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Russia and United States Making India Their Number One Priority

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INS Vikramaditya undergoing sea trials in Russia, read more.

Right after the independence when India was going to be the world’s largest democracy, India made a decision that no foreign power would be able to decide India’s future or its policies. This led India to become a founding member of NAM (Non Alignment Movement). It is the largest group of nations in the world after UN. One of the major policy of the group was to not to join either U.S. led western bloc or Soviet Union led eastern bloc during cold war era. Although Cold war and Soviet Union do not exist now, but the NAM still exists with the same policies.

When India’s arc rival Pakistan signed security pact with United States, India’s relations with Soviet Union became sweeter for obvious reasons including arts and culture and India’s growing military needs. Although, India never joined Soviet Union’s security pact formally, west had observed India’s slight alignment towards the socialist republic resulting into complex relations with western powers. 
Today conditions are way much different. While India still enjoys the company of its all weather friend Russia, United States too has discovered that partnership with India has a great economic and strategic potentials in 21st century. At this, India has two options to keep its non alignment policy intact; either do business with both of them, or don’t do business with any of them. Latter sounds a bit non productive in this globalized world. 
Earlier, Russia enjoyed the monopoly of supplying arms to India, now it has to compete with almost all other major arm exporters like France, Britain and the United States. Raising concerns in Russia over India’s increasing alignment towards west. Realizing that India was cozying with the United States and Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. were souring. Russian president Vladimir Putin scheduled a visit to Pakistan risking relationship with India, which was later cancelled at the last moment. It was last year only when a report made clear that India was still the number one user of Russian arms.

Russia Making India its First Priority

russia india

One of the reasons why Russia is pitching towards making India an important partner is India’s location at the centre of Indian Ocean. Last year America announced that it is shifting its focus towards Asia Pacific from the middle east. This means a large presence of Indian and Russian navy in the region would be required to neutralize any attempt by America to influence the geopolitic stance of the island nations.

Seeing India cozying with America, Russia tried to approach Pakistan in search of a new potential partner in the South Asia. However, Russia probably decided to stay with India and push even more to win India’s heart by competition. The reason behind this is that unlike in Soviet era, when Indo-Soviet relationship was mere a buy and sell relationship. Today, India and Russia have successfully identified areas of cooperation and 50-50 partnership, whether it is space research or military and civil development. 
It is difficult to find a partner as scientifically advanced and economically sound like India. India has been funding a lot of Russian scientific projects with a huge amount of capital; something which Russia cannot expect from Pakistan or any other country in the region. Indian scientists have also been involved in development and manufacturing of world’s fastest cruise missile, Brahmos and Indo-Russian Fifth Gen Fighter Aircraft. Russia and India have also been exploring cooperation in space and have partnered in India’s second mission to the moon which has been delayed till 2016.
Another country with which Russia can have such kind of relations is China. China has economy larger than India and is ahead of India in many areas whether it is scientific papers published per year, or space race or military. Russia emphasized a lot on Sino Russian relationships and their future as forming a big powerful region. Russia promoted Chinese education and language in the country and urged people to learn it. Russian media time to time lauded China how it is taking on west in the economic system which is mainly dominated by the western countries. 
However, Russia is now late to form any such alliance with China. China with its fast growing economy is currently on its best time and gives it the confidence of moving ahead independently. Those Chinese who had been living in east Russian cities like Vladivostok and Khabarovsk are also moving to their homeland seeing more opportunities and better living across the border. Young Chinese premiers now consider Soviet Union a history. Earlier China considered Soviet Union a great power and avoided messing with it. Today China places border claims and shows some Russian territories as its on their maps. [Tell us your Opinion]

Culturally, Russia and China have been far from each other, whereas Indian culture has been close and familiar to Russians since the Soviet times. Soviet Union promoted Indian movies in the country as it was the only big film industry after Hollywood, which was banned. Indian movies also had good teachings and family values which was encouraged in USSR. [Read more: Influence of Bollywood in Former Soviet Union; Why India and Russia Need to Target Bollywood Diplomacy and Business]

Considering everything, India deserves to be Russia’s top priority. Russia simply cannot afford to let it lose India to the western powers who are aggressively hailing and praising India and forming ventures and partnerships.

