Need for a pragmatic foreign policy

To counter China, India needs to balance its relations with Russia and the US
"Foreign policy experts say that Prime Minister, Narender Modi’s decision to induct a specialist as minister for foreign affairs is gradually making difference in dealing with SAARC nations as well as rest of the world which may be taken to a another level in this year."
"Foreign policy experts say that Prime Minister, Narender Modi’s decision to induct a specialist as minister for foreign affairs is gradually making difference in dealing with SAARC nations as well as rest of the world which may be taken to a another level in this year."GK Layout Desk

India faces the biggest foreign policy challenge of history in 2022 on two fronts. First, India has established close strategic ties with the United States of America which got strengthened during Trump-Modi bonhomie, but slightly affected the age old relations with Russia that felt sidelined.

But timely shift in foreign policy by New Delhi resulted in USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defense missile systems despite threat of US sanctions. Hence India faces toughest challenge in 2022 to keep both powers at an equal distance.

Experts opine that India’s firm decision to go ahead with delivery of S-400 air defense missile systems by Russia in 2021, and signing of about 28 agreements during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi in December last year, reaffirmed the commitment of both nations to protect the trusted friendship. Both the countries have also set a target for $30 billion in trade and $50 billion in investment by 2025 which must be set in motion this year.

Analysts say that India will depend upon Russia in 2022 for staying relevant in Afghanistan imbroglio as United States has given weightage to Pakistan during Doha dialogue with Taliban. But Russia has firmly stood by India during the National Security Advisors’ (NSAs) meeting organized by India in Delhi which witnessed open support of Russian NSA, Patrushev who emphasized the need of addressing the serious concern of terror emanating from the Afghan territory.

Russia had also supported the missile deal by saying that India is a sovereign country, hence it can take its decision in the interest of its people. In yet another significant development, Russia’s stand pertained to crucial national issues like abrogation of the 370 articles, Kashmir issue, etc. to give a rebuff to Pakistan.

Second, checking ‘expansion policy’ of China is an even bigger challenge in 2022 as it is dangerously trying to execute its action plan to alienate South Asian Regional Cooperation(SAARC) countries from India by pumping in funds in the form of a huge debt in various projects which is being described as ‘new debt trap policy’. India is facing China’s new maneuvers in Arunachal and Line of Control which warrants a hardheaded approach to check it from any type of misadventure and undiplomatic actions in 2022.

Foreign policy experts say that Prime Minister, Narender Modi’s decision to induct a specialist as minister for foreign affairs is gradually making difference in dealing with SAARC nations as well as rest of the world which may be taken to a another level in this year.

At one stage, majority of the friendly SAARC nations including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar were drifting from India but a gradual shift in foreign policy is yielding positive results. The primary reason pertained to the negativity created by Pakistan which was openly supported by China to settle its scores, besides establishing its supremacy.

Good ties with the new regime in Nepal

A cursory look at previous year’s upheaval in Nepal shows that the downfall of communist government led by K.P.S Oli proved a boon in saving age old ties between two countries. Oli had adopted an anti India agenda, including redrawing the territories and showing some of Indian areas in Nepal, which was done due to the motivation of China. But Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress government is considered friendly and the PM’s proposed visit to Delhi this year may sort out several issues which had been vitiated by former communist government.

Indo-Bangladesh ties scale new heights

India-Bangladesh ties have undoubtedly reached new heights in the past few years, more so in the year 2021 marking 50 years of relations. It was a special moment for India and Bangladesh as both nations jointly celebrated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan and the birth centenary of its father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Indian Prime Minister sent over two million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, as a gift. Experts are optimistic that China’s tactics may not yield results as Bangladesh. India is of firm opinion that a stable, peaceful, progressive and prosperous Bangladesh is in India’s fundamental national interest besides taking relations further in the new year.

India’s cautious approach with Myanmar

It is of vital importance that India too reaches out to other immediate neighbors like Myanmar to shape its own trajectory in that country which was recently done by India Foreign Secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla who visited this country. It may set new route to deal with Myanmar in 2022 which might be focused on creating a balance with military, and efforts to push for restoration of democracy. India had pleaded against sanctions in international platform such as the U.N. Human Rights Council though it continues to express its concern over the developments in Myanmar.

Bhutan remains crucial for India

The Sino-Bhutanese relationship normally flies under the radar. Bhutan has the distinction of being the only other country apart from India with which China has an unsettled land border. It is also the only state to border China that does not have official diplomatic ties with the Dragon. Notwithstanding the lack of the official ties, the two sides have worked for years to arrive at a resolution to their border disputes which were continuously focused on areas in the central and western sectors only.

Pakistan remains defiant

Optimists believe that the ceasefire between India and Pakistan has been fruitful despite the absence of a formal dialogue. It was the outcome of a friendly nation, United Arab Emirates (UAE), hence it is expected that the new year will turn out to be more promising and propitious for dialogue than 2021. Pessimists, however, insist that Pakistan’s India policy is immune to any positive change but at the end of the day dialogue will be the only path to normalize relations between two countries. Friendly nations would want India and Pakistan to mark the 75th anniversary of Independence and Partition by making a fresh bid for durable peace in the subcontinent.

India and Russia may come closer in 2022

India has faced problems in preserving its decades old friendship with Russia during the past few years as it has almost put all eggs in one basket, which was witnessed during Donald Trump’s time. But the Trump administration forced India to stop importing oil from Iran which has been a tested friend. Republicans hold Putin’s regime responsible for helping Trump in US elections to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016 and again making efforts in 2021 when Joe Biden fought election against Trump.

Experts opine that India failed to keep itself away during US polls in January, 2021 which did not create a good impact on winning Republicans led by the duo, Biden and Kamala Harris. India took a bold stand to implement the S-400 missile defense deal. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had observed that the deal was being implemented despite the US attempting to “undermine” the cooperation.

For Indo-US relations, things were unpleasant in case of India’s role in Afghanistan imbroglio as US buckled under the pressure of Pakistan to keep India out of any negotiations or agreements signed with Taliban. But Russia openly sided with India.

K. S. Tomar is a political analyst

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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