Economic growth in the Asian region and emerging opportunities for interregional trade are creating a demand for viable transport connectivity, land-linking arrangements, and important transit services. However, due to geographical and geopolitical attributes, India and Central Asian countries have been confronted with a range of constraints which have hitherto inhibited a full realization of two-way trade and commerce. The problems of distance have been substantially compounded by the instability factor in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's recent outburst that China poses a security challenge indicates a dangerous ambiguity in India’s China policy. The fact that Mukherjee has aired such a view after his intense and long diplomatic rapport with the leadership of that country needs to be noted seriously. It is not that China has not been a puzzle to Indian strategic thinkers. Even former Defence Minister George Fernandes considered China as India’s number one enemy, but his views were transformed after he paid an official visit to Beijing.
The two recent glorious achievements - the Olympics and spacewalk mission – seem to have transcended China to a new global height with wide implications for the world’s strategic balance. From all accounts, analysts suggest that China will not only survive but has also gained from the recent global financial meltdown.
The August 28 SCO summit in Dushanbe will be viewed with keen concern by most international watchers. It comes on the heels of China’s successful conduct of the Olympics and Russia’s military assertion in Georgia. Both Russia and China have been keenly nurturing the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation as an exclusive nucleus to undercut the US strategic outreach.
Russia’s new President Dmitry Medvedev has put forward a fresh foreign policy blueprint and set forth a brand new idea of a Pan-European Security structure, which envisages a role for India in Euro-Atlantic affairs. The 7,000 word document makes a turn from the earlier roadmap that guided Putin’s agenda. Medvedev seeks no “Great Power” status but wants Russia to be one of the influential centres of the world. Not exactly distinct in form from Putin’s doctrine, the new concept entails style and diplomatic nuance; it talks about abandoning ‘bloc diplomacy’ in favour of ‘network diplomacy’.
The SCO— a linchpin of China's Eurasia policy is viewed ominously by most international watchers. China is nurturing the SCO as an exclusive nucleus to undercut the US strategic outreach. But, Central Asia, the main nucleus, suffers from strategic ambiguity and the states there seek varied goals and play major power off each other. There is also an ostensible mismatch between Russia's liberal and China's expansionist approach. Will the SCO emerge as a distinct pole or will it remain an opportunistic alliance of desperate states?
In a disturbing sign, the Chinese seem to have brought up Sikkim and not Arunachal Pradesh back to the table during the recent visit of Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee to China. The belief was that China had implicitly recognised Indian sovereignty over Sikkim in 2003, and as such there was no dispute on the matter with China. China’s recognition of Sikkim was interpreted as a quid pro quo for India’s recognition of total Chinese sovereignty over Tibet in 2003.