIMSTEC.

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)?

  • 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 increased importance of 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 passes through the Indian Ocean.
    • 1/3rd of bulk cargo passes through the Indian Ocean.
    • It hosts nearly 40% of the world’s population.
  • The Indian  Ocean has the world’s most important chokepoints,  notably the Straits of  Hormuz, Malacca and  Bab el  Mandeb. As these chokepoints 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 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 are growing rapidly and are attracting huge investments such as India, Malaysia, and Tanzania.
  • IOR is rich in natural resources containing
    • The world’s 40% oil exploration
    • Nearly 15% of the total fishing of the world.
    • Mineral and natural resources like iron, copper, zinc, manganese, gold and silver.
  • Presently, China’s aggressive soft power diplomacy and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) Policy has been the most important element in shaping the  Indian  Ocean strategic environment. To counter China, the US and other nation are trying to counterbalance China and that is why they are taking so many initiatives in this region.
  • Security issues: This region is home to many threats like piracy, illegal and unregulated migration, and the presence of extremist and groups for example in Somalia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.


Changed attitude of India towards  Indian Ocean

  • IOR is the centre stage of 21st-century politics  & India stands geographically right in the middle. South Africa, Iran, Indonesia & Australia are also the part of 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, especially during disasters and crises. Till now, it has played a positive role and at the time of need has readily helped smaller countries of the region such as Maldives (Operation NEER), Srilanka, and Bangladesh etc.


Importance of IOR for India

Geostrategic Importance

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

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

Economic Importance

It is a source of resources like

  • fishing and aquaculture
  • Deep-sea mineral exploration
  • Petroleum reserves like Bombay High

Cultural Importance

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

Diaspora

  • Large Indian diaspora is living in Indian Ocean Rim Countries and Small Island Nations like Mauritius, Maldives, South Africa etc.

Other points

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

Chinese threat & String of Pearls

China’s Malacca Dilemma

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

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 

  • Aim: To address 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 that 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 A&N islands.
2. India has established an air naval station here called Baaz.
Chabahar Port India is developing Chabahar port in Iran.
Duqm port India has signed an agreement with Oman to get 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 port.
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  through the following ways

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

Military Modernisation  

  • Agni, Sukhoi, Nuclear submarines, Aircraft Carrier-Vikramaditya 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 Routehas been started to strengthen economic ties between countries in the Indian Ocean rim.

Spice Route

  • Spice Route has been started for the revival of 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.
  • More focus on territorial boundaries: Due to its pending territorial disputes with China and Pakistan.
  • China challenges India’s status in the Indian Ocean through its BRI and String of pearls.
  • Opposition from other countries. Eg: the Seychelles parliament in the Assumption Island project.

India Bhutan Relations

India Bhutan Relations

India Bhutan Relations

This article deals with ‘India Bhutan 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

Timeline of India Bhutan Relations

India and Bhutan have long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural relations.

  • India’s relations with Bhutan go back to 747 AD when a Buddhist monk Padmasambhava went from India to Bhutan and founded the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. Thus, India contributed to the cultural growth of Buddhism in Bhutan.
  • Bhutan came under the control of the British Empire when it lost in the Anglo-Bhutan Wars. Consequently, the Bhutanese king was forced to sign a humiliating treaty. 
  • When India became independent in 1947, Nehru went to Bhutan to build relations. Bhutan also preferred India over China as, in 1949, when China took over Tibet, it did create tensions and fears of annexation in Bhutan. In 1949, India and Bhutan concluded a Treaty of Friendship.
  • Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established in 1968 with the appointment of a resident representative of India in Thimpu.  
  • Regular visits between both countries’ highest level Government functionaries have become a tradition. Dr Lotay Tshering, PM of Bhutan, visited India in 2018. It is the first overseas visit of PM Tshering after assuming office in 2018. Bhutan was also the first country visited by PM Narendra Modi after assuming office in 2019. The visit reflects the high priority that the Government of India (GoI) attaches to its relations with Bhutan.

