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  • Akhila asked: Are Chinese intrusions and Pakistan’s ceasefire violations case of India’s foreign policy failure?

    S.D. Muni replies: Chinese incursions and Pakistani ceasefire violations against India are the result of a difficult and adversarial neighbourhood. To the extent that India has not been able to make this neighbourhood friendly and resolve the disputes involved, it may be treated as a failure of policy on India's part. But in international relations, you need two to tango. You need two hands to clap or shake hands. Pakistan from its very birth has built its identity and nationalism on a perception of hostility towards India. Without this perception, the army in Pakistan could not have remained in power for such long durations. It is not just a coincidence that ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) take place whenever a civilian government starts talking about peace and normalisation of relations with India. While India has had its shortcomings in dealing with neighbours in general and Pakistan in particular, the roots of India-Pakistan problem lie within Pakistan's army dominated polity.

    The Chinese incursions could be seen as an effort on the part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) towards strengthening its claims and bargaining position on an undefined border and vague Line of Actual Control (LAC). Perhaps, this is their move to get prepared to negotiate the border from a position of strength in view of China's phenomenal economic growth and unprecedented military modernisation. But China is also passing through an internal civil-military imbalance where PLA has become more assertive and politically ambitious. This is reflected in China's territorial nationalism, not only in relations to India but also other neighbours like Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, and in the South China Sea region. The new Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping is trying to control the PLA's excessive enthusiasm. Let us hope that China in its transition to a great Asian power remains sober and peaceful.

    Syed Subhani asked: Is India's current foreign policy guided more by economic than strategic interests?

    Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: It depends on how you define the term 'strategic'. The economic and strategic interests of any state/country/nation are inextricably intertwined. In today's world, no nation can safeguard its strategic interests without taking care of its economic interests. In fact, if a nation ignores its economic growth, it can hardly spend adequately for its defence. In a world, where technology is developing at a very fast pace, there is a continuing demand for modernising defence/security forces, which require resources. The nature of world economy has changed vastly over the years because of revolution in technologies of mass communication. This has made the world a smaller place and made economic cooperation among nations inevitable. The much used and abused term “globalisation” describes the state of world economy better than anything else. A nation can maximise its economic gains only through proactive association with the world community, rather than choosing to grow in isolation.

    Therefore, it is of critical necessity for every nation today to have a proactive foreign economic policy. In fact, foreign policies of different countries are emphasising more on economic diplomacy today than ever before. Such engagement serves two purposes. One, they build networks of dependency among nations and reduce the potential for hostile interaction among them. Two, by offering a chance to nations to develop their resources, they enable them to access better technologies and thereby have better levels of defence preparedness, which serves their strategic interests.

    Coming to India, there is an adequate balance between pursuit of economic and security interests in our foreign policy. Our engagements with countries within the region and beyond reflect this trend. Our trade and aid policies in the neighbourhood have resulted in building relationships of trust and confidence which can be gleaned from the fact that countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and even to some extent Sri Lanka have cooperated with India on security matters with much more enthusiasm than ever before. The arrest of north eastern insurgents from Bangladesh, terrorists from Nepal and continuing defence and security cooperation with Bhutan prove this point.

    Our relationship with the US and other Western powers has undergone a huge transformation in the last decade; so much so that the US has started recognising India as a net-security provider in the Indo-Pacific region! This has both contributed to raising anxieties in China and building deterrence to some extent. India's growing economic and strategic relationship with countries like Vietnam, Japan, South Korea and Australia, as also deepening economic relationship with South East Asian countries, is being interpreted in China as India throwing a reverse string of pearls against China in a bid to counter Chinese ingress into the South Asian region. At the same time, India continues to enhance its economic engagement with China, which also serves as a strategic deterrent for a rising and restless China by way of fostering a vested interest in keeping the relationship stable and peaceful.

    All this indicate that India is not pursuing a lame-duck foreign policy. This is not to deny that there are many strategic challenges that require much more innovative thinking and approach. The threat of terrorism emanating from the neighbourhood for example needs to be countered. We are trying to build trade and commercial relationship with Pakistan and hope to interlock our bilateral economic interests which could lead to diminution of the sense of hostility being nurtured by vested interests in Pakistan. While one may criticise such a policy, the alternative strategy of not talking to Pakistan is much worse. In an unstable neighbourhood, seething with political and economic uncertainties, India, as the largest and most powerful country, has no other option but to engage. At the same time, the benefits of economic growth are being properly channelised into modernising our defence forces and augmenting our defence preparedness.

    India's approach to Asia Pacific

    India's approach to Asia Pacific

    This policy brief discusses some of the key trends in the Asia Pacific and sets out a long-term approach for India so as to maximise its security and developmental opportunities.

    September 19, 2013

    Pravimal asked: What exactly does 'carrot and stick' policy mean in International Relations?

    S. Kalyanaraman replies: Carrot represents inducement/incentive that promises pleasure/profit; and, stick represents pressure/threat to cause pain/punishment. The idiom of carrot and stick is based upon the fable of a cart driver who seeks to both induce his mule to move forward by dangling a carrot in front of it as well as goad/force it into moving forward by wielding the stick from behind.

    There are basically two ways of applying these policy instruments in international politics. Carrots and sticks can be applied either simultaneously or serially one after another. It all depends on the particular context prevailing at a certain historical juncture as well as on the worldview (realist, liberal or constructivist) of the decision maker (hawk, dove or owl) concerned. Whatever be the manner in which these instruments are employed, the end goal, the challenge, remains the same: how to make the other party change their policy on a particular issue in tune with what one desires.

