Tag Archives | European Union

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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Where India got it right

EU is trying to do what India did in 1947, but it has been trying to do so since 1958 – Varun Ramachandra(_quale)

It appears that the Eurozone leaders have decided to halt the crisis that they have been in recently. They have agreed to provide a third bailout to Greece, subject to certain conditions that the Greek government has to meet by 15th July 2015.

A lack of political union is being cited as a primary reason for the current crisis in Europe. In this context, some of my colleagues have attempted to compare the Indian Union and the European Union and contend that the EU is aspiring to do what India did in 1947.

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Although initially I did not agree, with time and more reading I partly agree with the hypothesis. EU is indeed trying to do what India did in 1947, but it has been trying to do so since 1958. At the time of independence, India faced a problem of political unity; a common currency across most of (today’s) India already existed. The Euro Zone, on the other hand, comprises of several states with independent governments that have agreed to be a part of a monetary union — ie., an adopted common currency.

In this context the words of the  English Economist Nicholas Kaldor sound prophetic

… Some day the nations of Europe may be ready to merge their national identities and create a new European Union – the United States of Europe. If and when they do, a European Government will take over all the functions which the Federal government now provides in the U.S., or in Canada or Australia. This will involve the creation of a “full economic and monetary union”. But it is a dangerous error to believe that monetary and economic union can precede a political union or that it will act (in the words of the Werner report) “as a leaven for the evolvement of a political union which in the long run it will in any case be unable to do without”. For if the creation of a monetary union and Community control over national budgets generates pressures which lead to a breakdown of the whole system it will prevent the development of a political union, not promote it.

Another important difference between the EU and India is that the individual Indian state derive its legitimacy from the Union. This is sorely lacking in Europe, where the Union draws its legitimacy from the individual members.

It is therefore safe to contend that the Indian experiment is actually a success, at least when compared to the ongoing European experiment, whose results are not yet out.

(Photo License)

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China-Zimbabwe Relations

In addition to trade, aid, and diplomatic ties, China – Zimbabwe relations are strengthened by a mutual desire for development

By Fraderick MujuruChina-Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is located in the southern part of the African continent, immediately north of South Africa. The country has a population of 13 million and an area of 151,000 square miles. Zimbabwe gained independence from British colonial rule on April 18, 1980. Zimbabwe’s government is ostensibly a Presidential Republic, with Robert Mugabe being its President since independence. In 2014, Zimbabwe’s economy recorded a GDP of US$ 12.8 billion and an annual growth rate of 3.1%. However, this paints a misleading picture; the economy witnessed negative growth of about 16% during the hyperinflation years (see Figure 1). Though it has recovered since then to post positive growth rates, it must be noted that having a range of over 27% in the growth rate (-16% to 11%) is an indication of macroeconomic instability. There is no better proof of this instability than the episode of hyperinflation where the inflation rate rose to a whopping 231 million percent in July-August 2008.

Figure 1: Showing the real GDP growth of Zimbabwe from 2005-2014. The numbers for 2012-14 are IMF Staff estimates.

Zimbabwe Fig 1

Source: IMF World Economic Outlook Database.

However, Zimbabwe has stabilized since then and there are encouraging signs of growth in the near future. A part of this revival has to do with Zimbabwe’s immense mineral wealth, as it is a source of economic returns. One major factor is the political and economic relationships that Zimbabwe has managed to develop with the fast growing East Asian countries, the biggest of which is the People’s Republic of China.

China has a web of alliances across Africa: there is even a popular mantra to describe the Chinese presence and investments in Africa – “the Chinese are coming”. China’s relationship with Africa has historical roots; in 1971 many African nations supported the claim of the government of the People’s Republic of China to represent China’s seat in the Security Council of the United Nations. This may be because Beijing spent the early part of the 1960s establishing relations with left leaning states such as Ghana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Sudan, etc.

Starting from as early as the 1950s, Africa has seen several large projects spearheaded by the Chinese government that have set the tone of engagement between the two areas. Major projects include the construction of the Tanzam railway joining Tanzania and Zambia. China’s trade with the African continent has increased from US$10 billion to US$120 billion between 2000 and 2014. It has given as much as US$ 5 billion towards at least 800 projects in Africa, an amount higher than the World Bank’s contribution since 2005 (US$3.2 billion).

China-Zimbabwe Political relationship

China and Zimbabwe have cooperated politically in the past. In 2005 the European Union and the USA imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe for alleged human rights violations. In response, Zimbabwe crafted its ‘Look East Policy’ which targeted Asian economic giants like Singapore, China, and Malaysia. China responded quite quickly and the communist Chinese government supported Zimbabwe in its ‘Land Reform Program’ which sought to address the predominantly white minority ownership of property.

The pinnacle of China-Zimbabwe political relations was likely China’s use of its veto to axe the 2008 United Nations Security Council resolution that sought to apply additional sanctions on Zimbabwe. The resolution was also vetoed by Russia and they both justified their stance with the argument that the alleged incidents were an internal matter and not a threat to international security.

From Politics to Economics

The economic relationship between the two countries has recently been the source of deepening ties between China and Zimbabwe. In 2010, both countries celebrated 30 years of their relation with over US$ 560 million generated on bilateral trade.

The trade relationship between the two countries is obviously dominated by China; Zimbabwean exports to China are exceeded by Chinese imports in Zimbabwe. Major imports from China include telecommunication equipment, and manufactured goods such as soap, plastics, shoes, etc. Exports by Zimbabwe to China are mainly raw materials such as tobacco, platinum, chrome, steel, and diamonds.

Fig 2: Exports and Imports of Zimbabwe to and from China (US$ thousands)

Zimbabwe Fig 2Courtesy: World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) 2015

Apart from trade, China has also provided aid to Zimbabwe to help the latter in its developmental efforts. For instance, it provided US$103 million in official development aid to Zimbabwe from 2004-2010, through grants and concessional loans (see Table 1).

Table 1: Summarizing some of the Zimbabwe-China economic deals and aid agreements.

Year Amount (millions) Types Description
2000 $5.8 Concessional loans Used to invest in Cement production plant
2004 $240 Sale 12 jet fighters and 100 military vehicles’
2006 $25 Preferential loans  –                –                 –                   –
2007 $200 Export credit Farming Inputs
2007 $200 Sale SINOSTEEL purchased ZINASCO
2010 $700 Loan Rejuvenating Agriculture sector
2012 $180 Loan Airport Upgrade, neonatal equipment, economic and technological cooperation

 

Extraction: Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Zimbabwe (2014)

China also funds many infrastructure projects in Zimbabwe. It recently invested US$ 98 million in a military complex entitled the Robert Mugabe School of Intelligence. The trade relationship is not limited to the Chinese government; Chinese companies have invested in Air Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority.

Though the China-Zimbabwe relationship may have been more political in its early years, the two countries are currently bound more by economics and diplomatic ties. China has offered loans, grants, concessions, and preferential loans to Zimbabwe. To increase their engagement, Zimbabwe allowed Beijing investors to have a share and invest freely in Zimbabwe. The relation between China-Zimbabwe has been branded ‘all weather friendship’.

China still lags behind other countries in terms of humanitarian and economic engagement with Zimbabwe. The USA remains Zimbabwe’s biggest provider of aid – its contribution (above US$ 2 billion since 1980) is substantially more than other countries; China does not make it to the top ten list of donors. However, China has emerged as Zimbabwe’s fourth biggest trade partner and there is still potential to further strengthen what are already robust economic ties between the two countries.

Fraderick Mujuru is an intern at Takshashila Institution and is presently doing his Masters in International Relations at Christ University, Bangalore

 

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