Monday, June 30, 2014

Modi’s Friendship offensive in South Asia vis-a-vis Northeast

The policy of ‘development and friendship offensive’ undertaken by the Modi regime in South Asia is seen as a game-changer and aimed at building pressure on both alleged non-state players and state agencies who have over the decades given support to terror groups. These can certainly help curb insurgency menace in northeast India.

There is little to dispute that terrorism is a global challenge. Closer home in South Asia, it has all the more dangerous dimension with diplomatic riddles.

There is no gain saying in pointing out that over the years, the role of Pakistan and its sincerity in curbing the terror menace is questioned several times; not only by New Delhi but also by other global players. This was the hard point experts and commoners debated when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to invite his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for the highly publicized swearing in ceremony on May 26, 2014.

It’s just over a month now since the Modi regime has taken over. It would be erroneous to expect miracles both in domestic matters of public importance like price rise and in international dimension the vexed and complex issue of counter terrorism. However, the greater South Asian engagement approach by the new government is on the right track. The Modi government’s initial South Asian engagement gives the impression that as the regional ‘big brother’ New Delhi wants to take other players in the region along with it in pursuit of the global positioning in peace and prosperity.

Besides trying to establish a personal rapport with Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister Modi made it a point that his first visit abroad is to neighbouring Bhutan. Similarly, the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj too has made a visit to Bangladesh.

In the meantime, security agencies in Delhi have lately alerted all northeastern states to intensify vigil in border areas about the possibilities to revive Islamic fundamentalism in some vulnerable pockets. Apparently Islamic fundamentalist agencies are looking for ways to harm Sheikh Hasina regime’s friendly policies towards India and also help create anti-India sentiment among border areas.

Both Bhutan and Bangladesh, the two countries which came into diplomatic focus during the last fortnight, are not only of strategic significance for India but they are vital for peace and stability in the entire northeast region. 

Lately, in fact, since 2003-04 itself Bhutan has shown exemplary friendly approach and allowed a joint military operations against ULFA in that country. No matter whatever controversy is being made out of about alleged use of money power, Bhutan’s gesture weakened the Assam-based outfit and tacit assistance to Indian agencies by Sheikh Hasina regime only marginalized ULFA further.
Former Naga CM Rio with Home Minister Rajnath

These exercises in friendly ties have been reciprocated well by India in terms of being accommodating neighbour like cooperation in power generation, infrastructure development and free trade arrangement for expanding bilateral trade. 

On Bangladesh front, the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tried to walk an extra-mile when she reached out to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to ensure consensus for Teesta Water sharing deal with Bangladesh.

During his visit to Himalayan Kingdom, Bhutan, Prime Minister Modi made a significant statement when he said ‘Terrorism divides and Tourism unites’.

The statement assumes bigger significance vis-à-vis north-east India as tourism between northeastern region and the neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan can be a game changer in more ways than one. But the latent candid message of Modi’s terrorism-tourism remark is not missed on the observers of South Asian geo-political situations. 

Even the north-east India watchers know it pretty well that Modi’s remarks were only veiled attack on countries like Pakistan who have allowed their land to be abused by forces inimical to India. In the past and to an extent even at present, Indian agencies suggest that the territories in some of these countries have offered enough space and scope to run recruitment centres of terror outfits and ‘safe’ training camps for militant groups. 

Even during the Manmohan Singh regime, the government of India had advocated forthright that in fight against terrorism, no state and no government could escape responsibility by pointing to ‘non-state actors’.
Diplomacy is rightly also compared with the game of billiard – where in one hits at something to score a point against another.

Thus, the policy of ‘development and friendship offensive’ undertaken by the Modi regime in South Asia is perhaps aimed at building pressure on Islamabad, where both alleged non-state players and state agencies namely the ISI and the military over the decades allegedly have given support to terror groups.
 Over the last so many years now the government of India also had reasons to believe that the infamous Mumbai siege of November 26, 2008 was planned and executed in Pakistan. On its part, Islamabad has been either at denial mood or doing too slow and too little. The Modi regime needs to walk the talk on this front.
An informed source in the BJP’s foreign affairs cell maintains that the Modi government though is keen for a friendly tie with Pakistan, it perceives Bangladesh through a completely different prism.

Bangladesh, they say, is essentially a democratic society having fought for
linguistic independence against an established Islamic regime. This is perhaps an inherent difference between Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

But there are also similarities, in both the countries fundamentalists disfavour friendly ties with India. Thus, there could be always a threat to the very survival of Sheikh Hasina-led regime in Bangladesh or Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan. While maintaining that these could be well within the purview of ‘internal matters’ of a country, but it also goes beyond doubt that the present dispensations in Dhaka and Islamabad are also seen largely as trying to turn Bangaldesh and Pakistan into "modern Muslim countries”.

Such a situation would mean greater tolerance for secularism and bigger role for women, enhanced trade and development besides strengthen tie up with India.
As of now, these simply remain a mirage and but there need not be family planning to dreams about miracles. These miracles would certainly help northeast curb its decades-old insurgency problems in a big way.
But there is no harm in dreaming. And sometimes miracles do happen!


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