Category Archives: Foreign Policy

Looking beyond the land boundary deal

Oped section of The Pioneer, dated June 15 carried my write-up highlighting the issue of illegal immigrants in India from Bangladesh: Looking beyond the land boundary deal

Narendra Modi has done well on the land deal with Bangladesh. But he has ignored the issue of illegal migration. The need is for infiltration-proof borders.

Link to the full article:

Is US media covering Obama’s India visit?

The Indian media is taking pains to describe at length- even with graphical details- about Air Force One looking no less than a Flying White House, official vehicle of President called ‘the Beast’, his dog soldiers, what is plan B for Agra and how sanitary work is in full progress in the cities that he will be visiting.

My report from Chicago published in The Times of India on January 27, 2015: Is US media covering Obama’s India visit?

To read the full report please click on the web link:

A train to Pakistan, but this time from China!

“The enemy of your foe can be your best friend.” Nothing but this describes China’s long standing plans of getting cozy with Pakistan. Struck between two nations, each of which wants a piece of its territory, India has been trying hard to settle the issues amicably. The latest headache for the Indian Government is China’s plans of building a rail link to Pakistan which will pass through the disputed PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) territory.

Adding to India’s concerns is the fact that China is taking it as a swift project with pre-feasibility stage of the link already completed. Pakistan, on its part, sees huge value in the project with its ambassador to China making a remark “This new link will enhance the economic ties between China and Pakistan as well as create a new link between East and South Asia.” The proposed route of the rail link would pass through the Xinjiang region in China, which was a part of the ancient Silk Route. It will join the railway network of Pakistan via Khunjerab pass, which lies in the PoK. China justifies the entire project by saying that it would help them easily receive import material from the countries of West Asia.

What is interesting to note here is that while China is offering a deaf ear to the concerns of the Indian Government regarding the disputed PoK territory, the Chinese government, itself, is much against any third-party involvement in its own disputed territories in the South China Sea. Case in point would be China’s vehement opposition to the exploration projects undertaken by the ONGC Videsh in the South China Sea territory. Although the Chinese officials have maintained their anonymity regarding the PoK dispute and cite ‘ease of imports’ as the lone reason behind the rail link, it is extremely hard not to think about China’s bigger objective of disrupting the Indo-Pak equation.

What further raises the eyebrow is China’s enhancing interest in other projects related to the PoK apart from the rail link. China has taken up the work for renovating the Karakoram Highway which connects the Pakistan mainland to the PoK. The Chinese Government has also pledged a $500 million loan to Pakistan to help complete their side of the project. One of the other reasons given by China for its enhanced interest in the road and rail link to PoK is the ease of importing adequate material for its newly planned Special Economic Zone in Kashgar. One of the western most cities of China, Kashgar has seen relatively low development over the past decades. The planned SEZ seems to be China’s latest attempt to raise this area to the level of other developed Chinese cities.

The recent (June, 2014) visits from Hamid Ansari, Indian Vice President and Sujatha Singh, Foreign Secretary, have initiated a much needed discussion on the rail link issue. While the Chinese Government tries its best to avoid discussion on such issues and instead, releases copy paste joint statements, the Indian Government must place issues like these at the top of its list to ensure a speedy resolution.

India must remember, the Dragon won’t go away if you just close your eyes and assume it’s gone. It is wiser to open the eyes and tame the dragon before it starts laying its eggs!

Iraq and ISIS Crisis

The turmoil in the Middle-East doesn’t seem to have an end in the close sight. What started as a minor intrusion into the territory of Iraq has turned into one of the biggest crisis in the world at present. According to the latest official reports from the Iraq Government, most parts of the country’s biggest Oil Refinery, Baiji, have been overtaken by the ISIS militants. In addition to that, most parts of the country’s second largest city, Mosul, are under ISIS control. Accepting helplessness, the Iraqi Government in the beginning itself formally requested the US to launch airstrikes against the ISIS insurgents. From Indian point of view, the abduction of 40 Indian migrant workers from the affected areas has put the Indian Government into the spot with the families of the victims demanding a swift response.

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – also called ‘Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’- is a self-proclaimed independent state covering areas of Iraq and Syria. It has also been given the name ‘Al-Qaeda 2.0’ due to the initial support it had from the feared terrorist outfit. Formed in 2013, it aims at putting in place a Caliphate in the areas of Iraq having Sunni majority. It must be noted that Al-Qaeda snapped its relations with ISIS within one year of its formation. ISIS is known for its brutality which far surpasses the exploits of Al-Qaeda. Their leader, Abu Dua or Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, was detained by the US Army from 2005 to 2009.

There have been a number of violent videos released by the militants in the past 2 weeks including a video showing execution of 1700 Iraqi soldiers. Although the Iraqi Government denies the massacre on such a large scale, it is not ruling out the death of its soldiers in significant numbers. Citing the criticality of the situation, Iran has offered Iraq ‘Everything it needs to fight ISIS’. At that point, the US officials also hinted at working together with Iran to save Iraq from getting completely overrun by the militants. However, the American response to the issue has not been very consistent. President Obama in a press conference on June 19 categorically stated that USA would not send combat troops, but will provide expert assistance. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry is currently on a visit to the Middle East, including Iraq. He has admitted that the Iraq failed to see the rising tides of ISIS militancy and the country was taken by surprise as ISIS opened its frontal attack. Kerry also said that the areas captured by ISIS are likely to stay with the latter, admitting the capability of the militant organization. However, the adjacent Kurdish area sources claim that they had forewarned the US and British authorities about the increasing military strengthening of the ISIS.

Meanwhile, amid the rising pressure on the Indian Government to take some action for its citizens’ safety in Iraq, the Prime Minister Nardendra Modi has directed the External Affairs Ministry to put up its best efforts to rescue the 40 Indian workers kidnapped by the ISIS militants. The biggest problem in front of the Indian Government is that they don’t have any second party to negotiate for the safety for their citizens. Mosul, from where the Indian workers were kidnapped, is out of bounds of the Iraqi Government. The Prime Minister has sent a former envoy, Suresh Reddy, to the Oil rich town of Mosul to expedite the process of bringing back the Indians. The issue has been further complicated due to the fact that no specific group among the ISIS has taken the responsibility of the Indian workers’ kidnapping.

With ISIS crisis likely to linger on, the International community must put a hand forward to help Iraq before the issue causes further blood-shed.