IssueCourtesy: Mail Today| Date : 30 Dec , 2013
Our major foreign policy challenges are enduring and no dramatic change in our security environment is likely in 2014. Relations with Pakistan could actually worsen. Nawaz Sharif is focusing on Kashmir, knowing that it is a dead-end issue. His strong links with Punjab-based jihadi groups, the continuing grip of the Pakistani military on policies towards India, his adviser Sartaz Aziz’s new environmentalist twist that India vacate Siachen to cease polluting Pakistan’s waters, Pakistan’s prevarication on DGMO talks to end LOC firings, relegating the MFN issue to the back-drawer, are all negative portents.
For self-reliance and more effective external projection, we need better, more decisive governance, which our fractured polity does not guarantee us in 2014.
Developments in Afghanistan can potentially worsen our security environment as the prospects of stability there are uncertain. US/UK efforts to accommodate the Taliban with Pakistan’s cooperation facilitates the latter’s re-entry into Afghanistan even though it is the most de-stabilisation factor there. This will strain our strategic partnership with Afghanistan, requiring us to re-write our plans for investment there and we will not obtain access to Central Asian oil and gas resources. Our security threat from extremist ideologies backed by Pakistani hostility will increase.
Hobbled China Policy
China is becoming more self-assertive with its growing economic and military power. Its conduct in the western Pacific signals that its seemingly softer posture towards us currently can turn harder if it suits its strategy. Its position on border differences remains intrinsically hard and border negotiations from progressing on equitable terms will be prevented. It seeks a stabilisation of the status quo which gives it freedom to nibble away at our territory in sensitive areas. Our military and infrastructure expansion plans are medium term and will not materially change equations in 2014. Our China policies are handicapped by excessive prudence, now influenced also by domestic economic lobbies.
Rifts in India-US Ties
Improved India-US ties was an external gain in recent years but the difficulties in managing an unequal relationship and differences on key multilateral issues have exposed the limitations of forging real strategic ties. The prevailing view is that relations have already reached a plateau. US corporate, once the strongest proponents of stronger India-US ties, have become powerful critics of our trade, investment and tax policies. Our nuclear liability law has become a sore point, with the expanded defence relationship not satisfying those who expect greater returns from India for the nuclear deal. India is sceptical of the US re-balancing towards Asia and does not want to be caught in the uncertain outcomes of US-China rivalry in the background of huge mutual interdependence. These fault-lines will continue to test the resilience of India-US ties in 2014. Added to this is the current diplomatic wrangle over the deplorable treatment of a senior Indian diplomat in New York, which is symptomatic of the moral fraud and arrogance that permeates US handling of international affairs whose victims can be friendly countries like India too. The tide of antipathy towards the US in India’s diplomatic cadre is so strong currently that its after-effects will be palpably felt in our dealings with the US in 2014.