india   pakistan   nepal   sri lanka   Maldives   Bangladesh   Afganistan   Bhutan  
 
FB   
 
Powered by
 
 

 
Spotlight
India and South Asia: States need to be stakeholders
Posted:Mar 12, 2012
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

By C. Uday Bhaskar

India’s external environment and the related foreign policy challenges, with a special focus on the South Asian neighbourhood, were usefully illuminated in the course of this week by Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. 

This was also a period when the domestic political focus was on state elections -- with the Uttar Pradesh results and the contest between the Samajwadi Party heir Akhilesh Yadav and Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi receiving the greatest attention

Yet, paradoxically, there is an inherent linkage in the success and credibility of India’s regional foreign policy with the degree to which the proximate states become stakeholders in such an endeavor. In short, Indian foreign (and security) policy, particularly the immediate South Asian neighbourhood policy – which, till recently, was the sole purview of the Union Government in New Delhi -- will have to be rewired, so as to accommodate and benefit from inputs that the state capitals provide. The corollary is that at a time when the “uneasy coalition” is likely to be the prominent feature of  Indian domestic politics and the two major national parties (the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP) are dependent on regional leaders – the evolution and conduct of successful South Asian foreign policy by New Delhi will require the relevant state capitals to acquire appropriate neighbourhood interest and expertise.

Speaking on ‘India’s External Environment and Current Foreign Policy Challenges’ at Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies on March 9, Foreign Minister Krishna asserted:  “The biggest development over the past two decades in our continent has been the evolution of the process of Asian re-integration.” This is almost like a report card of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) since it came to office in 2004 and here the emphasis is on the Manmohan Singh vision of regional economic integration that would trump adversarial or prickly political relationships. Minister Krishna dwelt on how India has been implementing a policy of asymmetric engagement in providing greater market access to its neighbours, so as to enable integration in a mutually beneficial manner. And he added for good measure that: “This is one of the most significant challenges facing our foreign policy today.”

Reiterating this theme, the NSA Shivshankar Menon spoke on ‘Transforming South Asia’ at the Third Asian Relations Conference organised by the Indian Council for World Affairs  (ICWA) and the AAS in New Delhi and drew attention to the imbalance between the political and economic linkages in the South Asian region. Exhorting the experts drawn from all the South Asian nations to apply their minds to this challenge, Menon encouraged them to: “Start considering cooperative security frameworks and architectures for this sub-region, and what conditions would be necessary to make them successful. There are a host of issues such as terrorism, maritime security and cyber security which require cooperative solutions and which bear consideration by groups like yours. In the meantime, we should also move forward much more rapidly on connectivity, including energy and grid connectivity, tourism, people-to-people, trade and economic links that can make such a major contribution to improving our future.”

However, as Delhi knows from recent experience, Prime Minister Singh’s September 2011 visit to Dhaka, that should have been a major achievement of India’s bilateral relations, went off the tracks thanks to the obstructionist stance adopted by the newly-elected Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamta Banerjee. It is not the intention of this comment to dwell on the validity of the Kolkata position but to make a case for much greater and sustained consultation between Delhi and the concerned state capitals when it comes to advancing such bilateral relations.

The West Bengal-Bangladesh linkage offers a very useful case study that encompasses all the aspects touched upon by Minister Krishna and NSA Menon. Developing better connectivity – road, rail and maritime, including the rivers – will dramatically enhance the prosperity and human security indicators for the entire region that extends to the Indian Northeast and Myanmar.

However, this cannot happen in the absence of a comprehensive appreciation in both Delhi and Kolkata of the linkages between the domains – trade, economy, environment, security – and, finally, better politics. Reviving the Kolkata-Dhaka-Yangon transport links, for instance, would in a way resurrect the rhythms of the pre-1947 era, but for this to be realised, Kolkata must be a willing stakeholder in this vision.

In much the same manner, both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are relevant states in relation to Nepal and Bhutan – whether the issue is connectivity or harnessing hydro power potential. But unless Lucknow and Patna become partners with Delhi in this endeavor, these foreign policy objectives are unlikely to be realised.

