The last three weeks have been a roller coaster ride for individuals around the world, as the United States went in for an election and the outcome of Joe Biden’s victory has resulted in a complete and monumental mess. However, this was not the only event which made headlines. The news of Azerbaijan and Armenia inking a peace agreement, brokered mainly by the Russian Federation, grabbed the attention of the world. The waves of terrorism witnessed in the European States were another feature of what today can be defined as the new normal which the world seems to be being forced to accept. However, shrouded by this mist of uncertainty and amidst what can only be termed as anxious times, India has chosen to set out on a path of rebuilding its international relations in the post-COVID-19 world. This is highly evident through not only its participation but the active role it is playing in establishing a dialogue between nations that are a part of platforms such as the ASEAN and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
15th East Asia Summit
The 15th round of the East Asia Summit was held on the 14th of November. The Indian Republic was represented by Dr. S. Jaishankar. The summit was chaired by the Prime Minister of Vietnam H.E Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who also serves as the chair of the ASEAN. The External Affairs Minister used the platform to reaffirm the importance of the East Asia Summit, while speaking about the need to adhere to international laws, respecting territorial integrity, and promoting a rule-based global order. His comments tie into India’s recent experience of a border skirmish with its Eastern neighbor, and at the same time, his comments shed light on the country’s plans. The importance that the Indo-Pacific holds for the Indian Subcontinent, was evident by Jaishankar’s remarks, where he referred to the region as an integrated and organic maritime space.
Jaishankar further expressed concerns about actions and decisions in the South China Sea that have led to an erosion of trust. While talking further about the South China Sea, he called for a joint initiative post the COVID 19 pandemic to tackle the challenges cutting across international boundaries such as terrorism, climate change, and the pandemic. Lastly, the discussion moved to the issue that the world has been continuously grappling with. Jaishankar in his remarks about the COVID 19 briefed the EAS leaders about India’s response to the pandemic and highlighted India’s efforts to support the international community. All nations present at the summit issued a joint call to keep all global supply chains open for an expeditious and sustainable economic recovery.
17th ASEAN Summit
India was represented at the ASEAN by Prime Minister, Mr. Modi. The ASEAN Summit was chaired by H.E. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Prime Minister of Vietnam. In his opening remarks, the Indian Prime Minister chose to shed light on the importance of ASEAN, by highlighting its centrality to India’s Act East Policy. The Prime Minister underscored the importance of strengthening convergence between India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and the ASEAN Outlook on Indo- Pacific, to ensure a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.
The Indian delegation to further cooperation with ASEAN nations reiterated India’s broader support to the international community and extended an offer to contribute US$ 1 million to the ASEAN COVID 19 Response Fund. The Prime Minister further talked about the importance of greater physical and digital connectivity between ASEAN and India and repeated India’s offer of a US$ 1 billion Line of Credit to support ASEAN connectivity. Lastly, the heads of state and international leaders present at the Summit, while recognizing India’s contribution to the peace and stability in the region, decided to adopt the new ASEAN-India Plan of Action for 2021-2025. The member states present insisted on the significance of keeping up and advancing harmony, dependability, wellbeing, and security in the South China Sea and guaranteeing opportunity of route and overflight.
20th Summit of SCO Council of Heads of State
The 20th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was held on the 10th of November in a virtual format. India was represented by the Prime Minister, while the Summit was being chaired by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. The Summit was attended by an array of partners, that comprised the Secretary-General of the SCO Secretariat, Executive Director of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, and the President of the four Observer States of the SCO, which includes: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia.
This was the third meeting that the Indian Delegation attended, since becoming a fully participating member of the SCO back in 2017. The Prime Minister used the forum to intimate other members of India’s plan in the United Nations, as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Mr. Modi emphasized India’s plans to focus on the theme of ‘reformed multilateralism’ to bring about desirable changes in global governance.
Further, the Prime Minister made known the country’s firm belief in regional peace, security, and prosperity and its future ambitions of raising a voice against terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs, and money laundering. In terms of strengthening the Republic’s relationship with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and Member nations, the Indian Delegating reflected on India’s strong cultural and historical connection with the SCO region and reiterated India’s firm commitment towards strengthening connectivity in the region with initiatives like International North-South Transport Corridor, Chabahar Port, and Ashgabat Agreement.
In his concluding remarks, the Indian Prime Minster expressed his willingness to host the next regular meetings of the SCO Council of Heads of Government on the 30th of November. Lastly, the Indian Prime Minister congratulated President Emomali Rahmon of the Republic of Tajikistan for taking up the chairmanship of the SCO next year and assured full cooperation from India’s end.
The Indian External Affairs Minister met with H.E. Ambassador Ernesto Araujo, the External Relations Minister for Brazil. The Indian Delegation started the talks by conveying their condolences to the Brazilian families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks in France. The Ministers discussed opportunities for cooperation in the post-COVID world and emphasized the importance of Brazil-India cooperation in terms of economic recovery efforts, healthcare, cybersecurity, and supply chain resilience. The Ministers also discussed a wide range of regional and multilateral issues especially in the context of India’s upcoming membership of the UNSC, the role of G4, and India’s priorities in the UNSC.
India-Italy Virtual Summit
A virtual bi-lateral summit, between the Prime Minister, Shri. Narendra Modi and the Italian Prime Minister Prof. Giuseppe Conte was held on the 6th of November, 2020. Recalling the Italian Prime Minister’s visit to India two years ago, Mr. Modi appreciated the rapid strengthening of India- Italy relations. The summit acted as a common platform for the two leaders to review their bi-lateral frameworks and discuss a wide range of issues including political, scientific, and defence technology. Lastly, on the multilateral level, both sides agree to coordinate closely at platforms such as G-20, to face global issues such as the COVID 19 and the economic downturn caused by the same.
Removal of Sudan from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and normalization of relations with Israel
On the 9th of November, the External Affairs Ministry released a statement, declaring that Sudan has been removed from the list of countries that are sponsors of terrorism. The Ministry acknowledged that the Indian-Sudanese relations are historic and special and forged based on shared values. The Indian Government also congratulated the Transitional Government and the people of Sudan on the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement, and hope that these positive developments will usher in democratic changes and contribute to enhancing Sudan’s development, peace, security, and stability.
India in the last month has taken significant steps towards establishing an environment of mutual respect and peace, while trying to set initiative a dialogue in the region which can act as a potential check on increasing Chinese aggression. With there being a constant mention of the shared problem of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent news coming out regarding the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine, achieving 90% and 94.5% effectiveness, the country would have to focus on both production and distribution of the same if it is approved. Lastly, the next few months or even the coming years will be marked by a constant struggle aimed at economic recovery. It will be interesting to see how India’s strategic diplomatic ties help the country get back on its feet.