P5 toasts emerging India; Pakistan, China migraine stays (2010 in Retrospect)

By Manish Chand, IANS
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

NEW DELHI - It was the blockbuster diplomatic year for an emerging India that got elected to a non-rotating seat in the Security Council after nearly two decades and played host to all leaders of the permanent five (P5) members of the UN Security Council in the last six months of 2010.

Each of these leaders - save for China’s Wen Jiabao - were unequivocal in backing New Delhi for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The big breakthrough came when US President Barack Obama ended Washington’s ambiguity and announced before the Indian parliament Nov 8 that he looked forward to welcoming India “as it prepares to take a seat at the UN Security Council”.

“For in Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging, India has already emerged,” said Obama memorably.

Obama’s visit also silenced sceptics who thought India-US ties turned lukewarm under his presidency as the US also backed New Delhi for membership of elite nuclear clubs like the Nuclear Suppliers Group and clinched business deals worth $15 billion.

The US declaration of support has left China as the only holdout country in the P5 that continues to hedge on New Delhi’s ambition for a permanent seat - this amid the overwhelming support that was on display when the 192-member UN General Assembly voted almost unanimously to elect India for a non-permanent seat for a two-year term starting Jan 1, 2011.

The year 2010 also saw Indian diplomacy becoming more pragmatic and business-oriented as India sealed free trade pacts with Japan and Malaysia, East Asia’s star economy, and launched negotiations for civil nuclear deals with Tokyo and Seoul.

Brand India shone bright as the Indian economy clocked 8-9 percent at a time when some parts of the world were still reeling under the blowback of the global meltdown, forcing visiting leaders to compete with each other in notching up deals worth billions of dollars and setting ambitious bilateral trade targets.

The US sought to scale bilateral trade from from $37 billion to $75 billion by 2015; Britain from $11.5 billion to $24 billion by 2014; France from $8 billion to $16 billion by 2012; China from $43 billion to $100 billion by 2015; Russia from $9 billion to $20 billion by 2015.

The year gone by also saw India raising its profile as an aid giver and exercising its soft power astutely as it offered an unprecedented $1 billion Line of Credit to Bangladesh and pledged $1.5 billion in soft loans to rehabilitate and help reconstruct war-ravaged northeas of Sri Lanka.

In a year of many diplomatic successes, however, Pakistan remained a migraine for India’s foreign policy makers as as the first serious attempt post-26/11 to revive dialogue by the foreign ministers July 15 crashed in bitter mutual recrimination.

Islamabad accused New Delhi of making dialogue terror-centric. India refused to buy the latter’s bait of a timeline to resolve difficult issues like Kashmir, deepening the chill in bilateral ties. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmmod Qureshi is expected in India early 2011, but no one is betting on a breakthrough.

Relations with China, too, continued on a slippery terrain as an assertive Beijing denied visa to a senior army officer from Jammu and Kashmir in July, allegedly on grounds that Kashmir was a disputed territory between India and Pakistan.

When Wen visited India Dec 15-17, the two emerging Asian powers inked a clutch of pacts and agreed to launch a strategic economic dialogue to address over $20 billion trade imbalance, but the issue of the Chinese stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir remained intractable.

Finally, New Delhi had no choice but to do some blunt talk, telling Beijing that Jammu and Kashmir was to India what Taiwan and Tibet are to China. The omission of a reference to one-China policy in the Dec 16 India-China joint statement tells its own story.

In the year to come, the world will be expecting India to balance this assertiveness with calibrated positions on key global issues and flashpoints from Tehran to Pyongyang as New Delhi returns to the UN Security Council after 19 odd years.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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