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India: A vital player in South China Sea

South China Sea is one of the most difficult and contentious maritime conflicts in the Asia Pacific. Several scholars have echoed the sentiments that the South China Sea conflict would be worst case threat to peace and stability in the region. The concerns are further strengthened with China’s continued military build up, despite the 2002 Joint Declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea. China’s assertive posture in the South China Sea is of great concern especially with India unfolding its Act East Asia Policy.

The Modi Government has realised the importance of the South China Sea both in terms of its geo-economic and strategic interests. To further strengthen the relationship with South East Asian countries, India pledges to be a credible  security provider. At the  2014  East Asian Summit, India along with the United States and Vietnam affirmed its support to safeguard maritime security and freedom of navigation. Further, India has been very vocal in the settling the dispute through peaceful means and in a accordance with the UNCLOS.

south china sea

Several reasons have been attributed to India’s interest in the South China Sea (SCS) (1) The increased trade with East Asia and the sense for recognition on the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) from the Indian side beyond its geographical expanse and the importance of the Indo-Pacific region (2) Reducing dependency on the major powers for India’s avowed maritime needs (3) India’s fear of growing China’s assertiveness in the Indian Ocean region (4) The importance of forward maritime presence and naval partnership  is seen critical to deter India’s adversaries in the region (5) Securing the trade-transit route which passes through the South China Sea all vital to India’s growing trade, energy and security interests ( Raja C Mohan, Samudra Manthan).

As India unfolds its  maritime security posture and interest, there is a strong commitment from the Indian side to realign with several South East Asian countries. India is seen as a a vital player in the region, and Southeast Asian countries are keen to partner with India both economically and strategically. India’s inertia to expand towards to East unfolds, this is also a step to contain China’s expanding maritime interest. India’s participation in several East Asian forums is seen as a counter balance move initiated by the Southeast Asian countries. Thus India is welcomed as an external balancer along with the Untied States.

Indian Navy 2007 Doctrine defined “South China Sea as an area of strategic interest” for India and the recent Act East Asia strategy has further reiterated India’s commitment to move beyond the Indian Ocean into the South China Sea. At several occasions India stated that it could or would deploy India Navy to the South China Sea to defends its energy interests.

With India’s maritime discourse expanding and 55% of India’s trade passing through this region, it is imperative that India pursues its interest in the region. The Indo-Pacific trilateral with India, Japan and United States further revitalises India’s presence in the region. Thus the adoption of  the Indo-Pacific region into the strategic framework has cumulatively  summed up the  relevance of South China Sea for India.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar@Takshashila. Priya tweets @priyamanassa.

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Northeast Asia looks at India

The Geo-strategic significance of Northeast Asia dates back to the cold war  period  and continues to be relevant even in the current context. The region houses several important powers like China, Japan, the Koreas and there is a strong presence of United States in the region.

Economically vibrant region, Northeast Asia continues to attract the interest and attention of great powers. Though India is traditionally not a part of the region, today it is gaining relevance and credence an an important strategic player. This opportunity seems to be extremely critical, as the regional powers like Japan and South Korea sees India as potential player who could possibly alter the dynamics of the region.

Northeast Asia is becoming increasingly unstable with unresolved disputes and shifting alignment in the face of China’s growing presence in the region.  Though India-China relations is often seen in the light of cooperation and competition, the regional powers see India’s rise  probably as a swing in balancing China or leading to a multipolar order.

How is India seen as a vital player in Northeast Asia: 

India’s presence in the Northeast Asia is typically welcomed by South Korea, Japan and the United States. United States sees India’s presence as vital to the Northeast Asian security order. Unlike the past, US is today convinced of an expanded security role for India beyond the Indian Ocean Region. United States has made an ernest effort to conceptualise a strategic interconnection for India beyond the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific. A means to justify India’s role in Northeast Asia. Further United States has deliberately boosted politico-diplomatic engagement between India and the regional powers in Northeast Asia.  India has been welcomed in  the East Asian forums and institutions- probably a counter weight to China in the regionIn terms of security role, India has been involved in periodic naval exercises with the United states and Japan. The most recent has been the  Exercise conducted in Northeast Asia. Most of India’s allies in the Northeast Asia are formal and informal partners with United States. This strategic entente has brought India into the foray of partnership with Japan and South Korea.

