Amid China power play in Indian Ocean, India to focus on invigorating IORA

Amid China power play in Indian Ocean, India to focus on invigorating IORA


Against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean turning into a theatre of geopolitical competition and increased Chinese forays into this strategic water body, the 21 littoral nations whose shores are washed by this strategically located resource-rich body will hold its first ever summit of leaders in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on March 7.
India, a preeminent Indian Ocean power, has high stakes in moulding the outcomes of the maiden summit of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. The first IORA summit is special as it also marks the 20th anniversary of the grouping of the Indian Ocean littoral states. Ideally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been trying to shape a strategic and cooperative vision of the Indian Ocean Region, should be participating in the summit, but the crucial elections in India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh has kept him away from this important gathering of leaders of the region. Vice-President Hamid Ansari, a veteran diplomat, is expected to unveil India’s agenda and priorities at the summit in Jakarta on March 7.
Blue will be the reigning colour at the IORA leaders’ discussions in Jakarta. If all goes well, the summit should come out with a joint plan for the development of the blue economy which entails sustainable development of ocean resources by avoiding debilitating resource competition. Prime Minister Modi is an ardent proponent of the blue economy.
The increasing strategic salience of the Indian Ocean can’t be overemphasised. China will be the elephant in the room when the leaders of IORA nations meet in Jakarta as most of them have some form of China anxiety.

Trump’s ‘One China’ assurance to Xi defuses tensions


It was an ice-breaking call China’s President Xi Jinping had been waiting for since the maverick billionaire Donald Trump took charge as the 45th president⋅⋅⋅

Why India is wary of CPEC & OBOR: It’s sovereignty issue


The China challenge or the China threat emerged as a leitmotif in a high-profile international conference in New Delhi, with India being upfront about its political differences with Beijing and asking the latter to respect India’s sovereignty in the course of building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
India, however, took care to eschew a negative adversarial construct of India-China relations, with Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar making it clear that in New Delhi’s assessment, the rise of India and China can be “mutually supportive.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his part, outlined briefly a template of harmonious India-China relations, saying “respect and sensitivity for each other’s core interests” holds the key.
“China is very sensitive on matters concerning its sovereignty. We expect they will respect other people’s sovereignty,” said Mr Jaishankar at the second edition of Raisina Dialogue, co-organised by India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation.

Vietnam wants India to play a more active role in Southeast Asia: Envoy


It’s a milestone year in India-Vietnam relations as the two strategic partners celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. This period has seen a marked acceleration of India-Vietnam relations across the spectrum, including in areas of trade and defence and development. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vietnam in September 2015 saw the elevation of bilateral ties to the level of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The ongoing churn in South China Sea has imparted an added traction to enhancing strategic cooperation between India and Vietnam.
In this wide-ranging interview with Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network, Vietnam’s ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh outlines a vibrant picture of the trajectory of this crucial relationship and underlines the need for a more active role by India in Southeast Asia and the extended region. The envoy also underscored that the burgeoning India-Vietnam relations is not targeted at China or any third country and stressed on peaceful resolution of the South China Sea dispute through dialogue.
“Vietnam advocates an independent foreign policy and good relations with all nations in the world, including China. The growing India-Vietnam relationship is to serve the interests of both countries and for the sake of peace, stability and cooperation in the region. It is not targeted against any third party,” says the envoy.

Pakistan must shun terror if it wants peace with India: Modi


nveiling a big-picture vision of India’s foreign policy and its organic linkage with the ongoing transformation of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has underlined his dream of “a thriving well-connected and integrated neighbourhood,” but singled out Pakistan’s use of terror as an obstacle in fructifying this quest.

In an all-encompassing speech on the emergence of “multi-polarity with multilateralism,” as the new normal in the evolving international geopolitical landscape, Mr Modi reminded Pakistan “to walk away from terror if it wants to walk towards dialogue with India.”

“A thriving well-connected and integrated neighbourhood is my dream,” said Mr Modi at the inaugural session of the second edition of Raisina Dialogue, a signature foreign policy conference organised by Ministry of External Affairs, in collaboration with Observer Research Foundation.

“My vision for our neighbourhood puts a premium on peaceful and harmonious ties with entire South Asia. That vision had led me to invite leaders of all SAARC nations, including Pakistan, for my swearing in,” he said. “For this vision, I had also travelled to Lahore. But, India alone cannot walk the path of peace,” he said. “It also has to be Pakistan’s journey to make. Pakistan must walk away from terror if it wants to walk towards dialogue with India.”

Mr Modi’s expose of Pakistan in front of an audience, which also comprised ministers and experts from over 60 countries, was an extension of his diplomatic campaign to isolate Pakistan in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Uri and Pathankot last year.

Mr Modi, however, struck a more nuanced position on India’s relations with China, which remain conflicted and marred by differences over a host of issues, including Beijing’s continuing opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Trump signalling: High on India, tough on China


Barely a week before Donald Trump is sworn in as president of the US, there are reassuring signals that while the India-US relations will be scaled up, the incoming administration will be tough on China, creating a new balancing game in the crucial Asia-Pacific region.
Ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing, Gen (retd) James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Defence Secretary, has identified building stronger ties with India as of “utmost importance.” Gen. Mattis underlined that if confirmed, he would identify areas where India and the US could further bolster their defence ties. It’s a clear signal from the incoming administration that the transformation of the India-US relationship accomplished during the Obama administration, which culminated in the elevation of India as US’ Major Defence Partner, will not only continue apace, but will scale new frontiers in months to come.
Mattis’ remarks should allay apprehensions of those who felt that the Trump administration will withdraw from an activist role in security of the Asia-Pacific region, leaving the field wide open for China, the region’s powerhouse, to set the agenda. President-elect Trump has already rattled Beijing by his controversial telephone call to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-we, indicating that it won’t be business as usual with China unless the latter is more sensitive and accommodative of the US concerns. If the US were to revise its One China policy, the US-China relations are set to hurtle downhill.
What it all adds up to is that contrary to speculation in some sections, the Trump administration will broadly pursue a recalibrated balancing strategy in Asia-Pacific by continuing to bolster ties with India and Japan while relating to China in a tough no-nonsense manner. These remarks are sure to be resented by the powers-that-be in Beijing which has often accused Washington of following an insidious containment strategy, in league with New Delhi and Tokyo.

