IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 4th Dec 2020

“Dream big and dare to fail.” – Norman Vaughan

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020-21.

EDITORIAL HUNT #276 :“Revisiting India’s Neighbourhood Policy | UPSC

Revisiting India's Neighbourhood Policy | UPSC

Shyam Saran
Revisiting India’s Neighbourhood Policy | UPSC

      HEADLINES:

Does India’s neighbourhood policy need reworking?

      CENTRAL THEME:

India should have a plan for continuous engagement at various levels

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : IR

      MAINS QUESTION:

Recent visits by Foreign Secretary to countries in the region appear to show new energy in India’s neighbourhood policy. Substantiate -(GS 2)

      LEARNING: 

  • Need if reworking
  • Redesigning the framework
  • SAARC and Way Ahead

      INTRODUCTION: 

  • TUSSLE AND STRAINS : Over the past few years, there have been many strains in ties with neighbours.

EXAMPLE
With Nepal over its Constitution in 2015 and now over the map, and with Bangladesh over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

  • NEED OF REWORKING : This new energy is welcome.

However, it is extremely important that our engagement with our neighbouring countries should not be episodic.

  • PROCESS ORIENTED APPROACH : It should not be event-oriented; it should be process-oriented.
  • CONTINUOUS ENGAGEMENT : We should have a plan for continuous engagement at various levels.

      BODY: 

REDESIGNING THE FRAMEWORK

  • RESETTING THE TARGETS : The present political dispensation’s domestic drivers have relegated foreign policy objectives to the background.

There will be an awareness that there is a price to be paid if we try to always prioritise domestic factors over foreign policy issues.
 

  • MATURE DIPLOMACY : India should fashion its diplomacy in a manner which does not give rise to feelings of being slighted or marginalised.
  • FLOATING POLICIES : India’s neighbourhood policy has been a constant work in progress.
  • SIGNIFICANCE OF INDIAN OCEAN REGION : It is almost impossible for India to get all its ducks in a row in the neighbourhood at one time as it’s a very complex region.

Revisiting India's Neighbourhood Policy | UPSC

SOURCES : OXFORD ANALYTICA

  • SOUTH EAST ASIA AND ARENA : It is one of the largest regions in the world by population.
  • LEAST INTEGRATION : It is one of the least integrated regions with tremendous deficits in terms of infrastructure, connectivity, and interdependence.
  • GEOPOLITICAL COMPETITION : It is a region that is now being exposed to various geopolitical competition dynamics.

So, this is a difficult region, as any official who has dealt with the region recognises, and there will never be great solutions or great setbacks. 

  • OPENING THE DOORS : If the main objective of India’s neighbourhood policy is to connect and have closer links with immediate neighbours.
  • REGIONAL POLICIES AND MAKEOVERS : India is doing more than ever today on connectivity and regional policies.
  • COMPETING WITH CHINA : The capacity of China to deliver on its commitments exposed India’s deficit.

China has really pushed India to do much more, to focus on its neighbourhood, which for a long time it took for granted.

  • INDIA’S FOCUS : The bottom line is key interests , then it is better to make it known what the red lines are.
  • NEO MODERNISATION : India uses the security threat from China as an excuse to limit the capacity [of neighbours] to deepen relations with China or to accept Chinese investment for their own infrastructure modernisation.
  • CREATING EQUILIBRIUM : Naturally all these countries in India’s neighbourhood will try to balance.
  • INDIA IS THE GIANT IN IOR : Other countries are always anxious about India, which is the de facto giant in this geography.
  • STRATEGIC GOAL POST : The only way to really solve all this is to focus on creating interdependence in this region that will give India strategic leverage.
  • FAST MOVING MARKETS : That means that all these countries in India’s neighbourhood that used to depend and rely much more on India in the past are adopting a first come, first served policy.
  • CONNECTIVITY : In terms of energy, interdependence, infrastructural connectivity, grants and loans, the numbers have been going up.

That is not just because India’s feeling more generous towards its neighbours; it’s because India is facing competition from China.

  • CATCHING UP WITH CHINA : If we try to match China dollar for dollar, road for road, or project for project, I think we will constantly be trying to catch up. Connectivity is certainly a very important area.
  • BUILDING CONNECTIONS : With all our neighbours, we should go forward with highways, railways, the revival of riverine transportation or sub-regional energy grids, are things that we can do.
  • CLOSE PROXIMITY : What is one of the greatest assets which we have with respect to all our neighbours, and that is proximity.

But this connectivity has to be linked with the ‘software of connectivity’. 

  • EASE OF DOING BUSINESS : There is no point in having a glass-topped highway connect if trucks have to stop at the border for hours and hours.
  • ECONOMIC REACH : We should aim to be the best possible alternative in terms of the economic development of our neighbours.
  • CHINESE STRATEGY : And often these countries were working in parallel without coordinating, which only benefited China because it plays a divide and rule approach and has been able to make the most of it.

India has been much more open to coordinating and aligning policies in South Asia.

  • LIKE MINDED DEMOCRACIES : The bottom line is of working closer together with like-minded partners that are fellow democracies.

      IASbhai Windup: 

SAARC AND WAY AHEAD

  • A PRAGMATIC POLICY : The format of SAARC is outdated and does not serve the complex, fluid regional cooperation agenda any longer.
  • CPEC AND PAKISTAN : Pakistan has taken a very different approach to regional connectivity, where it sees itself mostly as a hub between China and the Gulf or Central Asian regions, so towards the west and the north.

India therefore had to respond and seek to gravitate more towards the south, to the Indian Ocean region, and the east, across the Bay of Bengal with Southeast Asia.

  • STAGNATION OF SAARC : The last four years is another chapter in the split of the subcontinent between India and Pakistan that has manifested in the stagnation of SAARC.
  • REVIVED PROJECTS : India has revived BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and worked in the BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) quadrilateral for a framework on motor vehicle and water governance.

India’s cooperation agenda hostage to a consensus at SAARC, which will always depend on a Pakistani veto.

  • A LONG PURSUIT : BBIN and BIMSTEC should be pursued faster for their own merits, but It  should not replace the SAARC.
  • WELCOMING CHALLENGES : Now, if India is going to turn its back on SAARC, if India walks out, for example, there could even be a possibility of China being welcomed into SAARC.
  • A LIVE VISION : There are various other reasons, particularly with respect to how the political dynamics in this region are working out, to keep that vision alive.

“Generosity And Firmness Must Go Hand In Hand”.

       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | Revisiting India’s Neighbourhood Policy | UPSC

 

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