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Tag Archives | International Relations

Don’t Hold Your Breath for the G-20

The G-20 Summit this weekend will see world leaders descend upon Hangzhou. How much will be accomplished considering the G-20 has been meandering since 2010?

By Hamsini Hariharan (@HamsiniH)

Over the last few months, Chinese media has depicted the G-20 Hangzhou Summit as a major upcoming milestone in global governance. Media Reports claim that the Summit’s agenda includes issues ranging from global taxation, innovation, growth, investment, climate change, trade barriers to even anti-corruption. How much will the G-20 be able to deliver on?

The Answer: very little.

It will do us well to question what the G-20 has actually achieved in the last six years. It was the primary coordinating agency after the 2008 Financial Crisis and came up with the standstill policy. At the 2010 Seoul Summit, there was a 6% quota rebalancing to emerging countries in the composition of the executive board of the IMF. The 2011 and 2012 Summits were overshadowed by the Eurozone Crisis. At the Cannes Summit, it was suggested that the IMF would provide additional financing to Europe as a whole rather than a single country. Japan led the pack with 60 billion dollars while the BRICS countries followed suit but the US remained aloof from the efforts. In 2013, the G-20 for the first time, addressed political contentions, particularly the Syrian civil war and the use of chemical weapons. In 2014, the Brisbane Summit saw leaders pledge to lift GDP by 2% by 2018. However, there is little evidence to prove that most countries are departing from their national policies to meet their commitments. The 2015 Agenda simply reiterated the need for meeting past commitments.

Thus, broadening of its agenda beyond international financial reform has also meant that the G-20 has had little impact on anything. The counter argument is that the G20 is a deliberative body rather than a decision making one. However, the purpose of deliberations is to drive decisionmaking at some level. The G-20 always possessed a feature of complementarity: it was to work alongside other major international institutions. However, reform of international institutions has proven to be a long arduous task and the G-20’s assumption of other tasks (comparable to the agenda of multiple other international institutions) will bear little fruit.

The main problem with the G-20 is that it is unable to deal with the power politics amongst its members. Given the unanimity requirement in the organisation, an issue is pushed off the agenda if there is a considerable opposition from several G-20 members forming an issue specific coalition. Agenda Setting dynamics within the G-20 generally pit developing and developed countries against each other. On the other hand, China which is the global growth engine and the US, still the global superpower, both seek to dominate the G-20 agenda. This is addition to individual countries attempting to carve out special deals for themselves. This cacophony of voices is one of the reasons that the G-20 has failed to deliver.

The G-20 is important for corridor diplomacy however, G-20’s importance boiling down to corridor diplomacy cannot be regarded as a success in any sense of the term. The main problem with the G-20 was that it was a minilateral envisioned to have taken the most important powers into consideration for effective deliberation. However, this minilateral is not small enough to align nations’ strategies and is beset by concerns of national interest.  The 2016 G-20 agenda is too wide a net for any effective outcomes. The only way forward is for the G-20 to prioritise its most important issues and stick to its original mandate: answering systemic economic challenges.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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Why signing of landmark agreements with the US is in India’s National interest?

The concept of swing power mandates that India move closer to the US by signing agreements that signal closer defence and trade cooperation

By Guru Aiyar (@guruaiyar)

There have been media reports recently about India on the verge of signing agreements with the US that will move it closer to almost to a status of alliance.  There are basically three agreements—Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) which give the US forces access to Indian bases and vice-versa, the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geo-spatial cooperation. The focus of bilateral cooperation will be on these agreements during the visit to India in April of Ashton Carter, the US defence secretary. Closely aligned is the Defence Trade & Technology Initiative (DTTI). There is opposition in some quarters in the Indian military and the government regarding some serious concerns on these agreements.

The concerns stem from the fact that “what do we do in case of war?” Alliance politics, balancing by world powers, miscalculation, miscommunication—all could lead to a major war according to John Mearsheimer, a renowned US professor on International Relations. He explains it succinctly in his book, the Tragedy of Great Power Politics  where he concludes that the world powers blundered into the First World War. India is justified in asking the question of “what to do in case of war?” as its bilateral relations, especially with countries in the Persian Gulf and Southeast/East Asia are markedly different than that of the US with them. In this debate, it is essential to clearly understand the concept of swing power.

