Strategic Encirclement of India
When Asia’s leaders meet at the annual East Asia summit to discuss geo-strategic and economic issues of common interest, most of the discussions on the sidelines of the summit are centred on China’s aggressive posturing in its area of influence. China’s recent assertiveness in the South China Sea and its belligerence on the Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands are indicators of its growing proclivity to settle territorial and boundary disputes by force rather than through diplomatic negotiations.
As part of his recent three nation Indian Ocean tour, Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Seychelles after 34 years; Indira Gandhi being the last in 1981. Modi led a high level delegation which included among others Foreign Secretary and National Security Adviser, and his visit saw signing of four pacts, including one on bolstering maritime security and closer cooperation in ‘ocean economy’.
Evolution of Bilateral Relations and Areas of Cooperation
Two small vessels, probably trawlers, slipped out of Keti Bandar, a small fishing port near Karachi and headed towards the Indo-Pak maritime border. The radio communications between these vessels and people on shore were intercepted by NTRO, which passed them on to the Coast Guard. Apprehensive of an operation similar to the one enacted by Pakistan in Mumbai on 26th November 2008 (26/11), in which 154 innocent people were butchered by ten terrorists, the Coast Guard immediately acted.
According to Will Durant, discovery of agriculture and invention of printing press are two breakthroughs which have fashioned and transformed the course of history. Modern historians believe that another invention which drastically altered the course of history was the discovery of trade winds by Hippolus in 45 AD. It gave rise to Indian Ocean trade, which was stable, continuous and less risky due to predictability of monsoon winds.
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.