Japan remains key to Asia Pacific, and  the recent interaction between India-Japan has strengthened the links further. The cold war politics drew India into an alignment different from that of most of the states of East Asia. and this created a sense of disjunct in terms of understanding each other.  The most complex of the India-Japan relation was the incomprehensible meaning on the  values and cultures that existed in both the countries.

However the perceived separation between the two countries are drawing to a close, the Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe has called for a deeper, broader, action-oriented partnership with India. Both the Prime Ministers of Japan and India have unswervingly committed to a peaceful, open, equitable, stable and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Both the Prime Minsters have committed to an extended bilateral cooperation in spheres of security, stability and sustainable development. Several areas have been identified in terms of cooperation-people-to-people, tourism, infrastructure collaboration,civil nuclear energy and educational collaboration. Crucial areas in terms of transfer of Defence Equipment and Agreement concerning security measures for the protection of classified military information  further deepens the strategic ties between India and Japan. The participation of Japan in the India-US Malabar Exercise  has further forged the long term commitment with Japan and to deal with maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

India-South Korea relations is gaining credence in the recent years. Ideological differences through the cold war deterred the relationship between India and South Korea. But the recent “New Asia Diplomatic initiative” by South Korea and India’s “look East Asia Policy” has further elevated the relationship between the two countries.

While India and Japan have expressed concerns over North Korea’s continuous development of Nuclear weapons and have urged North Korea to comply with the international regimes. India is seen as a constructive  and viable partner in the security network in Northeast Asia. Is Japan, South Korea and Untied States subtly engaging India to contain China.

India at this juncture stands to benefit as this bilateral and multilateral engagement with North East Asia and United States is seen as a positive move towards India’s “Act East Asia Policy”.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar @Takshshila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.

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China’s interest in Southeast Asia: Implications for India

China’s interest in Southeast Asia:

China’s policy towards Southeast Asia can be termed as one of competition and colloboration. Traditional determinants like geography, cold war ideology, domestic and ethnic politics have been the binding factors in China-Southeast Asia relations. Placing the relations China had exerted its influence over the region and the principal manifestation was the tributary system, which reflected the subordinate status of others in the region.

Post 1949 China emulated  the role of a crusader and a champion of third world freedom and assisted revolutionary communist movements and insurgent groups. With the Sino-Soviet rivalry in late 1960s,  China  had to reassess its ideological leanings. The death of Mao Tse Tung  and the ascendancy of Deng Xiaoping to power, brought in  a paradigm shift in China-Southeast Asia relations.

China’s assurance to the Southeast Asian countries after the 1997 financial crisis, refurbished China’s image amongst the Southeast Asian Country. China’s emphasis on economic modernisation and regional stability, assured the Southeast Asian countries that China would no longer be a threat in the region. An ernest effort undertaken by China to re-assure and re-emphasise its position with the Southeast Asian countries.

Thus Southeast Asia house great powers competing  for economic and strategic benefits. This has constantly compelled the ASEAN countries to choose between the regional challenger and the dominant power.The Southeast Asian countries often are tossed between the heavy weights, nevertheless they are coping with their own strategies and interest in identifying and engaging with India, Japan, US and China.

Asymmetry in relationship between China and Southeast Asia exists. China’s exerts high influence in the Mainland Southeast Asia which comprises of Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. All these countries in some form or the other  is dependent  and remain a  soft underbelly of China. China maintain unique relations with each of the countries in the region.

Myanmar is critical from the perspective of “client state”, While in the case of Cambodia and Laos, China plays the role of a dominant external actor. Vietnam-China relations continues to remain complex and there are completing claims between the two countries. Vietnam has protested the recent deployment of advanced missile system on a disputed South China Sea island and  has condemned this  erroneous action of China.

China rarely resonates historical tributary system with maritime Southeast Asia.Interestingly the maritime countries in Southeast Asia Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia of these several of them enjoy the patronage of Untied States thus posing a constant challenges to China. Competing and overlapping claims continues to exist between China and maritime Southeast Asian countries on the issue of South China Sea.