Presently, Bhutan-India relations are governed by a friendship treaty renegotiated in 2007, freeing Thimphu’s external relations from New Delhi but still subjecting the Himalayan nation’s security needs to Indian supervision. 


India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty

  • Treaty of Friendship was signed in 1949. Terms of Treaty included 
    1. As per Article-2 of the treaty, India accepted Bhutan’s sovereign and independent status, but Bhutan has to seek Indian guidance in matters of defence and external affairs. 
    2. Apart from that, Indian citizens have the same right to employment in Bhutan as Bhutanese nationals do in India. 
    1. Open border system between Bhutan and India under which citizens of India and Bhutan have a right to move into each other’s territory without a visa
  • The treaty was revised in 2007 because Bhutan raised its voice against Article 2 of the treaty. Under the renegotiated Treaty of Friendship, only defence is guided by India, and Bhutan can have independent Foreign Policy.
  • India-Bhutan Trade And Transit Agreement (1972) provides for duty-free transit of Bhutanese exports through India to third countries.
  • Treaty of Cooperation in Hydropower and Protocol (2006): Under the treaty, India has agreed to help and assist Bhutan in developing Hydropower of 10 GW and assured Bhutan to import the surplus to India. 


Importance of Bhutan for India

Strategic importance

  • Bhutan acts as a buffer between India and China.
  • Chumbi Valley is situated at the trijunction of Bhutan, India and China and is 500 km away from the “Chicken’s neck” in North Bengal, which connects the northeast with the rest of the country. China is demanding Chumbi valley from Bhutan, which can jeopardize Indian security. 
  • After the Doklam standoff, securing Bhutan’s present borders, especially its western border, is essential for India to secure Siliguri Corridor/ Chicken’s Neck.  

To contain insurgency in North-East

  • Bhutan cooperated with India and helped flush out militant groups like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) from the Himalayan nation. In 2003–04, the Royal Bhutan Army launched a mega operation known as Operation All Clear to eliminate ULFA and NDFB cadres in South Bhutan and successfully neutralized 650 insurgents and destroyed 30 insurgent camps.

Political Importance

  • An unstable and restive Bhutan would jeopardize India’s investments in that country and provide a safe haven for anti-India activities and anti-India militant groups. 
  • Bhutan is also the only country in the region that joined India in its boycott of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.  

Multilateral Cooperation

  • Bhutan is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It is also a member of BIMSTEC, World Bank, the IMF, Group of 77 and others.


Commercial Relations

  • The trade between the two countries is governed by the India-Bhutan Trade and Transit Agreement 1972, last renewed in 2016. The Agreement established a free-trade regime between the two countries. The Agreement also provides for duty-free transit of Bhutanese exports to third countries
  • India has been the principal financier of Bhutan’s 5-year plan (for the latest five-year plan of 2018-2023, India has committed ₹4500 crores.) 
  • Both countries have committed to developing 10,000 MW of hydropower generating capacity in Bhutan. 
  • India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner. Around 80% of Bhutan’s total imports are from India, and India provides a market for 90% of its exports. 
  • The government is planning to build a mini dry port in the border town of Phuentsholing to promote trade. 
  • Indian banks, such as the SBI and Bank of Baroda, have a presence in Bhutan. 
  • Bhutanese currency  Ngultrum is officially pegged to the Indian Rupee.


Hydropower Cooperation

  • Hydroelectric power generated by Bhutan is the country’s main export to India. 
  • India has financed the dams through aid and loans and buys excess electricity. Bhutan exports around 45% of its hydropower to India. 
  • Both countries have committed to developing 10,000 MW of hydropower generating capacity in Bhutan. 
  • Three hydroelectric projects (HEPs) made with Indian assistance are already operational. These projects include
    • Tala HEP (capacity = 1 GW || Most important project of Bhutan)
    • Chukha HEP
    • Kurichu HEP

Problems

  • India’s power-surplus status and the advent of other renewable energies like wind and solar power will make it more difficult for Bhutan to ensure that its hydropower sector becomes profitable. 
  • Bhutan alleges that due to hydro cooperation with India, there is a dominance of Indian firms in Bhutan. It feels that an overwhelming presence of Indian firms in Bhutan has restricted the space of growth for the Bhutanese corporate sector. 
  • Bhutan feels that the Indian firms end up recruiting cheap Bangladeshi labour in dam construction; as a result, Bhutanese don’t stand to benefit from the diplomacy.

