[op-ed snap] Smart diplomacy in five moves

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : India should go for a layered approach to secure its interests in sub continent


CONTEXT

Southern Asia is today at an inflection point with far-reaching implications for the states in the region, and for India in particular. Is New Delhi adequately prepared to weather the incoming geopolitical storm?

Face of Politics in Region

1.Great Power Play

  • To begin with, there is a sharp, though often understated, great power competition in the region.
  • The resultant geopolitical competition for space, power and influence in the regional scheme of things is undoing the traditional geopolitical certainties in Southern Asia.
  • Russia and China are jointly and individually challenging the U.S.’s pre-eminence and drafting smaller countries of the region into their bandwagon/s.

2.The China pivot

  • Then there is the emergence of the ‘China pivot’ in the region.
  • Washington’s role as the regional pivot and power manager is becoming a thing of the past .
  • Regional geopolitics, from Iran to Central Asia and from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean region, is increasingly being shaped by China.
  • China is the new regional hegemon with states in the region jumping on its bandwagon without much resistance.
  • Regional holdouts and challengers such as India will need to balance themselves tactfully to steer clear of the rising hegemon’s ire.

3.Trust deficit in the region

  •  That India and Pakistan, or China and India do not trust each other is not news, but a trust deficit exists between even seemingly congenial partners such as the U.S. and India, Russia and China, and among traditional partners such as Iran and India, and Russia and India.
  • In sum, a power transition in the Southern Asian sub-system, an extreme trust deficit and the escalating war talk pose ominous signs for the region.

The layers

There are at least five layers of balancing acts that India would need to adopt in order to weather the incoming geopolitical storm.

1.First step

At level one, it would need to balance its innate desire to get closer to the U.S. with the unavoidable necessities of not excessively provoking China both in the maritime and continental domains. 

2.Second step

  • The second layer of this balancing game should drive India’s West Asia policy.
  • Here it would have to take care of its energy and other interests (including the Chabahar project) with Iran and not alienate the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel by doing so.
  • While Iran’s share in India’s energy imports is steadily decreasing, alienating Iran might not suit India’s strategic interests in the longer run.

3.Third Step

  • As a third balancing act, dealing with the Russia-China partnership will be crucial for India’s continental strategy, be it with regard to arms sales, the Afghan question or checking Chinese dominance of the region.
  • A related concern should be the growing relationship between Pakistan and Russia which must be dealt with by smart diplomacy rather than outrage.

4.Fourth step

  • Yet another layer that requires careful balancing by India is the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.
  • This again requires a great deal of subtle effort from New Delhi to convince Beijing that it has great stakes in regional strategic stability.

5.Fifth Step

Finally, if India is serious about having a say in Afghanistan’s future, it would need to enact several balancing acts there: between Russia and China, China and Pakistan, the Taliban and Kabul, and the Taliban and Pakistan.

Conclusion

New Delhi should keep in mind that it must, by all means, be careful to avoid getting caught in a nutcracker geopolitical situation in the region. Engaging in a delicate balancing game is undeniably the need of the hour, and let us remember that balancing such seeming contradictions is what smart diplomacy is meant to achieve.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations
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