Tag Archives: SAARC

Pakistan can be tamed. Here’s how

What is required is consistent policy and moving beyond symbolism such as scrapping MFN status.

The surgical strikes along the Line of Control to destroy the launchpads of terrorist camps were a carefully crafted response by the Indian military. A message has been sent across the border that India will not tolerate attacks on its soil and sovereignty.

Given the history and character of the Pakistani State, their reaction is predictable and we should prepare ourselves for any kind of retort. Already there are disturbances in the Valley; hence extra caution is required in dealing with the situation on this side of the border as well.

Pakistan’s security policy centres around rivalry with India. If we have a consistent Pakistan policy, we can make it behave. We have to protect the unity, integrity, sovereignty and the people of our country. For that, India has to move beyond symbolism such as scrapping of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan and concentrate on real economic and diplomatic issues.

Pakistan is not dependent on trade with India for survival. India-Pakistan bilateral trade came up to a paltry #2.6 billion in 2015-16, tilted largely in India’s favour. What impact do we intend to cause by scrapping the unilateral preferential status we have given to Pakistan?

The diplomatic option has not been optimally utilised as of now. By now, we should have intensified our efforts to impose sanctions on Pakistan as a patron of terrorism as well as on Pakistan-based terrorist organisations.

Also Read – Modi government’s Pakistan policy is marred by confusion

The UNGA was a golden opportunity to diplomatically isolate Pakistan as a terror-sponsorer but we missed that opportunity. We were not there only to react to the utterances of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif but to launch an offensive counter-strategy to isolate Pakistan at the international level and to persuade the international community to declare it a state sponsoring terrorism and to impose economic sanctions on it.

Time could not have been more ripe for this. This is where we lacked. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj exhibited hesitancy in openly naming Pakistan as a hub of terror export and providing shelter to terrorists.

Why did her speech hover around indirect reference to Pakistan and leave room for inferences?

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj exhibited hesitancy in openly naming Pakistan as a hub of terror at the UN. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Because of the absence of a roadmap in our foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan, we have not achieved what we project: complete isolation of Pakistan at the international level.

Pakistan being a rogue state promoting terror cannot be a party to the international community which stands for peace, harmony and development.

There is a growing realisation in the US that it is pursuing a failed policy in Pakistan, which India must take advantage of. The Indian establishment in New Delhi and New York must forcefully persuade the US that sanctions and not aid will help achieve the objective of fighting terror in Pakistan.

The American authorities should be made to realise that the US-Pakistan friendship is a hindrance rather than facilitating engagement in the fight against global terrorism.

Russia has been our traditional ally. It is because of the faulty foreign policy of the Narendra Modi government that the relationship between close friends has become cold.

After the Russian and Chinese navy conducted drills in the South China Sea, where the former had taken China’s side, Russia’s joint drill with Pakistan should be a matter of concern for Indian political leadership.

India’s opening to the US and Europe marginalising Russia, and the arms embargo of EU on China have paved the way for a strategic partnership between Russia and China. Pakistan’s inclusion in that equation is a serious threat to peace in the subcontinent.

It is imperative that India and Russia work closely on strengthening economic ties between the two countries. China has also vast economic interests in India, and we should work on China and leverage Chinese access to our markets to put pressure on Pakistan so that it doesn’t use its soil for anti-India activities.

India should also approach Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries for their support in fighting terror. This can be a key element in our diplomatic offensive. The PM has visited all these countries and now the time has come to reap the political dividend of the visits.

Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh have expressed solidarity with India by boycotting the SAARC summit in Islamabad. We should retain this solidarity and continue to strengthen initiatives like BBIN and BIMSTEC, which will further marginalise Pakistan in South Asia.

We cannot deny the geographical advantage Pakistan enjoys but we can certainly neutralise the political advantages drawn by it because of its geographical positioning.

Besides, the government of India should utilise international forums to expose Pakistan as a state sponsoring terror and violating human rights. A decision should also be taken to formulate an asylum policy for Pakistani dissidents and it should be taken without further delay.

A relentless diplomatic campaign is needed to build global sentiment against Pakistan. The government can utilise the experience of former diplomats to augment its efforts on this high-energy campaign.

If Pakistan can depute parliamentarians for propaganda against India in the name of alleged human rights violations in Kashmir, why can’t India resort to such measures to declare Pakistan a terrorist state?

Link – http://www.dailyo.in/politics/pakistan-uri-attack-surgical-strikes-un-china-russia-loc/story/1/13213.html

SAARC needs to look beyond India and Pakistan

To succeed Despite common problems, the policies adopted by the members are contradictory to one another.