Countries in dispute have wrangled over the territory for centuries and there is a steady increase of  tension. China by and large have claimed the largest portion of the territory. The recent  deployment of China’s advanced missile system which  is claimed  purely as a self-defence mechanism is not viewed as a benign advancement. United States has called for tangible steps to  reduce tension in the region.

How could India strategies its Southeast Asian Interest:

India’s engagement  in Southeast Asia was accelerated with the announcement of India’s Look East Policy in the 1990s. With increased bilateral operation in areas of trade and commerce, people to people contact and capital flow. India-ASEAN partnership has been upgraded to areas of strategic partnership. The enhanced India’s engagement in the region is welcomed by the Southeast Asian countries, as a counter check against growing China’s assertiveness in the region. India’s Act East strategy is an initiative to expand Indian diplomacy and an initiative to involve the large Indian diaspora present in the region.

The Look East Policy was an initiative started by the Late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao which focused on economic engagement with ASEAN countries and India.  Southeast Asia connects Indian and the Pacific Oceans that includes vital maritime chokepoint and hence extremely critical from India’s geo-strategic interest and hence India works to evolve a peaceful regional order. India has interestingly maritime borders with three Southeast Asian countries Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. Interestingly India has no unilateral or hegemonic policy towards the region.

US President  Obama has urged India to an Act East  Asia policy .  Several   joint statements have been released both by India and Untied states  calling for  safeguarding maritime security, freedom of navigation and  countering piracy and maritime terrorism.  The ASEAN countries along with United States have welcomed India’s participation in there region. They have legitimised India’s status as a great power in Asia and looks forward for India’s support in maintatining the regional order and stability

The Southeast Asian countries see India as a great power and calls for more proactive engagement from the Indian side. This is indeed a great opportunity for India,  how much will the political leadership encapsulate the opportunity to shape Asia is something that has to be seen.

Priya Suresh is a research scholar @Takshashila Institute. She tweets@priyamanassa

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China deploys missiles to contested South China sea islands

China has recently deployed the  advance surface-to-air missile system to one of its contested islands in the South China Sea. The recent satellite images show tow batteries of eight surface-t0-air missile launchers as well as radar system on woody island, a part of the Parcel island chain in the south china sea. There are several claimants to the dispute and the Woody Island has been claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. On several occasion there has been agreement on the peaceful settlement of the dispute. The missiles arrived in the Woody Island over weeks and according to news reports the missle were visible from 14 February.

Heightened tension and anxiety is seen among the claimants countries as well as United States. Recently president Obama and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had several rounds of discussion to  ease the tension, but none of the dialogues ever had a mention of China’s assertive posture in the region

Though there have been several mechanism to thwart the tension and halt to the construction and militarisation of the disputed areas, the tension continues. US has pledged to conduct the freedom of navigation patrols for a free and smooth passage of ships were several countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Taiwan have their contested claim over the isalnd.

China sending its missile is not something unusual and it has deployed missiles on several occasions. The South China Sea issue intertwines several countries to dispute with China. Several countries like  Brunei, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and China are intertwined in the dispute over the South China Sea. Since 1950 China has laid its  claim over the Woody Island and the recent deployment probably is seen as a provocation.

US  has raised concern over the deployment, Japan and Vietnam have joined hands with US in condemning this deployment. South China Sea is a contested area with countries competing over the trade routes and mineral deposits. Does this deployment by China confirms China’s assertiveness  or as the Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi claims that an act to distort China’s image by the western media.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar @Takshashila. She tweets at priyamanassa

 

 

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What is Pyongyang’s goal

As the UN Security Council condemns the North Korean act of aggression, several countries including South Korea, United States have condemned this dastardly action. North Korea on several occasions had committed to abandon its nuclear programme. But despite the commitment North Korea has continued to keep the international community on tender hooks.

North Korea nuclear test

There seems to be clear cut violation of North Korea’s commitment to abandon its Nuclear programme. The recent launch of missile which North Korea claims as peace observation satellite has sparked several questions as to how much has  Pyongyang developed its ballistic missile programme. So far each of its test Unha, Taepodong and Nodong Ballistic missiles seems to hasten the development of Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and the test on Sunday resulted in Kwangmyongsong 4 satellite entering the polar orbit. The Sunday’s testing further intensifies the rate of missile testing. Has this test boosted North Korea’s nuclear capability.

