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1. India-Bhutan

1.1. Bhutan’s significance for Indian Foreign policy

  • A trusted partner: India Bhutan ties are governed by 1949 Friendship Treaty (amended in 2007) which states that both countries will ensure perpetual peace, friendship and protect each other’s national interests.

  • Bhutan stands out as an exception in South Asia as a country whose relations with India do not oscillate between China and India based on the party in power.

  • Bhutan has time and again stood by India be it 1971 or the immediate action against Indian insurgents in its territory. Similarly, India has shown its respect by visiting Bhutan first on the state visit or standing beside Bhutan during Dokhlam crisis, both countries has stood the test of good neighborly relations.

  • Strategic Relevance: Bhutan acts as a buffer between two big powers that is India and China. The Chinese finger problem where it claims Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal to be a part of its territory, jeopardises Indian and Bhutanese sovereignty. Thus, for both Bhutan and India it is imperative to avoid such territorial claims together.

  • Economic overlapping: India continues to be the largest trade and development partner of Bhutan. India has contributed generously towards latter’s Five Year Plans since 1961.

  • Cooperation in hydropower has over the years intensified as main pillar of economic ties and has evolved to become Bhutan’s major export item and a major source of its revenue. The hydro relations has benefitted India to tackle it energy deficiency and helped Bhutan’s economy to grow simultaneously.

  • Also three Hydropower projects developed with Indian assistance have already been completed, they are 1020 MW Tala Hydroelectric Project, 336 MW Chukha Hydroelectric Project, 60 MW Kurichhu Hydroelectric.

1.2. Changing Dynamics

  • Friendship under strain: Though the friendship treaty is the bedrock of relationship it is ironical that Bhutan takes it with the pinch of salt. India’s big brotherly attitude in its neighborhood is not taken well even by Bhutan. Though Dokhlam was a diplomatic victory but some political analysts branded it as India’s self image as a protectorate.

  • Also, the political meddling, regime management and economic arm twisting (blockade in 2013) increases Bhutan’s mistrust for India’s intention.

  • Biased strategic approach: Bhutan has often accused India of India first approach rather than a bilateral one. Bhutan sees itself a sovereign and often India’s sovereignty comes first anytime when there is instability in the neighbourhood. E.g.

  • To India the most immediate concern is Chinese increasing incursion in the trijunction area in general and its physical presence in Chumbi valley in particular. Chumbi valley is very close to the Siliguri corridor (Chicken neck) to which if China gets complete access from Bhutan and its contested territory settlement; it can give a strategic edge to China threatening Indian sovereignty once and for all. That is why India held its ground during Dokhlam.

  • Also, China is expanding through Belt Road Initiative (BRI) a mega connectivity project with strategic implication for India particularly. The western contested China-Bhutan territory is essential for the project i.e. for the railway line from Lhasa-Shigatse to Nepal and later to Bhutan. Therefore, China is keen to swap northern part for territories in western Bhutan.

  • India sees Bhutan from a Chinese prism, increasing sensitivities on the Bhutanese side. Dokhlam upstanding of India was seen by many to protect its own interest not the territorial interest of Bhutan. Bhutan has become skeptical of India protecting its national interest as China looms larger in the region due to its growing military and economic prowess.

  • Economic Drift: India Bhutan economic ties are stronger but Bhutan now sees itself as a self reliant economy which is being thwarted due to one sided Indian commercial policy. According to Bhutanese analysts, Bhutan’s economy has become auxiliary to India’s economic intervention model.

  • The study has found that over 60% of government expenditure goes into the import of goods from India. Further, 75 per cent of the country's external debt is accounted by hydropower loans and India accounts for 80 per cent of Bhutan's exports.

  • India’s stranglehold over Bhutan’s economy along with unfair business practices often leads to economic crisis such as the debt and rupee crunch. The fundamentals of economic dependency including the hydropower projects are becoming subjects of debate, with the unfair tariff rates, time runs and a jobless growth.

  • The remedy they see lies in diversifying its economy from a hydropower based economy to Multidiverse one and China has a great role to play in this diversification being an economic powerhouse.

Way Forward

  • Recalibrating the friendship: India should take Bhutan’s perspective of India’s dominant status in south Asia for a balanced approach in implementing the friendship treaty.

  • It has to build Bhutan’s trust on India’s intention by following the treaty in letter and spirit and not on a chose and pick basis. The carrot and stick policy should be abandoned to rebuild the faith in the friendship treaty.

  • Strategic balancing: Bhutan and India bilaterally should look at all matters of territorial incursions. India needs to develop a standalone Bhutan policy that is independent of Chinese lens.

