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A MAJOR CONCERN FOR EMERGING REGIONAL POWER INDIA
Currently India is at the helm of affairs in world fora with a permanent seat in UNSC, Presidency of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as well as G-20 and important member of BRICS and Indo Pacific Initiative of US. India has emerged as ‘voice of global south’ and has been acknowledged as emerging power of the century by the US, Russia, and their allies. India’s growing importance is evident as the US sees India as an important partner for peace in Indo Pacific and the Russians have found their longest strategic ally standing firm with them in the ongoing Ukraine conflict. India’s international geopolitical stature has risen mainly due to stable political environment at home and wider acceptability abroad. The world’s economy has come under the grip of the two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic and has been adversely impacted by the Ukraine conflict. But India’s economy (fifth largest in world) has been remarkably resilient to the deteriorating external environment, and strong macroeconomic fundamentals have placed it in good stead compared to other emerging market economies. The growing political stature and economic potential has taken India to a new high in global affairs. India needs to promote regional peace and stability in order to have a strong claim to be a major world player but currently the biggest challenge India faces is its unstable neighbours.
CURRENT SITUATION IN NEIGHBOURHOOD: INDIA’S PERSPECTIVE
Currently barring Bhutan and Bangladesh India’s neighbourhood is facing political and economic turmoil, with countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal facing a long road for recovery while Myanmar and Afghanistan virtually facing global isolation. It is in India’s interest to promote regional economic integration, and need to step up role of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in regional cooperation, dialogue, and regional economic integration and enhance effectiveness of BIMSTEC.
Nepal: Since the abolition of the monarchy, the Himalayan Republic has hardly ever seen political stability and economic growth & politicians have been more interested in playing India against China for getting economic or infrastructure aid in return. It was with India’s help that Nepal overcame its economic crisis in past and now again the country is on verge of debt trap facing growing unemployment and high inflation. India may have to step up assistance to make Nepal economically self-sufficient and counter Chinese influence.
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is facing political turmoil and unprecedented financial crisis since 2022 mainly attributed to the poor financial policies of all-powerful ruling Rajapaksa family. To emerge from the present economic crisis President Wickremesinghe is seeking support of global financial institutions like IMF. India on its part has extended four billion dollars aid and has supported the IMF’s proposal based on the Debt Security Analysis.
Maldives: There is political flux in the Maldives with the rivalry between President Ibrahim Solih and Speaker Mohammed Nasheed touching a new high and the country’s economy still recovering from the brutal impact of the global pandemic. India on its part has successfully dealt with “Keep India Out” campaign and developed good bilateral relations with Maldives in defence and economic fields.
Afghanistan: The resurgent Taliban rule is yet to be recognized by global community including their once-upon-atime mentor Pakistan and Emirates. India has reopened its operations in Kabul and began the process of re-engaging by sending humanitarian aid. While signalling a long-term commitment to development of Afghanistan, India must draw redlines on the Menace of Extremism and Rights of Minorities and Women.
Myanmar: Myanmar is under military junta rule with little hope of restoration of democracy in near future. Myanmar is reeling under economic crisis with the poverty-ridden public having no say in the affairs of the state. India has friendly relations with Myanmar but its proximity to China is a point of concern. India has not supported the UN resolution condemning Myanmar but has asked Myanmar to respect human rights, fundamental freedom, and rule of law.
Pakistan: Pakistan is in middle of worst pollical and economic crisis as virtually all parties have failed to deliver on governance. Despite Chinese assistance, the country is rocked by food and fuel shortages, terror attacks and political turmoil. Though the LOC with India has seen lesser firing and infiltration in last one year, yet there is no let out on promoting Sikh radicalisation in Punjab and targeting innocent Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. The things have worsened with a running battle with the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan over the Durand Line dispute and accusing the Taliban of supporting Pakistan terror group Tehreek-eTaliban. Its right time for both India & Pak to mutually initiate confidence building measure to mitigate the hostile environment.
China: An assertive surge in Chinese economic & diplomatic involvement in the region is a major point of concern. The long-term conflict between the two sides lies in divergent perceptions of each other, long lingering border dispute, the growing power gap where China is emerging as global power challenging the US and India has emerged as regional power. And in geopolitical stand-off with China, importance of maintaining positive influence with India’s neighbours cannot be understated. The commonality of stand between India & China on Russo- Ukraine war & successful Modi - Xi Ping summit meets should be further explored & steps should be taken to normalise bilateral relations.
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL
COL RAJESH BHUKAR The author is a Post Graduate in International Studies, Alumni of Defense Services Staff College, Wellington and College of Combat, Mhow [email protected]