The joy of stepping into a new decade was soon quashed, as nations struggled to maintain political stability and carry on parliamentary work. The past week has been filled with geopolitical drama. Whether it be the United Kingdom officially leaving the European Union, which I am sure would have brought a smile to Charles De Gaulle, or whether it be a siege on the ‘Temple of Democracy’ itself. Of the many things one expected 2021 to behold, I am sure none expected such a dramatic start to the year. However, we as usual focus on what the Indian government is doing in the field of Foreign Policy.
India-Turkmenistan Foreign Office Consultations
Virtual Foreign Consultations between the Indian Republic and Turkmenistan was held on the 13th of January, 2021. The Indian delegation was led by Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), while the delegation from Turkmenistan was led by H.E Mr. Vepa Hajiyev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan.
The primary rationale behind the consultations was to undertake a systematic review of bilateral relations between the two countries. This included political, economic, commercial, defense, and consular cooperation. Both sides used the opportunity to exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interests and agreed to enhance cooperation in the United Nations and the multilateral arena.
3rd Senior Officials Meeting of Arab-India Cooperation Forum
On the 12th of January 2021, the third India-Arab Cooperation Forum took place. The Forum meeting was co-chaired by Shri Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary (CPV&OIA), and Ambassador Mohamed Abu Al-Kheir, Assistant Foreign Minister and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the League of Arab States with the participation of Senior Officials from the Arab States and India, as well as the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States.
The Representative hailed the strong foundation, great potential, and wide-ranging prospects for Arab-India cooperation. They also used the opportunity to recall the historic ties between the Arab world and India. Through the Forum, the leaders stressed the need for political solutions to regional issues and crisis in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinian issues, the crisis in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, and underscored the need for cooperation in combating terrorism and ensuring freedom of navigation and maritime security, according to the principles of international law.
The Arab side congratulated the Republic of India on its election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for a two-year term (2021-2022), while looking forward to India’s continuing pivotal role at the international stage, particularly concerning regional issues of mutual concern. They agreed on the early scheduling of the joint activities of the Forum, including the 3rd Session of Arab-India Cultural Festival, the Symposium on Arab-India Cooperation in the field of Energy, the 1st Arab-India University Presidents Conference, the 2nd
Symposium on Arab-India Cooperation in the field of Media, and the 6th Session of Arab-India Partnership Conference.
India and France hold Strategic Dialogue
Shri Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor, led the Indian delegation during the India-France Strategic Dialogue. The French delegation was led by Mr. Emmanuel Bonne, Diplomatic Advisor to the French President.
The Strategic dialogue between the two countries included discussions on a variety of issues including counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, defense cooperation, and the Indo-Pacific region. Both sides reaffirmed the high priority they accord to the India-France strategic partnership and highlighted the convergence of views between the two countries.
Following his meeting with Shri Ajit Doval, the French advisor called upon the Prime Minister, Shiri Narendra Modi, the Defence Minister, and the External Affairs Minister. He also addressed the Vivekananda International Foundation on “France and India: Partners for a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
India-Germany Leaders’ Video-Teleconference
The Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi held a video conference with his German counterpart, Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel. The Prime Minister started the exchange by appreciating, Dr. Merkel’s long-standing role in providing stable and strong leadership at the European and global stage, and thanked her for strengthening the India-Germany Strategic Partnership.
The two leaders discussed key issues of mutual importance including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, bilateral ties, regional and global issues, particularly India-EU relations. The Prime Minister used the opportunity to brief his German counterpart on the developments in India with regard to vaccine development and assured her of India’s commitment to using its capacity for the betterment of all countries.
The Prime Minister welcomed Germany’s decision to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and expressed his desire to further strengthen cooperation with Germany under the platform of Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). The two heads of state agreed to hold the sixth Intergovernmental Consultations at an early date in 2021, and to create an ambitious agenda for the same, given that this year marks the 70th anniversary of setting up bilateral relations between India and Germany.
Exchange of list of prisoners between India and Pakistan
Keeping with the provisions of the 2008 Agreement, The Indian Republic and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan exchanged lists of civilian prisoners and fishermen in their respective custody. The Indian government handed over a list of 263 Pakistani civilian prisoners and a list of 77 fishermen. The Pakistan government’s list included 49 Indian Civilians and a total of 270 fishermen, who according to the Islamic Republic are Indians or believed to be Indians.
Upon the exchange of lists, the Indian government asked to expedite the release and repatriation of 3 Indian civilian prisoners and 185 Indian fishermen, whose nationality has been confirmed and conveyed to Pakistan. Additionally, the Indian government has requested consular access to Indian fishermen and 22 civilians prisoners who are believed to be Indians. In keeping with the 2008 agreement, the Indian government requested access for Indian medical personnel to assess the mental conditions of the believed to be Indian prisoners.
At the exchange, the Indian government reaffirmed its priority towards all humanitarian matters, including those pertaining to prisoners and fishermen in both countries. In view of the COVID 19 pandemic, the Indian government requested the Pakistan government to ensure the safety, security, and welfare of all Indians and believed- to-be Indian civil prisoners and fishermen.
India Delivers Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief Support to Fiji after Tropical Cyclone Yasa
The Fiji islands were hit by a category 5 Tropical Cyclone Yasa in December. The Cyclone caused massive damage to the islands. In light of this natural calamity, the Indian government decided to provide humanitarian assistance through material aid. The relied material provided by the Indian government included shelter and hygiene kits, the government additionally also agreed to provide immediate assistance to the cyclone-affected communities.
A massive undertaking of this nature was possible owing to the work carried out by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and were airlifted to the Fiji Islands, with the help of Air India and the Fiji Islands, through Sydney, Australia. India stood by Fiji during times of crisis and devastation, as this was not the first time that India provided the country assistance. Back in 2016, India was the leading nation to undertake humanitarian work on the islands following Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016. India’s actions speak of its commitment to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief support to friendly Foreign Countries as a first responder. India’s leadership role in the Indo-Pacific is in line with the Indo-Pacific Oceans initiative announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019.
Telephone Conversation between Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of UK The Rt Hon Boris Johnson
The Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi conducted a telephone conversation with the British Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Boris Johnson. Mr. Johnson appreciated the Indian government’s invitation to the Republic Day, but regretted his inability to attend, given the changed COVID 19 context in the UK.
The leaders reviewed ongoing cooperation between the two countries. Prime Minister Modi, congratulated Mr. Johnson and his government for achieving the
highest vaccination numbers in Europe. The two leaders agreed to cooperate in the near future to make the COVID 19 vaccines available for the world. Lastly, the heads of state reiterated their shared belief in the potential of the India-UK partnership in the post-Brexit, post-Covid context, and agreed to work towards a comprehensive roadmap for realizing this potential.
Keeping aside the boiling tensions in the United States, we have noted a trend in geopolitical actions, wherein states have adopted a more cooperative attitude. This is particularly true with India, as can be seen through the points that we have covered in the report. In the coming months, it would be interesting to see the nature of the relationship that the Indian government develops with the Biden- Harris administration, and this would affect its policies in the Indo-pacific and the Middle East.
Also Read: INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY REPORT — EDITION #8