According to Project for New American Security (PNAS),  a US based think tank global swing states are nations that possess large and growing economies, occupy central positions in a region or stand at the hinge of multiple regions, and embrace democratic government at home. Increasingly active at the regional and global level, they desire changes to the existing international order but do not seek to scrap the interlocking web of global institutions, rules, and relationships that has fostered peace, prosperity and freedom for the past six decades. Taking this argument further, K. Subrahmanyam, one of India’s foremost strategic thinkers had advocated India’s role in the international order as a swing power.

If the US is at the top of the hierarchy, China second, then it makes sense for India to be a swing power. The basis of being a swing power is this: India should have better bilateral relations with US & China than they have with each other. Rather than viewing it as containing China, being a swing power must be seen as defending Indian values of liberal, secular and pluralistic democracy. The defence ministry is having some apprehensions about signing these agreements with service chiefs of the view that there is little to be gained from such agreements.

It is important to gather what these apprehensions are? Is it, hypothetically, if US were to go to war with Iran in the future, what would be India’s stand? The answer to this conundrum can be simplified to walk away from the agreement if it does not suit our national interests. For example, Sri Lanka has signed these agreements but still goes to China for strategic partnership for Hambantota port. Let’s face it. India is not a banana republic whose foreign policy or strategic autonomy can be held to ransom. There is no need to shy away from signing these agreements.

Guru Aiyar is a Research Scholar at Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar 

 

 

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One year of NDA government’s foreign policy: What changed and what didn’t?

By Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)

These are the comments that Pranay wrote for Emerging Kerala, a Malayalam monthly magazine on Kerala’s business, economy and society in the backdrop of the first anniversary of NDA rule.

Q: As Narendra Modi government is completing one year in this May, what do you think the achievements of the country in diplomatic relations with other countries? How Narendra Modi’s foreign visits have benefitted our economy?

The astute selection of countries for engagements is the first significant achievement. Looking beyond the sub-continent and giving a much-needed push to the relations with countries like Japan, Australia, Vietnam and US was long overdue.

It is also important to realise that foreign policy successes aren’t outcomes of foreign visits alone. Foreign policy successes need domestic consensus building as well. On that count, resolving the long-standing land border issue with Bangladesh through the constitutional process constitutes the second diplomatic success. This will allow India to focus on more substantive issues like getting transit access to the Northeast Indian states through Bangladesh.

Third, the operationalisation of the civil nuclear deal with the US is another achievement, removing a roadblock in the partnership between the two countries.

It is good for the Prime Minister to invest time in international engagements: India’s growth is influenced by the world and the world’s situation in turn affects India’s growth. So, foreign engagements are key to the Indian economy.

The benefits of foreign policy initiatives on the economy are delayed by their inherent nature. So, its effects, whether in terms of giving a boost to ‘Make in India’ or in terms of energy security, will take some time. However, a good foreign policy is just solving one part of the puzzle for giving a boost to the economy. The second part demands that the government put the right policies in place domestically like making the Indian setup more market-friendly.

Q: Has India got an image makeover globally? Is India becoming an influential global force?

Yes, to the extent that Mr. Modi’s revitalisation of India’s foreign policy has re-established India as a significant player in international affairs. Mr. Modi has raised expectations across the region. India’s position is key to the Asian balance of power and this government has conveyed the right signals to other important players in the region.

On the other hand, global influence is itself an outcome of national power. And one of the most important factors for national power is consistent economic growth. The other countries look up to India only because they believe that its growth will be of benefit to them as well. So, economic growth will be the key to national power and in turn to a greater influence in the world.

Q: There are criticisms about the huge expense of Modi’s foreign visits. How do you look at this?

Foreign visits by important ministers of state are not junkets. There is a great tendency to view such trips with the lens of “onsite” opportunities.

We have to go beyond the mindset of a “poor” India that cannot be an important player in the international arena. To that effect, these trips are very important, both as a signal to the world, and in terms of concrete partnerships with key nation-states. Overall, India’s policy discourse will benefit from the PMs international engagements and exposure.

