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Benefits of India’s Defence Cooperation Initiatives towards the Foreign Policy Goals

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  • March 06, 2009
    Fellows' Seminar
    Only by Invitation
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chair: Arvind Gupta
    Discussants: Anuradha Reddy and Sunil Kumar

    After the Cold War, India’s foreign relations have become multi-directional and diversified. Growing realisation that international defence cooperation can supplement diplomatic initiatives towards issues of common interests is increasingly being acknowledged the world over. New geo-strategic realities necessitate improvement of relations with the major powers, such as the US, EU, Russia, Japan and China and pursuance of an active ‘Look East’ policy in the extended neighbourhood, especially ASEAN countries.

    An important part of ‘Defence Diplomacy’ is defence cooperation. Defence cooperation, as an important tool of foreign policy, can be gainfully utilized to build bridges of friendship, prevent conflict, build capacity of friendly foreign nations, strengthen mutual trust and enhance security and stability in the region.

    Considering the intensive range of defence cooperation activities, it is considered prudent to analyse the role being played by defence cooperation activities, especially military related, towards pursuance of our overall foreign policy goals. The paper is an attempt to do this and is laid out in three parts as follows:-

    • Perspective on Defence Cooperation.
    • Benefits of Defence Cooperation.
    • Recommendations for the future.

    India is now engaged in a wide range of activities with other friendly countries, ranging from Chile and Brazil in the Far-West to Japan and Korea in the Far-East and has concluded suitable defence cooperation agreements with over 30 countries. Defence cooperation activities are not structured and conducted in isolation but as part of a larger process. The range of defence cooperation activities comprise of strategic security dialogues that enable understanding of the participant concerns and establishing areas of common interest. Also included are goodwill visits at the level of the Service Chiefs, professional defence and military expert exchanges, military training, combined exercises, reciprocal visits of warships, observers for exercises, sports and adventure activities, disaster management and humanitarian assistance; and cooperation in UN Peace Keeping Operations.

    The recent period has seen increased instability and turbulence in India’s neighbourhood. With growing assertion of ‘non-state’ actors, Pakistan is passing through yet another defining phase in its history. India’s other neighbours, specifically Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, appear to be going through periods of instability, which could have spillover effects on our security. Radicalisation of domestic environment in Bangladesh, continuous inflow of illegal immigrants to North East India, cross border movement of Indian insurgent groups from Bangladesh and Myanmar, escalation of violence in Sri Lanka and effects of actions against LTTE in southern India are issues having ramifications on India’s security. While Nepal may be on the path to normalcy, possibility of collusion between the Nepal Maoists and the Indian Naxalites has serious implications on India’s security.

    To ensure a peaceful periphery, India has remained focused on security of sea lanes in the IOR, responding to natural disasters, stability in neighbourhood and, where feasible, capacity building of neighbouring countries to meet their internal challenges as also to contribute towards meeting common security challenges in the region. Towards this end, defence cooperation activities are facilitating regional security (through material assistance, training, building ability to operate alongside and maritime bonding); building bridges of friendship with countries in the extended neighbourhood, building bridges of friendship with key powers, projection of India as a responsible player in the global security architecture, Disaster Management and Humanitarian Relief, Peacekeeping Operations, combating sea piracy, capacity building of own armed forces, extending dividends to Defence Industry, joint R&D projects, confidence building and deterrence

    Some of the recommendations to make it more effective and valuable are: Formulation of Policy Guidelines, Integrated Planning, Requirement of Specialists, Improvement of Relations with West Asian Countries, Military Interaction with Pakistan

    Points in the Discussion

    • Defence cooperation is one part of India’s foreign policy. It is increasingly becoming an important component of India’s foreign policy.
    • Defence cooperation is a component of our national security strategy. India needs to have clear national security strategy.
    • Defence cooperation provides supporting role in building partnership with other countries. It also helps ensure regional security.
    • India’s defence cooperation must also looks at meeting the needs of the friendly countries.

    Prepared by Dr. Amarjeet Singh, Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

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