At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) forthcoming annual summit meeting in Bashkortostan in Russia in July 2015 , it is expected that India’s status would be elevated from an Observer to a full member. If reports are true, it would indeed be a positive development for India. A regional Grouping, the SCO, comprises of countries some of whom are part of its extended / strategic neighbourhood. Today India’s neighbourhood is in a state of flux, the shape of future scenario in Afghanistan is uncertain.The process of withdrawal of Western coalition forces from Afghanistan has begun.
The President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia from 18th March. A joint statement issued at the conclusion of Yameen’s visit to the Kingdom said that the two sides have expressed their desire to strengthen cooperation in foreign affairs, defence, Islamic affairs, justice, economic, investment and trade sectors, providing support to the issues of the Muslim nation as well as education, health and social affairs to realize their common interests. The Saudi Fund for Development will continue to finance development projects in Maldives.
Parliament has just approved the vote on account and remitted the Budget proposal to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. The expenditure proposals will be considered by the individual ministries to whom the Demands for Grants pertain. The taxation and other tax related proposals will be examined by the Standing Committee on Finance. Both these would now be considered for final approval with such modification as the Finance Minister considers appropriate post the Parliamentary Recess period. These both would be approved and concluded in the first half of May.
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?