1.Unsentimental ties (The Indian Express)

2.A strategy for the sea (The Indian Express)

 

1.Unsentimental ties (The Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that India and Russia must focus on realistic cooperation. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Despite the predictions of many, the potential for conflict between the major powers is still one of the defining characteristics of world politics. The crisis diplomacy and inter-state rivalry are back on the global agenda. For the past 25 years America has utterly dominated great-power politics, but with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin surprised the West by putting Russia right back at the centre of great power politics.

US- Russia

  • For past few years US had dismiss Russia as a “regional power”. However with Washington’s foreign policy community is replacing unreasonable disdain for Russia with irrational hostility. Meanwhile, the Europeans are struggling to come to terms with Russia’s annexation of Crimea, continuing intervention in eastern Ukraine and political meddling elsewhere on Russia’s periphery.
  • Putin’s military modernisation, a robust nuclear doctrine and a penchant for coercive diplomacy are giving sleepless nights to Russia’s European neighbours. Beyond Europe, Russia has joined China in reshaping the geopolitics of Eurasia. It has re-emerged as a critical player in the Middle East.
  • In partnership with Beijing, Moscow also created regional institutions like the SCO, challenging Western primacy in international institutions. If the West thought Russia was inconsequential, Moscow has demonstrated the capability to disrupt Western plans with an asymmetric strategy.

India-Russia

  • When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, India did its best to keep the relationship with Russia going. It resolved outstanding financial issues, renegotiated the peace and friendship treaty and went along with many of Russia’s global initiatives.
  • However, India’s discomfort with an assertive Russia became increasingly visible in 2017 as Russia’s tightening embrace of China and its flirting with the Taliban and the Pakistan army are generating unease. Instead of lamenting, Delhi must reimagine India’s relations with Russia in 2018 and beyond on the basis of clear-eyed realism.

Three elements must constitute this pragmatic engagement-

  1. India had long-wished and campaigned for a multipolar world; it also must learn to live with it. A world of many powers is far more unstable than the Cold War duopoly and the unipolar moment.

Realignment, dealignment and multi-alignment are the features of the contemporary world. India, on its part, has sought to hold onto Russia while rapidly expanding its ties with the US. Russia, which drew closer to India in the 1960s to counter China, now hangs on to a tenuous trilateralism with Delhi and Beijing.

Now India is trying to balance China by turning to America and Japan. Russia is trying to balance the West by aligning with China. India can’t expect a veto over Russia’s China policy, nor can it cede one to Moscow on India’s ties with the US. India’s bilateral ties with Russia must necessarily be defined by these boundary conditions in the near term.

  1. India needs to appreciate Russia’s long-term strategy towards the West. Putin wants to make Russia a “swing state” in the global balance of power marked by the rise of China and the uncertain evolution of America.
  1. Russia is conscious of its limitations; but India’s strategic community seems hesitant to acknowledge India’s strengths. Consider the fact that India’s GDP today, at $2.4 trillion, is nearly twice that of Russia. Many in Delhi’s foreign policy establishment, who grew up thinking of Russia as a warm blanket in a cold and uncertain world, are unprepared for a relationship that is more in tune with the changed circumstances in which India is emerging as a power in its own right.

Way ahead

  • In the changing times Russia’s relative weight may have diminished, but it has a long tradition of great power diplomacy. It has military capabilities and the political will to use force that together can shape global and regional balances. Delhi and Moscow must move towards a practical relationship that focuses on give and take wherever possible. The two sides must also carefully manage the inevitable differences that arise.

Question – In the changing world scenario explain the importance of Russia for India’s diplomatic needs. How India should manage to maintain its cordial relation with Russia?

 

2.A strategy for the sea (The Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that India needs to mark 25 years of Indo-ASEAN by breaking diplomatic stasis. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • ASEAN-India share a decade long friendly relationship and over the years all the south East Asian Nations, along with India, have played a pivotal role in bringing significant changes in the economic, social and political scenario of the world.
  • In the run-up to the forthcoming ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit, which marks 25 years of the establishment of the Dialogue Partnership between India and ASEAN,  Indian External Affairs Minister will undertake her first visit of the year to three southeast Asian countries.

