Tuesday, August 2, 2011

India and its near-abroad

The Economists' take on India and what it should have done, not-done yada yada, yet for all its agenda and whatnot it does have some truth to it - of course you need to ensure you blood does not boil at the tone of the article.

NO ONE loves a huge neighbour. For all that, India’s relations with the countries that ring it are abysmal. Of the eight with which it shares a land or maritime boundary, only two can be said to be happy with India: tiny Maldives, where India has the only foreign embassy and dispenses much largesse, and Bhutan, which has a policy of being happy about everything. Among its other South Asian neighbours, the world’s biggest democracy is incredible mainly because of its amazing ability to generate wariness and resentment.

Until recently it operated a shoot-to-kill policy towards migrant workers and cattle rustlers along its long border with Bangladesh. Over the years it has meddled madly in Nepal’s internal affairs. In Myanmar India snuggles up to the country’s thuggish dictators, leaving the beleaguered opposition to wonder what happened to India’s championing of democracy. Relations with Sri Lanka are conflicted. It treats China with more respect, but feuds with it about its border
The following two paragraphs seems to be in indirect ode to MMS and SG.

With the notable exception of India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who has heroically persisted in dialogue with Pakistan in the face of provocations and domestic resistance, India’s dealings with its neighbours are mostly driven by arrogance and neglect. It has shared shockingly little of its economic dynamism and new-found prosperity with those around it. Just 5% of South Asia’s trade is within the region.

Too little and too late, the neglect is starting to be replaced by engagement (see article). This week Sonia Gandhi, dynastic leader of India’s ruling Congress Party, visited Bangladesh—a first. And on July 27th India’s foreign minister hosted his Pakistani counterpart, the first such meeting in a year. He promised a “comprehensive, serious and sustained” dialogue.

One thing I do agree is the lack of vision. Maybe before the current economic prosperity India did not have the necessary muscle or economic power to create and nurture a vision. What use is a vision if one does not have the capability to implement it, right? With India's attention to South East Asia, hopefully it has now a better vision and clarity of purpose to take its agenda forward.

Second, dynamic India can hardly soar globally while mired in its own backyard. Promoting regional prosperity is surely the best way to persuade neighbours that its own rise is more of an opportunity than a threat. Yet India lacks any kind of vision. A region-wide energy market using northern neighbours’ hydropower would transform South Asian economies. Vision, too, could go a long way to restoring ties that history has cut asunder, such as those between Karachi and Mumbai, once sister commercial cities but now as good as on different planets; and Kolkata and its huge former hinterland in Bangladesh. Without development and deeper integration, other resentments will be hard to soothe. It falls on the huge unloved neighbour to make the running.
Oh well, Karachi and Mumbai becoming sisters again? It is a dream for the select few. For the realists, it is not going to happen unless Pakistan changes and becomes friendly towards India. Not going to happen anytime soon.

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1 Comments:

At March 1, 2012 at 9:59 PM , Blogger The Native Opinion said...

Well, a common sentiment seen with all these India-bad-neighbour articles, is that India can develop, only if it carries the region with it. Which is contradictory to the idea that India is larger than the sum of its neighbours.

Also, who says that we need to placate our surroundings. constant war and strife did not stop the Euro nations from development, colonisation and prosperity during the 16-19 centuries. Though, in our situation, a hybrid version of Reagan's strategy, whereby we build offensive-defensive capacity against Pakistan, work continuously on neutralising its terror infrastructure and in the meanwhile concentrate on becoming the economic powerhouse vis-a-vis the world. Pakistan will run itself ragged, trying to keep up, combined with skillful manipulation of its internal dissensions, we will gain more options against Pakistan than we have today.

When we are prospering, as pointed out by you, we can be more magnanimous to our non-Pakistani neighbours. Further we will be a better attraction for our neighbours, especially combined with the 'China is the alternative" factor [CITA]; rice is definitely a better pull than guns.

- Mike.

 

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