Towards the end of May 2014, India will have a new government and a new Prime Minister. In his speech on the eve of the Republic Day 2014, the President made three significant remarks which every Indian must bear in mind. He warned against what he referred to as "populist anarchy". He also said that a political party and a government must promise only that which it can deliver. The President's third comment was that the people of India should vote sensibly so that the new government is stable and can take those decisions which lead the country on the path of development.
Much has been achieved during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s current visit to India and much has not. In reiterating a clear intention to strengthen bilateral ties, the visit has been a success, though in breaking new strategic ground concretely, the results could have been better.
The Indian President’s speech on occasions like the Independence Day and the Republic Day is seen by people as something of a ritual that the Rashtrapati performs year after year. This is so because what dominates these speeches is dull, uninspiring prose packed with officialese and platitudes. Far from connecting with the people, these speeches only end up emphasizing the disconnect between the Head and State who lives in this grand palace which majestically overlooks Rajpath, and the Aam Aadmi (the common man).
As part of ongoing efforts to further strengthen Indo-Japan relations, Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera visited India in early January to discuss cementing of military ties. The visit comes close on the heels of China’s declaration of a new Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over East China Sea which has implications on Japanese sovereignty over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands that are bone of contention between Tokyo and Beijing. India has also been at the receiving end of China’s assertive policies along the disputed Sino-Indian border.
With the US drawdown (perhaps even complete withdrawal) from Afghanistan looming large over the horizon, there is growing pessimism (a lot of it unwarranted) over the prospect of the Afghan state’s ability to survive without the crutches of foreign security forces. Clearly, the impact of any collapse of the Afghan state as a result of ceaseless onslaughts by Islamist radicals (the Taliban/Al Qaeda combine) will not remain limited to Afghanistan. If anything, a destabilised Afghanistan will severely destabilise the entire region.
Our major foreign policy challenges are enduring and no dramatic change in our security environment is likely in 2014. Relations with Pakistan could actually worsen. Nawaz Sharif is focusing on Kashmir, knowing that it is a dead-end issue.
The events in Afghanistan seem to be turning a full circle. ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ that commenced in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is drawing to a close and plans are afoot to hand over Afghanistan to the very forces that were the root cause of the problems in Afghanistan. The American strategy has been shifting and its objectives have been diluted over a period of time. Disruption and dismantling of the Taliban networks is no more their objective.
In the Indian perception, there are several major areas of concern that are limiting the growth of the bilateral relationship. The foremost among these is the unresolved territorial and boundary dispute. The other major concern is the “all-weather” friendship between China and Pakistan that is, in Chinese President Hu Jintao’s words, “higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans”.
The arrest and hand-cuffing of India’s Deputy Consul General (DCG) Devyani Khobragade in New York as if she is a criminal with all the intrusive personal indignities heaped on a “felon” by the US manuals raises serious questions about India-US bilateral equations and the unilateralist manner in which the US interprets the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).
The Preamble to the Constitution of India starts with the following words, “We, the people of India …” and ends with the words, “hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”. The final arbiters of what happens in this country are the people and how they will fulfill their role is given in Chapter 2 of Part IV of the Constitution and Chapter 3 of Part VI of the Constitution, which provide for an elected Parliament at the level of the Union and an elected Legislature at the level of the States.