India- ASEAN

  • Leaders from 10 member states of Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) met in the recently held India-ASEAN partnership summit to commemorate 25 glorious years of ASEAN-India relationship.
  • The summit focussed on strengthening India-ASEAN multi-faceted relationship and bringing out significant changes in world’s economic and political scenario. Consolidating mutual cooperation, promoting trade and business and strengthening bilateral ties between nations remained one of the major highlights of the summit.
  • India and ASEAN share deep economic ties. ASEAN is India’s 4th largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2% of India’s total trade. India is ASEAN’s 7th largest trading partner. Investment flows are also robust both ways, with Singapore being the principal hub for both inward and outward investment.
  • Year 2017 was the golden jubilee year of ASEAN’s founding, it also happens to mark 25 years of Indo-ASEAN engagement, and 15 years of summit-level meetings. Most importantly, 10 ASEAN leaders will be the guests of honour at India’s 2018 Republic Day celebrations, and their confabulations could decide the future course of this relationship.
  • A recent conference of the CSCAP (Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific) held in Thailand. The CSCAP is the Track II organ of ASEAN’s security-related bodies, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Defence Minister plus Forum.
  • India was accorded CSCAP membership in 2000 and participates in periodic conferences that act as a forum for regional scholars and experts to exchange views and often provide useful policy option inputs for Track I.
  • By the continuous employment of consensus and compromise, ASEAN has largely managed to avoid overt shows of disagreement, and rarely is any nation seen to “lose face”. Though there are criticisms that having painstakingly built a set of multilateral processes in the security arena, ASEAN has failed to develop proactive agendas that would take the grouping beyond trade and commerce, towards collegiate diplomacy and collective conflict management.
  • In the December 2017 CSCAP General Conference, that included representatives of the US, China, Russia, Japan and India, there have been an unusual departure from the “ASEAN way”, the keynote speaker, a former ASEAN minister, offered his blunt view that an “emerging China” had transmuted into an “erupting China”, an alarming phenomenon that, he felt, called for multi-lateral efforts to “bring under control”. Subsequent speakers repeatedly expressed the fervent hope that a “rules-based order” would be resolutely upheld to ensure the peaceful rise of China.
  • In this response the Chinese diplomat delivered a strong riposte, expressing displeasure that such “uncomplimentary and unwarranted” remarks should have come from the representative of a friendly nation.
  • For over six decades, peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific had been underwritten by a pax Americana, sustained by US naval presence. This utopia having been shattered by China’s assertive behaviour, neither the US “pivot to Asia” nor the subsequent “rebalance” has served to restore regional equilibrium.
  • China blatantly disregarded UN Laws of the Seas as well as the international justice system has brought into sharp relief US President’s withdrawal from internationalism, triggering regional fears about the impending imposition of a pax Sinica on the region.
  • India’s supporters in ASEAN visualise it as a rising economic and military entity worth having on their side. Others argue that India has, so far, brought little to the ASEAN table, and point to its diplomatic stasis, that stands in stark contrast to Chinese activism on the Rohingya and North Korean issues.
  • India’s “Act-East” vision has been lose steam due to sub-continental and domestic distractions, as well as an understaffed and overstretched diplomatic corps.

Way ahead

  • India’s domain of maritime interest now stretching right across the Indo-Pacific offers a cornucopia of opportunities quite apart from the nascent “quadrilateral”. The initiation of an “Indo-Pacific Maritime Partnership” that seeks mutually-beneficial maritime security cooperation with ASEAN nations will put it in a leadership role.

Question –It has been 25 long years, India have been unable to identify tangible avenues of cooperation with our eastern neighbourhood, without relying on the crutch of US endorsements about its status as a “global power”, India must envision broader horizons for itself. Critically analyse.