[Assam] India, in 2005 - A Pakistani view, The Dawn
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Thu Dec 29 03:46:35 EST 2005
It was a pleasant surprise reading this from The Dawn. If Pakistanis
can clearly see the strides India has been making, one wonders what
exactly would satisfy our own homegrown naysayers?
India's achievements in 2005
By Tariq Fatemi
THE well-known American scholar on South Asia, Professor Stephen
Cohen, in his definitive study on India published in 1996, had
described the country as an "emerging power". This appellation had
raised some eyebrows, for while India had been doing well, many
analysts were not sure whether, at that point in time, it could be
considered as an emerging global power. Now, there are no such doubts.
The year ending has been a successful one for India. It is now a
recognized player on the world stage, influential both in the realm of
politics as well as in global trade deliberations. The graph started
going up earlier, when after the June 2004 general elections, western
observers were deeply impressed by the quiet dignity with which Prime
Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee acknowledged the popular will, and even
before the election commission had announced the results, decided to
tender his resignation. This was democracy at its best.
Thereafter, the Congress-led coalition government headed by Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh, succeeded in staving off pressure from its
left-oriented coalition partners, particularly regarding economic
liberalization policies. Resultantly, the Indian economy has continued
to grow at nearly eight per cent per year.
But it is in the field of foreign policy that the year under review
has been a remarkable one for India. Its stable polity and
investor-friendly policies, coupled with a strong leadership, have
resulted in a conscious effort by the world's major powers to woo
India, not only to take advantage of its increasingly attractive
economic opportunities, but also to ensure that its voice and vote
remain on their side.
India's relations with the US have registered visible progress. The
year began with the US and India signing an agreement in January, to
facilitate greater trade and economic cooperation between them. Then,
after months of intense diplomatic negotiations, India and the US
signed a 10-year defence arrangement in June 2005. It will be recalled
that because of the dynamics of Cold War politics, India's security
planners had either opted for the domestic production of defence
weapons or depended on the former Soviet Union for these.
But Indian force requirements prompted an increase in defence ties
with Washington. The latter offered top of the line systems such as
the F-18 Super Hornets along with co-production possibilities, and
also sold sophisticated Firefinder radar systems, while approving the
sale of Israeli-made Phalcon airborne warning systems, making India
one of the few countries to have this capability.
While the world was still in the midst of appreciating the scope and
scale of this agreement, Prime Minister Singh's visit to Washington on
July 18 resulted in another agreement that both sides claimed would
raise bilateral ties to an unprecedented level and accord it a
strategic dimension with global reach. While political pundits differ
on the details, there is near unanimity regarding the driving
motivation of the two countries in reaching this agreement. If
approved by the Congress and endorsed by other nuclear powers, it
would remove the ban on civilian nuclear technology sales to Delhi.
India could then obtain nuclear fuel and nuclear components from the
US and other countries, though it would have to allow international
inspections and agree to safeguards on its civilian nuclear
The agreement, therefore, is significant as India is closer to gaining
near-formal acceptance as a nuclear weapons state. Incidentally, these
actions were in line with the recommendations of the influential think
tank Carnegie Endowment that the administration strengthen India to
prevent Chinese domination of the region, and to this end, allow the
sale of dual-use technology, including nuclear equipment to India,
while abandoning Washington's historic quest to maintain a military
balance between India and Pakistan.
Although Singh did not receive everything he wanted, including
Washington's public support for its bid for a permanent Security
Council seat, Bush's agreement to supply nuclear fuel and technology
was a historic breakthrough in US-India relations and confirmation of
Delhi's emergence as a major world power. Earlier, the CIA had
described India as the most important "swing state" in the
international system and a country that could tilt the balance between
war and peace.
Under-Secretary Nicholas Burns, in a policy statement, declared that
the US "looks upon India as a natural partner" that is likely to be "a
rising global power", which will "require substantially greater US
attention" in the coming years. Washington's message is that it now
considers India its closest ally in this part of the world.