North Korea after its test in early January this year and had made claims to test in the future.  The international community had clamped North Korea’s test as a dastardly act and breach of its commitment to abandon its nuclear weapon testing. What is the reaction of United States and China. China has advocated dialogue with North Korea as an act would further provocative and add tension to the stability of the region. China is very clear that the region has to be denuclearised and nuclear proliferation to be stalled to bring order and peace in North East Asia.

Despite severe condemnation and calling the act as breach of security, North Korea is clear in its mission and intends to continue rocket carrying satellite to space. Committed to its vision and mission North Korea is bent on launching more man made satellite into the space. US claims that this is an tacit approach to develop North Korea’s capability to attack United States. A reality check is often required, North Korea continues unswervingly in building its capability targeting the United states.

Series of testings have been carried by the North Korean Government over a period of time. North Korea claims this as a peaceful purpose but with the clandestine approach there seems to be a major ambiguity in what it is claiming. Is this just the right to develop a peaceful program or boosting its power capability and equation is something that has to be carefully watched. North Korea’s move remains very speculative and unsure, what would Kim Jung-un do, remains a big question and challenge.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar at the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.

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Is Xi Jinping heir to Deng Xiaoping

China’s meteoric rise  over the decades has been inevitable. It is but appropriate to say that vision of individual leaders has led to this glorified modernization. The leader who has been synonymous to  transformation  in China was none other than Deng Xiaoping and his reform and radical approach has led  China’s growth and prosperity. Today Xi Jinping, President of China is seen as yet another powerful leader after Deng.

Xi  in his early years of leadership acquired the reputation of being a practical person (Manoranjan Mohanty 2013) and seen as a reformer. His initial stint has been very euphoric both in China and abroad. As Xi tries to consolidate his power, he is extremely cautious and very concerned about his image and reputation.  Xi unfolds his dreams and ambition of rejuvenating China and is seen in line with Deng Xiaoping.  While China’s neighbors see Xi as more assertive when it comes to the dispute  over South and East China sea.

Consolidating power has been very critical of Xi Jinping’s leadership. As Xi holds the top posts in the party, state and military and has maneuvered to put himself at the top of the new super ministerial bodies.  This would give Xi a complete authority and final say in most of the matters.

Several of Xi admirers call him pragmatic and see him as a man with mission truly committed to change and growth. Xi himself seems to be truly ignited and charged with the principles of Deng Xiaoping of following the political legacy of’ socialism with Chinese characteristics. Committed to reform China on similar lines of Deng, Xi  has emphasized on the Chinese charactersitcs and uniqueness of the Chinese system.  Xi began his southern tour where Deng Xiaoping had started his reform. It would be appropriate to say that Xi is carrying Deng’s torch to reignite the nation.

Despite socio,political, economic and environmental reforms that are underway severe pressure mounts the leadership. Xi faces challenges in terms of a wobbly market  and the ability to maintain steady growth . Xi and his colleagues are very concerned about the mounting economic challenges. Yet another area of concern is growing demographic divide, with increasing elderly people remain a major concern for China’s society. Xi faces several challenges in the domestic front and he is keen to stabilize the situation. To this effect Xi  has unveiled several programs  and  has undertaken severe austerity measures in addressing  corruption.

With surmounting pressure and challenges, Xi has  committed to restoring the lost vigor. What would Xi want be known as a reformer or caretaker. Would Xi want to be identified as Deng style reformer or create an identity for himself is something that has to be watched.

Pray Suresh is a Research Scholar at the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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India-Pakistan Rendezvous: Will terrorist attack destabilize the relation

 

Prime Minister Modi has called for a prompt and decisive action against those involved in the terror attack at Pathankot air base. Speaking to Prime Minster Nawaz Sheriff, Modi expressed his grave concern on the terror activities on the Pakistan soil and has called for an actionable response. Disrupting bilateral talks between India and Pakistan could be attributed as the key reason to this attack and a similar pattern has been sighted in the past.

