India’s Ties with South Asian Neighbours Strained

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News briefs compiled by Suresh Jaura*     6 July 2020

TORONTO | NEW DELHI (IDN) – Though India became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council on June 17, with undisputed support from all countries in the 55-member Asia-Pacific Group for a two-year term in 2021-22, the country’s relations with its South Asian neighbours are strained and in some cases antagonistic. One view is that the country is being “strategically encircled”.

Following are news briefs underlining that view:

India, Bhutan sign agreement on 600 MW hydroelectric project

India and Bhutan have signed concession agreement on the 600 MW Kholongchhu hydroelectric project (KHEL), expected to generate about 2568.88 million units annually, wrote Sidhant Sibal in WION News on June 30.

The project will be the first-ever Joint Venture project to be implemented in Bhutan. The partners of the project are India’s Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited(SJVNL) and Druk Green Power Corporation Limited (DGPC).

Speaking at the signing ceremony via video conference, India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar said, “commencement of the construction activities of the Project will create economic and employment opportunities in Bhutan in this critical time.”

Bhutanese authorities pitch in to make sure flow of water to India continues

The finance minister’s post began with “Neighbourhood first” and highlighted the “close friendship between the people of Bhutan & India”, wrote Sidhant Sibal in WION News on June 25.

The flow of water from Bhutan to the Indian state of Assam continues with locals pitching in to make sure irrigation channels are maintained. Namgay Tshering the Bhutanese finance minister in a Facebook post has said, authorities in his country, “have been doing best to ensure the continuous supply of water to our farmer friends of India from Daifam-Udalguri, Samrang-Bhangtar, Motonga-BokaJulee and Samdrupjongkhar town – Patkikulee”.

Myanmar finds soldiers guilty in Rohingya atrocities court-martial

Three Myanmar military officers were found guilty by a court-martial investigating atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in conflict-ridden Rakhine state, the army announced, reported AFP in WION News on June 30.

The rare action against military members came as Myanmar faces charges of genocide at the United Nations’ top court over a brutal 2017 crackdown against the Rohingya.

Some 750,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh with accounts of widespread murder, rape and arson.

Internet blackout in Myanmar’s Rakhine enters the second year

The internet shutdown in Myanmar’s conflict-ridden northwest, described by rights groups as the world’s longest, entered a second year Sunday with locals and campaigners appealing for an end to the blackout as coronavirus fears grip the region, AFP reported in WION News on June 22.

The Myanmar military has been embroiled in a bloody civil war since January 2019 against the Arakan Army (AA), an insurgent group fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists

The Maldives to soon achieve gender parity at its heads of missions globally

The Maldives will soon achieve gender parity at the heads of its foreign missions, with 9 missions being headed by women and 9 by men. The Indian Ocean island country has 18 missions globally. The country recently nominated 3 new envoys including to India, of which 2 are women, wrote Sidhant Sibal in WION News on June 25.

The country’s foreign minister Abdulla Shahid said, “3 out of 5 nominated, as Heads of diplomatic Missions are women. Once appointed, Maldives Foreign Service will have gender parity among its head of missions for the first time in the history of our diplomatic service. For us to excel, equal participation of women & men is crucial.”

Pakistan remains a safe haven for regionally-focused terrorist groups

The report stated that Pakistan has have made no effort to use domestic authorities to prosecute terrorist leaders such as JeM founder Masood Azhar, reported WION News on June 25.

The US Department of State in its report has said that Pakistan continues to serve as a “safe haven” for certain “regionally-focused terrorist groups.” It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN, as well as groups targeting India, including LeT and its affiliated front organizations, and JeM, to operate from its territory,” the report stated.

India’s diplomacy losing to China’s widening influence?

In its first term, the NDA government devoted a considerable amount of time to strengthen ties with the neighbourhood. ‘Neighbourhood first’ became the rallying call and Prime Minister Narendra Modi built up a personal rapport with almost all neighbouring leaders, reported WION News on June 25.