Security Ties

  • The Indian military “is virtually responsible for protecting Bhutan from external and internal threats“.
  • The Eastern Command of the Indian Army and Air Force have integrated Bhutan’s defence into their role and responsibilities. 
  • The Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) trains Bhutanese security personnel as well. 


People to People Cooperation

  • Approximately 4000 Bhutanese are studying in Indian Universities.
  • India-Bhutan Foundation was established (in 2003) to enhance people to people exchanges in focus areas like education, culture, scientific and technical research, and environment protection.
  • About 60,000 Indian nationals live in Bhutan, employed mainly in the hydroelectric power and construction industry. 


Other aspects of cooperation

  • Space Cooperation: In 2020, India and Bhutan signed MoU on Space Cooperation and India will assist Bhutan in Remote Sensing, Space Communication etc. 
  • Project Dantak: Since 1961, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has run Project Dantak. Under this, the BRO provides for roads construction, telecom works, colleges, schools and other infrastructure.
  • During COVID Crisis (2020-21), India supplied vaccines to Bhutan. In return, when India faced a severe oxygen shortage, Bhutan gave 40 metric tonnes of oxygen (~10,000 cylinders) every day to India.
  • India is also assisting Bhutan in establishing an e-Project covering all the 20 districts of Bhutan.
  • PM Narendra Modi has coined the idea of B2B as ‘Bharat to Bhutan’ to build effective and renewed bilateral relationships.

Issues / Irritants

Although the older Bhutanese generation looked to India with gratitude, the newer generation tends to look more profoundly and dissatisfied at the situation.

  • Doklam Crisis (73-day India-China standoff In 2017 ): Doklam, or Donglang in China, comprises a plateau and a valley at the trijunction between India, Bhutan and China. It is surrounded by the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, Bhutan’s Ha Valley and Sikkim. Despite several rounds of engagement between China and Bhutan, the dispute over Doklam has not been resolved. It flared up in 2017 when the Chinese were trying to construct a road in the area, and Indian troops, in aid of their Bhutanese counterparts, objected to it, resulting in the standoff. Doklam is located close to the Siliguri corridor, which connects mainland India with its north-eastern region. The corridor, also called Chicken’s Neck, is a vulnerable point for India. But many Bhutanese feel that why they should suffer for protecting Indian interests.  
  • India acting as a roadblock in solving the Bhutan-China boundary issue: Bhutan cant solve their boundary dispute with China. Bhutan has three disputed regions with China: Doklam Plateau, Jakarlung and Pasamlung. In 2013, India stopped all loans, subsidies and aid in retaliation for starting discussions with China for settling their boundary dispute without taking Indian consent. 
India Bhutan Relations
  • Bhutan had decided to withdraw from the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement because it would adversely affect its environment and its sovereignty.  
  • Bhutan also stopped free tourist access to Indians in 2020.
  • Imposing behaviour of India: Bhutanese people are raising voices against increasing Indianisation. E.g., Under Project Dantak, Border Roads Organisation built a road in Bhutan and placed boards with tricolour shade which wasn’t appreciated by Bhutanese people leading to a backlash. Ultimately, signboards were changed. 
  • Delays in Hydropower projects by Indian companies leading to the country’s burgeoning national debt.
  • Bhutan wants to increase its export power tariff to India as it is lesser than the cost of production.
  • Goods and services tax hurts Bhutanese traders & Demonetization left lasting scars on the banking system.
  • Indian aid is being criticized for creating ‘jobless growth’ in Bhutan.  
  • The terms on which India is financing the hydropower projects and getting electricity from Bhutan at cheap rates seems unfavourable to Bhutan. Hydropower plants are also attached to certain environmental concerns. 

