Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to West Asia served as an entrée on the platform of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), writes Adrij Chakraborty for South Asia Monitor
By Adrij Chakraborty
India is poised to deliver on its commitment to sustainable development based on support from the triumvirate of economics, society and environment. Its national development plans predate the crystallization of the goals. India is likely to see through the idyllic socio-economic condition the Modi administration sloganeered. Pro-system scholars furnish citations of India’s participation at the High-Level Political Forum 2017, focusing on not only poverty alleviation but also nation-building through infrastructure and international diplomatic relations.
The mantra of the government’s war on poverty rests on its realization of rapid growth. Meticulous policies like Make in India, Startup India, Digital India or Skill India push boundaries for contributing to Agenda 2030 in accordance particularly with Articles 15, 27, 45 of the declaration. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tactic of international relations theorizes an affirmation to acknowledge the prime drivers of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh perhaps negotiated some crucial deals that went unnoticed, only to resurface as policy initiatives made by Modi to secure the nation global admiration and be party to some historic strategy arbitration. While displaying great personal warmth with global leaders, Modi recognizes that at the heart of such diplomacy lies India’s pledge to comprehensive development. The Indo-Japan deals on cooperation for peaceful nuclear energy utilization and environment protection (SDG 7, 13), Canadian memoranda on selective passport exemption, technology development (SDG 9, 17), or talks on defence and infrastructure with Australia (SDG 8, 16) all serve to further India’s bid to the big league.
SDG 16 proposes “effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels” to primarily minimize corruption. Arguably, opacity is a better description of Indian defence deals. Debatable arguments adduced national security concerns to cloud armament policies. Critical information is kept out of the RTI mandate behind the palls of the Second Schedule.
Modi’s trips to West Asia and the Gulf primarily concerns SDG 16, followed by the usual commitments to longstanding traditions of partnerships in education and R&D. Oman and UAE present opportunities to enhance India’s trade base – Oman being the most stable country in the otherwise politically active region. The UAE shares a robust companionship with India that the countries have worked to temporally strengthen. Deals were signed on mutual corroborations for annexure in judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters. The memoranda stand firmly for both the countries’ growth processes, as it contributes to the Agenda 2030. “The Gulf is an extended part of our neighborhood,” says Aftab Kamal Pasha, professor at Centre for West Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. On promotion of diplomatic ties through the ministerial trips, he said, “Shared culture encourages sustainable development. In the wake of socio-economic instability in the Middle East, resource crunch has taken the region by storm. India is now taking the lead in showcasing compassion and delivering agreements. The memoranda of understanding signed find improvement in defence and infrastructure, displaying India’s commitment to sustainable development goals.”
Modi’s inaugural trip to Ramallah was a first for any Indian Prime Minister. Tempting to be labelled an attempt to delink India’s relationship with Israel and Palestine, it saw signing of six agreements on infrastructural development.The bonhomie between Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw the two countries hailing each other as strategic partners despite India’s long-standing support for the Palestinian cause.
Keeping Modi’s personal friendship for Netanyahu aside, he had earlier interacted with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas thrice – on the sidelines at the UNGA in 2015, the Paris Climate Summit later that year and in 2017 during Abbas’ visit to India. Other than furthering ululations of Indian strength in international realpolitik, Modi’s concentration on SDGs 9 and 11 fuelled his Gulf trip this year.
India's Ministry of External Affairs states that the six GCC countries back almost 20% of the bilateral trade. This explains their influence on the Ministry’s move to enhance trade bases in the region. This prime ministerial trip, like all before it, falls in line to achieve the two critical development goals – growth and infrastructure.
(The author is a student at University of Edinburgh and is currently interning at the Centre for Legislative Research and Advocacy, India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)