Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
India’s Current Foreign Policy – Critical Analysis
Narendra Modi has received a lot of appreciation for his strategy at the world stage. From the very beginning he has been able to build up a lot of excitement around India’s international relations. However, with time his foreign policy has come under a scanner and has faced some criticism as well.
An Exciting Beginning
The Prime Minister’s entry on the world stage brought along a lot of freshness, energy and a decisive intent supported by some exemplary oratory skills. India witnessed certain changes as soon as Mr. Modi took over.
India’s visibility on the stage of global politics increased and India appeared to be more active and assertive in its actions.
Modi’s way of handling the international relations brought a lot of optimism which spread among people of the country.
India evolved from being a mere spectator to an active participant.
In critical matters, India took a tough stand and faced all hardships head on whether it was relating to Pakistan, China or the United States.
The transition from the initial days of optimism and excitement to the contemporary challenges has been a complex and tough one.
During this transition, the foreign policy of India faced a lot complex issues, rivals and adversaries as well.
The assertion changed to hesitations due to impact of historic policies and easy solutions as anticipated were not being found.
India tried to solve things with an out-of-the-box approach where simpler and standard methods would have helped.
Relations with Pakistan and China did not see much improvement.
It was also observed that wherever India followed the traditional path as laid by predecessors, there was progress in the relationship.
Even though India and Russia have been close partners traditionally, the relationship has seen tougher times in the recent past.
Russia has tried to come closer to China and Pakistan which is not what India would want.
The relations between India and Russia are being mended through efforts in terms of defence deals and huge military contracts.
Russia, however, has still supported Pakistan against India and Afghanistan in the recently concluded Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar.
Animosity between India and Pakistan has still continued and does not seem to be going away very soon considering the present situation. At times, it only seems to be becoming worse.
In early days of the government, ceasefire was in force and the terror attacks were not as frequent and now neither the exchange of pleasantries nor the surgical strikes are helping the nations come to a solution.
Prime Minister Modi has made a shift from the previous government’s policy when no comprehensive dialogue was possible without ending terrorism.
Accordingly, India has tried to improve bilateral relations by inviting Pakistan’s Prime Minister to India and proposed negotiations between foreign secretaries and National Security Advisers of the two nations. These methods have gone in vain and there has been a surge in terror attacks, surgical strikes, expulsion of diplomats and India’s open support to Balochistan and boycott of the SAARC summit. Hence, this is not good for both these countries.
Due to the sour relations between India and Pakistan, the future of SAARC has also become uncertain and the recent SAARC summit was boycotted.
The bilateral relations between India and China are not as bad as India and Pakistan but the last two years have not seen much progress.
India has opposed the admission of China into SAARC. Even though majority of members are willing to allow China into SAARC, India seems to be the sole opponent.
The China-Pakistan factor and long-term measures taken by China as a part of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ are challenges that India has to face with respect to China.
Modi’s inclination towards the U.S., Japan and Australia and his concerns about the South China Sea are also a major issue when it comes to India China.
However, the reduction in cross border infiltration along the India China border is a positive.
India USA relationship has seen a lot of positive growth as compared to the other bilateral relations mentioned above.
India has become a major defence partner with the U.S. through the agreements such as Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) and Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).
With Donald Trump set to take over as the President, migration and visa issues are two areas which have to be handled with care.
With all these challenges and few bright spots as well, India’s foreign policy’s importance is growing with each passing day. Strategic and tactical steps have to be taken to ensure that we improve our relations with most of the nations in the long run.
Connecting the dots
Critically analyse India’s foreign policy in the recent past and suggest certain changes that India should make in its foreign policy to emerge stronger in this multipolar world of geopolitics.
TOPIC:General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
FCRA: Time to go?
In news: In early November, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs rejected the licence renewal applications of 25 non-governmental organisations (NGO0) under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (FCRA), which means that these NGOs can no longer receive funds from foreign donors.
It regulates the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations.
It prohibits acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest.
The FCRA also prohibits acceptance of foreign funding by candidate for election, government employees and servants, judges, MPs and MLAs, political parties, correspondent-cartoonist-editor-columnist-owner-printer-publisher of registered newspaper etc.
The Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, 1976 was brought into force by Indira Gandhi-led government during the Emergency which prohibited electoral candidates, political parties, judges, MPs and even cartoonists from accepting foreign contributions.
The intension was to clamp down on political dissent with the justification that the law is to curb foreign interference in domestic politics.
This was the Cold War era, when both the Soviets and the Americans interfered in the internal affairs of post-colonial nations to secure their strategic interests.
Thus FCRA was to prevent parties from accepting contributions from foreign sources and stoking domestic turbulence with help of ‘foreign hands’.
With the 1991 reforms, the Indian state had no problem accepting contributions from foreign donors such as the World Bank or IMF. This was followed by Indian businesses and political parties who were also wooing foreign investment, despite the fact that FCRA 1976 prohibited political parties from accepting money from ‘foreign sources’.
The new FCRA
FCRA 2010 which replaced FCRA 1976 was more draconian and stringent version.
Under FCRA 1976, FCRA registration was permanent but under 2010 law, it expired after five years and had to be renewed afresh. This gave a state an invisible whip with which it can bring errant ‘organisations’, in its opinion, to heel.
In early 2016, more than 11000 NGOs lost their FCRA licences because they failed to renew their license.
Even NHRC has issued a notice to the Home Ministry stating that FCRA licence non-renewal provision is neither legal nor objective and thus it is impinging on the rights of the human rights defenders in access to funding, including foreign funding.
The new law has put restrictions (50%) on the proportion of foreign funds that could be used for administrative expenses. This means that the government was in control how a civil society organisation functions (spends the money).
The FCRA 1976 primarily aimed at political parties but FCRA 2010 includes “organisations of a political nature”. The FCRA rules, 2011 has helped the government to target NGOs, especially those working on governance accountability.
The list includes —trade unions, students’ unions, workers’ unions, youth forums, women’s wing of a political party, farmers’ organisations, youth organisations based on caste, community, religion, language and “any organisation which habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like ‘bandh’ or ‘hartal’, ‘rasta roko’, ‘rail roko’ or ‘jail bharo’ in support of public causes”.
The explicit double standards
In 2014, Delhi HC had pulled up BJP and Congress for violating the FCRA by accepting contributions from the Indian subsidiaries of the London-based multinational, Vedanta.
As expected, the NDA government did not take action against BJP or Congress nor did Congress as an opposition party protest against flouting of a judicial directive.
Instead, an amendment was brought in the law with retrospective effect, which converted a “foreign company” into an “Indian company” by allowing all political parties to accept funding from foreign companies, so long as it is channelled through an Indian subsidiary.
This comes forwards as a brazen attempt to legitimise FCRA violations of two parties.
Legal Analysis of FCRA, 2010 by UN Special Rapporteur
In 2015, a UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA, 2010.
Post the analysis, a note was submitted to the Indian government stating that FCRA provisions and rules were not in conformity with international law, principles and standards.
India is a party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which has the right to freedom of association. Here, access to resources, particularly foreign funding, is part of the right to freedom of association.
Though it is not an absolute right and is subject to restrictions which have to be precise. The restrictions should be defined in a way that would enable the CSO to know in advance whether its activities could reasonably be construed to be in violation of the Act.
However, the Indian government has invoked restrictions in name of “public interest” and “economic interest” under FCRA. These terms are vague and give the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner.
Conclusion- Should FCRA go?
The FCRA has to prevent the foreign funding from interfering into domestic politics or from threatening the national interest. This doesn’t mean it has to harass the other NGOs. If FCRA shall be arbitrary in nature, then it is better if it is repealed.
This does not mean that there should be no monitoring of foreign funding of NGOs. The NGO funding has to be regulated as there are corrupt and unscrupulous NGOs too that receive foreign funds as a means to money laundering.
For their regulation, there can be an establishment of an independent, statutory body along the lines of the Bar Council.
Such kind of institution was proposed in 2009 where a seven member task force was set to create a national-level self-regulatory agency, the National Accreditation Council of India (NACI) which would monitor and accredit CSOs.
Thus, the government shouldn’t use legal procedures for its personal gains or any vendetta.
Connecting the dots:
FCRA should be replaced by an independent statutory body that monitors the foreign funding of civil society organisations. Critically analyse.
Determine the significance of FCRA in light of recent crackdown on NGOs in India.