A noticeable interface at the recent Paris Climate summit, on the sideline was the India-Pakistan Prime Minister talks that paved the way for a crucial Ministerial level dialogue. The rare meeting of the NSA (National Security Advisor) between India and Pakistan was described as cordial, open and positive. This was followed by the visit of India’s Foreign Minister Sushama Swaraj to the Heart of Asia Conference at Islamabad. Prime Minster Modi’s visit thereafter to Pakistan and meeting his counterpart Nawaz Sheriff, was seen as a significant bilateral development and an unprecedented progress in India-Pakistan relations. Interestingly this was followed several engagement like the cricket diplomacy and  the assurance by Modi to attend the SAARC summit to be held in Pakistan next year.

Despite the recent terror attack at the Pathankot Air Base and the Indian Consulate at Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan with several reports confirming the involvement of Pakistan militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the rendezvous between India and Pakistan continues. However, Prime Minster Modi has reiterated the fact that such a dastardly terrorist attack was carried out from the Pakistan soil and has insisted firm action. Normalization could succeed only if action on perpetrators are taken as promised by Pakistan. There is no ambiguity in the terrorist attack and India has provided specific information to Pakistan to investigate the strike. Prime Minster Modi has demanded stern action to be taken against the perpetrators.

On the face of hope, there is a movement for comprehensive bilateral dialogue as against a composite dialogue. The Foreign Secretary talks as of now does not stand cancelled. Instead of confrontation and antagonism there is an unruffled silence. There is a regional implication to this reticence, both India and Pakistan are competing for influence and stabilization in Afghanistan. Several common interest like trade, security, energy and terrorism underpins this relationship. Modi’s address at the Afghan Parliament dawned a ray of hope, positive spirt and an earnest effort to dispel the Pakistani notion of distress on India’s involvement in Afghanistan.

There are several drivers to this stabilization process and some of the key factors would be energy assets and viable Central Asian markets for both India and Pakistan. Afghanistan is a key promoter of regional stability and is looking forward to an era of economic and security cooperation. With an emerging India-Afghanistan-Pakistan triangular relation, each of them are exhibiting high level of maturity and commitment. The recent inauguration of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is yet another important strategic calculi.

Regional rapprochement has not been very successful and largely the South Asian politics have been dominated or clouded by India-Pakistan relations. Prime Minister Modi on assuming office has committed to sustain normalcy in the region. Earnest effort to adhere his commitment was seen in several of his initiatives towards the region. The recent   Modi’s visit enroute from Kabul to Pakistan is an important milestone in the process of regional stabilization.

Terror attacks and threats have been the key destabilizing factor in the area. Several terror outfits coexist and cohabit in the region and they have been supported largely by fundamental and fanatic groups. Countering terrorism has been a daunting task and several peace process to find a solution to this enduring problem has dominated the past years. Thus countering terrorism as a regional phenomenon would succeed only if there is a single peace process outcome in which both India and Pakistan are involved. Pakistan counter terrorism operation in the tribal region along Afghan border is underway. A step to regional balance and progress is on cards and India’s involvement is seen as positive step in this initiative. South Asian diplomacy has been advancing well in the past few months with several rounds of talks at the Government level and the impromptu visit by the Indian Prime Minister.

Balancing the regional stability is a daunting task, there are several glitches to this progress. It is not the very first time that peace process or normalization talks have been stalled. The question that remains is, will the recent terror attack at Pathankot air base set the clock behind in India-Pakistan Relations.

 

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar at the Takshashila Institute.  She tweets@priyamanassa

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Start -up India

Prime Minster Modi on 16 January 2016 started the new government  initiative called “Start-up India”. This initiative is a venture towards new enterprises and investments in India. This initiative is a movement to bolster innovative new ventures in India. The Government hopes that it would be able to tap ideas and innovation as an effective driver for India’s transformation. The new venture if effectively utilised could help generate employment opportunity in the country .

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The new endeavour  encompasses innovation and development of new products or services. The government is offering several tax benefits  and there is a lighter regulatory burden. This probably could result in innovation-driven companies . Since start-ups often faces several impediments, the new programme seems to be a very positive initiative.

Several Indian entrepreneurs are keen to play a new role in the economy .Start-up ventures triggered by the Silicon Valley successors  is a new trend and with the government support seem to draw several investors. Today Indian entrepreneurs are moving from a safe vault initiative to take up challenges.

