Sunday, July 29, 2012

South China Sea: Is India again playing upto its old script?

The bilateral relation between India and Indonesia, it goes without saying that New Delhi would like to see Indonesia emerge as a key economic player and a valued partner. India is definitely pinning hopes to emerge as a ‘valued investment destination’ in the region on its own and Indonesia can always a crucial role towards that endeavour.

It is said, the ties between Indonesia and India date back to the times of the Ramayana. Both the countries have shared civilisational relationship over the centuries and thus the healthier ties up can be for mutual interest in more ways than one.

This traditionally friendly relation obviously received a much needed boost with the just concluded visit of the Indonesian Minister to New Delhi.

The Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has rightly said on his part that since both the nations have become strategic partners in 2005, Indonesia has emerged as a key player for New Delhi in its pursuit of ‘Look East policy’ envisaged by the government of Dr Manmohan Singh.

In the words of Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, his country and India share very robust and positive relations. Well, it goes without saying that in this delicately placed region, Indonesia and India are not merely close friends but they are critically valued regional partners to each other as well.

During the crucial Joint Commission meeting, both sides reviewed the overall bilateral cooperation and also identified ‘specific areas’ in which both countries would be working together to take the relationship to the next high level.

In specific terms, both the countries inked agreements on avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
Signed by both the ministers, the revised tax agreement would provide for effective exchange of information, including banking details and information that does not have any domestic tax interest.

On bilateral trades, the two countries have touched 20 billion US Dollars and have now set a higher target of 25 billion US dollars by 2015.

Indian investment in Indonesia has also started increasing as both the countries have intensified business deals in wide range of sectors including energy, oil and gas, coal, marine and fisheries, agriculture, science and technology, education, culture and defence.

Crucially, both sides are in league in evolving strategies for counterterrorism too.
“As large pluralistic democracies we have a stake in each other's progress and prosperity,” quote unquote S M Krishna rightly remarked at the joint media interaction reflecting the sincerity of purpose.

Both the leaders also held crucial talks on South China Sea in the backdrop of increasing Chinese influence in the region.

The South China Sea is at present at the centre of jurisdictional claims between China and five other southeast Asian nations.

The issue has snowballed into a major controversy in international diplomacy after ASEAN, Association of South East Asian Nations ministerial meeting in Cambodia had failed to issue a joint communiqué.

It has emerged as big and perhaps a very sensitive issue given the fact that it is for the first time that the regional body ASEAN in its 45 years of existence had failed to bring out a joint statement on any issue deliberated by it.

The South China Sea is a marginal sea as part of Pacific Ocean and the region’s importance is largely due to its huge oil and gas reserves. It assumed importance as probably the world’s principal shipping transiting take place through its waters.
Countries like Indonesia, Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam are in conflicts with China over its jurisdictional controls.

During deliberations with his Indonesian counterpart, Krishna reiterated India’s established position that all parties should engage in discussions to resolve the issue while New Delhi also supported ‘freedom of navigation and access to resources’ in accordance with principles of international law.

On his part, the visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister described candidly the challenge of the South China Sea as a “fact of life”.

But sharing India’s sentiments, he said there is a diplomatic track to resolve the issue and referring to the ASEAN-China track, he also said that a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea is being formulated.

Thus, we see, India is only playing to its script. India is playing safe, as usual, may be. But, too much of playing safe, a traditional trait of New Delhi's dilomatic operatives, most of the times mean stagnancy. Stagnancy is often compared to the phenomenon of temporary suicide. This theory applies to business communities, other streams of life by and large as much also in diplomatic ballgame. These challenges ought to be overcome. India needs to position its real intent clearly.

A few months back, Indian diplomatic handling on Syria was almost historical and even path-breaking.
It had voted in favour of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution on Syria.
The vote was understood in the international circle as endorsing the dominating western vision vis-à-vis the ‘humanitarian concerns’ though New Delhi made it clear
that it would reject any suggestion that pointed to regime change.

But having said these, one must note that the same Indian
establishment and the foreign policy engine room had kept aloof during the turbulent time with regard to countries like Libya.


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