Thus what merits attention is the need for individual states to acquire this degree of awareness about foreign policy issues – both in their legislatures and among their officials. Over the last decade and more, both when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power and more recently with the UPA at the helm -- the Ministry of  External Affairs has mooted a proposal to post Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers in individual states to provide state capitals this expertise. However, this has not moved meaningfully. The issue needs to be revived and state legislatures should be encouraged to deliberate over foreign policy issues in a regular manner.

The recent success of the Samajwadi Party in the Uttar Pradesh elections and the nomination of Akhilesh Yadav as the Chief Minister of India’s most populous state offers a rare opportunity. While shaking off the “goonda-raj” perception is no doubt the top priority for the new government to be formed in Lucknow, demonstrating an interest in foreign policy-related issues by the new Chief Minister could send a very strong signal – all the way to Kolkata and beyond.

(Commodore [Retd] C. Uday Bhaskar is one of India’s foremost strategic analysts. He can be contacted at cudayb@gmail.com)

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
Subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter
 
 

Modi diplomacy

 
spotlight image The combination of the world’s factory and the world’s back office will produce the most competitive production base, writes Xi Jinping, President of China

 
read-more
  
spotlight image Development initiatives launched by the National Democratic Alliance government in the neglected North-East dovetail into a larger Indian strategy of re-calibrating ties with China, especially when seen in the context of India’s outreach tow...

 
read-more
  
spotlight image As New Delhi gets ready to roll out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping, the question on the minds of most observers is, what exactly does he seek to accomplish during his state visit to India?

 
read-more
  
spotlight image Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in India Wednesday on a three-day visit that would see trade and investment topping the agenda of talks between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi besides other bilateral issues.

 
read-more
  
spotlight image Beijing is expected to push its new-generation APC1000 nuclear reactors during talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi here. The two leaders are expected to discuss the possibility of a civil nuclear cooperation...

 
read-more
  
spotlight image Soon after winning the election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India spoke to Korean President Park Geun-hye, who reportedly called and expressed confidence that the “strategic partnership” between India and Korea will expand in all ...

 
read-more
  
spotlight image Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fluent Hindi, through which he engages foreign interlocutors and the rhetorical instinct for catchy phrases, is helping expand India’s diplomatic lexicon. In Kathmandu last month, his play on &l...

 
read-more
  
spotlight image After Nepal and Japan, the US is the next big destination for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If the signals from Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel are any indication, defence cooperation alone will ensure the success of the visit. 

 
read-more
  
spotlight image Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, within a fortnight of his summit with Japan’s Shinzo Abe and before his meeting later this month with United States President Barack Obama, highlights the strate...

 
read-more
  
spotlight image Modi government’s neighbourhood initiative, which started even before the government was sworn-in, in the form of invitation to SAARC heads of Government and State, has widely been acclaimed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi established personal...

 
read-more
  
spotlight image Incidents instigated by the Pakistan military along the frontlines in Jammu and Kashmir are as predictable as the seasons. It is never too difficult to ascertain when they will begin and end. This year too, they are panning out in a similar manner...

 
read-more
  
spotlight image My visit to India reflects Australia’s desire for India to be in the first rank of Australia’s relations. Australia and India have always been comfortable in each other’s presence. 

 
read-more
  
spotlight image When they meet in New Delhi on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott should, hopefully, clinch the long-awaited agreement on civil nuclear cooperation that would allow Canberra to export uranium to India.&...

 
read-more
  
spotlight image NEW DELHI: Two months ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled a summit with Japan because he wanted a substantive visit. On Monday, Japan and India ramped up ties in a significant way, laying the way for India's economic development and tra...

 
read-more
  
On Aug 19 this year Afghanistan celebrated its 94th Independence Day. A few days prior to this, the Indian government announced an approval of US$ 1 million for constructing a cricket stadium in Afghanistan writes Rohit Kumar

 
read-more
We’ve all heard about the dangers of climate change on world food security, but by 2050 our ability to produce food may be lowered by up to 10 per cent due to rising air pollution, according to new research published by Nature Climate Change.  