Be it sports or foreign policy, when India and Pakistan are pitted against one another, the event is bound to make it to breaking news. So was the recent interior and home ministers’ summit of SAARC countries in Islamabad.

But more than the headlines, we need to understand the objectives and principles the association stands for and to what extent it has succeeded in achieving them.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was formed in 1985 under Article 52 of the UN Charter providing existence of regional arrangements for dealing with such matters, relating to the maintenance of international peace and security with the purpose and principles of the UN Charter.

It now represents 16.5 per cent of the world’s population.

In 31 years of its existence, SAARC has evolved and achieved a lot in terms of poverty reduction, food security, energy cooperation and social welfare. But, its relevance has been more or less limited to bilateral issues.

Despite regular meetings of policy makers and seminars by specialists, SAARC is yet to emerge as a strong forum to protect the interests of its member countries, compared to regional associations like ASEAN or NAFTA.

One of the reasons for the limited success of SAARC has been a shortage of milestones that will lead to closer cooperation among the member countries.

The world is watching South Asia. It is time to walk the talk, but unless there is peace among the member countries, especially between the two big partners, India and Pakistan, SAARC shall remain an association where bilateral issues prevail over the much-desired common multilateral goals.

SAARC was formed despite many obstacles and antipathy among the member nations.

Amid the diversities, challenges faced by SAARC countries, such as poverty, unemployment, inflationary pressure, unfavourable trade balance, high budget deficits and climate change are common.

However, despite common problems, the policies adopted by the members are contradictory to one another. For the sake a unified purpose, they need to develop a uniform approach towards these problems.

As we have moved from Millennium Development Goals to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, greater cooperation among the SAARC countries will make the region stable, safe and prosperous. Therefore, complementary, not competitive policies will develop the region.

Terrorism is the most disturbing challenge for peace, security and democracy not only in South Asia, but also the rest of the world. Along with cross border drug trafficking, it has created instability and insecurity in the region.

Even though every SAARC member pledges to eliminate terrorism in all forms at every summit, back home, countries like Pakistan pursue their own agenda and policies, which are not in consonance with the SAARC Charter, and the consequence is growing insecurity and threats to the South Asian region and humanity.

Terrorism demands a coordinated approach at the international level for sustainable global peace.

If a country sees it from a different perspective and makes a distinction between good terror and bad terror, the pathway to sustainable peace would be very difficult.

If we can eliminate the menace and focus our attention, as one unit of development, on issues like improving education, health, et al, the South Asian demographic dividend will be a reality and SAARC will emerge as an effective vehicle to achieve the developmental aspirations of all South Asians.

In this context, the effective implementation of the initiatives taken by SAARC, including the Regional Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and its additional protocol has to be ensured.

The impact of Brexit on South Asia is yet to be analysed in detail, but it affects us all. All South Asian economies will experience its ripples in terms of growth, trade and employment. The situation demands that SAARC achieves regional economic integration on a fast track basis with the optimisation of SAFTA towards South Asian Economic Union (SAEU).

Another area that needs the attention of and cooperation among SAARC countries is agriculture. In fact, SAARC’s roots lay in the IPA Declaration adopted by the foreign ministers of South Asia in 1983 calling for regional cooperation in the areas of agriculture, health, rural development and population.

The SAARC nations, at this stage, must not lose their focus on this front because they have the core competence in the sector and their economies are dominated by it. The greatest opportunity for SAARC is that India has one of the widest and best networks of agricultural education and research in the world. Other South Asian nations should take advantage of this.

One fifth of the South Asian population is younger than 24 years. Therefore, the countries as well as SAARC should step up efforts to create adequate and suitable employment opportunities for the age group.

Employment is a matter of serious concern for all SAARC economies, including India. Young Parliamentarians from SAARC nations will meet in Islamabad later this month and the annual summit is scheduled to be held in November.

It is high time SAARC prioritised the looming challenges in the region.

Strategic partnership and greater cooperation among the member countries will lead to the emergence of the SAARC as a formidable bloc, much like the ASEAN and a platform for development of the South Asian region.

It is not the problems, but the solutions that must bind SAARC nations. The commitment should be towards implementation of the resolutions on core issues.

The best way and the need of the hour is sincerity of purpose and honesty in effort.

Will the SAARC fight the challenges?

India needs to play a bigger role in Afghanistan

It is said that the less you know about an opportunity, the more attractive it is. Recently, I got a golden opportunity to engage in a three-day dialogue at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in Brussels, along with some selected policy makers of our country, on the invitation of the government of United States, for a deeper understanding and interaction on how NATO’s post-2014 security partnership intersects with India’s security interests in Afghanistan, focusing on the complexities of the transition process and on the importance of international cooperation, especially India’s, in making the transition a success. From India’s point of view, it was very important for us to analyse, measure and understand the magnitude of threats and opportunities for India vis-a-vis situation in Afghanistan, in the post-2014 scenario.