  • In various regional grouping, India-Bhutan should cooperate and coordinate their national interests. The BRI of China can have huge implication for sovereignty and security of both countries therefore both needs to connect by lessening the barriers.

  • The operationalisation of BBIN motor vehicle agreement (Bhutan Bangladesh India Nepal) can be good for starters.

  • Inclusive Economic ties: India has to make efforts to reduce Bhutan’s debt fears. Operationalisation of the pending projects can reduce the fears.

  • Also, the PM came with four agendas i.e. a fair tariff for the 720 MW bilateral Mangdechhu project; seeking India’s support for Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan (FYP); starting the 2,560 MW Sunkosh Reservoir project and waiving off the Central GST for Bhutan. These are critical for Bhutan’s economic future and commercial plans and India has to adopt an open, participative approach to achieve them.

  • There is no harm in diversifying one’s economy and India should see it as a new opportunity to partner with Bhutan and help diversify its economy. It should transform its relation from an aid provider to an investment led developer. Skilling Bhutan’s youth, developing a bilateral tourism policy and increasing private investment can be helpful for both.

2. India-Maldives

Background

  • India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural links, steeped in antiquity and enjoy close, cordial and multi-dimensional relations. However there have been various recent developments which left a strain the ties like-

  • Political partnership: India-Maldives ties were cordial under President Nasheed regime. But his eviction in 2012 had put India-Maldives ties under strain since then. This was followed by India showing its dissatisfaction over the ouster, the imposition of emergency and crackdown on democratic institutions.

  • Strategic partnership: Under President Yameen’s government Maldives improved its proximity with China with the signing of FTA for leasing out strategic land to China under debt-equity swap, China’s help in development of 3 islands Chinese loan assistance, amending the Maldivian Constitution in 2015 allowing foreigners to own land etc. This increased China’s strategic footprint in southern Indian ocean under the garb of development.

2.1. Significance of change in regime in Maldives

  • Political Bonhomie: The return of democracy is expected to improve the mutual trust between the two countries as well as may further lead to betterment of ties.

  • Strategic Advantage: Maldives is advantageously located geographically in Indian Ocean. Also, China’s large presence since the inception of Belt and Road Initiative has huge implications for Indian security. The new government’s insistence on the implementation of India First Policy in letter and spirit is crucial for India.

2.2. Recent developments exemplifying recalibration of ties

  • India recently announced $1.4 billion financial assistance to the island nation in a bid to bail out its debt-trapped economy.

  • Backed by India, Maldives recently became Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Member. Also, it is helping expedite its inclusion in the Commonwealth again.

  • Apart from the increasing official visits between the two countries (Indian PM visited Male before the current visit by Maldivian President), both sides reiterated commitment to maintain close relations with each other. For instance, Maldives reaffirmed commitment to 'India First' policy.

2.3. Challenges

  • Political Uncertainty: Like initial euphoria over Srilanka democratic government victory and the later unfolding of subsequent events there is similar concerns with Maldivian coalition government. Thus, India cannot fully rely on Maldivian government.

  • China Factor: Though the Maldivian government has said it will rework the FTA but the huge debt owed to China may force Maldives to tread cautiously without antagonising China. Thus, India cannot stop its neighbour to engage actively with China due to its growing economic prowess in its backyard.

  • Terrorism Concern: In the past decade the number of Maldivians drawn towards terrorist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS) has grown in number due to political instability and socioeconomic underdevelopment. This has perpetual security concerns for India.

  • No independent Island policy: Though India is working towards a regional security architect under IORA and trilateral security arrangement it lacks an independent policy dealing collectively with archipelagos like Seychelles, Maldives, Madagascar and Mauritius amidst increasing Chinese presence along these islands.

Way Forward

  • India needs to actively and diplomatically engage with its southern neighbours including Maldives. Political support and people to people participation has to be readily increased. An independent archipelago foreign policy needs to be developed to systematically partner with them. Also, the trilateral and bilateral security arrangements need to be reinforced in order to address the changing power structures in Indian Ocean.

  • More sustainable investment policies favouring socioeconomic development in an atmosphere of trust once developed can have long term benefits to both countries relationship.

  • India may further its approach of non intervention in Maldives to manage a lighter diplomatic influence on a similar stance as it did during the previous regime. This may help India to build trust in the region and to get past its Big Brotherly image in the region.

3. Extradition

3.1. Difference Between Extradition and other process

  • In deportation, a person is ordered to leave a country and is not allowed to return to that country.