United States Making India its First Priority

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Photo: Reuters
Last year in 2012, U.S. Defence Secretary Lionel Panetta made a visit to India hoping that Indian defence establishment could be taken granted to prepare for strategy of re-balance in Asia Pacific that many believes is aimed at China’s rise in the region.
Recently India has started looking towards U.S. for its defence needs leaving its old and trusted ally behind. India cleared its biggest ever defence deal with US in June, 2011, signing the $4.1 billion worth contract for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircraft. One of the reason why India has to look towards west was delay in delivery of arms and weapons and their parts by Russia, especially the delay in the delivery of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
In the global slowdown of economy, U.S. is looking for new markets and economic partners. This is why U.S. had urged India to bring reforms such as FDI in retail and airline business which will help big brands in America like Walmart earn more profit by tapping a consumer market of the billions of Indians. India’s share in the world’s software/services market is third after U.S.A and Japan in which U.S.A accounts for a share of 51.63% in India’s total export of Software / Services.
Although officially not accepted yet, U.S. considers rise of China alarming and sees it as a potential rival. U.S has tried to engage with China on a lot of issues and had also managed to bring China to its side during Cold War, but as the rise of dragon began, America lost it from its grip. India, which is a democracy having a good proliferation record and which has shown signs of peace and friendship with almost every country in the world, looks reliable and responsible in a sense that it can lead the world neutrally. This was one of the reasons why the U.S. has recently stared pitching for India’s permanent seat in UN Security Council.
Leon Panetta, US Defense Secretary, said, “Today, we have growing economic, social and diplomatic ties that benefit both [India and the U.S.] of our nations, but for this relationship to truly provide security for this region and for the world, we will need to deepen our defense and security cooperation. This is why I have come to India.”
After a great mistrust between the two countries during the cold war, today both the nations understand each other’s interest. Recently United States’ regional interests in South Asia have somewhat started matching with India. Its souring relations with Pakistan, creating a Taliban free Afghanistan, and checking China’s alarming growth has all been directly or indirectly in India’s interest. The only place where India and U.S.collide is Iran. India wants to continue trade and support Iran and use its territories and ports for trade with Afghanistan, thus bypassing Pakistan. Whereas, U.S and the western world is making business opportunity with Iran even more difficult.

Who Among United States or Russia Will Win the Race?

The question is very interesting, but its answer is obvious, no one! India has been following the policy of non alignment since the day of independence. Even though the real meaning of non alignment lost after the collapse of Soviet Union, India believes in having its own space when it comes to making policies or decisions.

If India accepts the alliance of any country, the first strong reaction will come from China, who considers any move by India aimed at itself, whether it is increasing cooperation with Japan or Taiwan. China and India both are aware of each others rise and the amount of tough competition they are going to face. However, both of them try to ignore it and play it down to avoid any escalated tensions.
Another reason why India will not accept U.S proposal is that U.S has a bad history of dumping and going against their own allies whether it is Iraq, Afghan militants, or Pakistan. India will definitely pose a risk to America’s dominant position in the world as China does now. Therefore, U.S would try not to let India reach that place; just like how it did with Japan and South Korea. 
If India becomes strategic ally of the U.S it will unnecessarily make all the U.S enemies as its enemies. India is surrounded by the countries who do not like the U.S; be it China, Pakistan, Myanmar or the Middle East. Tensions across India will increase and it will have to fight decades long wars initiated by the U.S. India has not used its military properly for past 40 years after the war of liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 and in future also it doesn’t wish to; Kargil in 1999 was a confined military operation.
Russia on the other hand has won India’s trust several times, but India will still not venture into any such strategic alliance which can impact India’s business with the western world. A large part of India’s economy is based on trade with America and Europe whether it is software or food or minerals. India’s alliance with Russia can give a negative impact to the U.S which will gradually look for alternatives that can bring the whole growth story of India to a halt.
Word “alliance” doesn’t suit the present conditions in the world. It was popular earlier when the world was divided into two blocs, today it is not the case. Today the world is multi-polar, although other poles are not as strong as the U.S. In this growing world, it will be best for India to take help and support from both Russia and the U.S and continue on its growing path keeping its non alignment policy intact. 
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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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A Historical exploration of Khajuraho

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khajuraho temple

The UNESCO world heritage temples of Khajuraho are situated in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Built by the kings of Chandela dynasty during 950 to 1050 AD, these exquisite temples were lost to the world from 13AD onwards till they were discovered by the British in 1838 under the cover of dense date palm trees.

 This collection of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples are Khajuraho temples are famous for art on stone. Variously described as living temples, Temple of Love and consisting of unique erotic sculptures the Khajuraho group of temples are considered by many to be the pinnacle of India’s temple art. The temple complex creates an eclectic mix of spirituality, eastern philosophy, architecture and cultural heritage.

Khajuraho is best visited during winter on account of its extreme climate. Summer months can be very hot. The famous Khajuraho Dance Festival is held in March and attracts visitors from across the world.

 Khajuraho is well connected to major cities by train and by air. The airport is 5km from the city centre and links to Delhi, Agra and Mumbai. It is best recommended to use a trusted cab service provider like Savaari, where you can make an online booking by downloading the Savaari App.

Western Group of temples.

