Thursday, Jun 05, 2003
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By Amit Baruah
In what can be termed an "experiment'', Mr. Sinha, already in Peru, is making an effort to build bridges with two large, key countries in Latin America and Africa. Whether the meeting is to turn into a regular affair will be decided by the External Affairs Minister when he interacts with his Brazilian and South African colleagues, Celso Luiz Nunez Amorin and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Of late, Indian diplomacy has been looking at Africa and Latin America quite closely areas that had previously not received the kind of attention they deserved. The Foreign Ministers of Paraguay and Chile have made their first-ever visits to India in recent months.
The idea appears to be to raise India's profile in these regions through intensive contacts not just with Brazil and South Africa, but economic groupings on these continents. There is a recognition that other countries such as China have raised their profile and if the projection of India as a "global player'' is to hold water, then economic and political contacts in Latin America and Africa are a must. Also, it is aimed at lending a different trajectory to Indian foreign policy, which is being increasingly seen as one tied to the United States. South Africa, for instance, took a strong, anti-war line against the war in Iraq.
But, as this first "troika'' meeting takes place in Brasilia, there do seem to be some contradictions in India's own foreign policy approaches while attempting to build a "multipolar'' world order New Delhi at the same time is weighing whether or not to send troops to Iraq. This foreign policy dilemma, clearly, is not one that India faces alone. The clout and power of the U.S. have to be taken seriously by all countries in the world; many of which tailor their approach around policy determined by the U.S.
When India attempts to improve its equation with the U.S., it will be faced with the kind of "request'' that has been made on deploying troops in Iraq. The clarifications sought by New Delhi on the terms and scope of the deployment are an indication that it is not "rushing'' to take a decision. The issue, however, is very much on the agenda. If the "multipolar'' world idea is to have meaning, then the issue of simultaneously deploying troops in an increasingly difficult Iraq, perhaps, needs to be gently ruled out. At the same time, India needs to consider the fact that American support on the issue of Pakistan and "terrorism'' is crucial for India.
The Brasilia meeting, it is hoped, would provide some "teeth'' to developing country cooperation at forums such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO). A statement is expected at the end of the meeting. The other, "different'' meeting that is on the cards is the second discussion between the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China and India on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. The first was held last year.
All these new strands will be watched closely sometimes the very fact that "meetings happen'' not just their content is quite important.
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