With the Modi-Morrison pact, Australia adds to India’s list of co-operations and International Relations. As the current Indian government moves on, signing numerous regional co-operations and intra-country deals, it becomes very important to evaluate if these relations would help our country in addressing important policy implications. Many might question that with the internal conflicts and disturbances having their way and an upper hand to address, do institutionalizing these external security deals play as an important add-on?
Yes. For example, The recent Modi-Morrison pact had an agreement with respect to defense where deals with terrorism, illegal poaching of animals, smuggling of Drugs and Arms, etc. This could act as a positive factor in the Indian economy by protecting the ways that pass through the commonly shared ocean between Australia and India.
Mankind’s progress began when man started to trust and co-operate with his fellow men. And since the dawn of civilization, the need for co-operation has only grown stronger, be it cooperation among regions within a state, states, and nations. Cooperation results in the diversion of resources from conflict and unhealthy competition that is detrimental and harmful to productive and developmental uses, which helps in the mutual progress of the members.
International relations, more so with neighboring countries of the same region are an important area of focus in the public policy for any nation. For any cooperation to sustain and strengthen, the members of the cooperation should have integrity and trust in each other. The members should realize the mutual benefits that arise out of the cooperation, be it benefits of equal economic, geographic, or political nature or benefits that appeal to the moral and humane conscience.
Member nations of the same region more or less largely have the same interests, goals, and objectives and hence it is easier for cooperation. Regional cooperation requires due diligence and has many aspects to it, be it political, geographical, economic and cultural, which if not addressed with care can result in unwanted and unfavorable situations. The biggest advantage of regional cooperation is international recognition, which empowers the individual nations that have relatively lesser international leverage with higher bargaining power.
India is the 7th largest country by size and the second-largest country in population count has an important role to play in the world as well as the regional arena. Geographically, India is well-positioned with a vast coastline that gives it access to the sea routes for maritime trade. Apart from these nations, India is a part of many regional cooperative bodies such as SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), apart from others. India’s immediate neighbors consist of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Among these neighboring nations, India has a troubled history and strained relations with Pakistan and China. While India and China battle for power, political and economic leverage over the other Asian nations, India and Pakistan have a sustained enmity and hatred for each other owing to the scars of partition at the time of independence, and the harm that Pakistan tries to inflict upon India through the acts of terrorism.
While China uses its vast military and economic power to gain leverage over other nations, India tries to achieve the same through cordial and less dominant relations. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the take-over of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Sea Port, the dominance of China in African nations all pose a threat to the relatively weaker India’s quest to be a major player in the world and Asian arena. Improving relations with China, gives India access to knowledge on population management, manufacturing technical know-how and skills, research and development, etc. apart from preventing dumping of Chinese goods into India, military stand-offs, and free movement of trade.
While Pakistan doesn’t have the economic or military power of China, Pakistan inflicts a lot of damage with its support to the acts of terrorism. Improving relations with Pakistan helps India gain a good trading partner, access to the landlocked Afghanistan via Pakistan, apart from the adherence to the cease-fire agreements at the borders that have many times been violated.
Afghanistan is an important ally of India and it shares the same views as India on terrorism and Pakistan. Maintaining relations with Afghanistan giving India a good trading partner also gives India additional leverage on Pakistan and empowers Afghanistan. India is one of the important contributors to the development of Afghanistan by providing the required capital through grants, investments, and knowledge. So, is the case with Bangladesh which shares the same feelings as India with respect to Pakistan and China. Relations with Sri Lanka might have begun to go sour after Sri Lanka chose to favor China over India.
Apart from these nations, India also maintains strategic and important relations with Russia, America, Iran, Maldives, Japan and other nations. While economic and military relations with America and Russia help to counter China, relations with Iran apart from providing a favorable oil trading partner, help India gain access to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.
The main pitfall with cooperation comes via lack of trust, a mutual dislike which acts as a major hindrance. India’s relations with Pakistan and China will continue to be strained given the mutual dislike, and the color of anti-patriotism that these relations take. While the mutual dislike for China may reduce with time and some common ground can be achieved, the same cannot be said about India-Pakistan, which has a long way to go.