India’s tech savvy Prime Minster has set up a $300 million fund for start-ups and also has eased restrictions for Indian’s living abroad who want to invest in venture capitals in India. The adage is “old money, new money-everybody wants a piece of our start-up-boom”.  The start-up India is to be promoted through bank finance and incentive to boost entrepreneurship, job creation and an conducive environment to set up start-ups. Withs several plan drawn, innovation in research is a key are that the government would call for investments.

This has raised a sense of hope amongst the Indian investors and is seen as an important landmark for  emerging India. An action plan is created to this effect drawing several government officials and entrepreneurs. They are  working towards hassle and barrier free environment conducive to investment.The action plan kick starts a new era in building entrepreneurs thus laying a foundation for New India.

The visibility of the initiative is at an infant stage. How is it going to be nurtured and developed  is a question that remains to be seen. Started with a major fanfare the success or the credibility of the vision “Start-up India”  is something that has be watched .

 

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institute. She tweets@priyamanassa.

 

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India-Afghanistan Relations: The Way Forward

The iconic short story “Kabuliwallah” by Tagore and the interpretations on the land beyond mountains and imaginations have shaped the India and Afghanistan relations from the past to the present.  “Bound by thousand ties and million memories”, the relations between the two countries go beyond the traditionally state-to-state relations or government. History, culture, civilization and people to people contact have created commonalities thus making the past history the guide to the future.

 

India-Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani paid rich tribute to Indian democracy. India has been admired as the largest pluralistic society in which diverse ethnic, linguistic, religious and sectarian groups coexist and cohabit together. India being the largest secular democracy is in a position to share its know-how and practice with Afghanistan. The nascent egalitarianism society of Afghanistan in all its earnestness looks forward to India for assurance and support in its quest for democracy.

There is a strong economic, politico-strategic and security component in the India-Afghanistan relations. India’s economic assistance and support to democracy is a step to reduce Afghanistan’s dependency on Pakistan and helps India to establish links with energy rich Central Asia. For India a friendly and pro-active democratic regimes in Afghanistan would act as a balancer in the region. The stability of the region can be assured only if we have a stable Afghanistan which would counter the Taliban forces and India has extended its all out support in this endeavour.

Encountered with deep recession, Afghanistan embarked on several austerity programmes and launched stimulus packages that would help the economy move out of a dependent entity to a self-reliance system.  From Afghan’s standpoint, India’s investments and partnership would be a great value addition in the re-building process of the countries economy and infrastructure. The strategic and security system of Afghanistan is fragile and weak and India’s support and strategic partnership is worthy of mention and a step forward in stabilizing the region. Powers like United States welcomes India as a key player in the stabilization process that agonizes Pakistan, who has adopted a zero-sum approach in the region creating a security dilemma.

Geo-economically Afghanistan is very important for India, the foreign trade policy of India and the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), hosts a tremendous promise that could help the country develop economic and strategic importance in Eurasia and Central Asia. The INSTC has particular economic and strategic relevance to India given the increasing regional ambitions of China through its one belt one road initiative. Several MOUs have been signed between India and Afghanistan. Indian investors are interested in the “virgin markets” of Afghanistan. Indian private sectors are seen as a driver towards prosperity in Afghanistan. The other important project is the building of Sister-City relations between major Indian cities and Afghan counterparts. The Sister-City relations will be connected through tourism, faculty exchange programs as well as through private sector investment. Several invitations have been extended to India to invest in Afghanistan.  India has been invited by Afghanistan to join Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Trade and Transit Agreement a very significant link wherein Afghanistan would act as a land bridge connecting South Asia and central Asia