As Trump Fumbles on China Policy, Here Is Some Advice


In a time of social media frenzy and popular zeal for immediate news, many comments about President-elect Donald Trump seem to focus on his team-building and policy formulation. Important as they are, the Chinese should not dance to Mr Trump’s tune but look for proactive shaping, creative initiatives and possible alternatives. Therefore, I would like to give the following five pieces of advice to President-elect Trump for maintaining peace and prosperity of the world in general and stable, win-win China-US relations in particular.
First of all, President-elect Trump should move along with instead of against the trends of our times. The re-configuration of powers between the United States and the other major players is one of most significant developments today. Second, President-elect Trump should truly understand his mandate and know his limits.
Third, President-elect Trump should learn to deal with intricate and complex global affairs. Fourth, President-elect Trump should have integrated thoughts on its strategy and policy towards China. Last but not least, President-elect Trump should differentiate geo-strategic commitments and economic engagements.
China believes that cooperation is the only correct choice for the China-US relations. With its usual thinking and practice, China exercises self-restraint and gives more time to President Trump to learn the importance of the China-US relations and practice accordingly. However, the internal and external developments will not wait too long. Therefore, President-elect Trump must truly realise the urgency of managing US-China relations in a constructive manner.

With China on mind, India, Indonesia firm up maritime nexus

With an eye on China, India and Indonesia, Asia’s most populous democracies and emerging powers, have firmed up a blueprint for enhancing maritime cooperation and resolved to jointly combat terror. In a calculated move that is set to antagonise Beijing, India has backed Indonesia on the latter’s escalating dispute with China on territorial claims in South China Sea.
The talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo in New Delhi on December 12 have culminated in an ambitious joint statement to upscale strategic partnership, with concrete plans for expanding bilateral defence and maritime cooperation. The first visit by Jokowi, as the Indonesian president is popularly known in his country, to India has been closely watched in China, which looks at India’s attempts to forge closer strategic ties with ASEAN countries as part of its calibrated containment strategy.
China was the elephant in the room when PM Modi and his Indonesian counterpart held talks in the Indian capital as both India and Indonesia count China as their largest trading partner, but have unease about Beijing’s hegemonistic intentions. Managing the China challenge without getting into the containment trap is a shared concern for both countries.
The talks rightly prioritised expanding defence and security cooperation as a core priority to actualise the full potential of this sub-optimal relationship. “As two important maritime nations that are also neighbours, we agreed to cooperate to ensure the safety and security of the sea lanes, in disaster response and environmental protection,” said Mr Modi.
Another important takeaway from the latest round of high-profile engagement between the leaders of India and Indonesia was a convergence of positions on terrorism that thrives on sanctuaries provided by states with vested interests.
This strategic concord between Asia’s emerging economies on issues of terrorism and South China Sea is a signal to China that there is not much room for ambivalence and sent a message to the region that the entire Asian hemisphere benefits from a collective approach to regional security.

How India and China can create a multi-polar Asia


It is generally under-estimated how much India and China, as proximate neighbours, have had to do with each other in the course of history. The evidence of our interaction is there in front of our eyes, whether along the Silk Road or at Dunhuang, Luoyang or Datong. There are still older examples – be it in provinces like Sichuan, or indeed, later ones along the Fujian coastline. Yet, a narrative that we have always been distant from each other was successfully constructed by Western powers that had an interest in doing so. As Prof. PC Bagchi notes in his unique work on a thousand years of our cultural history, the accidents of the World War II reconnected two peoples who had almost forgotten their common past. Unfortunately, the border conflict and its political consequences interrupted this process. Although India was among the earliest Governments to establish ties and promote cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, the three lost decades compel us to still play catch up with relationships that came very much later.

Modi’s Japan journey: Why Delhi-Tokyo strategic connect matters


The Tokyo-Delhi connect is set to acquire a deeper strategic dimension with the hoped-for signing of a transformational nuclear deal and a host of initiatives to enhance maritime security cooperation during the November 10-12 visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan. The visit will be not only closely scanned in New Delhi and Tokyo, but most importantly in Beijing, which continues to nurture containment anxieties and has already red-flagged its concerns over a possible Delhi-Tokyo axis on the South China Sea.
Mr Modi will spend barely 48 hours in Tokyo, but much will be accomplished during his annual summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on November 11. If the latest indications are anything to go by, the visit will see the transformative moment as Japan moves beyond years of strategic vacillation to sign the much-awaited nuclear deal that will pitchfork the India-Japan ties on another plane.
In many ways, the current geo-strategic and geo-economic situation have created a conjunction of India’s Japan Moment and Japan’s India moment. Mr Modi and Mr Abe, who have famously forged a personal chemistry, are ideal partners to propel this partnership to new heights.
The nuclear issue is the last albatross holding back the full potential of this mutually fecundating relationship, and if the nuclear deal is signed in Tokyo, expect a major upsurge in India-Japan relations across the spectrum and an added ballast to the narrative of an inclusive Asian Century.