Newly elected President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena’s visit to India from Feb 15-18 had justifiably raised hopes and expectations, both in Colombo and in New Delhi, of a major‘course correction’ that could mark the onset of a new, vigorous and dynamic bilateral relations between the two countries. The reasons for such high expectations were many.
While inaugurating the biennial air show Aero-India 2015 at Bengaluru on February 18th, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India did not like being labelled the world’s largest importer of weapons systems. With less than ten days left for the presentation of the NDA government’s second budget, the Prime Minister said in the era of shrinking defence budgets, India could become a global manufacturing and export hub for arms and defence equipment. Is that statement indicative of the shape of the defence budget to be presented to Parliament shortly?
Going by past experience, India’s latest initiative to engage Pakistan will not deliver the results it expects. The Government cancelled the Foreign Secretary level talks in August last year because the Pakistani High Commissioner in Delhi chose to meet the Hurriyat leaders in advance to mark the point that the “people of Kashmir”- whose true representatives in its eyes are those who contest India’s sovereignty over J&K and seek self-determination- are an interested party and should be included in a trilateral dialogue, a formula that India obviously rejects.
India’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran over the last few years have been marked by various hurdles. These pertained to the unresolved payment imbroglio for the import of Iranian crude oil; inability to streamline trade between the two countries and various other issues. These limitations have cropped up ever since the United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran for its controversial nuclear programme. The sanctions have led to negative impacts on India’s overall bilateral relations with Iran.
With fears of confrontation between the supporters of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and former President and human right activist Mohamed Nasheed sparking a wave of unrest in this littoral nation, Maldives has yet again attracted world attention, albeit for the wrong reasons.
A quick peep into the past
To better understand the current happenings in this island nation, it’s pertinent to take a quick peep into the major events over the last two years.
The hype over the nuclear deal has obscured the main achievement of the Obama visit: this is in the Joint Strategic Vision Statement for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, to give the full name of the separate document issued by the two leaders. This is not to gainsay the importance of civil nuclear cooperation, or the understandings reached on defence and economic cooperation.
A ceasefire deal to end the fighting in Eastern Ukraine was reached in Minsk after a marathon session of negotiations running into almost seventeen hours amongst the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France. This seeks to end a year of bitter fighting that has seen many thousands killed and millions uprooted from their homes. The main points of the peace agreement are:
- Ceasefire to begin at 00.00am local time on 15 February
- Heavy weapons to be withdrawn in a two week period starting from 17 February
- Amnesty for prisoners involved in fighting
India needs to proceed with utmost caution on its civil nuclear deal with the United States.
The pathbreaking agreement, dramatically ‘operationalised’ in a 25 January meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi by U.S. President Barack Obama during his three-day state visit to India, has raised high expectations in both countries and elevated their partnership to a new dimension. However, the advancements made by India in the atomic energy sector compel the question whether the country needs to be buttonholed into such an arrangement.
India has been one of the largest beneficiaries of World Bank assisted schemes in the last few decades and due to this, several health and educational schemes were implemented. But in the life of every society and country, there comes a time to say that we can stand on our own feet particularly if the country has ambitions to become an important power. Since India cannot be both a supplicant and also a candidate for the high table of global powers, it is perhaps time to say good-bye to World Bank assistance by India.