Given the huge positive externalities of the PM’s visit to other countries, I definitely do not subscribe to the view that the expenses are worthless.

Q: What do you think the most significant step that Modi has taken in the foreign policy?

The most significant step has been to signal to the world that India wants to proactively engage with every country.

The buzz around the world is that India now has a government that can get its act right and resolve internal issues while engaging externally.

Q: What are the major differences in the foreign policy of Narendra Modi government and former UPA government?

The biggest success during the UPA tenure was the US-India 123 agreement which, by no means was a small achievement. It put the India-US partnership on the right track after several years of sluggishness.

Beyond that success, a large amount of time, and political capital were wasted on international groupings that had little relevance to India’s foreign policy priorities. On the sidelines of one such conference, the PM even committed a big blunder of signing a joint statement with the PM of Pakistan that effectively agreed to India’s role in Balochistan.

In general, there was a lot of focus on getting our relationship with Pakistan right, which was a wishful thinking given that Pakistan was, and is still in control of the Military Jihadi complex (MJC) which sees no benefit in good relations with India. As a result, we missed the boat on engaging with other countries instead.

What we now see is that the new government is more proactive in its foreign policy. Modi’s focus on foreign policy has taken everyone by surprise. This means that foreign countries are taking that one extra step as well.

Secondly, there is a lot more visible focus on engaging with countries beyond the Indian jambudweepa, thereby establishing India not only as a regional leader, but also a global powerhouse.

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

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Growing relations between India and Canada

Olivia Gagné

The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper landed in India for his longest trip in a foreign country since his election victory of 2006. This reflects the growing interest Canada has been showing towards India over the last few years, keeping in mind its objective to diversify it’s trading partners and thus secure its future prosperity.

The current bilateral relations have great potential to be strengthened in many areas. A Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is likely to be concluded next year between India and Canada, which would help reach the annual common fixed target of $15 billion in bilateral trade from the current $5 billion.

Canadian businesses clearly size the growing Indian market as a not-to-be-missed opportunity. In turn, India considers all that Canada has to offer with respect to the several challenges it is increasingly facing. Canada is an emerging energy superpower and could start exporting oil and liquefied natural gas to an energy-deprived India as soon as the required infrastructures to do so are installed. 99 percent of the Canadian hydrocarbons are sold to the United States of America, at a ridiculously cheap price. Canada has an obvious economic advantage selling it at higher prices, closer to the international ones and India is willing to pay this price to get Canada as a reliable supplier. Nuclear energy is also on the cards as both the countries signed a civil nuclear agreement two years ago.

Apart from the Indian conquest for energy security, the education of the current and future generations of Indians is a major challenge that could find part of the solution in better cooperation with the Canadians. Last year, 13000 Indian students went to Canada for education. Canada is seriously interested in welcoming more in the coming years for their intellectual capabilities. The Canadian post-secondary education is one of the best in the world as showed in a recent OECD report. The Canadian expertise could greatly benefit the Indian authorities on planning and managing public education. Canada also has extraordinary know-how in the environment protection field from which India has a lot to learn. In sum, the Canadian private sector is looking avidly at all the infrastructure needs in India and could help in achieving the considerable government spending of this sector.

The Canada-India relationship can also be strengthened if both countries engage together in other parts of the world for joint cooperation. For example, the aid sector in Africa offers many opportunities for this. Canada seriously needs to improve its image in this region as it failed to gain a seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2010 partly because it lost credit with the continent over the last few years. India is similarly seeking the African support for its bid for a UNSC permanent seat, and is obviously interested in accessing the resources of the area. The share of Canada’s development experience in Africa could help make India’s “new role” as a global donor much more effective. Together they could even plan triangular cooperation projects, which are an innovative approach to development, seen as highly effective and which would benefit each of the three committed parties.

The previous items of the bilateral possibilities might be part of the agenda on the prime minister Stephen Harper’s second official visit to India from November 3rd to 9th.

Olivia Gagné is a graduate student at the Université Laval and currently doing an internship at The Takshashila Institution.

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