Monday, February 14, 2005

India set to unveil its South Asia doctrine

+ New Delhi, however, is not going to be defensive about the decision on the Dhaka summit. India continues to believe that the grave situation in Nepal warranted the unfortunate move to seek a postponement of the SAARC summit. India is also encouraged by the international response to its refusal to lend political legitimacy to King Gyanendra's coup. +

India set to unveil its South Asia doctrine

NEW DELHI: Unapologetic about its controversial decision to pull out of the South Asian summit in Dhaka earlier this month, the Foreign Office plans to go public on Monday with a definitive view on how best to advance regional security and co-operation in South Asia.

In a speech on Monday, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran would seek to dispel the misperception that India places no value on the successful development of the South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC).

The speech is also expected to highlight India's emphasis on constructive regionalism in the sub-continent. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's eleventh hour decision not to travel to Dhaka citing internal political developments in Nepal and Bangladesh - the royal coup in the former and the deteriorating security conditions in the latter - has drawn sharp criticism from many of India's neighbours.

New Delhi's response comes amidst mounting pressure on King Gyanendra being orchestrated by India in tandem with the Anglo-American powers. The co-ordinated decision by New Delhi, Washington and London to recall their ambassadors from Kathmandu on Saturday appears to be part of a plan to encourage King Gyanendra to pull back from the precipice and embark on the path of political reconciliation at home.

External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh was to give the Monday speech outlining the essence of India?s regional strategy. Scheduling problems have moved that responsibility to the Foreign Secretary.

India;s neighbours have always been wary of Congress policy towards the neighbours, which many in the region consider unilateral and high-handed. India has often been accused of being too magisterial in dealing with the SAARC as an institution.

In a speech that the Government wants many of its foreign interlocutors to hear, the South Block would want to reassure India's neighbours on the Congress Government's commitment to the SAARC.

New Delhi, however, is not going to be defensive about the decision on the Dhaka summit. India continues to believe that the grave situation in Nepal warranted the unfortunate move to seek a postponement of the SAARC summit. India is also encouraged by the international response to its refusal to lend political legitimacy to King Gyanendra's coup.

The US, UK, European Union and the UN have strongly backed India?s demand for the restoration of constitutional rule in Nepal. China, which has remained neutral on Gyanendra's power grab, has apparently been kept in the picture about India's deep concerns.

India?s concerns about Bangladesh - the rise of religious extremism and terrorism, deliberate murderous attacks on Opposition leaders, and Dhaka?s inability to act against these destabilising forces - are shared widely in the international community.

While confident about the correctness of its approach to Nepal and Bangladesh, India wants to leave no doubts about its desire to promote peace and prosperity in South Asia. As he puts out new ideas on accelerating regional co-operation in the sub-continent, the Foreign Secretary might also make explicit India?s own expectations from the neighbours.