Way Forward

  • Continue Foreign Aid: Although Bhutan remains the largest recipient of Indian aid, the amount of assistance in grants and loans to the country has dropped over the last two years. It is not the right time for India to decrease aid to Bhutan as the Chinese presence is growing.
  • India must draw the Bhutanese public attention to China’s role in the debt trap policy of China, epitomized by the Hambantota port case in Sri Lanka. 
  • Respect Bhutanese Values: India should demonstrate respect for Bhutanese values. The Bhutanese are environment-conscious people. Therefore, India should go for economically and environmentally more viable projects. 
  • Maintain Ties with the Bhutanese Monarchy: Unlike their Nepali counterparts, Bhutan’s monarchs have been strong proponents of close relations with India. India should back Bhutan’s constitutional monarchy and strengthen it by channelling its aid through this institution.
  • The fourth King of Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the phrase “Gross National Happiness” in 1972 and declared that is more important than GDP. India needs to combine the Gross National Happiness of Bhutan with its own economic development to maintain a shared prosperity and relationship between the two countries.

India Nepal Relations

INDIA—NEPAL 
RELATIONS

India Nepal Relations

This article deals with ‘India Nepal 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.


Introduction

  • India and Nepal are connected geographically, historically, religiously, economically and financially.
  • Open borders, shared religious background, marital relations, and unrestricted movement of people between the two nations are unique characteristics of bilateral ties. 
  • India and Nepal share a long boundary, and 5 Indian states-Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Sikkim and Bihar are adjacent to Nepal.
  • But in recent times, the relationship between the two countries has been going through an obnoxious phase.  


History

Common Culture

  • India and Nepal have had common culture since times immemorial. 
  • For example 
    • In Ramayana, Sita was from Janakpuri (Nepal).
    • Buddha was born in Rummendei in Nepal. Emperor Ashoka has also visited that place.

British Times

  • Treaty of Sagauli of 1816: Britishers defeated the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Gurkha wars and subsequently signed the Treaty of Sagauli.  
  • As per the treaty 
    • Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim were annexed to the British empire.
    • Treaty established Mahakali or Kali  River as a dividing line in the Western sector.
    • British resident was stationed at Kathmandu
    • Nepal surrendered its foreign policy to Britishers.
    • Britishers started to recruit Gorkhas to British Army. 

Treaty of Peace & Friendship, 1950

  • After the Independence, India and Nepal signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1950.
  • Under the terms of the treaty 
    • Nepal would consult India whenever they undertake any arms imports from any nation other than India.
    • Neither government shall tolerate any threat to the security of the other by a foreign aggressor.
    • Opening of the border between the two countries. 
    • Citizens of both countries are empowered to have the same privileges for property, trade and residence, movement, and work in India without a work permit.
    • As per Article X in the treaty, either party can ask for a change in the treaty whenever demanded.

Strengths in India-Nepal relations

Strengths in India Nepal Relations
  • A large number of Nepalese work in India (nearly 30 lakh Nepalis or 10% of Nepal’s population). Significant among them are Gorkha soldiers in the Indian army. 
  • Nepalese and Indians have common cultural & historical ties.
  • A large majority in Nepal follows Hinduism.
  • People belonging to the Terai region of India and Nepal have kinship and marital ties.  
  • Nepal is a landlocked country, and access to the outer world is only through India. 
  • Indian cinema & music is highly popular in Nepal.  


Importance and Cooperation

1 . Military Cooperation

Indian and Nepalese Military have very close ties. Eg

  • There are 180 training slots for the Nepalese army in the Indian Military Academy. 
  • Indian Army Chief is Honorary General of Nepal Army & vice versa.
  • Nepalese can serve as soldiers in the Indian army. Over 1.23 lakh veterans are currently residing in Nepal. India sends ₹ 1100 crores/ annum as pension to these ex-servicemen.
  • Battalion-level Joint Military Exercise’ SURYA KIRAN’ is conducted alternately in India and Nepal.