A key focus of our engagement was the security relationship. We shared the genuine security concerns of our country about Afghanistan’s future and keenness of India for a broader opportunity in the country in the post-2014 scenario.

There is no doubt that the UN mandated intervention in Afghanistan by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2001 was culmination of varied geopolitical and economic considerations, besides the genuine security factors, but given that situation, there was no comparable or equivalent organisation other than NATO to effectively deal with the huge responsibility. The achievements of NATO could be measured in terms of its objectives, as a security organisation.

Whenever the integrity and sovereignty of any of its member country has been under threat, it has acted and acted decisively but NATO has never attacked any country or invaded into the territory of any country gratuitous. The economic and military mighty of NATO had completely marginalised the Talibani forces in Afghanistan. Their biggest achievement has been to help Afghanistan to build a 350,000-strong security force from scratch.

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But they are still ill-equipped, particularly when it comes to air support and intelligence gathering. Whereas NATO is committed to continuing self-sustaining economic and military support to Afghanistan, given the resources and the level of training they have vis-a-vis the strength of the Taliban’s, it is a legitimate fear that the Afghan Nation Security Force (ANSF) may face difficulties to prevent resurgence of Taliban in the region.

If this happens, it will have serious regional repercussions and will disturb peace and governance in South Asia and Central Asia. Post-withdrawal, security overall is deteriorating and Taliban is already regaining significant position in much of Afghanistan, jeopardising peace and security in the region. A Somalia like situation or emergence of a civil war in Afghanistan will have grave regional implications. Narco-terrorism is another serious concern for the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, including India.

Our three-day engagement with NATO gave us a feeling that for the persistent economic, political and military engagement of India as a peace keeper in the region and for its role in reconstruction of the post-Taliban Afghanistan, NATO has accepted India as a legitimate stakeholder so far as post-2014 Afghanistan is concerned. NATO shares India’s interests and vision in Afghanistan which is very important in the context of the proactive role of China and Pakistan in the region. After all, it was no one but India which persuaded Afghanistan, successfully, to join SAARC in 2007.

In the present context, uncertainty is there. Beyond Afghanistan, NATO has its own challenges in Ukraine, Syria and Russia. NATO is big enough and powerful enough and stable enough to be able to deal with both threats at the same time. But post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan, India has opportunities to expand its role in the region and take the crucial responsibility of leading the international community in sustaining a stable and functional democratic government in Afghanistan on the one hand and to deal firmly with the challenges of threat perception from the non-state actors hostile to India operating from the Afghan soil on the other hand.

India has been historically discharging its responsibility in the region in a constructive manner. Despite its own many domestic needs, India is Afghanistan’s sixth largest donor, providing the country with some $2 billion in effective aid since 2001. The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries gives a legitimate edge to India in Afghanistan.

India is well-positioned to play a responsible and democracy-supporting role in security issues, not just in the volatile South Asia region but also beyond. The need is to intensify our efforts in the region. It is also because ISIS activities are gaining roots in Afghanistan and the region is gradually emerging as a hotbed for breeding Islamic extremism. If the recent trends are any indicators of the future, the security situation in Afghanistan is serious and headed to take a complicated turn that would further test the tenacity and already dwindling resources of the Afghan government and security forces.

The presence of ISIS in Afghanistan has direct security implications for India. Therefore, as developments in Afghanistan will directly impinge on India’s security, the present and future demands that the government of India should craft a futuristic policy and execute it strategically to cease the opportunity in Afghanistan. It is in the interest of not only India but entire South Asia and also in the interest of Central Asia that the rein of Afghanistan should not be handed over to the radicals once again.

Afghanistan is also a significant trading partner of India. In spite of many transit obstacles, the volume of Indo-Afghan trade stood at $680 million during 2013-2014, a figure that should exponentially rise, following the full implementation of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA). The only caution is cut in international aid after NATO withdrawal may take Afghanistan into a recession, which will have adverse economic impact on India, complicating things in the context of global slowdown in demand.

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NATO is the biggest political military alliance in history and India is the largest democracy in the world with an excellent track record of its contribution to world peace from the Rig Vedic times to UN missions across the globe in the present millennium. There is no doubt that the foreign policy of India should be based on pragmatic considerations and changing world order.

But, at the same time, historical considerations are equally important in defining parameters of foreign policy. It is in this context, the dialogue between India and NATO can be understood. It is not an issue whether the largest democracy and the biggest political-military alliance should cooperate and consult each other but the real questions are how and to what extent .