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Friday, June 7, 2024

India’s Diplomatic Outreach Digest Feb-May 2024

The Republic of India for the past few months has been under the hustle and bustle of the General Election that would decide who will form the government by winning the majority in the Lower house, Lok Shabha. All the political institutions, including the incumbent ruling Party, are engaged in this biggest democratic event in the world. But this political campaigning has not slackened India’s diplomatic outreach in the neighbourhood and the rest of the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a keynote address on “Government Acceleration and Transformations” at the World Government Summit in February 2024, where India was a ‘guest of honour’ along with Turkey and Qatar. This was Modi’s second keynote address at the summit. He addressed the 21st century challenges, emphasizing the need for inclusive, technologically advanced, clean and corruption-free governance to tackle issues like terrorism and climate change. Drawing from his 23 years in governance, Modi advocated for “minimum government, maximum governance” and grassroots participation in projects. Modi also underscored India’s commitment to environmental sustainability and called for global cooperation on climate issues. He emphasized the importance of cohesive collaboration among nations, especially in addressing the concerns of developing countries, the Global South, and tackling global challenges like cybercrime and terrorism. Reflecting on his G20 presidency, Modi urged collective action and mutual learning, reiterating the slogan “Sab ka Sath, Sab ka Vikas”. The World Government Summit 2024, with the theme ‘Shaping Future Governments,’ featured discussions involving top governments, international organizations, thought leaders, and private sector leaders. The summit aimed to inspire and empower the next generation of governments through international cooperation and innovative solutions for future challenges.[i]

In early May, at the 14th Counter-Terrorism Dialogue, representatives of the European Union (EU) and India discussed measures to strengthen their cooperation with European law enforcement agencies. They both acknowledged that collaboration remains essential in international forums like the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the United Nations. The signing of the cooperation agreement between Europol and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was noted by both parties. They underlined the significance of bolstering law enforcement and judicial partnerships, information sharing, and capacity building as means of enhancing counterterrorism cooperation. This would help India in strengthening the countermeasures regarding state-sponsored and cross-border terrorism, Terrorism financing, preventing online radicalisation and also the impact of new and disruptive technologies.[ii]

India is not only working with the EU to counter terrorism but also with the individual countries of the EU like France for a better exchange of views and expertise and interoperability. On 15 April, India hosted the 16th Meeting of the India-France Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism to discuss cross-border terrorism. The Indian delegation, led by Joint Secretary (Counter Terrorism) of the Ministry of External Affairs, K.D. Dewal, and the French delegation, led by Ambassador Olivier Caron, Special Envoy for Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime, held discussions on a range of counter-terrorism issues. Both sides exchanged views on the terrorist threats in their respective regions, including state-sponsored and cross-border terrorism in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as terror activities in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The two sides also assessed counter-terrorism challenges, including the use of new and emerging technologies by terrorists, misuse of the internet for terrorist purposes, radicalisation and terror financing. The need to enhance counterterrorism cooperation through intelligence sharing, capacity development, training programmes and exercises, and collaboration at international forums including the UN, FATF, and NMFT was also highlighted by both countries.[iii] Counterterrorism coordination improves regional security in volatile regions including the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. A stable region is beneficial for global trade, security, and political relations. The emphasis on Afghanistan and Pakistan is especially important in light of the recent escalation in terrorist activity following the Taliban takeover. Threats coming from this area can be mitigated with the use of cooperative techniques and shared knowledge. Considering terrorism is constantly evolving, improvements must be addressed all the time. Regular communication helps countries stay ahead of emerging threats and formulate adaptive counterterrorism strategies. Furthermore, India and France held the India-France Strategic Space Dialogue in March to discuss enhancing bilateral cooperation in the space sector and implementation of the recently signed Letter of Intent on Defence Space Cooperation, capacity building, training, and defence space industrial cooperation. The meeting underscored the robust engagement between India and France in the space domain. Additionally, both countries engaged in bilateral talks on disarmament and non-proliferation, addressing issues related to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Discussions also focused on space security, conventional weapons, artificial intelligence (AI) in the military, lethal autonomous weapon systems and multilateral export control regimes.[iv]