Now it appears India’s diplomacy is losing to China’s influence on other countries. The relations between India and Nepal are on the edge of a precipice after the latter’s Upper House passed a bill to update map that includes Indian territories.

Chinese encroachment of Nepal territory

Nepal’s main opposition party Nepali Congress has put in place a motion in the Lower House of the country’s parliament over the issue of encroachment of their territory by China, wrote Sidhant Sibal in WION News on June 24.

Nepali Congress lawmakers Devendra Raj Kandel, Satya Narayan Sharma Khanal and Sanjaya Kumar Gautam put the motion in place on Wednesday to draw the attention of the KP Sharma Oli government over the issue.

According to the motion, “64 hectares have been encroached upon in Dolakha, Humla, Sindhupalchowk, Sankhuwasabha, Gorkha and Rasuwa districts” of Nepal by China.

Tibetan govt in exile warns of Chinese expansionist policy in the region

The Tibetan government in exile has warned that the region faces bleak future under Chinese expansionist policy, reported WION News on June 22.

Speaking to WION’s principal diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, President of the Tibetan government in exile Lobsang Sangay said Beijing has been following a policy of co-optation which means buying of elites especially in countries like Nepal.

He said, “The way Tibet was occupied, first they said they will build a road from china to Tibet this will bring prosperity to Tibetans. Once they build the road, they brought in trucks, tanks, guns and soon they occupied us.”

A revolt brews within Nepal’s Prime Minister

Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recently accused India of attempting to destabilise his government, reported WION News on June 29.

The PM has blamed Indian officials, including those who work in the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, for plotting his exit.

“Given the ongoing intellectual discussions, media reports from New Delhi, embassy’s activities and meetings at different hotels in Kathmandu, it is not very difficult to understand how people are openly active to oust me. But they won’t succeed”, Oli said.

India-Nepal relations on the edge of  growing aggression towards India

The relations between India and Nepal are on the edge of a precipice after the latter’s Upper House passed a bill to update map that includes Indian territories, reported WION News on June 23.

Kathmandu’s foreign policy towards New Delhi is becoming increasingly politicised as wants to junk all traditional ties and dump centuries of friendship.

India-Nepal’s bittersweet relationship: a historical friendship turning grim

Hit with an immense shortage of oil, gas and medicines, Nepal once again turned towards China, and China seized the opportunity. It ended India’s monopoly in the Himalayan country, and lay a debt-trap, reported WION News on June 22.

The ties between Nepal and India — roti beti ka rishta, as it is known has hit rock-bottom. But, has it happened out of the blue or was this long time coming?

An 1800 kilometre-long border, a common history, culture and religion. These are just some of the many things that India and Nepal have in common. What also binds the two neighbours is a troubled political history.

China fighting proxy battles

China is not just directly engaged with India, but it is fighting proxy battles too. Case in point: Nepal, reported WION News on June 19, reported WION News on June 19.

Nepal is a small Himalayan country of 26 million people, with a GDP of 19 billion dollars.

Nepal is indulging in the unprecedented provocation, and not just in map fixing. While map fixing was bad, at least that was only on paper. The recent developments are on the ground, as Nepal has deployed troops on its border with India.

Afghan Taliban kidnap dozens of civilians amid peace efforts, officials say

Underscoring the tension, a spokesman for the national security council said the Taliban had killed more than 40 civilians around the country, reported Reuters in WION News on June 21.

Taliban militants kidnapped about 60 civilians in central Afghanistan over the past week, officials said on Sunday, with more than half still being held amid efforts by the United States and other foreign powers to start peace talks.

The Taliban took the hostages in the central province of Daikundi after a women escaped a Taliban-controlled village in a neighbouring province, according to the provincial deputy governor, Mohammad Ali Uruzgani.