In Collaboration with TERRE Policy Centre

 
read-more
In this exclusive interview, Matsushiro Horiguchi, former ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh, talks to Tokyo-based Bangladeshi journalist Monzurul  Huq and reflected on various aspects of bilateral relations that the upcoming visit of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinz...

 
read-more
Column-image

The Pakistan military believes parliamentary democracy is inappropriate for the country and sees itself as its saviour.

 
Column-image

The book details the life of Mujib and the various transitions he underwent - from a young man who vigorously championed the cause of Pakistan, a homeland for South Asia's Muslims in the 1940s, to his joining the fledgling Awami Muslim Leag...

 
Column-image

Can five seemingly unrelated stories spread across four countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka - have anything in common? Yes, seems to say journalist author Meenakshi Iyer, as she unveils gripping tales of hu...

 
Column-image

This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War; Author: Samanth Subramanian; Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (Penguin); Pages: 320; Price: Rs.499.

 
Column-image

New Delhi: For close to a century, many generations of an Indian family have been looking after the Indian Hospice, a symbol of India`s heritage, in the old city of Jerusalem. This existence...

 
Column-image

The latest book by the former New York Times contributor and author Arif Jamal meticulously describes why there should be little expectation of a trial and due punishment in November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

 
Column-image

When enacted, a written constitution takes on a life of its own. It has its own ethos, and its own philosophy. It ultimately guides the destiny of the country for which it is written. In the long and detailed Constitution o...

 
Column-image

The packed hall at the Galle Literary Festival was stunned into silence by a series of abuses hurled on a Sri Lankan human rights activist by a member in the audience. 

 
Column-image

Few countries get the kind of international political and policy attention that Pakistan draws. The nation’s pivotal role in shaping the global war on terror and the American occupation of Afghanistan after 9/11 has g...

 
Column-image

Fair’s assessment of the Pakistan army is out: it is an ideological war machine that is not amenable to any inducements or assuaging of its security concerns.

 
Column-image

The attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan's Herat Friday brings into sharp focus a book, written by an American journalist and published this year, that traces Pakistan's lin...

 
Column-image

Penguin Books India is proud to announce the publication of one of the most sensational books of the year: 

 
Column-image

Some titles like Evolving Dynamics of Nuclear South Asia will never go out of fashion. And, if a much-awarded former fighter pilot were to offer a manuscript, most publishers may not even read it before committi...

 
Column-image

Even as India elects a new government, some of the most important figures in its strategic establishment have been making the time to read a new book on China: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his aides say, has been through journalist Shishir Gu...

 
Column-image

A colleague recently visited Lahore to cover a fashion show. She enjoyed her sojourn but experienced a poignant episode when returning which she immortalised on Facebook.

 
Column-image

The great Indian election continues to generate global interest and wonder, partly on account of its uninterrupted success and partly because of the obvious challenges of demography, geography, and the mind boggling...

 
Column-image

Ms Gall’s account of Dr Mohammed Najibullah’s lynching, a war crime by any standard, matches what many Afghans and Pakistan’s Pashtun nationalist leaders have said all along. She also chronicles that the ISI...

 
Column-image

As the world's largest democracy gears up for the general election, political parties are literally promising the moon. Amid this extensive wooing, a few books have done honest postmortems of Indian governance, highlighted grievances of peo...

 
Column-image

It is frequently described as the most dangerous place in the world. With suicide bombings and shootings, terrorists camping on its territory, high and entrenched levels of fundamentalism and anti-Western sentiment, rampant social, ethnic and s...

 
Column-image

In his latest novel, Romesh Gunesekera zooms in on post-war Sri Lanka, grappling with the ghosts of its troubled past.

 
Column-image

“My father came back in early August 1947 to take us away from Lahore. ‘I don’t like the stampede and the rush,’ he said. But he couldn’t leave because of the riots,” recalls Khalid Chima, ...

 
Column-image

Targeted killings of terrorists in badlands of the world has been taken to a new high by the US and looks likely to intensify in the foreseeable future amid indications that other major powers may also adopt th...

