Bilateral Relations between India and Cambodia
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TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Cambodia is the representative of the Indian cultural outreach to the wider Asian region. India-Cambodia relations go back to the 1st century AD when Hindu and Buddhist religious and cultural influences emanated out of India to various parts of South-East Asia. The pervading influence of Hinduism, Buddhism and Indian architecture are borne out by the magnificent structures at many places in Cambodia including world’s largest Hindu temple Angor Wat.
Cambodia and India have enjoyed friendly relations for a long time. Both countries formally established diplomatic relations in 1952. Both the countries were architects of the non-aligned movement. Recently, India and Cambodia also signed MoUs on various issues such as
- prevention of human trafficking
- cultural exchanges through 2018-2020
- cooperation in prevention, investigation of crimes and legal assistance in criminal matters
Over and above this, India provides a line of credit to fund Cambodia’s Stung Sva Hab water resources development project worth USD 36.92 million.
China’s presence in India’s bilateral relations
India’s outreach to the ASEAN nation is mostly looked in backdrop of China. China has tried to continue their interest in the Indo-China regions specially Cambodia and Vietnam. But these countries wouldn’t like their hard won freedom to be bargained for money from china.
China has benefitted a lot from the globalized economy. It became a very fast emerging economic power. Now they are trying to become more anti-status quo in the sense that they want to acquire more assets all over and they want to be Numero Uno in world. This is a matter of concern for many ASEAN countries as on one hand there is unstable North Korea which is constantly and Pakistan is spreading terrorism.
Currently, Cambodia has moved close to china as it is its largest trading partner and plays an increasingly essential role in the country’s development. This was due to India’s lack of a substantive role in the region. But now, with promotion of “free and open Indo-Pacific” concept” and Act East Policy, India is trying to regain footing in Southeast Asia, by developing close ties with Southeast Asian countries in an attempt to balance China’s rising influence.
It is a sensitive issue as china has taken an aggressive stand of late in the South China Sea. Maritime cooperation has stood out as some of the ASEAN countries are just few kms away from Indian continent including the island. However, not all ASEAN nations are on the same lines when it comes to dealing with china.
Though the Pacific Ocean and SCS has seen many conflicts, Indian Ocean so far has been an ocean of peace. China’s building activities for bases, for taking over unilateral control over SCS despite the decision by UNCLOS is not in tune with the peaceful nature of the Indian Ocean. Initiatives like formation of QUAD and dialogues on Indo-pacific security are undertaken and more needs to be done to ensure the peace in the Indian Ocean region.
New aspect of terrorism
There seems to be united voice between India and ASEAN nations when it comes to tackling terrorism. Most of the ASEAN countries are suffering from movement of terrorist elements from Pakistan and Iraq-Syrian region where the American and Russian are pushing them out and hence are finding their basis in Asian countries.
The Delhi declaration came out strongly against terrorism.
India for last several decades has been talking about cross border terrorism but lately, Afghanistan and Bangladesh has also suffered terrorism emanating from Pakistan. China believes in neutralizing terrorists only in their country and not to be bothered with terrorism affecting other countries.
India’s outreach to ASEAN nations
ASEAN had come up during cold war days and at that time it was felt that India would be more friendly to the soviet union and ASEAN will provide basis to Americans even when some of the members were in non-alignment movement. At end of cold war, India started good relations with ASEAN. The ASEAN nations seem to be on a stronger footing. For a long time, the Indian foreign policy was not much focused on ASEAN.
India has developed the vision to work together with all other countries which have common interests. This is reciprocated by the ASEAN leaders and message is expected to reach all the people living in these countries. Cultural, economic and people to people ties between India and Cambodia are growing steadily. However, India wants to move beyond soft diplomacy and cultural interaction to commercial interactions, scientific interactions, digital interaction and defense cooperation as far as possible and maritime cooperation.
Apart from the bilateral relationship, India and Cambodia can further enhance cooperation and relations through the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) mechanism, which aims to increase cooperation in areas of tourism, culture, education, and transport.
Connecting the dots:
- India has contributed a lot to CLMV countries yet there is a notable tilt towards China. Critically analyse India’s foreign policy in these regards.