Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Over the past two decades India’s stand on foreign affairs has undergone a sea change. Its view of the world and itself, as well as the world’s perception of India has undergone profound changes. From a country that was rather conservative in foreign matters to the present one that is actively engaging itself with world powers – it is a welcome change. The changing dynamics in geopolitics and the fluctuating economic condition has made sure that India makes the necessary correction in its foreign code to prepare itself better for the future. For years, India has tried to maintain a balance when it came to managing relations with external powers. Be it the unstable neighbors, the unreliable west or the fluctuating middle-east, India has been managing them with good care.

Dealing with international relations is a tricky affair. Any let up could scumble India’s image as an international player thereby causing harm to its political and economic interests. According to Dr. C. Raja Mohan, a leading foreign policy analyst, there are five challenges that the nation faces in the near future. These include:

•    The creation of an area of peace and prosperity in the South-Asian Subcontinent
•    The construction of a stable architecture for peace and cooperation in Asia
•    The peaceful management of Asia’s maritime commons
•    A new internationalism that will be shaped by a deepening integration with the global economy and an effective contribution to the management of global problems
•    A clear line between celebrating its own democratic values and imposing them on others.

To meet these challenges India’s foreign policy needs a pragmatic approach with dedicated efforts from all quarters of the establishment; the polity, the bureaucracy and subject matter experts. The credit to the positive change in the last few decades may well go to dynamic foreign affairs officials whose sole objective was to place India on the global map.

The first name that crops up in the list of illustrious diplomats the country has seen is that of Late Ambassador Bimal Sanyal. Mr. Sanyal is remembered as one of the most sincere and hardworking diplomat who pioneered many firsts in the service. He was the very first Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs exclusively entrusted with ‘Economic Relations’ as a tool of diplomacy which has since become a mantra for India’s modern day diplomacy. The Association of Indian Diplomats awards The Ambassador Bimal Sanyal Memorial Medals to outstanding officers each year. It awards a Gold medal for the Best IFS Officer trainee each year and a Silver medal for the Best dissertation.

The architect of India’s modern foreign policy, Brajesh Mishra is undoubtedly the next in line. Principal Secretary to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mishra was also the first National Security Advisor. Known for his tough stand on various issues and his ability to make things work, Mishra built a good rapport with officials, ministers and diplomats alike. A troubleshooter in many ways, his sole motive was to make India’s position known on a myriad of issues. Mishra’s death leaves behind a legacy that has become a cornerstone for many aspiring and serving officers of the time.

Shiv Shankar Menon, India’s present National Security Advisor is yet another torchbearer of India’s interest on the international platform. Menon was instrumental in shaping the Indo-US nuclear deal which remains a milestone in US-India relations. Coming from a family of diplomats, Menon has helped India come out of the age-old nonalignment concept which has brought India closer to the West.

The year 2012 has rather been regretful for India. The arrest of the Italian marines and the following controversy has cast a shadow on India-Italy relations. Norway’s displeasure on the cancellation of 2G licenses to Uninor, a telecom joint venture by Telenor and Unitech India, has put the relations under strain. Perhaps the only silver lining for this year, the FDI in retail, too has come under tremendous pressure from opposition parties and is giving the government sleepless nights. With the 2014 elections coming close, the year 2013 will play the decider in which way the tide moves.

India’s foreign policies must be framed around how the world stands and not what it feels it should be; a problem that still plagues the country’s leadership. Though it has come a long way from being unrealistic, India still needs to make concentrated efforts to make itself relevant on the global stage. Much of it again will depend on the men who manage India’s foreign affairs.

A copy of this article appeared on USINPAC.com

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Many would say it hardly matters considering the Presidential debates never saw India figure even once. In just about four days the war will come to an end and the world will be introduced to the new President. Will it be Obama or Romney is a question better left for time and the voters to answer.

For both the candidates it’s never been an easy walk so far. Romney has had his share of issues. His handling of personal taxes, his association with Bain Capital, the unfortunately leaked video, his lack of clarity on foreign affairs and the frequent bloopers had Team Obama label him as a plutocrat who could be anybody but the President. Obama too has fallen short of being given a definite second term. He has already drawn flak for his inability to reduce unemployment. A lingering economy, a fragile market, his mishandling of the Libya and Syria crisis and the failed promises made on hope and change seems to have the odds against him.

