THE MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Headed by PRANAB MUKHERJEE
(Formerly NATWAR SINGH and MANMOHAN SINGH)
The UPA Government's busiest Ministry has undoubtedly been that of External Affairs. From a landmark Civilian Nuclear Agreement with America to the Nepal Crisis, the MoEA has been at the helm of affairs. Of course, it has come with some controversy: Natwar Singh, the original Minister, was thrown out following the Volcker Report. PM Manmohan Singh took charge for a brief period, but eventually the workload became too much and protocols too strict. Eventually, ace-troubleshooter for the Congress, Pranab Mukherjee, took over.
We discuss, in brief, the Government's performance in various regions.
In South Asia, the Ministry has done a good job in creating democracy in Nepal. The talks between Nepali Leaders and Maoists in New Delhi led to the end of a bloody civil war and the establishment of a secular democracy. The same is with Bhutan: the Government stood with the tiny neighbour as it became a democratic nation with a constitutional monarchy. In Afghanistan, the entire Government has done a lot for the war-torn nation's reconstruction efforts.
However, the Ministry has not looked properly into human rights violations in Sri Lanka. According to the South Asian Human Rights Commission, Sri Lanka is the worst performer in the region as far as human rights go. However, keeping the ban on the LTTE in place is a good thing.
Lastly, Pakistan. The Indo-Pak relationship has grown well under the UPA, although it is marked by periods of tensions. The newly-elected democratic regime in Pakistan has embraced the Indian Government, and a better future can be expected.
India's relationship with Oman and Qatar grew tremendously under the UPA. So have our ties with Central Asia, Kazakhstan in particular. With Japan, India has signed a rare military treaty, while Australia and India have come closer to stronger ties, minus nuclear cooperation. These represent a number of successes of the UPA. However, the distancing of Russia from India in the face of our new ally, the US, has been disturbing. Even Russian media acknowledged that Indo-Russia ties were growing weak. Still, Russia remains India's top provider of military hardware. India's quiet diplomacy with Myanmar and its handling of the Asian Tsunami were exemplary.
The relationship with China has been one of deep concern. On multiple occasions, authorities on both sides made statements regarding Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian Government's steadfast stand that ArP is an integral part of India, and its strength in now cowing down to China, represent a great success. However, the stronger ties between China and India, the two emerging giants, has led to the creation of a new world order: BRIC.
The Middle East and North Africa
Indo-Israel ties grew further under the UPA, with more Israelis visiting India. India's participation in the US-sponsored Middle East peace talk was also an encouraging sign. Furthermore, the visit of the Syrian President to India in 2008 strengthened ties between Syria and India. Sadly, Indo-Iran ties took a colossal beating under the UPA, which voted against Iran twice at the IAEA, apparently under American pressure. Our cooperation in protecting democracy in Iraq has been next to nil.
Indo-Egypt ties have been redefined under the UPA, and Egypt remains India's top ally in the region. However, India has not done enough to encourage Egypt to provide humanitarian aid to those locked up in the Gaza Strip by Israel.
India utter negligence of the Darfur genocide has been the UPA's greatest failure. India's relationship with South Africa has grown well, and South Africa went on to support the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement and India's UNSC bid. India's recent Naval deployment, with the help of Oman, to battle pirates off Somalia was a masterstroke, ensuring safer passage for Indian traders. However, India's virtual indifference towards Zimbabwe and Mugabe's banana democracy deserves sharp criticism.
Overall, with a landmark Indo-Africa Summit held in New Delhi, India's cooperation with Africa has been the best in the world, second only to perhaps America.
Indo-US ties grew like never before under the UPA, so much so that it was compared to Sino-US ties many decades ago. The historic 123 Agreement and expansion of Indian Businesses into America began to signal the rise of a new Asian giant. India and the US are now poised to show the world the path to democracy.
India's failure to stop pro-Khalistan demonstrations in Canada is just about its only failure in the Region. Indo-Brazil ties grew strongly, with India and Brazil jointly fighting for a UNSC seat. India's FTA with Chile marked the first such agreement India had with the region, and more are expected to follow. Lastly, the UPA's determination to engage Venezuela and Cuba for future trade deserves praise.
India and Europe, particularly Britain, have had some rough times before. Engaging former colonial masters was never easy. But the UPA did exceptionally well, with Manmohan Singh earning praise from top leaders, including Gordon Brown, Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. India's support to the EU, its desire to engage the region for fostering peace and its ability to create a better future in the face of a dark history: these are hallmarks of a successful European policy.
But even with smaller countries, India worked closely, if not successfully. The failure to convince the Scandinavian countries to support the 123 Agreement without US intervention is a key pitfall, while the Ministry's decision not to recognise Kosovo was well-timed and wise.
India's membership into important International associations and strengthening of SAARC were strategic successes for the Ministry. Today, India is a member of a number of groupings, including the all-important APEC and ASEAN, where India has an observer statues. India's status as an outreach nation in the G8 and the BRIC Arrangement signaled the beginning of a new world order, and the UPA Government has the rare distinction of leading India to the forefront of it. Lastly, the UPA's desire to foster greater trade among SAARC countries, and provide more assistance to Bangladesh, were achievements for India.
Overall, Pranab Mukherjee has proved to be a worthy Minister, politician and statesman. The image of him shaking hands with Condoleezza Rice while signing the 123 Agreement will be one of the defining pictures of the UPA.
The Ministry of External Affairs
General Performance: Very Good