On 27 June 2021, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Distinguished Fellow, Gateway House, chaired a session on Revitalizing SAARC and BIMSTEC. This was part of the Global Conclave 2021, hosted by the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement (NIICE), Kathmandu. Bhatia spoke about the present state, past trajectory and future challenges and opportunities for regional and sub-regional cooperation through SAARC and BIMSTEC.
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The idea of a U.S.-India-Israel trilateral cooperation is not unknown, but rather unfulfilled. Diaspora associations have repeatedly raised the idea of a technology triangle amongst the three countries, and in 2020, the three countries explored a potential cooperation in 5G communication technology. On these terms, taking advantage of the bilateral synergies and establishing a start-up corridor between Tel Aviv, Silicon Valley, and Bengaluru, can launch this partnership.
The Quad countries are preparing for an autumn summit in Washington, which will provide an opportunity to discuss multilateral cooperation in various sectors. Four dimensions which merit closer attention and are crucial to the group's future are the Indo-Pacific strategies of European countries and the EU, partnerships with ASEAN and its members, closer India-U.S. ties and maritime security issues in the Pacific.
As China’s global competitive edge is sharpening across the military, economic, diplomatic, and technological domains, it is clear that the extent to which the Quad countries (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) can collaborate across all four domains will be an important factor in determining whether China’s hegemonic designs on the Indo-Pacific will succeed.
China has been steadily increasing its influence within the United Nations using a combination of increased funding, strategically placing its key officials and selecting the most influential agencies and bodies to lead. The clusters of agencies headed by China are directly and indirectly linked to its domestic agendas like the Belt and Road Initiative, Make in China 2025 and the rise of Chinese companies. The world is just starting to take notice - and so must India.
Since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, violence and protests have broken out across the country and are continuing. Supported by India and Japan, ASEAN has played a key role, by calling the emergency summit in Jakarta. It has bridged internal gaps and helped navigate the international community to a reconciliation of the crisis. India must continue support to such efforts, which aim for immediate and long-term peace.
The India-EU summit held May 8, was more ambitious than previous ones. Now the summit’s words must turn into action, an effort that will require continuous discussion, patient negotiation and uninterrupted dialogue between Delhi and Brussels. Will the two capitals be willing to compromise and find common ground that they have not managed to demonstrate before?
This India-EU summit was different from the ones past, and India is a significant gainer. A trade agreement and connectivity partnership aside, the EU has stepped up to help India during this emergency, viewing it not as a weak state but as a partner in distress. The geopolitical indicators for an enhanced engagement are now also in place.
In the past two weeks, the U.S. has been sending planeloads of aid to India. This is a welcome change from its previous hesitation, which turned around in four critical days. It reflects the importance of an effective Indian diaspora and of the Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with India.
The American decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan will strengthen the Afghan Taliban and possibly ensure its return to Kabul. This has implications for India’s security and economic interests in Afghanistan. India must step up its game by showing willingness to talk to the Taliban, while simultaneously expanding training assistance to the Afghan security forces.