For the first half of the year, countries worldwide have concentrated their undivided attention in fighting the COVID-19 world pandemic. This blight hasn’t limited its influence on medicine and health, it has significantly altered several sectors. One such being ‘Diplomacy’. We have noticed an increase in the importance of being given to policies, which had otherwise taken a back seat during the pre-pandemic days. With a majority of countries being under lockdown, restrictions in air travel and a sharp economic downturn are the commonalities seen as never before. The pandemic has paved the way for a new form of diplomacy, one that has permitted nations to act with lightning speed and create an environment of cooperation within their respective regions.
India’s Mission Sagar in the Indian Ocean Region
With that spirit in mind, India has recently launched, ‘Mission Sagar’ on the 10th of May. The mission is India’s way of assisting nations in the Indian Ocean Region, in their fight against COVID-19. In this mission, assistance was provided by the INS Kesari, that sailed to the Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, and Seychelles, to deliver material assistance and in particular, medical assistance to Mauritius and Comoros. The successful completion of the mission can be seen as a major milestone, in terms of India’s new policy of increased engagement in the Indo-Pacific and the Western Sectors of the Indian Ocean. The mission is also in line with the Prime Minister’s policy of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region). Mission Sagar is one particular example of increased Indian activities in the spheres of maritime security, cooperation, and navigation security, as the country transitions from a passive maritime actor to an exceptionally active one, with an equally important say in the Indo-Pacific, one of the most coveted and disputed regions in the world.
Bi-annual Exchange of Prisoner List Between India and Pakistan
As India has constantly tried to increase its presence on the international stage, it has found itself at an impasse with its neighbours on a multitude of issues. However, amidst this highly taut and tense environment, India and Pakistan recently exchanged a list of prisoners on the 1st of July. The exchange of lists is in accordance with the 2008 agreement, where the nations exchange a list of prisoners bi-annually, which is on the 1st of January and the 1st of July. The Indian lists contain 265 Pakistani civilians and 97 fishermen. On the other hand, the list issued by Pakistan contains 54 Indian civilians and 270 fishermen. Furthermore, to expedite the process, the Indian government has provided the nationality verification details of 7 civilians and 106 fishermen. Lastly, to show India’s commitment to the bilateral process, the central government has asked the Pakistan authorities to confirm the nationality status of 88 Pakistani prisoners in Indian custody.
India-China Dialogue Between Special Representatives
As mentioned earlier, India finds itself in an extremely precarious position when it comes to both its neighbours. However, the statement is especially true regarding its relationship with China over the Actual Line of Control. The escalation in violence in the Galwan Valley and the loss of life of Indian and Chinese soldiers was the first since 1975. This extremely volatile situation has both the governments scratching their heads as to what needs to be done next to diffuse the simmering atmosphere. China has chosen to strike a blow against India when it is busy dealing with the surge in casualties as a result of the COVID pandemic. However, in the last few months, India has chosen to follow a hardline stance against the Chinese. This has visibly resulted in increased violence on the border regions and has led to a campaign within the Indian polity advocating the ban of all Chinese products and applications.
However, recently there was a dialogue between the special representatives of the two countries. During the conversation, Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Advisor and H.E Wang Yi, State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs for China, had an in-depth exchange of views on the border issue. During the discussion, several important points were highlighted, the first among them being that peace and tranquillity were essential for the further development of bilateral relations. Hence, it was agreed upon to disengage and pull back all troops from the Line of Actual Control and complete de-escalation on the India-China border. Secondly, both sides agreed to respect the Line of Actual Control and vowed to not take any unilateral action in the region.
India- Russia Bilateral Relations
In a further effort to strengthen bilateral relations, the Indian Prime Minister had a telephonic conversation with the President of the Russian Federation, wherein they discussed several strategic topics of interest to both nations. Mr Modi also used this opportunity to congratulate the President on the successful completion of the parade, marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. More importantly, Mr Modi felicitated President Putin on the recent constitutional vote, through which President Putin has consolidated his power till 2036. The Prime minster further recalled the participation of an Indian contingent in the parade in Moscow, as a sign of friendship. Lastly, the Indian Government expressed their enthusiasm for hosting President Putin, later in the year during the bilateral summit.
India’s Participation at the ‘Strengthening Consensus for Peace’ in Afghanistan
Afghanistan over the last many decades has been turned into a complete war zone, with the presence of uninvited international actors. However, in the last two years, there have been constructive steps taken by both the Afghan government and the United States of America to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table in an effort to end the violence and bring lasting peace to the region. Lately, the Islamic Republic hosted a regional meeting, by the name of, ‘ Strengthening Consensus for Peace’. The meeting was chaired by the Afghan President, H.E Dr Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. The conference recorded participation by 20 countries and international organizations. During the conference, India expressed support for establishing a constitutional order in Afghanistan and unequivocally stated the importance of putting an end to terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens for destructive forces in Afghanistan.
Indian Nomination to the United Nations Security Council
Lastly, India recently secured its position as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, with a vote of 184 out of 192. However, to fill in the seat of the Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, Shri Mani Pandey, who currently serves as the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs has been appointed.
Looking at India’s foreign policy from a macro perspective, we come to see that India has consistently tried to create an environment of inclusiveness then whether it be in the Indo-Pacific or the Western sectors of the Indian Ocean Region. India’s willingness to corporate and emerge as a regional power is a visible thought of its efforts in Afghanistan and its strategic partnerships with countries like the Russian Federation and France. In the last two decades, China has developed by leaps and bounds and has emerged not as a regional power but as a global hegemon. This has overshadowed nations like India, owing to China’s aggressive policies. Hence, while India tries to extend its reach globally, it has locked horns with China recently in the Galwan Valley region. The Indian and the Chinese sides seem to be ideologically clashing with each other over the Indo-Pacific, one of the most disputed regions of the world. It is India’s capabilities to fight off both the COVID 19 and the Chinese aggression, that will define the India that emerges in the near future.