Tag Archives | Brexit

On India—Portugal relations

by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)

Bárbara Reis, Editor-in-chief of the Portuguese magazine Publico asked me to comment on Portugal PM António Costa’s ongoing trip to India. Here are the questions and answers. [The full interview on the Public website is here]

Q: How would you describe India-Portugal bilateral relation, in particular compared with other European countries?

I’d put Portugal as the fourth most important country in Europe for India along with Netherlands. The first spot goes to Britain because of historical links and strong contemporary economic ties. Moreover, like other Asian members of the commonwealth, India too sees Europe through Britain. Germany and France are the other two European nations with which India has strategic partnerships. Then comes India’s partnerships with Netherlands and Portugal, both of which have substantially large Indian communities.

Q: Is Costa’s visit relevant for India? In what way? 

Costa’s visit is very significant for three reasons:

One, it comes at a time when India’s traditional connect in the European Union — Britain, is on its way out. Thus, India needs other partnerships to help navigate the complex mechanisms of the EU. As it stands, the EU is not looked upon as a credible strategic actor internationally. Apart from matters of trade and investment, emerging Asian countries like India prefer to interact directly with the member-states of the EU and vice-versa. This is where India-Portugal relations in general and this visit in particular become significant.

Two, India needs to partner with Portugal not just to access the EU, but also to link it with other Lusophone countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. Costa’s visit can give impetus to these partnerships as well.

Three, Costa will be visiting Gujarat, Goa, and Karnataka. It is not very common for the leader of another country to go out of the capital New Delhi. This visit can hence be utilised to establish links directly with these states, all three of which are amongst the economically better performing regions of India.

Q: PM António Costa’s father was an Indian from Goa. How does that fact play in Indian internal and external politics?

Not directly. But Mr Costa’s visit can be used to give impetus to Goa as a foreign policy actor, not only with respect to Portugal but also to other Lusophone nations. Traditionally, foreign policy has been seen to be the sole responsibility of the union government. But over the last decade, many states have started engaging with other countries directly, mostly for economic diplomacy. In this context, Goa is an important state because it is the richest state in India in per capita terms and also because a sizeable number of Goans reside outside India. Thus, riding on Costa’s Goan connections, the Goa—Portugal partnership can be made the first success story for this new paradigm of foreign policy in India.

Q: What could Portugal do to improve and strengthen the bilateral relation with India?

Portugal can help in three ways:

One, open up its doors to Indians for education. India has a shortage of world-class universities. Portugal can provide scholarships, especially in the social sciences stream.

Two, to establish stronger cultural links, Portugal can start short-term fellowship programmes for Indians on the lines of the US State department’s fellowships. This can involve not just Goa, but other Lusophone nations of the world.

Three, the Portuguese language in Goa has declined steadily over the years. It would help if Portugal could boost the Centro de Língua Portuguesa in Goa and tie-up with other schools and colleges for this purpose.

Q: Do you agree that Goa is being underestimated by both countries? Meaning, could Goa be the center of a new triangular type of diplomatic relations? Triangles like India-Mozambique-Portugal? Or India-Portugal and any of the other Portuguese speaking countries?

Definitely. The idea that states are important partners in India’s foreign policy is gaining ground now. States too see themselves as important players and are ready to engage other countries for establishing mutually beneficial economic relations. Many state departments now have NRI departments that interact with nations having large diasporas from their state. Goa can become the crucial link between India and all Lusophone nations. Goa should consider having a permanent trade representation in all Lusophone nations to accelerate the bidirectional flow of investments.

Also read: My colleague Anupam Manur’s article in Mint on the investment opportunities for India in Portugal.

Pranay Kotasthane is a Research Fellow at The Takshashila Institution. He is on twitter @pranaykotas

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When Internationalism Fails

By Ramanjit (@patialablue)

While International bodies enable cooperation, sharing of resources and compatibility of laws, there exist inherent perils of bureaucracy without democracy. In the absence of transparent communication and channels of participation, international bodies might be seen as authoritarian.

Brexit is a stunning example of failure of a supra-state, the European Union. 28 diverse nation states constitute this confederation that facilitate a common currency, cross border mobility and free trade. The union’s constitution and parliament set a basis and framework for political cohesiveness. The EU was seen by many as a model of global integration. Jeremy Rifkin, author of The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, predicted EU to be a future world superpower.

Alas, the European Union is far from perfect. And it just got even further from it. An influential member, Britain recently voted decisively to exit the union. A referendum to leave Europe was won by those who voted to leave by 52% to 48% for stay. The referendum turnout was 71.8%. There could be more exits. France, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Finland, and Hungary might run the idea of holding referendums in the future to reconsider their membership in the Union.

The above challenges in the EU point to serious fault lines of international organizations. EU is almost perfect with its arrangement of institutions like the Parliament, the central bank and Court of Justice of the European Union. But starkly wanting is demos — the people. EU easily comes across as a super-nation without people of its own. While the structure of EU allow for extreme mobility across nations, this automatically does not bring people together. An Italian might still see a French as one his own. A European Union will not necessarily create conditions for a deeper “European” identity.

But an Italian might find himself among Polish or Greeks competing for his jobs or public goods. And it is not a hard guess that he might feel a sense of resentment. His resentment is an easy political capital for ultra nationalist political parties that build narrative against migrants and evoke fears that they will take over the country. The success of such a narrative was well demonstrated during Brexit.

A citizen has almost no influence over the international body that his country might be a member of. However, his life is impacted by the decisions taken by that international body. The EU model includes a European parliament, however the parliament does not have the right to frame legislations. The International body then appears as authoritarian.

Political mediation and communication are key to balance the bureaucratic isolation and autonomy of international institutions. A fine balance of fulfilling the demands of international institutions and aspirations of the home constituencies is not just desirable but pertinent. The argument is not against internationalism but for creating institutions that don’t derive their legitimacy merely from the consent of member nations but also through sturdy mechanics of accountability and transparency.

In conclusion, the answer to the fear of authoritarian Internationalism is not less internationalism. There is no one answer but it will be good to explore methods that allow citizens to participate in the organisations that exist for them.

Ramanjit is a Research analyst with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @patialablue

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