Cor­rect­ing my­opia

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch

In his yet un­pub­lished au­to­bi­og­ra­phy (ex­cerpts of which are pub­lic) Nat­war Singh has ac­cused for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh (im­ply­ing the then Gov­ern­ment) of not hav­ing any for­eign pol­icy. The ac­cu­sa­tion needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as the au­thor had gone un­der­ground for many years in back­drop of the oil scam and es­trange­ment with hi­er­ar­chy of the po­lit­i­cal party that he be­longed too.

But ex­am­i­na­tion of events of the last decade by schol­ars and me­dia did in­di­cate that while In­dia was fo­cused on its ‘Look East’ pol­icy, the im­me­di­ate neigh­bour­hood was given short shrift – with di­rect con­se­quences to our na­tional se­cu­rity. Ad­di­tion­ally, our un­usu­ally ‘soft’ re­sponse to Pak­istan and China was also no­tice­ably sig­nif­i­cant – with veteran R&AW of­fi­cers stat­ing that those in power who had used hawala chan­nels to siphon off black money may well be un­der ISI black­mail since hawala in In­dia is run by Da­wood Ibrahim’s ‘D’ Company, Da­wood him­self be­ing an ISI pro­tégé. It is ob­vi­ous that Prime Min­is­ter Modi was cog­nizant of this my­opic de­fect and there­fore, de­cided to ad­dress it straight­away – as was wit­nessed from the invitation to SAARC heads for his swear­ing in and that of his gov­ern­ment. The Prime Min­is­ter’s first visit abroad to Bhutan was the sec­ond shot to treat this my­opia, even as our For­eign Min­is­ter vis­ited Bangladesh.

Sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones were achieved dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s visit to Bhutan, the re­la­tion­ship de­scribed as “Spe­cial” by him right at the out­set: both coun­tries re­it­er­ated com­mit­ment to achieve the 10,000 MW tar­get in hy­dropower co­op­er­a­tion; not al­low­ing re­spec­tive ter­ri­to­ries to be used for in­ter­ests “in­im­i­cal” to each other; in­au­gu­ra­tion of the build­ing of Supreme Court of Bhutan built by In­dia; lay­ing foun­da­tion stone of the 600MW Kho­longchu Hy­dro­elec­tric joint In­dia-Bhutan project; an­nounce­ment of ex­empt­ing Bhutan from any ban on ex­port of milk pow­der, wheat, edi­ble oil, pulses and non-bas­mati rice; com­mit­ment to ex­pand FTA; In­dian PM moot­ing idea of an an­nual hill sports fes­ti­val with In­dia’s northeastern states along with Bhutan and Nepal; dou­bling of schol­ar­ships be­ing pro­vided to Bhutanese stu­dents in In­dia; In­dian prom­ise to as­sist Bhutan set up a dig­i­tal li­brary pro­vid­ing ac­cess

to two mil­lion books and pe­ri­od­i­cals, and; mu­tual com­mit­ment to ex­ten­sive de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion and en­hanc­ing eco­nomic ties.

For­eign Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Bangladesh too in her own words was an “ex­cel­lent be­gin­ning” in ad­dress­ing each oth­ers’ con­cerns in the spirit of good neigh­bourli­ness. In Bangladesh, she had a se­ries of meet­ings in­clud­ing with the Pres­i­dent, Prime Min­is­ter and del­e­ga­tion level talks with her coun­ter­part. She gave a com­mit­ment to ad­dress Bangladesh con­cerns over shar­ing of Teesta wa­ters and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Land Bound­ary Agree­ment (LBA) in a man­ner that im­proves the wel­fare and well-be­ing of peo­ple of both coun­tries.

As for Nepal, Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s re­cent visit to Nepal (17 years after an In­dian PM vis­ited that coun­try) is another gi­gan­tic step in ad­dress­ing the my­opia in In­dia’s for­eign out­look. That the PM’s visit was pre­ceded by the visit of the For­eign Min­is­ter is sig­nif­i­cant as well. In­dia and Nepal have an­cient and deep cul­tural and re­li­gious ties but in­tran­si­gence cou­pled with China’s pro-ac­tive ap­pli­ca­tion of soft power (not count­ing links with Maoists – ap­pli­ca­tion of hard proxy power?) had some­how per­me­ated a feel­ing of dis­trust about In­dia in the po­lit­i­cal class in Nepal. That dis­trust to a mea­sure was ad­dressed when the Nepalese PM at­tended the swear­ing in of Prime Min­is­ter Modi.