Admittedly, India may find aspects of the agreements irksome as they
may impinge on New Delhi's freedom of action. After all, American
scholars have admitted that the administration's emphasis is on
building up India as "a potential hedge against a rising China". China
poses no threat to the US either today or in the near future, and yet
is portrayed as one. This is because even if China is not a threat
today, it could, at some point in time, become a rival to the US, in
economic and military terms and is likely to challenge the US in its
quest for the world's natural resources. As China rises like a
colossus on the world stage, the US would like to see a stronger India
that can keep the Chinese off balance. This is how the US used China
to balance the Soviet Union in the '70s and the '80s.
The Chinese have reacted to these developments with their usual cool
detachment, neither ignoring nor panicking at the emergence of the
Washington-New Delhi axis. Instead, Beijing has chosen to counter this
development by strengthening its own relations with its southern
neighbour by seeking to remove irritants in relations with India,
while identifying new areas of economic cooperation. China no longer
considers India a rival, but a competitor, with which it seeks
meaningful political dialogue and mutually advantageous economic
In fact, the Chinese are the ones who have taken the initiative to
focus on the commonality of interests and views with India, rather
than on their differences. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao surprised the
Indians during his official visit to India in April, when he referred
to Sino-Indian relations as "strategic".
He also drew attention to the far-reaching benefits that could accrue
to both countries from a close collaboration between their IT firms,
pointing to the global impact of mating "Chinese hardware with Indian
software". Recently, China joined with India to purchase major stakes
in Syrian oil fields, the first time the two Asian rivals in the race
for global energy resources, have worked in tandem.
As India's traditional friend and its primary benefactor over decades,
Russia could not countenance being left behind in the race to curry
favour, nor could President Vladimir Putin allow a friend in whom his
country had invested so much time, energy and money, to drift apart.
During Singh's visit to Moscow earlier this month, Putin repeatedly
referred to the "strategic relationship between the two countries". He
agreed to maintain trade benefits that New Delhi had been enjoying for
years and also recognized India's need for advanced weapons at the
usual favourable terms.
The European Union remains conscious of the need to establish
long-term, comprehensive relations with New Delhi. It, therefore, not
only maintained its summit level dialogue with the Indian leadership,
but chose to enter into a wide-ranging action plan, which it calls a
"strategic partnership". It also emphasizes that "there are few major
countries in the world with whom the EU has more in common in terms of
fundamental values" than India, adding that Delhi is "a major force
for stability in South Asia and beyond".
What will be India's attitude to US wishes in the region? India is a
huge country, with enormous resources and a certain sense of pride as
one of the world's ancient civilizations. This will inhibit any
inclination to act at the behest of the US. But when India and the US
agree to "collaborate in limited international operations, when in
their national interest", it is time for other states, especially
India's neighbours, to take serious note.
In any case, there is considerable political space between that of a
proxy state and one working in close concert to promote those
interests that are to their mutual advantage (India's vote on Iran at
the IAEA is a pointer of things to come). If the US wishes to promote
India as the pre-eminent power in the Indian Ocean littoral and in
South Asia, which Delhi, in any case, regards as its sphere of
influence, there is no reason why India should shy away from it. Of
course, as regards relations with Beijing, India will do nothing to
arouse Chinese hostility while quietly encouraging Washington's fears
and misgivings about China.
Pakistan is not only a neighbour of both China and India, but in the
very vortex that is likely to emerge because of the increasingly
complex relationships developing in the region. It is also not
unlikely that both the US and India will try to take advantage of
their emerging entente to seek unfair advantages from Pakistan. This
could be in the field of commercial or political relations. It is,
therefore, incumbent on our leaders not only to resist such prospects,
but to strengthen our linkages with all major power centres, so that
our concerns do not disappear from the radar screens in these
But most importantly, we must refrain from any action that could even
remotely hurt our relations with China. Time and events have proven
the value and worth of our ties to Beijing.
The writer is a former ambassador.
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