  • In exclusion, a person is prohibited from staying in a particular part of a sovereign state.

  • Deportation and Exclusion are non-consensual orders that do not require a treaty obligation. Deportation is governed by the Foreigners Act, 1946.

  • Recently, UK Court ordered the extradition of fugitive Vijay mallya to India to face fraud charges resulting from the collapse of his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

 

Background

  • Increasing Absconding: Globalisation and increased interconnectivity poses significant hurdles to bring high profile cases to justice, as, it has become relatively easier for offenders in India to escape to foreign countries and evade arrest and prosecution in the country.

  • Low Extradition Success: India’s success rate in extraditing fugitives is abysmally low i.e only one in every three fugitives are being successfully extradited to India.

3.2. Significance of Extradition

  • For Serving Justice: Bringing back offenders from foreign countries is essential for providing timely justice and grievance redressal.

  • Deterrence to Future Absconding: It serves as a deterrent against offenders who consider escape as an easy way to subvert India’s justice system.

  • National Security and Safety: Extradition of person responsible for terror and criminal activity, will create an environment of Justice and sense of Justice in the people of country.

  • Economic Growth: Bringing Economic fugitives back, could improve the health of financial institution of India and tackling NPA crisis.

3.3. Challenges for India

  • No treaty: India has a fewer number of bilateral extradition treaties compared to other countries and of particular concern is the fact that India does not have extradition treaties with several neighbouring states, such as China, Pakistan, Myanmar and Afghanistan. Eg: India don't have treaty with Antigua and Barbuda, which delays the extradition of Mehul Choksi.

  • Crimes under Treaty: Extradition is generally limited to crimes identified in the treaty which may vary in relation to one State from another, as provided by the treaty.

  • Overburdening CBI: Multiple extradition cases such as those related to money laundering, terrorism and economic offences, are either taken up by the CBI or sent to the CBI, by the state police, for investigation.

3.4. Related News - Interpol Issued Red Corner notice against Mehul Choksi

About Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization)

  • It is an international organization facilitating international police cooperation. It has 192 member countries and has HQ at Lyon, France.

  • Notices are international requests for cooperation or alerts allowing police in member countries to share critical crime-related information.

  • The CBI is the nodal authority that executes and handles the issuance of all Interpol Notices in India. There are liaison officers in every state police force as well.

  • CBI was created to deal with corruption cases, and is understaffed to take up larger cases involving extradition.

  • Double Jeopardy Clause: It debars punishment for the same crime twice. It's the primary reason for India's failure to extradite David Headley from the US.

  • Human Right Issues: UK and other European countries have often denied extradition requests on the possibility that the requested person will be subject to poor conditions or custodial violence in India’s prisons. Indeed, overcrowding, crumbling infrastructure, poor sanitary conditions and lack of basic amenities, among others, all contribute to making Indian prisons less of places for rehabilitation and mostly for punishment.

  • Absence of Anti torture legislation: It has resulted in difficulty to secure extraditions because there is a fear within the international community that the accused persons would be subject to torture in India. For e.g. Denmark denied extradition of Kim Davy in Purulia Arms case due to risk of “torture or other inhuman treatment” in India.

  • Diplomacy, Bilateral relations and Domestic politics: Extradition process depends on bilateral relations and the opportune use of diplomacy and negotiations to push for the process by the requested country.

Way Forward

  • Enhancing Bilateral Relation: Leveraging diplomacy and bilateral negotiations to persuade countries to process requests expeditiously. In return, India should on the basis of reciprocity and comity process, expedite extradition requests received from foreign states swiftly and efficiently.

  • Sign More Extradition Treaties: India has extradition treaties with 47 countries, but till date has managed to get only 62 accused extradited.

  • Effective Preventive Law and Policy measures: It can deter the escape of offenders, like Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, signifies the government’s efforts to shift its focus to preventive, ex ante legal mechanisms.

  • Expedite Prison Reform to dispel concerns regarding poor prison conditions and potential human rights violations of the requested person.

  • India may ratify the UN Convention Against Torture (1984) (already signed by India) to establish India’s zero tolerance towards torture and custodial violence.

  • Addressing investigational delays: To improve the capacity and organisational efficiencies of law enforcement agencies so that they may conduct speedy investigation in these cases

  • Adopt the Good Practices: Like by placing suitable organisational mechanisms to familiarise itself with laws and regulations of treaty states. It will also help in improving the synergy between the MEA and law enforcement agencies.