Issues

  • But Nepal is also increasing military ties with China. 2017 saw the first Nepal-China joint military exercise.
  • Indian army is recruiting more Garhwalis and Kumaon than Nepali Gurkhas in Gurkha Regiment. It has to be noted that the Gurkha regiment, originally comprised only of Nepali Gurkhas, changed the rule in 1975 to recruit Nepalese and Indian domiciled Gurkhas in 70:30. In the 1990s, it was changed to 60:40, and the government is considering changing it further to 40:60.

2 . Economic Cooperation

  • Nepal is a buffer state between India and China. 
  • Indian border with Nepal is most indefensive as there is no protection by the Himalayas as Nepal lies beneath the Himalayas. 
  • If China penetrates Nepal and connects it with Road and Railways, Gangetic plains will become vulnerable. 

3 . Strategic Importance

  • Nepal is a buffer state between India and China.
    • Indian border with Nepal is most indefensive as there is no protection by the Himalayas as Nepal lies beneath the Himalayas
    • If China penetrates Nepal and connects it with Road and Railways, Gangetic plains will become vulnerable.

4 . Multilateral Cooperation

Both India and Nepal are part of many multilateral organizations, especially

  • SAARC
  • BIMSTEC
  • BBIN 

5. Others

  • Education3000 scholarships/seats are provided to Nepali nationals in India annually.
  • Indian help in Post – Earthquake Reconstruction: India has pledged $2 billion for reconstruction in Nepal.  
  • Culture: India and Nepal have signed three sister-city agreements between 
    1. Kathmandu-Varanasi
    2. Lumbini-Bodhgaya (Buddhist)
    3. Janakpur-Ayodhya (Sita & Ram)
  • India and Nepal have had Power Exchange Agreement since 1971 for meeting the power requirements in the border areas of the two countries. 
  • South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline, constructed and funded by Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., connecting Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal
  • India also provided economic assistance to Nepal, which was to the tune of ₹1200 crore

New Indian Projects  in Nepal

  • Construction of a Raxaul-Kathmandu, Jogbani-Biratnagar and Jaynagar-Bardibas railway line. 
  • Nepal-India Ramayana Circuit connecting Janakpur, the birthplace of Sita, with Ayodhya.
  • 900 MW Arun III hydro-electric project in Nepal.
  • Upgradation of 10 roads in the Terai area; 
  • Establish Integrated Check Posts at Birgunj, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, and Nepalgunj.

Issues / Irritants

1 . Open Border Issue

  • Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 accepted “open border” between India and Nepal. An “open border” means an unrestricted movement of people from either side.
  • Due to Open Border, many illegal activities are carried like 
    • Fake Currency,
    • Terrorist penetration
    • Drug Smuggling, 
    • Human Trafficking. 
    • Pakistan has been taking advantage of the open border to infiltrate terrorists and pump fake Currency into India. 

2. Kalapani Issue

  • The origin of the Kalapani issue goes back to the Treaty of Sagauli. As per the treaty, the Kali River was designated as the boundary. In between the two streams of the Kali, the river lies Kalapani. The issue arises because India recognizes the eastern stream as the Kali river while Nepal recognizes the western stream as the Kali river. 
  • Kalapani is a strategic position located at the trijunction of India, China and Nepal and provides an advantage to India vis a vis China. Nepal is demanding it (under Chinese pressure, demand is gaining strength). 
  • This issue took an ugly turn in 2020. India built a new 80 km-long road in the Himalayas, connecting to the border with China, at the Lipulekh pass. The Nepali government protested immediately, contending that the road crosses territory that it claims and accusing India of changing the status quo. Later, Nepal enlarged its claim from 35 square kilometres of territory to nearly 400 square kilometres and incorporated it into the revised map through a constitutional amendment.
Kalapani Issue

3. Nepal Constitution of 2015 and Madheshi Issue

Constituent Assembly of Nepal framed the constitution of Nepal, which came into force in 2015. But India was not happy with this development because of the following reasons:-

  1. In the new constitution, the Madheshi (who constitute 70% of the population, speak Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi and Hindi and have a close relationship with Indian living across the border) were left out. Out of 165 Legislative Assembly seats, they were given just 65 seats, while Pahadis were given 100 seats. 
  2. It also intends to destroy the roti-beti character, as women from UP and Bihar states of India who marry a Madheshi will be treated as a foreigner for up to five years.