India is also engaging with the Central Asian countries which are facing terrorism as the primary threat to the State. During the 5th meeting of the India-Kazakhstan Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, held on 8 April in Astana, both countries assessed counter-terrorism challenges and discussed cross-border terrorism in South Asia. The Indian delegation, led by J KD Dewal, and the Kazakh delegation, headed by Ambassador-at-Large Talgat Kaliyev, exchanged views on terrorist threats in their respective regions, including state-sponsored and cross-border terrorism in South Asia and terror activities in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. They emphasized the importance of strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation through information exchange, capacity building, training programs and collaboration at multilateral forums such as the UN, EAG, and SCO.[v]

Even though in the past few months there were tensions between the Maldives and India over some issues, that has not stopped India from reaching out to its neighbour, Maldives. Tensions between the two countries escalated when President Mohamed Muizzu took office, following his party’s overwhelming victory in the Maldives Parliament. Muizzu has criticised India during and after the presidential polls and his government also formally requested India to withdraw its troops from Male. Despite these strained relations, India has consistently maintained a soft diplomatic approach towards the Maldives. At their fourth High-Level Core Group meeting in early May, India and the Maldives discussed defence cooperation, trade and investment opportunities, and other bilateral cooperation-related topics. Also, the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, Manu Mahawar, met with the Maldivian Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Mohamed Saeed to discuss potential areas for trade and economic cooperation.[vi] By proactively engaging with the new Maldivian administration, India demonstrates its commitment to a continued partnership, despite the change in leadership.

India has maintained its robust ties with its neighbours, especially with Bhutan and Bangladesh. A comprehensive review of the status of implementation of various India-supported development projects in Bhutan was carried out at a high-level meeting between the two sides in March. Both sides discussed priority sectors and projects for Bhutan’s 13th Five-Year Plan to achieve the Royal Government of Bhutan’s goal of a “Healthy, Prosperous, and Secure Bhutan.” The Indian government conveyed its commitment to continue collaborating with the Bhutanese government on its development agenda, aligning with Bhutan’s priorities and aspirations.[vii] Moreover, the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud, made his maiden visit to India after assuming office in January. The visit was aimed at advancing ties and strategizing future cooperation, reflecting a commitment to strengthen the relationship between the two nations. Bangladesh is significant for India as a pivotal component of India’s Neighbourhood First policy and a crucial partner for the Act East policy, aimed at strengthening connections between India and Southeast Asia.[viii] Furthermore, Prime Minister Modi, along with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, jointly inaugurated the launch of Unified Payment Interface (UPI) services in Sri Lanka and Mauritius, as well as RuPay card services in Mauritius. The introduction of UPI is expected to benefit Sri Lanka and Mauritius by boosting digital transformation, positively impacting local economies, and promoting tourism.[ix]

Furthermore, the President of India also play an important role in strengthening the diplomatic ties. On invitation from the Mauritius government, the President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu, paid a visit to the Republic of Mauritius from March 11 to 13, 2024, to participate in the Mauritius National Day celebrations on March 12. Together with two ships from the Indian Navy’s First Training Squadron, the INS Tir and CGS Sarathi, an Indian Navy contingent took part in the celebration. During the visit, President Murmu and Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth jointly inaugurated 14 India-assisted projects, demonstrating the growing scope and diversity of India’s vibrant development partnership with Mauritius, which is a key pillar of the bilateral relationship. President Murmu’s State Visit highlights the robust relationship between India and Mauritius. She is the sixth Indian President to honour the Mauritian National Day as the Chief Guest since 2000. It restates both countries’ unwavering commitment to advancing bilateral cooperation in various fields and fortifying their robust people-to-people ties.[x]

Additionally, India is focused on strengthening its strategic relations in the Indo-Pacific Region through both, bilateral and multilateral regional forums like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar expressed confidence in the growing relevance of the Quad grouping, expecting it would become a significant factor in regional and global politics and policy. His remarks were made during a fireside chat with Australian counterpart Penny Wong at the Indian Ocean Conference in February. Jaishankar emphasized that the Quad is a result of the evolving capabilities of major powers and their global implications. He also highlighted India’s increasing engagement and investment in the Indian Ocean, aiming to make it more connected, seamless and penetrative.[xi]