  • Setting up a Separate Cell: This will help to provide expert legal advice and assistance on drafting, certification and translation of evidence, will help mitigate the possibility of rejection of requests.

4. American Retrenchment From Afghanistan

Why US is pulling out?

  • The withdrawal is in consonance with President Trump’s America First rhetoric. According to Trump, US has been wasting its “blood and treasure” on distant conflicts, instead of rebuilding itself. In 17th year since its inception in 2001, the Afghanistan conflict is US’s longest running war & has had huge economic as well as human costs. Despite prolonged investment of financial and human resources, the political solution is nowhere in sight and this has resulted in growing skepticism within the US administration over the futility.

Related News - US withdrawal from Syria

  • The US has begun withdrawing its troops from Syria, where they are supporting rebel fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.

  • Reasons behind the pullout:

  • Objective of defeating IS achieved as it no longer holds territory and has been flushed out of all urban centres in Iraq and Syria.

  • US’s strategic objective of dismantling Assad-regime and reducing Iranian influence isn’t in the sight of getting achieved.

  • US’s balancing act between Turkey & Kurds didn’t achieve any long term stability, especially in northern Syria.

  • Negative consequences: o Possible return of IS in the region in case of a pullout. Though no longer fully controlling territory, there are about 14,000 IS militants in Syria and 17,000 in Iraq.

  • Increase conflict between Syrian Kurdish forces and Turkey, which considers them as terrorists.

  • Uncertainty may further increase over the status of an autonomous Kurdish state incorporating parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

  • Might lead to further international competition over ‘spheres of influence’ within Syria. E.g. Iran’s attempt to create a ‘Shia crescent’ from western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean Sea. military involvement.

  • Also, he added a trade dimension to his argument on the uneven distribution of security costs. Despite enjoying massive trade surpluses, many US allies like Germany, Japan, India etc. are not spending enough for their own security.

  • Under the new AfPak policy formulated in 2017, US marginally increased troops in Afghanistan, declared their engagement to be open-ended with no fixed timeline for withdrawal & took unprecedented hard stance against Pakistan. It also sought enhanced Indian role in peace and reconstruction process. But this didn’t seem to achieve the desired objective, in light of Pakistan-China nexus.

Why United States has not been successful in Afghanistan?

  • Domestic political factors: o US has failed to integrate the Taliban into Afghan society beginning in 2001, when Taliban leaders were hunted down instead of being co-opted. On the other hand, it has failed to contain the influence of Taliban as it still controls more than 14 districts (4% of the country) & is openly challenging Govt in other areas as well.

  • Labeled as weak and ineffective, the National Unity government has been plagued by corruption and inefficiency.

  • Military factors: U.S. and Western governments has tried to win the war for Afghans by deploying large numbers of Western military forces and flooding Afghanistan with large amounts of assistance, which has irked the indigenous tribes. Given the terrain and the tactics of avoiding set-piece battles adopted by the Taliban, the continuous use of air power has failed to change the trajectory of the war.

 

Role of Pakistan:

  • The Taliban’s sanctuary in Pakistan and support from Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) allowed senior Taliban leaders to run the war in relative security.

  • The Americans didn’t realize that they were fighting the “wrong war in the wrong country” and they were too late to turn the screws hard on the real enemy, Pakistan – the stoppage of aid by the Trump administration was too little too late and needed to be backed by similar sanctions as imposed on Iran and North Korea.

  • Socio-cultural factors: The nomadic and tribal polity in Afghanistan comprises of multiple tribes like Pashtuns, Turks and Persians, each dominant in different regions, asserting their own traditions and culture. The tribal factionalism didn’t allow the democratically elected government to settle in Afghanistan, and therefore, dented long-term strategic objective of the US intervention.

  • The withdrawal is acknowledgment of the fact that US was not winning the war in Afghanistan and fateful submission to the fact staying the course in Afghanistan wouldn’t change the situation in their favour.

4.1. Consequences of withdrawal

  • Impact on the peace process: A strong U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is needed to bolster diplomatic peace efforts. U.S. officials are currently engaged in talks with the Taliban. However, the withdrawal at this time will reduce the incentive for the Taliban to strike a deal.

  • Fall of the democratic government & Resurgence of Taliban: There are a large number of fence sitters in the fractitious polity of Afghanistan that don't cross over to Taliban's side because National Unity Government is seen to have the backing of US force. Hence, symbolic presence was seen to be necessary, as observed in the US’s AfPak policy in 2017. With the U.S. presence gone, the Taliban — with support from Pakistan & limited assistance from Russia and Iran — might seize all the remaining cities in the country that it currently does not control.

