Making bilateral ties special

Making bilateral ties special

It started with David Cameron coming to India last July, just less than two months after taking over as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As he called India not just a rising power but a responsible global power and endorsed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations’ Security Council, four months later, US President Barack Obama amid thunderous applause by India’s Members of Parliament, announced in the Central Hall of Parliament that America supported India’s aspiration to be a permanent member on the  international high table.

Less than a month after the high-profile visit of Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy landed in Bangalore on December 4 and said it was “unthinkable” that India’s one billion people would not be represented in the Security Council.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao came next and supported New Delhi’s aspiration for ‘a greater role’ in the UNSC, albeit stopping short of categorically backing India’s bid for permanent representation. China had till recently been maintaining that it understands India’s desire to play a greater role in the United Nations, but had never supported its bid. Wen, however, indicated a subtle change in Beijing’s position and said that China understands and supports India’s aspiration to play a greater role in the United Nations, including in the Security Council.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expecting another guest on December 20 – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Russia has already reiterated Moscow’s support for New Delhi’s UNSC ambitions. Medvedev is also likely to invite India to be a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, seen as a counterweight to North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Central Asia.

So, before 2010 comes to an end, India is likely to have unequivocal endorsements of its UNSC aspirations from the leaders of four P-5 nations – as the five permanent members of the body are generally referred to – as well as a tacit support from the remaining one too.

The year 2010 also saw India winning the elections for a non-permanent seat on the UNSC for a two-year term beginning January 2011. India secured an overwhelming 187 votes of the 192-member UN General Assembly to clinch the non-permanent seat.
So it was a year that was, indeed, high on symbolism when it comes to India’s pursuit for a permanent seat in the UNSC. But was it equally high on substance? Just support from P-5 is not enough nor will it help expedite the complex process of the UN reforms and expansion of the Security Council. The text-based negotiations for UNSC reform started earlier this year. All the 192 UN member States will have to agree upon the text and translate the political will of the member states into unified action for the reforms to take shape.  

Despite support from the UK, US, France and Russia, India will continue to pursue its UNSC agenda through the G-4 process only. The G-4 is an alliance of India, Japan, Germany and Brazil. It was floated by the four countries to push for expansion of the UNSC and help each other get a permanent seat. The bloc, however, had lost its vigour over the past few years, primarily due to growing India-US bonhomie and Tokyo’s insistence to evolve a formula that Washington would not oppose. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his counterparts from Brazil, Japan and Germany breathed fresh life into G-4 when they met at New York on the sideline of the UN General Assembly in September. India along with other G-4 members also submitted proposals seeking permanent seats for all the countries in the bloc as well as for two countries from Africa.  
While a permanent seat in the UNSC still appears distant for India, the year 2010 also raised possibility of New Delhi entering the Nuclear Suppliers Group – an elite bloc of 46 countries that controls the nuke trade worldwide.

During Obama’s visit to Mumbai and New Delhi, the US announced support to India’s full membership to the NSG and three other multilateral export control regimes. The US also called for evolution of the membership criteria of these cartels, obviously to facilitate admission of India and thus lessening the relevance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, which New Delhi believes is a flawed and discriminatory regime and is not consistent with the cause of universal disarmament and global non-proliferation.

The year 2010 also saw India signing a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada, starting negotiations for similar deals with South Korea and Japan. During his visit to Berlin, the Prime Minister discussed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel the possibility of nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

Though US, French and Russian companies are skeptical about the implications of suppliers’ liability clause of nuclear liability regime of India, New Delhi is trying to allay their concerns.

PM’s foreign stops

The Prime Minister too travelled a lot in 2010. His first visit was to Saudi Arabia in February, followed by a tour to US for Nuclear Security Summit, to Brazil for IBSA and BRIC Summits and to Bhutan for the SAARC Summit. He visited Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam. In Vietnam, he attended the East Asia Summit and India-ASEAN Summit. Singh’s last overseas visit of 2010 was to Belgium for the India-EU summit and to Germany.
The year 2010 saw the world leaders endorsing India’s legitimate aspirations to play a greater role in global affairs, but closer home, New Delhi’s diplomatic endeavours in the neighbourhood bore mixed results.

The K word

No Indian diplomatic engagement can end without a reference to Pakistan. On the bilateral side, there was hardly any improvement in the relations across the border. In a sense, there was a dip, following a virtual flop show of Krishna’s visit to Islamabad mid-2010. On top of this, there is uncertainty over Krishna’s Pak counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi making his proposed return visit to New Delhi next month.

On Afghanistan, India can look back with satisfaction as its position on the vexed nation was accepted by major players. Pakistan succeeded in keeping India out at the London and Turkey summits over Afghanistan but Obama and other major powers endorsed India’s role in the troubled country.

As they visited India, the major powers, save China, showed their solidarity with New Delhi in tackling terrorism. Most of them either visited Mumbai – the target of the 26/11 attack or condemned the dastardly act.  The bonhomie showed on the trade side too. All the P-5 leaders brought with them huge business delegations which signed billions of dollar-worth agreements. 

India’s impressive management of retrieving its economy from quagmire of global slowdown with dexterity is increasingly catapulting it into a bigger role for orderly management of global economy. With the emergence of Indian economy as one of the fastest growing economies in the world and its elasticity to withstand any sort of global crisis, major economic powers are looking forward to its suggestions in tackling the crisis facing global economy.  The inclusion of India in the powerful G-20 itself reflects the country’s growing importance in the management of global economy.

Singh’s popularity at G-20

In the wake of outbreak of financial meltdown in the US that set in global slowdown in 2008, the G-20 was floated comprising leading economies from developed countries and emerging economies from developing countries for cooperation and consultation on matters pertaining to the promotion and stability of international financial system. Right from the holding of the first G-20 Summit in Washington in November 2008, global leaders have been giving increasing importance to India’s views on how to tackle global recession.

Some of the G-20 Summits have witnessed global leaders like Obama and others holding exclusive meetings with Prime Minister Singh to seek his views on maintaining stability of international financial system. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn has now given a clarion call to India to gear itself up for taking more responsibility for effective management as well governance of the global economy.

(With inputs from A R Das)

What they say

Manmohan Singh

*We are not afraid of the K word in discussions with Pakistan
*Indians not in the business of stealing jobs from the US 


David Cameron

*Economic power is shifting - particularly to Asia - so Britain has to work harder than ever before to earn its living in the world. I’m not ashamed to say that’s one of the reasons why I am here in India - David Cameron, British Prime Minister.

Barack Obama

*When American people ask me why you are visiting India, I want to say that look India just created 50,000 jobs and so we should not be talking about protectionism

*India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged. And it is my firm belief that the relationship between the United States and India - bound by our shared interests and values - will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.

*I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member - US President Barack Obama.

Nicolas Sarkozy

*Our cooperation on counter-terrorism is without limits.

*It is not just an important matter for India but for the equilibrium of the world. India’s claim should be rightly as permanent member - Nicolas Sarkozy, French President, on keeping a country of one billion out of the UN high table.

Wen Jiabao

*China and India are partners in cooperation, not rivals in competition

*World is big enough for China and India to grow  - Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, at an address at Tagore International School, Delhi recently.

Alexander Kadakin

*Russia is upbeat about building 14-16 nuclear reactors in India over the next few years, but New Delhi must bring its civilian nuclear liability legislation in line with global norms - Alexander Kadakin, Russian Ambassador to India on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit from Dec 20-22.






Incredible India and the paradox of 2010

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