 On 11 May, the 26th ASEAN-India Senior Officials’ Meeting was held in New Delhi which was co-chaired by Jaideep Mazumdar, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs of India, and Albert Chua, Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore. The meeting comprehensively reviewed the ASEAN-India relations across three primary pillars: political-security, economic, and socio-cultural. A major focus was on the implementation of the Indian Prime Minister’s 12-Point Proposal from the 20th ASEAN-India Summit, aimed at further strengthening the ASEAN-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. A major focus was the implementation of the Prime Minister’s 12-Point Proposal from the 20th ASEAN-India Summit, aimed at further boosting the ASEAN-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  Moreover, the ASEAN representatives expressed appreciation for India’s continued support and constructive role within the ASEAN-led regional architecture. The effective implementation of the 12-Point Proposal and navigating complex geopolitical dynamics are essential for the India-ASEAN strategic partnership’s continued success and strengthening.[xii] Moreover, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar travelled to Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia to strengthen bilateral relations and discuss regional issues. In ASEAN, Singapore is among India’s closest allies. The two countries have a strong relationship in a variety of domains, including trade, security and defence. Also, in order to enable quick and affordable money transactions, India and Singapore connected their digital payment systems in real time last year. Furthermore, in recent years, India’s ties with the Philippines have grown closer, particularly in the field of defence as the BrahMos cruise missile secured its first international buyer in the Philippines; and New Delhi has affirmed its support for Manila’s position on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.[xiii]

Furthermore, the President of India also play an important role in strengthening the diplomatic ties. On invitation from the Mauritius government, the President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu, paid a visit to the Republic of Mauritius from March 11 to 13, 2024, to participate in the Mauritius National Day celebrations on March 12. Together with two ships from the Indian Navy’s First Training Squadron, the INS Tir and CGS Sarathi, an Indian Navy contingent took part in the celebration. During the visit, President Murmu and Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth jointly inaugurated 14 India-assisted projects, demonstrating the growing scope and diversity of India’s vibrant development partnership with Mauritius, which is a key pillar of the bilateral relationship. President Murmu’s State Visit highlights the robust relationship between India and Mauritius. She is the sixth Indian President to honour the Mauritian National Day as the Chief Guest since 2000. It restates both countries’ unwavering commitment to advancing bilateral cooperation in various fields and fortifying their robust people-to-people ties.[xiv]

Not only India’s President’s visits but other countries’ high-profile visits also help elevate India’s diplomatic outreach. In mid-March, the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Winston Peters, visited India to highlight the growing importance of India to New Zealand’s society, economy, and security. During his visit, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters met with key Indian officials, including External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, to discuss strategic security challenges in the Indo-Pacific and commit to further collaboration. They emphasized the need for more high-level political visits in 2024 to strengthen ties. The discussions spanned strategic security, trade, economic cooperation, and climate change. Peters highlighted the shared democratic values of New Zealand and India and the importance of partnering with like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Peters also joined a panel with representatives from Pacific Island countries and Indian business leaders to explore economic connectivity with the Pacific. He acknowledged India’s economic success and stressed New Zealand’s commitment to enhancing trade and economic engagement with India in sectors such as education, agro-technology, air connectivity and tourism. The focus on working together in the Pacific Islands region highlights the broader regional strategy and the potential for collaborative efforts in areas like economic development and climate change mitigation. Peters’ discussions on strategic security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region underscore a mutual commitment to ensuring regional stability, which is crucial given the geopolitical dynamics involving key players like China. Enhanced cooperation in this area aligns both nations with like-minded partners like Australia and Japan.[xv]  Moreover, in February, Japanese Ambassador to India Hiroshi Suzuki discussed creating an industrial value chain in India’s northeastern region and India and Japan held their annual Act East Forum meeting as well. The meeting reviewed the progress on various projects, including improving trade and logistics between India and Bangladesh through the Northeast, and discussed new areas of cooperation. Established in 2017, the Act East Forum underscores the convergence of Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision with India’s Act East Policy, committing to sustainable development in the Northeast. Japan’s involvement in the Northeast is also aimed at boosting connectivity within the BIMSTEC sub-regional grouping, countering China’s influence in the region.[xvi]

