POST TIME: 5 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Contemporary India: Its foreign policy, security, Bangladesh-India relations
Harsh Vardhan Shringla

Contemporary India: Its foreign policy, security, Bangladesh-India relations

India’s foreign and security policy imperatives are underpinned by the desire to achieve sustained and inclusive economic growth. The focus is on creating and enabling an environment for national growth and development by maintaining peace and stability; securing access to resources, energy, technologies, best practices and markets; and playing a constructive role in shaping the agenda and debate on issues of global interest.  

Under the Government of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, our foreign policy has become more proactive and has acquired a renewed energy, vigour, and planning in the ways India engages with the rest of the world. This has been a period of many firsts as I will bring this out while elaborating on the foreign and security policy framework of the Government over the last four years.

One of the most important aspects of our foreign policy has been the adoption of a ‘Neighbourhood First’ approach. The historic invitation that was extended to the leaders of the South Asian countries to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government in 2014 signaled the emphasis that India would place on strengthening its relations with its neighbors. Since then, our immediate neighbourhood has received the greatest attention and emphasis in our diplomatic efforts. This is reflected in frequent high level exchanges; heightened focus on connectivity and economic integration to facilitate the movement of goods and people; commencement of cooperation in previously uncharted territories such as space, IT, cyber security, civil nuclear energy, disaster management, etc. In his keynote address at the Shangri-La dialogue recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked that we are living on the “edge of uncertainty, of unsettled questions and unresolved disputes; contests and claims; and clashing visions and competing models.” He talked about the “growing mutual insecurity and rising military expenditure; internal dislocations turning into external tensions; new fault lines in trade and competition in the global commons; and assertion of power over recourse to international norms.” He also talked about the cross-border challenges including the threat of terrorism and extremism and called for rising above divisions and competition to work together.

In this context, India has been a proactive and constructive contributor to shaping of the global agenda and debate on issues of common interest such as terrorism, climate change, nuclear proliferation and global governance reform. There has been increased support for India’s efforts to isolate terrorists and their sponsors. This was manifest in universal support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 11-point action plan on combating terrorism at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg.

Bangladesh has also faced some serious challenges from terrorism and is an invaluable partner in our fight against terrorism. India fully supports Bangladesh’s policy of ‘zero-tolerance’ towards terrorism and stands with Bangladesh on this issue. We have also strongly pushed for fighting the menace of black money globally. In recognition of India’s impeccable non-proliferation record and its rise as a responsible global actor, India also gained entry into three key global export control regimes (Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Agreement, Australia Group).

We are also committed to the ethos of environmental protection and conservation and are signatories to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We have committed to achieving 40 per cent of our electricity capacity from renewable sources of energy by 2030 and are well on our way to achieving this with advances in solar energy technology and reduction in costs. India, together with France, led the successful launch of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) which has created a platform of 121 partner countries to promote development of solar energy projects worldwide. The ISA will help mobilize investment of over USD1 trillion from public and private sources that will help it install more than 1,000 GW of solar generation capacity worldwide by 2030.     

In his keynote address at the Shangri-La dialogue, Prime Minister Modi also talked about the inclusive nature of our approach to engagement in the Indo-Pacific region – from the shores of Africa to that of the Americas. He outlined our vision for the Indo-Pacific region which we do not see as a grouping of limited members that seeks to dominate or that is directed against any country.  Our vision for the Indo-Pacific includes a free, open and inclusive region; centrality of Southeast Asia; a common rules-based order through dialogue; freedom of navigation, unhindered commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law; an open, rules-based and stable trade regime; and improved connectivity. However, connectivity initiatives must be based on respect for “sovereignty and territorial integrity, consultation, good governance, transparency, viability and sustainability”, and should not place countries under any debt burden. He further outlined the five basic principles on which India’s engagement with the world will be based. These are five Ss in Hindi: ‘samman (respect)’; ‘samvad (dialogue)’; ‘sahyog (cooperation)’; ‘shanti (peace)’; ‘samriddhi (prosperity)’. As the PM said, our focus will be on promoting a democratic and rules-based international order; working with others to keep our seas, space and airways free and open and to keep our nations secure from terrorism and our cyber space free from disruption and conflict; keeping our economy open and our engagement transparent; and seeking a sustainable future for our planet, as through the International Solar Alliance. Our ties with Bangladesh have to be seen in the context of much that I have enunciated in the preceding paragraphs. India-Bangladesh relations are anchored on a trust and friendship that goes beyond strategic partnership.  Our shared values, culture, language, ancestral roots and other commonalities all contribute to a time-tested relationship. We have amicably resolved both our maritime and land boundaries. In 2015, India and Bangladesh settled the land boundary issue which had been pending for several decades.

The writer is High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh. This is an abridged version of his speech delivered at the National Defence College, Bangladesh on

August 13, 2018.