9 MAY 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
Q1. India’s relationship with China and Nepal have been on the mend recently. Discuss.
- In mid-2016, China blocked India’s bit to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) despite a meeting between the two leaders in Tashkent on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. This was followed by China vetoing Masood Azhar’s listing as a terrorist in the UN Security Council even though the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) is a banned entity. China’s veto continued even after the Uri Army camp attack by JeM cadres later that year, adding to India’s growing annoyance. Hydrological data sharing stopped amid reports of diversion of Brahmaputra river waters. The 73-day stand-off at Doklam last year and accompanying rhetoric reflected a marked downturn. India responded through all this by voicing scepticism regarding Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), stepping up maritime engagement with the U.S. and Japan and reviving the Quad (with Australia) in Manila last year.
- Both countries soon realised the risks of the downward spiral of confrontation and were pragmatic enough to understand the need to restore a degree of balance to the relationship. Significant messages were carried by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Politburo member Yang Jiechi last December during their visits to Delhi. Follow-up visits to Beijing by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this year prepared the ground for the informal summit meeting in Wuhan last month. The leak of the government circular advising officials to stay away from events commemorating 60 years of Dalai Lama’s exile in India and declining Australia’s suggestion to participate in Malabar naval exercises indicated Indian interest in a reset.
- The Wuhan summit was projected as ‘informal’, without an agenda. Over two days, the two leaders met for 10 hours, four times one-on-one and twice with their delegations. Instead of a customary Joint Statement, there were separate briefings by Mr. Gokhale and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou indicating the key takeaways. It is clear that messages have gone out to the Army to improve communications and understanding and prevent the stand-offs that were becoming frequent. Both sides have agreed to undertake a joint project in Afghanistan. No softening of Chinese position on the NSG or India’s reservations on the BRI was visible though these issues would have figured in the discussions. However, with three more meetings likely during the SCO, G-20 and BRICS summits later this year, it is clear that there is an effort to bring the relationship on track.
- A similar exercise appears to be under way with Nepal. Indian Prime Minister visit in 2014 had generated considerable goodwill but subsequent decisions queered the pitch. India’s public display of unhappiness with Nepal’s new Constitution and support for the Madhesi cause created ill-will. The economic impact caused by the disruption of supplies of essential items such as liquefied petroleum gas, petroleum products and medicines fed the anti-Indian sentiment which K.P. Oli effectively exploited to score a decisive electoral victory late last year. India was disappointed with the election outcome but decided that the relationship with Nepal was too important to let past misunderstandings fester. A new beginning was necessary.
- Communication between the two countries has changed the face of the relationship. Nepal responded positively and much was made of the fact that in keeping with tradition, the Nepalese Prime Minister made Delhi his first foreign destination in April 2018. A surprise one-on-one meeting with Mr. Modi on the first day provided the two leaders an opportunity to clear the air about the past and rebuild a degree of trust.
- Indian Prime Ministers upcoming visit to Nepal (May-2018) indicates that both sides are keen to show positive movement. Expectations are being kept low key but the optics of positive messaging are evident. Public address which will announce the inauguration of the Ramayana pilgrimage circuit linking Ayodhya and Janakpur. Thesame idea had been shot down earlier when the Nepali authorities had cited ‘security issues’. In addition, Mr. Modi will visit Muktinath and the pension paying office at Pokhara, highlighting the historical, cultural and religious ties between the peoples of the two countries. Undoubtedly, the fact that he begins his visit to Nepal by landing in Janakpur, capital of the sole Madhes-ruled province will give comfort to the Madhesi community, but Mr. Modi realises that his challenge is to repair ties with the wider Nepali community.