Moreover, India has proved its eminence in diplomacy as many countries are now strongly supporting United Nations Security Council reforms and India’s permanent seat. The latest one to do so is Belarus. Belarusian Foreign Minister, Sergei Aleinik, during his official visit to India in mid-March, voiced for UNSC reforms and assured that “Minsk would support the accession of India to the Security Council”.[xvii]

Furthermore, the major highlight of India’s diplomatic outreach was PM Modi’s historic visit to Greece after 40 years which elevated the bilateral ties as well as strengthened India’s commitment to implement the multi-modal trade and transit corridor. Following this, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited India after 16 years, showcasing the mutual commitments in bilateral ties. He and PM Narendra Modi, during a delegation-level meeting in New Delhi in February, discussed the mobility and migration partnership agreement between the two. Also, both countries discussed collaboration of startups, cooperation in shipping and connectivity, support in defence, cyber security, maritime security and counter-terrorism.[xviii] India has also increased its outreach to Denmark and signed the mobility and migration partnership agreement which aims to facilitate smoother movement and migration between the two nations. Both countries acknowledged the fruitful outcomes of the Indo-Danish Green Strategic Partnership and agreed to conduct a mid-term review in 2024 to update the India-Denmark Joint Action Plan (2021-26). Additionally, they discussed establishing a Centre of Excellence on Smart Water Resource Modelling and enhancing cooperation in medical product regulation. The Indo-Danish Green Strategic Partnership continued to catalyse intensified cooperation between the two nations.[xix] To increase the Green energy engagements India has also asked South Korea to join India-led initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.[xx]

References:

[i] Oberoi, Surinder Singh. 2024. “PM Modi Proposes Inclusive Governance and Global Collaboration at World Governments Summit to Address Global Challenges.” Greater Kashmir. February 14, 2024. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/latest-news/pm-modi-proposes-inclusive-governance-and-global-collaboration-at-world-governments-summit-to-address-global-challenges/.

[ii] Statesman News Service. 2024. “India, EU Consider Ways to Deepen Ties Between Law Enforcement Agencies.” The Statesman, May 9, 2024. https://www.thestatesman.com/india/india-eu-consider-ways-to-deepen-ties-between-law-enforcement-agencies-1503298774.html.

[iii] Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy. 2024. “India-France Discuss Measures to Counter State-sponsored Cross-border Terror Including in S Asia.” The Economic Times, April 15, 2024. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-france-discuss-measures-to-counter-state-sponsored-cross-border-terror-including-in-s-asia/articleshow/109320255.cms?from=mdr.

[iv] Pokhriyal, Riya. 2024. “India and France Strengthen Bilateral Ties Through Strategic Space Dialogue and Disarmament Talks.” Newsx, March 5, 2024. https://www.newsx.com/top-news/india-and-france-strengthen-bilateral-ties-through-strategic-space-dialogue-and-disarmament-talks/.

[v] ANI. 2024a. “India, Kazakhstan Assess Security Challenges, Exchange Views on Terrorism.” Business Standard, April 10, 2024. https://www.business-standard.com/india-news/india-kazakhstan-assess-security-challenges-exchange-views-on-terrorism-124041000051_1.html.

[vi] ANI. 2024. “India, Maldives Hold High-Level Core Group Meeting, Discuss Bilateral Cooperation in Defence, Trade, Investment.” ThePrint, May 3, 2024. https://theprint.in/world/india-maldives-hold-high-level-core-group-meeting-discuss-bilateral-cooperation-in-defence-trade-investment/2069176/.

[vii] PTI. 2024. “India, Bhutan Review Development Cooperation.” ThePrint, March 1, 2024. https://theprint.in/india/india-bhutan-review-development-cooperation/1985574/.