So what’s the mood in India? Though the election result does not appear to give sleepless nights to the biggies in Delhi, there is a certain degree of excitement keeping in mind the amount of importance a President of the United States has in the world. Manasi Kakatkar, a Master in International Security and Economic Policy from the University of Maryland says, “Obama has apparently slighted the Indians both by not mentioning them enough and then mentioning them only in reference to reducing outsourcing of work. But from a long term perspective, a second Obama Presidency will be beneficial to India both economically and geo-strategically. Obama holds more promise when it comes to dealing strictly with Pakistan and terrorism emanating from there. Economically as well, he is on the right track to securing a strong economic future for the US, which consequently means better trade and economic gains for India in the long run.”

Shakti Shetty of Mid-Day too seems to echo the same sentiment though he maintains that the election results would not bother India much. “Going by the popular opinion, Obama turned out to be quite tepid compared to the bonhomie his Republican predecessor helped create. And there was always noise on the outsourcing front which obviously hurt the Indian ITES sector. On the brighter side, Obama reached out to the public during his celebrated visit, including the Parliament. But the critics always maintained that Obama provided more lip service than needed. He didn’t get too much time to express his admiration for India. At least not in practical terms. Romney may seem like a safer bet but he doesn’t have any precedent and that might work in his favor. Maybe it won’t. After all, he could have the beginner’s luck if he wins the ultimate poll.”

The view further becomes a bit of a personal juggernaut when it comes to the popular Common Man of India. Shybu Khan, a keen observer of US-India relations likes to keep things close to his heart. He says, “I would be unfruitful to think that the American presidential elections won’t affect us, and I am certainly not doing that, but the first challenge I encountered was deciding on a favorite, both for practical as well as selfish reasons.” He further elaborates, “Mitt Romney seems like a good man with good ideas and offers an alternative to what Barack Obama has expressed thus far – and that is a good thing. But in a world that we live in today, continuity and experience edges out flamboyance and experimentation. Storm Sandy – if handled adeptly — could act as a positive wave that convinces the voters and allows Obama his full term to truly perform and hopefully say, “Yes, he did.”

So the general view still tries to balance itself between the promising Democrat and the ambitious Republican. With the recent polls showing a tough contest between the two the game is evenly poised. The candidates have fought with fervor and have openly ballyhooed each other with their campaigns terming each one as regressive and siding with the bad and the evil. History says that US elections has mattered when it came to worldly affairs and there is no way it would choose to go otherwise – at least in the near future. What we really need is a leader who in principle is enterprising, human and respects the future of every man and woman. For now, India can only keep their fingers crossed and trust the Americans to choose the best.

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As Mrs. Pratibha Patil gets ready to make way for the new President, there is a buzz on who could possibly be the next Commander-in-Chief. While some newspapers flashed AK Anthony and P Susheelkumar Shinde as the possible next replacement, deep inside our heart we all know only one person as President. A.P.J. The initials itself could well be used for the next missile India develops, for he is aptly known as the Missile Man of India.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Humble yet bold, brilliant yet sober. Perhaps these are some of the few words which could describe Mr. Kalam. No wonder he was called the People’s President. Professor, author, scientist, aerospace engineer and above all a kind-hearted individual, APJ always lead by example and proved that the Rashtrapati Bhavan was not just a rubber stamp office. The returning of the OOP (Office of Profit) Bill was a fine example on what the President was capable of and showcased his authoritarian and demanding nature. What happened next is all history as our great nation has been a victim of self-centered politics and the President was no exception.

Coming to the Mrs. Patil. The whole of India rejoiced when she was chosen, as India had their first woman president. Just a note; India also had its first Woman Speaker back in 2009, when Meira Kumar was elected by the Lok Sabha. India had finally come over the gender bias…or so I thought. But over the years, Mrs. Patil honesty, character and dignity was questioned with the number of controversies that came along, be it her brother being accused of murder, or herself grabbing acres of land that belonged to the army jawans. There was also a flyer doing rounds in the social media which went something like this, “I know only 3 Presidents of India: Shankar Dayal Sharma, as I read about him in books; APJ Abdul Kalam, as he was nice and Pratibha Patil, as she is useless.” Not surprising, I say. Call it harsh, but that’s the sentiment.

So where do we land? Being the kind of democracy we are, the President’s office hardly matters. But deep within we all know our heart still beats for one, APJ Abdul Kalam.

 

 

 

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