4. River issues

  • Nepal is an upper riparian state and has great hydropower generation potential. Nepal’s installed hydel capacity of 800 MW is much lesser than the potential of over 80 GW. Due to power shortages, power cuts are common throughout the country.
  • India and Nepal share three major rivers, i.e. Kosi, Gandhak & Mahakali. There are three treaties to regulate water sharing, and these include
    1. Kosi River Treaty: Kosi river causes tremendous flooding in Bihar. As per the treaty, the two sides agreed to manage Kosi flooding. India has constructed the barrage on the Kosi river in Nepal, and Nepal agreed to give its management rights to India for 199 years. 
    2. Gandak River Treaty: Under the treaty, both sides utilize water from the Gandak river to generate 20 GW of electricity. 
    3. Mahakali River Treaty: Under the treaty, India has agreed to undertake the creation of three dams at Sarda, Janakpur and Pancheshwar. Both sides have agreed to share costs. However, there has been no progress on these projects owing to pending social and environmental impact assessment.
  • Certain sections in Nepal allege that India, while managing the barrage on the Kosi river, does not release adequate water for irrigation and, during floods, opens the gates, leading to many villages getting submerged completely.

China card of Nepal

  • China has increased its footprint in Nepal. China in 2015 overtook India as Nepal’s biggest foreign investor.
  • The present government has a clear tilt towards China.
  • Chinese Project of which Nepal is part include
    • China and Nepal have signed an agreement for all-weather road connectivity between Kathmandu and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
    • China is planning to extend its rail network to the Nepal border. 
    • Nepal is part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR ) Project.
    • China is funding powerplant on Budhi Gandaki (worth $ 2.5 billion), Trishuli riverSETI river etc. 
    • China has agreed to provide access to the Tianjin seaport to transit Nepali goods (but distance = 3,000 km || compared to 1,000 km from Haldia port ). 
    • China is making Dry Port at Kodari (China has already made the road from Kathmandu to Kodari) 
    • China is constructing a road connecting Kodari with Zhangmu (in Tibet).  
    • China Study Centers (CSC) and Confucius Institutes have been opened in large numbers in Nepal.
China Card of Nepal
Kathmandu-Kodari-Zangmu Road
  • In previous years, the Indian share in Nepal’s foreign trade is decreasing while China’s is increasing.
India vs China in Nepal
Indian and Chinese Share in Nepalese Trade

Why Nepal is interested in China

  • Dependency on India: Nepal has found itself heavily reliant on India for an outlet to the outer world because of its geographical constraints. India can practically blockade Nepal in case of any dispute. 
  • Ideological basis: The communist parties in Nepal have favoured and consistently protested against India.
  • Economic Opportunities: Nepal views the Chinese railway as an opportunity to bring Chinese pilgrims and tourists to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, and the famous valley of Pokhara. The  
  • Earlier, King Mahendra (in1960s), Birendra & Gyanendra too used China card. Hence, it is not a new problem.

Why China is interested in Nepal

  • The market for Chinese products in Nepal.
  • The Tibetan community in Nepal is a serious concern. China is pressuring the Nepalese government to do crackdown on Tibetan activities.
  • Use Nepal in breaching the Himalayan barrier

Why India is worried?

  • Strategic vulnerabilities: Rising Nepal and China cooperation signals that the Himalayas are not a barrier anymore.
  • Debt Trap diplomacy of China: China can take parts of Nepal on lease as done in Sri Lanka in the case of Hambantota port.
  • Effect on other neighbours: Including Bhutan, which has faced similar circumstances with India and China.
  • Impact on regional groupings: Growing China-Nepal relations may become a hurdle in regional groups like BIMSTEC, in which Nepal holds a powerful voice.