[viii] Livemint. 2024. “Bangladesh Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud’s Maiden Visit to India After Assuming Office. What’s on Agenda? | Today News.” Mint, February 6, 2024. https://www.livemint.com/news/world/bangladesh-foreign-minister-hasan-mahmud-india-eam-s-jaishankar-bilateral-ties-pm-modi-sheikh-hasina-diplomacy-politics-11707183570252.html.

[ix] “PM Jointly Inaugurates UPI Services With Mauritius PM & Sri Lankan President.” n.d. https://www.pmindia.gov.in/en/news_updates/pm-jointly-inaugurates-upi-services-with-mauritius-pm-sri-lankan-president/.

[x] Envoy Excellency Bureau. 2024. “State Visit of the President of India to Mauritius (March 11-13, 2024) – Envoy Excellency Magazine.” Envoy Excellency Magazine, March 19, 2024. https://envoyexcellency.com/state-visit-of-the-president-of-india-to-mauritius-march-2024/.

[xi] PTI. 2024. “Relevance of Quad Set to Grow: EAM Jaishankar.” The Economic Times, February 10, 2024. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/relevance-of-quad-set-to-grow-eam-jaishankar/articleshow/107577355.cms?from=mdr.

[xii] All India Radio. 2024. “26th ASEAN-India Senior Officials’ Meeting Held In New Delhi.” News on AIR, May 11, 2024. https://www.newsonair.gov.in/26th-asean-india-senior-officials-meeting-held-in-new-delhi/.

[xiii] HT Correspondent. 2024. “EAM Jaishankar to Visit Singapore, Philippines and Malaysia.” Hindustan Times, March 16, 2024. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/eam-jaishankar-to-visit-singapore-philippines-and-malaysia-101710571431058.html.

[xiv] Envoy Excellency Bureau. 2024. “State Visit of the President of India to Mauritius (March 11-13, 2024) – Envoy Excellency Magazine.” Envoy Excellency Magazine, March 19, 2024. https://envoyexcellency.com/state-visit-of-the-president-of-india-to-mauritius-march-2024/.

[xv] ANI. 2024. “‘India’s Importance to New Zealand’s Society, Economy and Security Is Growing,’ Says New Zealand Dy PM.” The Times of India, March 13, 2024. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/indias-importance-to-new-zealands-society-economy-and-security-is-growing-says-new-zealand-dy-pm/articleshow/108476394.cms.

[xvi] ETV Bharat. 2024. “With Industrial Value Chain Envisaged in NE, India, Japan Hold Act East Forum Meeting.” ETV Bharat News, February 19, 2024. https://www.etvbharat.com/en/!bharat/with-industrial-value-chain-envisaged-in-ne-india-japan-hold-act-east-forum-meeting-enn24021907780.

[xvii] Asian News International. 2024. “Belarus Calls for UNSC Reforms, Backs India for Security Council.” NDTV.Com, March 14, 2024. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/unsc-reforms-should-be-facilitated-belarussian-fm-backs-indias-bid-of-permanent-seat-in-world-body-5234471.

[xviii] Livemint. 2024. “India, Greece to Soon Finalise Deal on Migration, Mobility: What PM Modi and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis Said | Today News.” Mint, February 21, 2024. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/india-greece-to-soon-finalise-deal-on-migration-mobility-pm-modi-meets-greek-pm-kyriakos-mitsotakis-11708506502286.html.

[xix] Oberoi, Surinder Singh. 2024. “India, Denmark Sign Mobility and Migration Partnership Agreement.” Greater Kashmir, February 22, 2024. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/world/india-denmark-sign-mobility-and-migration-partnership-agreement/.

[xx] Mattoo, Shashank. 2024. “India Asks South Korea to Join Solar Alliance, Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative | Today News.” Mint, March 5, 2024. https://www.livemint.com/news/india-asks-south-korea-to-join-solar-alliance-indo-pacific-oceans-initiative-11709642946534.html.

 

Authored by:
Kritika Rajput,
Research Associate,
Red Lantern Analytica

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