    For example, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, America threatened Pakistan with grave punishment unless Pakistan became America's frontline state in the 'war on terror' which began with Operation Enduring Freedom to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan also became a huge beneficiary of the US aid and particularly military aid, which has now crossed the $20 billion mark.

    It is of course a different matter that neither carrots nor sticks employed either serially or together may guarantee success. In the above example, we know that America's use of carrots and sticks worked only up to an extent, which goes to show that the other party has its own interests and, in addition, may actually not consider the carrots sweet enough or the stick painful enough.

    Trilateral Security Cooperation: Nepal's New Foreign Policy

    Nepal's King Prithvi Narayan Shah's famous ‘Yam between two boulders’ quote reflects the great understanding of Nepal's security dilemma, even as far back as the 18th century. 1 This has remained a cornerstone of Nepal's foreign policy to date, primarily driven by Nepal's geographic location. 2 Shah understood well that Nepal would always remain insecure vis-à-vis its powerful neighbours, that is, China and India, and urged the need to keep refining, adapting and adjusting Nepal's foreign policy in order to deal with its powerful regional neighbours.

    July 2013

    Fear, Interest and Honour: The Thucydidean Trinity and India's Asia Policy

    Nearly 2,500 years ago the Greek historian Thucydides noted that the foreign policy of Athens was driven by fear, interest and honour.

    July 2013

    Atul Rai asked: What will be the impact of climate change on international relations?

    P.K. Gautam replies: A very good question. As scholars in India are taught various streams of IR, I find the following idea very appealing as far as climate change is concerned:

    “The scientific debates, which are crucial for understanding problems of global commons, differ from many of the debates --- in that they do not follow the familiar perspective on international relations (IR). There is no realist or liberal position on whether the earth is warming and why” (Keith L. Shimko, “The Global Commons,” Chapter 13, International Relations: Perspectives, Controversies & Readings, Wadsworth: Cengage Learning; 4th edition, 2012, p. 323)

    Two major variables are in operation here. ‘A’ or behaviour of states for their national interest and power politics, is the first major variable. We may call it geopolitics. This behaviour has not changed much. In the last century, it may have been related to both the World Wars, but now the same attitude can be seen on all international issues like economics, WTO, resource struggle, climate change, etc. International negotiations and politics of climate change can be discerned via the lens ‘A’. Thus we have major developing countries, such as, BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), having one position of common but differentiated responsibility and equity, team up against the industrialised countries to demonstrate meaningful mitigation. This does not mean that Sino-Indian boundary issues are forgotten. It only shows the various levels of behaviour by same countries differently on major issues in world politics. Similarly, behaviour of Arctic Five (USA, Canada, Norway, Russia, Denmark/Greenland) over snow melt due to climate change is another good example of climate change and IR as it leads to resources and new sea routes which will have far reaching implications in the long term. All five countries have their own national interests, possibly more important than climate change. Study of IR also shows that it is better to cooperate. IR can transfer this wisdom to peace research and conflict resolution as well.

    Second behaviour is ‘B’. This is about how issues of climate change, such as, mitigation and adaptation, are perceived. Regional relations can get strained by politicians blaming everything to climate change. Water treaties by India with its neighbours are good example of it. Changes in water flow data needs to be known across boundaries as a result of climate change. Climate change related intensity and frequency of extreme weather events are on the rise. This will demand regional and international disaster mitigation and response. This will again demand a cooperative discourse in IR.

    Vibin Lakshmanan asked: Can zero-sum game explain the mix of conflict and cooperation in the present dynamics of international relations?

    Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: The zero-sum game essentially means gain for one of the players and loss for the other. It was long believed in the true tradition of realism that international relations are conducted in an environment of anarchy, where each actor is constantly working towards maximisation of its power and realisation of its interests. However, international politics, as it evolved over the years, has become more and more complex. While states' pursuit of their interest remains a constant, their action is often dictated by their own realisation of the constraints on their behaviour— lack of resources, expertise, technological know-how, etc. This has led states to engage with one another with a view to both sharing and accessing resources, learning from each other and improving their condition and status at the global level. Consequently, the states find themselves in a complex web of relationship with one another which makes them networked in a world of '"complex interdependence", a phrase popularised by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye. This state of international relations reduces the effects of anarchy which is a state of war of each against all.

    While cooperation is increasingly becoming the norm as far as international relations are concerned, the possibility of conflicts engendered by realist power-play remains especially amongst states who stick to their crass realism in their behaviour, unable to adapt to the changing nature of international politics.

    Vinu asked: Given the strategic importance of the Shangri-La dialogue, why did India not take part in this year’s dialogue process?

    S.D. Muni replies: It was largely because India's defence minister was on an official visit to Singapore, Thailand and Australia. Conference attendance could not be given priority over official visits to these three important regional countries.

    It could have been possible to depute someone else to participate in the conference, but then on the theme of maritime security and US presence in the region, which were the main themes for Shangri-La 2013, India would have only echoed the points made by Vietnamese and the US representatives. This could have given an impression of ganging up against China. India, at this stage, found it prudent to avoid conveying such an impression.

    I am sure, however, that someone from the Indian High Commission in Singapore attended the conference and sent reports to New Delhi. Otherwise also people like Sanjay Baru, former media adviser to the Indian prime minister, were there as part of the IISS network.

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