 The Western group of temples have the largest of the temples and are richly decorated and form the main area of attraction

  • Lakshmana Temple – The temple dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is the oldest of the Khajuraho temples and has some the finest sculptures that can be seen in India.
  • Kandariya Mahadeo Temple – This Shiva temple is covered with beautiful carvings, sculptures and frescos that are known for their beauty, grandeur and finesse.
  • Devi Jagdamba Temple – This relatively dainty temple dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba has three bands of sculptures and the uppermost layer has some of the most erotic sculptures that Khajuraho is also famous for.
  • Chitragupta Temple – One of the rare temples of the Sun God in the country.
  • Vishwanath Temple – The temple is unique for its colossal bull statue dedicated to Nandi, the favourite companion of Lord Shiva.

Eastern Group of Temples

  • Parsvanath Temple – The Jain temple shows an eclectic mixture of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim influences in its three roof architecture.
  • Ghantai Temple – This Digambar Jain temple has a beautiful frieze inscribed on stone depicting the 16 dreams as seen by the Mother of Lord Mahavira. The temple though gets its name from the remarkable pillars, carved with chains and bells.
  • Brahma Temple – Among the oldest temples in Khajuraho, the temple is built entirely using granite and sandstone and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

 Southern Group of Temples

  • Chattarbhuj Temple – Situated 3 km from the main city, the temple is the only one in Khajuraho without any erotic sculpture and faces west. Best visited during the sunset, the temple is known for the intricate and beautifully detailed four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu.

Do remember to attend the Light and Sound Show conducted in the Western group of temples that describes the horary past of these beautiful monuments.

Khajuraho is surrounded by other places of interest, such as the Panna National Park and the Ranneh Falls. Do plan your visit and hire outstation or local cabs from the airport to visit these temple complexes.

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Explore the royal city of Mysore

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Call it the Heritage City or the City of Palaces, the city of Mysore still emanates a feeling of au royale even in a 21st century India. A place of heritage for royal families, sultans, and legendary names in history, every corner of Mysore is steeped in stories of victory, power, and grandeur. A tour of this majestic city is only justified when you explore the royal heritage of the City of Palaces.

Getting there

Conveniently located on the southern edge of the Karnataka State, Mysore is easily accessible from major cities. It takes about three hours to travel the 152 KM distance from Bangalore to Mysore.

History and Heritage

The city of Mysore served as the capital for the Kingdom of Mysore between the 1300s until 1956. These six centuries saw the kingdom change hands of rulers and kings, from the Wadiyar Dynasty, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. But the common element of all the rulers was their penchant for art and culture. Under their patronage, they contributed to the city’s visual and cultural glory which earned Mysore the fame of Karnataka’s cultural capital.

A royal tour

If you want to experience the regal side of Mysore, you cannot but miss these structures of historical and architectural significance. You can join a heritage walking tour to explore the city on foot, or head from Bangalore to Mysore by car and stop by at monuments, palaces, and museums and learn about the legends that made Mysore. You can start your walk from the Town Hall, built in 1884, as a tribute to the first Dewan of the city.

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Mysore Palace- The official residence of the royal family of Wadiyars, the palace itself is a work of marvel. An overwhelming blend of   Indo-Saracenic, neoclassical, Indo-Islamic and Gothic architectural works, the Mysore Palace is a breathtaking sight. Built in 1912, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts delicate works of mirrors, stained glass, mosaic and more. On any given day, you will find more tourists here than even at the Taj Mahal. Every Sunday, the palace comes alive with 97000 light bulbs bedazzling its façade and the premises.

Lalitha Palace– Yet another heritage building, the two-storied Lalitha Mahal sits on a ridge at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, which makes for a great vantage point. The palace was transformed into a hotel and offers a royal stay. If you truly want a feeling of royalty, then a stay here would be an experience.

Jaganmohan Palace– One of the seven prominent palaces of Mysore city, is a stunning work of ancient Indian architecture with intricate interiors and exteriors. The palace, transformed into a royal art gallery since 1915, houses paintings of the royal family, art by Raja Ravi Varma and an array of rare and antique musical instruments.

Museums- Stop by the Rail Museum to explore the archaic steam engines, the Maharani’s saloon, and other railway souvenirs. There’s also the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion showcasing more than 6500 folk artifacts from all parts of Karnataka. The Folk Art Museum, one of the most visited in the city, is also known for its collection of toys, models, and figurines.

Crawford Hall- Built in 1947, this is a must visit historic structure in Mysore. The royal palace is now known as the Mysore University but still renders a rich heritage to its ambiance.

Small, medium or large-scale, every historical building and monument of Mysore has a majestic touch to it. And such architecture speaks of its glorious past, which has left traces for the modern civilization to explore.