Termed as one of continuity and engagement, India-Afghanistan relations is built on mutual trust and cooperation. With the exception of the Taliban rule, India’s relations with Afghanistan remain strong. Indian support continues in the reconstruction, rebuilding and stabilization process of Afghanistan.  As the fourth largest donor, Indian contribution to the rebuilding process has been to the effect of US $ 2.2Bn and generous assistance has been provided in the formation of human capital with approximately 13000 Afghan students studying in Indian Universities. India’s signature project and commitment to democracy and institutional support can be seen in the completion of the Afghan Parliament. The Salma dam in Herat is yet another initiative in terms of infrastructure development is nearing completion which would generate 42 MW of much needed power for the electrification of rural and urban Herat and also help in irrigating 80000 hectares of agricultural land. The Trade and transit between India and Afghanistan, is gaining momentum and the movement of trucks across the Attari-Wagha border would spur regional trade and enhance economic engagement in South Asia. There is a ray of positive hope that Pakistan would allow the India-Afghan trade movement, which would boost Afghan economy. Afghanistan is also keen on India’s involvement in the India-Iran Chabhar Port project. The project would create an international transit corridor. The Chabhar Port Project is of enormous significance both to India and Afghanistan. For Afghanistan it would boost the regional trade and for India it would provide a sea-land access to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.

India is an all weather friend of Afghanistan and continues to play a significant role in tackling terrorism in the region. India has expressed keen intent to strengthen Afghanistan’s defense capabilities for safeguarding its security and combatting all forms of terrorism.  India is supplying helicopters to Afghan government in its effort to combat the growing menace from Taliban. India and Afghanistan have discussed several ways and means to enhance cooperation to combat terrorism. India has spearheaded capacity building prgrammes and training to Afghan soldiers in their effort to tackle terrorism. Several terror network outfits operate from Afghanistan and have expressed this menace as a global phenomenon threatening international peace and stability.

Deep engagement drives India-Afghan relations. There is committed partnership and enduring interest between the world’s largest and fledgling democracy. A pluralistic society with rich tradition and civilization that was undermined by the Taliban forces today is committed to restoring peace and stability in the region. Deeply embedded in democratic principles and values, India’s support in this endeavor of reconstruction of Afghanistan is most sought after. There are set agendas and shared objectives in India-Afghanistan relations. India is keen to assist and build a robust economy and stable political institution in Afghanistan.  An earnest effort in the reconstruction process that is vital for India, as it anchors regional peace and stability.

 

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar at the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.

 

 

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India’s Pacific Ambition

In many ways India is not a traditional or a significant power in the Asia Pacific region, but today India is making a concerted effort to look eastwards. There is a divided opinion on India’s Pacific ambition, while some call it as an emerging aspiration, while others call it as a deficit action. However it would be a misnomer and premature to  decipher  India’s  geo-strategic and geo-economic interest as simply void. With US strategic pivot in East Asia, and with expanded US-Japan alliance system, India is drawn into this  power configuration partnership, probably an effort to counterweight  China.

 

India and east asia

There is a growing geo-strategic and geo-economic involvement of India in the region. Host of factors ranging from past history, economy, political and strategic has dominated India’s East and South East Asia dynamics.  Trying to connect the demands of the  post liberalisation era and to engage meaningfully in the region, India re-visited its Look East Policy. India’s engagement with ASEAN is yet another milestone of integrating into the global economy.

The United States as a part of its pivot strategy in Asia , is harnessing  India as an important player in the region.  This has resulted in India’s invitation for the East Asia Summit in 2005. There is a sense of  inclusion of India by Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea despite China’s objection. Defence diplomacy is something that India is judiciously following and has conducted  joint naval exercises with South Korea. Thereafter there has been an greater political engagement with Seoul. There is a special strategic global partnership that is emerging between India and Japan,as both the countries remain very watchful of China.

There are several areas that India-Japan are networking together. The high speed railways between Ahmadabad and Mumbai is a very important initiative towards this effort. The cooperation on nuclear and defence between Japan and India is very significant imperative in Asia’s landscape. There is a crystallisation of trilateral partnership between India-Japan-United States. Maintaining Balance of Power  is extremely vital and the resultant factor is the changing countours in the strategic landscape of East Asia.The triangular relation is seen as a crucial geo-strategic alternative which could probably balance China.

Is the inclusion of India done on the pretext of a growing economy or as an intent to contain China.There is lot of uncertainty that prevails in the region, what is the position of Japan, China and United States over the future of East Asia. Can the emerging powers like India, Japan and Australia fit into the strategic gap as  a stabilising force in the region. There is an emerging power shift that is slowly unfolding , can India benefit from this strategic quadrangle is something that has to be carefully watched.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.

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