 
Column-image

Let me confess that this is not the book I set out to write. The book I had in mind was about the unchanging face of Muslim fundamentalism in India. But barely a few weeks into research, I discovered I was completely on the wrong track. The big...

 
Column-image

Authors: P.V.S. Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra Publisher: HarperCollins, 2013 

 
Column-image

Book: 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh, Author: Srinath Raghavan, Permanent Black Pages: 358, Price: Rs 795

 
Column-image

Authors: Husain Haqqani Publisher: PublicAffairs; November 5, 2013 Hardcover: 432 pages Language: English Price: US$ 28.99

 
Column-image

Author: Rajmohan Gandhi Hardcover: 400 pages Publisher: Aleph Publishers

 
Column-image

Archer Blood was the American consul general in Dhaka (then Dacca) in 1971-72. He not only witnessed the slaughter of thousands of civilians by the Pakistani Army and dutifully reported on the genocide to his government but also, when the US co...

 
Column-image

A rare insider’s narrative on the world’s fastest growing nuclear complex

 
Column-image

Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller   Author: Raza Rumi   Pu...

 
Column-image

More than Maoism: Politics, Policies and Insurgencies in South Asia   Edited by: Robin Jeffrey, Ronojoy S...

 
Column-image

Pakistan: Moving the Economy Forward Publisher: Lahore School of Economics, 2013

 
Column-image

Ishtiaq Ahmed’s interesting book demonstrates how and why a weak and apolitical army evolved into the most powerful institution in Pakistan, virtually having de facto veto power over politics. It also controls Pakistan’s nuclear wea...

 
Column-image

A Sri Lankan constitutional amendment done with Indian backing to devolve autonomy to provinces remains "historically significant and indispensable", says a new book by a well known political scientist from the island nation.

 
Column-image

Ishtiaq Ahmed’s latest book is another outstanding piece of scholarship by an erudite scholar. This intellectually stimulating work is an important addition to the corpus of writings on modern and contemporary Pakistan, which by design an...

 
Column-image

Contrary to popular wisdom in India, a new book on Ravana, the 'demon king' in the Ramayana epic, says he ruled a rich and vast kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka, wrote books and built a maze of underground tunnels to protect his empire....

 
Column-image

A courageous, comprehensive and no-holds-barred account, by a veteran journalist, of a 66-year-old nation that is still trying to find its identity and fighting its own demons…

 
Column-image

The 30-year-old ethnic conflict in the Sri Lankan state, an essentially Sinhalese majoritarian preserve, and the uncompromising and relentlessly violent Tamil leadership claiming a separate state, Tamil Eelam, on behalf of the Tamil minority of...

 
Column-image

Book: India's Foreign Policy: A Reader; Edited: Kanti P. Bajpai and Harsh V.Pant Critical Issues in Indian Politics Series; Publisher: OUP Price: Rs 1095; Pages: 464

 
Column-image

Such a massive tome (663 pages) on a country that calls itself India’s only permanent friend in South Asia demands serious attention. Bhutanese scholarship is so rare and scholarship on Bhutan has been so scanty since M...

 
Column-image

India and China have shared historical ties and, as immediate neighbours, have seen many ups and downs in their relations. As a result, bilateral ties between the two countries...

 
Column-image

Delhi-based poet Sudeep Sen has been invited to address the Nobel Laureate Week being held in Saint Lucia, a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea, in January. Mr. Sen is the first Indian, and the only one thu...

 
Column-image

Book: Fountainhead of Jihad Author: Vahid Brown and Don Rassler Publisher: Hachette India Price: Rs 650

 
Column-image

'Imperialists, Nationalists, Democrats: The Collected Essays of Sarvepalli Gopal'  edited by Srinath Raghavan. Permanent Black, 444 pages, Rs 895....

 
Column-image

Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific Author: C. Raja Mohan Publisher: OUP Price: Rs 895 Pages: 329

 
Column-image

Author: Raghu Rai Publisher: Niyogi Books Price: Rs 1495 Pages: 115

 
Column-image

BOOK: "False Sanctuaries: Stories from the Troubled Territories of South Asia", AUTHOR: Meenakshi Iyer;  PUBLISHER: Bibliophile South Asia (Promila & Co.);  PAGES: 282; 

 
Column-image

Like so much else in India’s recent past, the First Afghan War (1839-42) means little to India’s elites. But the military history of the British Raj has been a specially neglected domain. With their many other preoccupations, India&...