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India’s Victory at the International Court of Justice is the World’s Challenge to the Status Quo

Manak Suri

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For the past week, both the Indian and British media have rigorously covered the story of the re-election of India’s justice Dalveer Bhandari to the bench of judges in the International Court of Justice on Tuesday, November 21. That the Indian judge retained his position on the bench was not the sole reason for the story’s extensive coverage; his reappointment combined with the fact that it happened at the expense of the United Kingdom’s spot on the bench is why the story is making so many rounds… and no, that many Indians may see it as some sort of a comeback against Britain’s 200 years of colonial rule over the country is not the reason why it matters. It matters because this is the first time since 1946 that the UK has no judge on the ICJ bench, and that signals possible changes in the way international bodies govern and are governed. So what does this mean for India, for the UK and for the world at large?

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice or the ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations as its principal judicial branch and is located in The Hague, Netherlands. Its job is to settle legal disputes between states that are submitted to it and give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it. The court comprises of a total of 15 judges that are elected to 9 year terms by way of voting from both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) separately. One third of the court is re-elected every three years, and no two judges of the same nationality may assume positions on the bench simultaneously. However, the rule that led to the deadlock between the candidates from India and UK is that a candidate must obtain an absolute majority in both the UNGA and the UNSC in order to be elected to the bench.

UN General Assembly vs UN Security Council: The Race in Numbers

On November 9 and November 13, in seven rounds of voting justice Bhandari secured between 110 and 121 votes from a total of 193 in the UNGA against figures between 68 and 79 secured by his British counterpart Sir Christopher Greenwood. However, among the UNSC, justice Bhandari lost out by 5 votes to 9 in favour of Sir Greenwood. In the face of uncertainty, the UK then pushed for a ‘joint conference’ under the rules of the court between the UNSC and the UNGA. Under the ‘joint conference’ three countries from each side then determine the name for the court. However, the rules do not mention the procedure to select these countries and understandably so, since the option was last invoked in 1921. Fearing not enough support from the council, criticism for invoking the charter, and harming its friendly as well as economic relations with India, the UK eventually chose to not follow through with the process and withdrew its candidature for the post. In the end, India secured the seat with a total of 183 votes out of 193 at the UNGA and all 15 at the UNSC.

There is More to the Victory than Meets the Eye

The result means different things for the parties involved and also for the balance of power and influence between countries. For the UK, there are hardly any positives to take away from this result amid already turbulent times. Many in the British media have viewed this loss as ‘a blow to British international prestige’ and the country’s acceptance of a diminishing role in global affairs. This was the UK’s second major defeat at the ICJ after it lost a vote by a margin of 94 to 15 countries in June when the UNGA voted in favour of referring the question of decolonisation and self-determination of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to the ICJ, which is currently under its control. Many within and outside the country have also been quick to blame Brexit for the situation in which they find themselves today, arguing that the other states, especially the ones within the European Union would have been less willing to snub the UK had the UK chosen not to leave the alliance. In the face of defeat, British diplomats have continued to maintain that they are happy that their close friend India has won, but have also not been shy of hiding their natural disappointment at their own loss.

For India, their victory in having a judge win the contest in getting elected to the ICJ bench against a permanent member of the UNSC is more symbolic than anything else. It reinforces India’s image at the highest stage as a major emerging global player and its ability to bring in greater reforms that push for more involvement from developing countries and emerging economies. Also, having a judge on the ICJ bench gives India an edge over Pakistan in the case involving former Indian Navy Officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on the charges of espionage. True, a judge on the ICJ does not represent his/her country or their interests. However, as suggested by repeated criticism the court receives for being biased in favour of the states who appoint the judges, having a judge on the panel is certainly an asset for any country, no matter what the rules dictate on paper.

The most important takeaway from the whole episode far exceeds the ambitions of just the two countries and a race for a seat at the ICJ. India’s victory at the court reinforces the belief that power does not necessarily reside or has to reside with the ‘few global elite’, a sentiment which was expressed clearly when most member states of the UNGA backed India’s justice Bhandari to be re-elected against the choice of the permanent members or P5 of the UNSC. There seems to be an acknowledgment among the member states of the UN of the beginning of a change which sees an increasing shift in the balance of power away from the traditional powers of the world or the P5 – Britain, China, United States, Russia, and France. Of these countries, China was the only member to not have a judge on the ICJ between 1967 and 1985 till the final decision last week, when they were joined by the UK in the list. Last year, Russia was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Council. In the 2016 elections, France lost out on securing a position in the International Law Commission. While diplomats at the UN continue to maintain that there are no winners and losers here, that it is all part of a bigger picture, these developments undoubtedly mark diplomatic victories for the Group of 77 or the G77, a coalition of developing nations at the UN that have constantly pushed for an enhanced negotiating capacity. What remains to be seen is just to what extent they bring about a change in the status quo.

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