  • Breeding ground for terrorism: A precipitous U.S. exit would allow Afghanistan to emerge as epicenter of global terror, as during the 1990s & would only embolden other transnational terror organizations like Islamic State Khorasan (the Islamic State’s local province), Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (al-Qaeda’s local affiliate) and Haqqani Network to operate freely inside Afghanistan.

  • Poor capacity of Afghan forces: With the withdrawal of forces, the missions now underway, including training Afghan forces, advising them in the field, and waging an air campaign, against the Taliban and other militant groups, will face challenges. It will reduce the willingness of chronically under strength Afghan forces to fight.

  • Regional instability: The withdrawal might further cement regional instability between nuclear powers India and Pakistan. An Islamist regime in Afghanistan would make Pakistan a central player in the country.

  • Refugee crisis: The civil unrest might lead to a mass exodus of Afghans trying to flee the country could trigger another refugee crisis.

4.2. Consequences for India

  • A destabilized and Talibanized Afghanistan might lead to upsurge of violence in Jammu and Kashmir & can be used as a staging post for launching attacks on rest of India, as had been the case in late 1990s (IC 814 hijacking).

  • There is also an imminent security threat to India’s investments & developed infrastructure in Afghanistan.

  • Since India is increasing its physical presence in the region through connectivity projects like Chabahar, INSTC etc., an adverse national government will halt the connectivity efforts, increase in refugee crisis and will have a major impact on India’s energy security and regional ties in the Middle East.

  • US’s isolationism through non-interventionist foreign policy could open gates to Chinese military intervention in Afghanistan.

  • India must start preparing for the inevitable geopolitical turbulence, including the resurgence of the Islamic State and the potential return of the Taliban to power in Kabul.

 

Way Forward

  • It is important that the Western nations keep funding the Afghan state and provisioning their armed forces so that there is a possibility of Afghan forces pushing back Taliban forces.

  • It is important to ensure the involvement of Afghan Government in any peace talks between Taliban and US officials to ensure that meaningful democracy remains in place in Afghanistan.

  • As America pulls out, it leaves room for Russia and Iran to influence the region. India now needs to cooperate with both of them to push forward peace process.

  • Over 17 years of US presence in Afghanistan, India was not able to use the opportunity to achieve strategic objectives. India’s has been hesitant on using the instruments of hard power – weapon systems & platforms - due to fear of being interpreted as adversarial by neighbours. India must step beyond conventional and conservative diplomacy to give monetary and material assistance to the Afghans more pro-actively.

  • India needs to use the goodwill it has earned and the links it has established to cement the anti-Taliban forces, without interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

  • Domestically, India needs to increase its military presence in the border areas, develop cooperation among intelligence and military organization and modernize the armed forces.

  • India has to check radicalization in the country through awareness camps through social media and community engagement.

  • A more nuanced Pakistan policy has to be adopted in order to fight a better positioned Pakistan in the region.

5. New Peace Agreement On Yemen

Yemen Crisis- Why is there a war?

  • Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest countries and one presently facing the worst humanitarian crisis has been devastated by a civil war.

  • The civil crisis was initiated due to Arab Spring and further intensified due to Saudi’s political history influence, Saudi-Iran regional competition and International interference.

5.1. Impact of ceasefire

  • Halt the humanitarian Crisis: UN has played a major role in the ceasefire which was pushed most importantly on humanitarian grounds. According to UN, it is the world's worst man-made humanitarian disaster.

 

Arab Spring

  • The mass movement in the Middle East for regime change (political) and socio economic equality is termed as Arab Spring.

  • It began in 2011 in Tunisia and was spread to Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain etc.

  • Regional Stability: The region is long struggling with political instability and socioeconomic crisis riding on a regional Saudi-Iran hegemonic competition. The cease fire will bring the rival groups on table for a long term political solution. UN will monitor the ceasefire thus bringing an international surveillance to the whole process.

  • Energy and trade security: There have been constant fears regarding the blockade near Gulf of Aden which may choke the trade routes which comprises of huge oil shipment business and thus jeopardizing energy security around the globe as Middle East is the biggest energy security provider.

  • Though there are constant fears about the sustenance of the ceasefire but this is a right step. UN should continue the talk process among rebel groups and the government.

  • Iran and Saudi Arabia should also be convinced of the futility of the proxy wars in the region which are equally inimical to their respective governments.

  • A people to people community should be developed in the region to break the sectarian divide for long term solutions.

  • The whole international community should force US and Russia to bring to an end the cold war ideological divide.

December International Relations

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