 
Column-image

Journalist-author Frances Harrison tells ANJANA RAJAN her book on the human suffering engendered by Sri Lanka’s “hidden war” is written with the belief that if people know, they will care

 
Column-image

"La Nueva India" ( The New India) is the first Latin American book on the rising of India in the twenty first century in the Spanish language. It was launched on December 4 at Santiago, Chile.

 
Column-image

After Joseph S Nye coined the term “Soft Power” (culture, language etc), it became a fad and, for some, an academic necessity to use it to discuss notions of ‘power’ in international politics. Though accepted, still unmo...

 
Column-image

This study seeks to solve the following puzzle: In 1947, the Pakistan military was poorly trained and poorly armed. It also inherited highly vulnerable territory vis-à-vis the much bigger India, aggravated because of serious disputes wit...

 
Column-image

Author / Editor: P R Kumaraswamy   Middle East Institute at New Delhi, 2012   Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon for MEI@ND, September 2012  

 
Column-image

Book: Ramkinkar: The Man and the Artist Author: A. Ramachandran Publisher: NGMA Pages: 168 + plates

 
Column-image

The middle class will decide the course of liberalisation in India which will become more micro-level in search of solutions to problems, says writer and journalist Hindol Sengupta in his new book, "The Liberals".

 
Column-image

The future of Afghanistan depends upon how it strengthens its fledgling democratic institutions and arrests corruption, says Sujeet Sarkar, the author of a new book on the war-ravaged country.

 
Column-image

Author(s): Bipul Chatterjee and Joseph George Publisher: CUTS International

 
Column-image

Author(s): Robert D. Lamb, Liora Danan, Joy Aoun, Sadika Hameed, Kathryn Mixon, and Denise St. Peter Publisher :Center for Strategic and International Studies ISBN 978-0-89206-738-1 (pb)

 
Column-image

Book: Afghanistan in Transition Beyond 2014? Author: Shanthie Mariet D`Souza (Ed.) Pages: 264 Price : Rs. 795 Publisher: Pentagon  

 
Column-image

Book: The Prabhakaran Saga Author: S. Murari Publisher: Sage Publishers Pages: 362 Price: Rs.425

 
Column-image

Authors: Rumel Dahiya and Ashok K. Behuria 2012

 
Column-image

Book: The Unfinished Memoirs Author: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Translated by Dr Fakrul Alam with a preface by Sheikh Hasina) Publisher: Penguin Viking Pages: 323 Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

The book is a chronological account of the partiation of Punjab Province of British India

 
Column-image

Book: Nepal in Transition: From People’s War to Fragile Peace Author: Edited by Sebastian von Einsiedel, David M. Malone and Suman Pradhan Publisher: Cambridge University Press Pages: 398...

 
Column-image

Book: The Taliban Cricket Club Author: Timeri N. Murari Publisher: Aleph Pages: 325 Price: Rs 595

 
Column-image

Burma has been ruled by a succession of military regimes which rank among the most oppressive dictatorships in the world.

 
Column-image

In these turbulent times, Jawaharlal Nehru's policies of non-alignment and mixed economy need to be revisited, says P.C. Jain, author of a book on India's foreign policy during the first prime minister's tenure.

 
Column-image

The killing of Osama bin Laden spotlighted Pakistan's unpredictable political dynamics, which are often driven by conspiracy theory, paranoia, and a sense of betrayal. In Pakistan, the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto famously declared, t...

 
Column-image

The growing English language publishing industry in India has taken a step north with three veteran publishers - David Davidar, Ravi Singh and Kapish G. Mehra - joining ranks to push high-end literary fiction from the subcont...

 
Column-image

The subcontinent can become a paradise in the region by retaining cultural, social and political identities of countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, says former Pakistani Army officer, journalist, writer and commentator Abdul Rahman Si...