There are other is­sues like the sus­pi­cion within Nepal of the In­dian ori­gin Mad­heshi pop­u­la­tion of Nepal set­tled along the bor­der with In­dia, con­sid­ered In­dian agents. Of course there have been re­ports about se­vere re­stric­tions on Ti­betan refugees lodged in Nepal on in­sis­tence China, some even handed over to Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties, and some one lakh Bhu­plaese that fled Bhutan along with an RBA rebel of­fi­cer lodged in Nepal but th­ese are in­ter­nal is­sues of Nepal. What is rel­e­vant to us are that In­dia and Nepal have ex­tra­or­di­nary deep ties in­clud­ing with large num­ber of Nepalese sol­diers in In­dian Army. For­eign Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj was un­am­bigu­ous in stat­ing that “In­dia was not the ‘Big Brother’ but just an elder brother”, which was re­ceived well. The draft Power Trade Agree­ment (PTA) with 100 per cent FDI by In­dia is still un­der ex­am­i­na­tion by Nepal. Sushma Swaraj also clar­i­fied that In­dia had no fa­vorites in Nepal and that the fed­eral struc­ture of Nepal is its in­ter­nal af­fair. The other vexed is­sues were the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friend­ship that was pro­posed by Nepal at the time of sign­ing the treaty but now viewed un­equal by the Nepalese, bor­der set­tle­ment, un­equal bi­lat­eral trade, etc. Sig­nif­i­cantly, the third meet­ing of the Nepal-In­dia Joint Com­mis­sion held in July 2014 in Kathmandu (held after 23 years) has al­ready re­it­er­ated the need for re­view­ing, ad­just­ing and up­dat­ing the Treaty of Peace and Friend­ship 1950, re­flect­ing the cur­rent re­al­i­ties, also di­rect­ing the For­eign Sec­re­taries to make nec­es­sary rec­om­men­da­tions to that end and for the NepalIn­dia Bound­ary Work­ing Group to com­mence field work ear­li­est.

Prior to leav­ing for Nepal, Prime Min­is­ter Modi had said, “My visit re­flects our shared her­itage of na­ture, his­tory, cul­ture, spir­i­tu­al­ism and re­li­gion. It high­lights the high pri­or­ity that my Gov­ern­ment at­taches to our re­la­tions with Nepal and our de­ter­mi­na­tion to take our re­la­tion­ship to an en­tirely new level”. In Nepal, Prime Min­is­ter Modi won the hearts of Nepalese. Amongst the var­i­ous in­ter­ac­tions, Prime Min­is­ter Modi met Prime Min­is­ter of Nepal, Sushil Koirala. Del­e­ga­tion-level talks were also held be­tween the two sides. As­sert­ing that In­dia re­spects Nepal’s sovereignty, the Prime Min­is­ter hoped that the process of Con­sti­tu­tion-mak­ing would be com­pleted soon. He stressed the need for pri­ori­tis­ing in­fra­struc­ture in the pace of de­vel­op­ment, Naren­dra Modi said that the bridge of trust be­tween the two na­tions should be strength­ened. Three agree­ments were signed be­tween the two coun­tries in pres­ence of the Prime Min­is­ters, namely: Let­ter of Ex­change for es­tab­lish­ing Panch­eswor De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity; MoU in the health sec­tor for Goi­ter Con­trol Pro­gram, and; Co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Do­or­dar­shan and Nepal TV. Speak­ing to Nepal’s Con­stituent Assem­bly, the Prime Min­is­ter gave a HIT for­mula for Nepal, say­ing In­dia wants to help Nepal build high­ways (H), in­for­ma­tion high­ways (I) and transways - trans­mis­sion lines (T). He also an­nounced: keen­ness to dou­ble power sup­ply to Nepal; 10,000 crore con­ces­sional line of credit to Nepal for de­vel­op­ment; prom­ise to build pipe­lines to help trans­port oil to Nepal; in­creased In­dian schol­ar­ships to stu­dents from Nepal; help to Nepal emerge as a ma­jor ex­porter of herbal medicines; help de­velop tourism po­ten­tial of Nepal, both as a spir­i­tual, and ad­ven­ture tourism des­ti­na­tion; bridge on the Ma­hakali river and the Panchesh­war multi-pur­pose project to be taken up at the ear­li­est; mak­ing tele­phone calls be­tween In­dia and Nepal cheaper; mak­ing In­dia-Nepal bor­der a bridge which helps bring pros­per­ity to both sides, and; as­sis­tance to Nepal in the fields of or­ganic farm­ing, and soil health.

There is an ap­par­ent need to co­or­di­nate the ap­proach in deal­ing with our neigh­bours at na­tional level. In­dia ob­jected to the UN probe for hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions by Sri Lanka dur­ing the last seven years of the three decade long con­flict and de­nied visa to UN in­ves­ti­ga­tion com­mit­tee man­dated by a res­o­lu­tion adopted at UNHCR in March 2013 but re­cently the U-19 cricket team of Sri Lanka was turned back im­me­di­ately on ar­rival at Chen­nai – caus­ing avoid­able em­bar­rass­ment. When Tamil Nadu pol­i­tics had pre­vented Sri Lankan crick­eters par­tic­i­pate in the re­cently held IPL, where was the ques­tion of or­gan­is­ing the U-19 in­ter­na­tional cricket tour­na­ment in Chen­nai? Also, while we ad­dress the afore­said my­opia, equally im­por­tant is the need to ad­dress the hyper­opia in our for­eign out­look. For ex­am­ple, the rea­son why our age old strate­gic part­ner Rus­sia has gone ahead with the sale of Mi-35 at­tack he­li­copters and other weapon plat­forms to Pak­istan needs ex­am­i­na­tion, same as ces­sa­tion of pro­vi­sion of two me­tre satel­lite im­agery by Rus­sia to us that ad­versely af­fects tar­get­ing by our weapon sys­tems. Ques­tions have also been raised in many quarters that when a cat­e­gor­i­cal state­ment had been made in Par­lia­ment that In­dia has equally good re­la­tions with both Is­rael and Pales­tine, why did In­dia not ab­stain while vot­ing at the UNHCR?

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi meet­ing the Prime Min­is­ter of Nepal, Sushil Koirala in

Kathmandu, Nepal, on Au­gust 3, 2014

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi with

the Nepalese peo­ple in Kathmandu

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