Pakistan to open a third border check post with Afghanistan for bilateral trade

Pakistan said it will open its third border checkpoint with Afghanistan to facilitate bilateral trade, reported PTI in WION News  on June 21.

All security points between the two countries were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic in end of March. In May, Pakistan opened terminals at Torkham and Chaman for transit trade and exports.

This border point will remain open six days a week and Saturdays have been reserved for pedestrian movement.

Western powers support Afghanistan’s decision to not release Taliban prisoners

Sources have revealed that even the US government raised concerns over some of the names in the list of the 5,000 prisoners to be released, as some of them are responsible for violent attacks, reported WION News on June 19.

Afghanistan government is refusing to release Taliban prisoners, and western powers are supporting this decision of the Afghanistan government, citing security issues.

Afghanistan government has decided to not allow the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners, who are responsible for some of the most violent attacks.

Pak refuses to felicitate India after its election as non-permanent UNSC member

‘We congratulate Ireland, Norway and Mexico on their election to the Council. The election of India, however, raises fundamental questions,’ Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson said, reported PTI in WION NEWS on June 18.

Pakistan refused to felicitate India after it was elected as a non-permanent member of the powerful UN Security Council, accusing it of violating the UN resolutions on Kashmir.

India was overwhelmingly elected as a non-permanent member of the powerful UN Security Council for a two-year term.

New budget imposes a tax on speech in Bangladesh

In a text message, mobile phone operator Robi asked me, other users as well, to stay with it saying that the government has imposed 15 per cent taxes on talks, wrote Saifur Rahman Saif in CounterCurrents on June 17.

National Democratic Front’ president Dr MA Karim and general secretary Brigadier General (retired)  M Jahangir Hussain in a joint statement rejecting the national budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021, saying that the government, which used to come up with the slogan of digitalization, has raised the expenditures of mobile phone calls, internet and online shopping.

‘The budget shows no hope for labourers, farmers and general people,’ the statement that sends to other media and me too, reads.

The budget did not put guidelines to fight the pandemic for the sake of people’s lives and livelihoods, the statement added.

Not only in Ladakh, India losing ground in Bangladesh too

India is not only losing ground to China (literally), but it is also losing its hegemony in Bangladesh, wrote Taj Hashmi in CcounterCurrents on June 19.

We know things are not going well in regards to India’s relationship with China. On 5th/6th May, China captured around sixty square kilometres of Indian territory in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, which is strategically important to all the three countries in the region, China, India, and Pakistan. On 14th/15th June, around twenty Indian soldiers, including a colonel, were literally beaten to death by their Chinese counterparts, and China also lost five of their men at the Line of Actual Control. “They are the first casualties to be suffered by either Asian superpower along their 3,488km border since 1975”, reports The Telegraph of Britain on 16th June.

We also know that India is the only country in the world having bad to a not-so-good relationship with all its immediate neighbours. Of late, even land-locked tiny Nepal (hitherto cowed into submission by India) has boldly challenged India’s hegemonic design. So far as the Bangladeshis – not their government – are concerned, the bulk of them have been intensely anti-Indian too, since weeks after the liberation of their country with direct Indian help and intervention in 1971.

Is India being strategically encircled?

Beijing has been trying strengthen its position in the Indian Ocean by deepening ties with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka by taking advantage of their economic woes, reported WION News  with inputs from PTI on June 16.

India is going through it’s worst health crisis – coronavirus. The country is putting a lot of efforts to revive the economy stalled by the pandemic. Furthermore, surrounded by difficult neighbours on all sides, India is also facing strategic hurdles.

Diplomatic ties with Pakistan have hit rock bottom. India has lodged a strong protest over the “abduction and torture” of two officials of the Indian mission in Islamabad by Pakistani agencies. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 July 2020]

* Publisher and Managing Director of South Asian Outlook and Indo-Canada Outlook, which have meanwhile merged with IDN.

Image source: Wikipedia Commons