Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Diplomat in Conversation!

Diplomat in Conversation!
Mr. Sudhir T. Devare joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1964 and served in India’s Missions in Moscow, Washington and Yangon. While serving in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, he was the alternate delegate to the Committee on Disarmament. He has also served as Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany and was India’s Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (1985-89), Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia (1992-94), and Indonesia (1994-98). From 1998 till his retirement from the I.F.S in June 2001, he was the Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. As Secretary, he dealt with India’s bilateral as well as multilateral economic relations and was closely associated with the ‘Look-East’ policy and the evolving relations with the Asia-Pacific. He was the Leader of the Indian delegation at the senior official meetings of India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership, ASEAN Regional Forum, BIMST-EC, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation and others. He was a Member of the National Security Advisory Board of India in 2002-03. He was a Visiting Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2002 and was the Vice-Chairman of the Research and Information System of Developing Countries (RIS), New Delhi. He has authored India and Southeast Asia: Towards Security Convergence (2006) by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, (ISEAS) Singapore and Capital Publishing Co. Delhi and A New Energy Frontier: the Bay of Bengal region published by ISEAS, Singapore (2008). He is currently the Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) New Delhi. Recently we had a long conversation at historic Sapru House on diverse issues related to the Indian foreign policy…edited excerpts are…

Q: - How do you see the change in dynamics of Indian foreign policy? Especially, in the context of our traditional allies in South East Asia, Arab and Central Asian countries?

A: - Indian foreign policy has undergone a consistent evolution since 1991; end of Cold war and subsequently, the collapse of U.S.S.R and emergence of new States besides India’s own liberalisation of economy left huge impact from the policy perspectives. Moreover, post 9/11, strategic consideration pushed India for greater collaboration with U.S against the international terrorism. For the first time, U.S acknowledged India’s long suffering from the terrorism; it was indeed remarkable from the strategic point of views. Besides, India still continuing strengthened co-operation with the likeminded nations, to enhance its security safeguard.

India maintains functionally smooth relations with all the countries, last year representatives of the all five Member nation of UN visited India…so the dyamicism has broadened our ties in foreign affairs. Post Cold war, a realization grew that India should give greater attention towards South East Asia, that popularly known as “Look East Policy”. Even in historical terms, South East Asian nations remained our close allies albeit the interruption of Cold war resulted in the kind of distance for twenty years. 1990’s saw good rapture; now our relations are excellent, both at the bilateral level with the nations of the region and through ASEAN. Free Trade Agreements {FTA} and close defence co-operation with the ASEAN nations are epitomes of our diplomatic stronghold in the region. My book, India and South Asia- towards Security Convergence, argues that India entered in comprehensive treaty that leading towards convergence. So things are going on good course though much has to be done ahead. ICWA is a steering organisation in India on ASEAN dialogue, since last year we took many initiatives in this regard and also hosted a meaningful Conference on India-ASEAN dialogue, which made positive impacts.

Central Asia has been a promising region in all the terms, our ties was on peak during Soviet Union era, though the collapse of U.S.S.R in 1991 necessitated to engage the each separated States individually. Connectivity is a big problem in this region, so we are facing limitation in our closeness. We have traditional presence in the Arab world, and that’s based on trust and fine engagements. India has consistently supported to Palestinian cause and its legitimate aspiration but we shall not interfere in their domestic affairs. Though, India is open for talking to these nations, if they feel such need.

Q: - Does India’s emergence as an economic/strategic power influencing its conventional relationship with the neighbouring countries?

A: - India’s capacity has considerably gone up in principally immediate neighbourhood. Around 70-80% of SAARC nations economies are influenced by the India, so significant happenings here leave substantial impact on neighbours. In terms of commercial/educational/service potential, India stands with a crucial position for its neighbours; so India must be taken into good light and its rise should be seen positively. Since India became a nation, it always forwarded its best support for neighbour’s prosperousness, though it’s worrisome that our trade volume is still much smaller with our neighbours in comparison of China. Here measures are immediately needed to broaden the trade relations in neighbourhood, and that must be started with the adequate investment in these countries; this will be helpful in forming the atmosphere of goodwill.

Q: - How India should approach on Nepal’s ongoing stalemate?

A: - India closely monitoring the ongoing political development in Nepal. We have genuine concern with our most trusted neighbour, so we always need a peaceful and stable Nepal. India supported Maoists in the mainstream politics and their consolidated efforts for Constitution making. As once again, Maoists are heading the coalition government under the premiership of Baburam Bhattarai, we are hoping positive time ahead in our relationship. India always has been and is open for help.

Q: - Should China be taken more diplomatically or India should rather compete it economically in Nepal and Pakistan?

A: - China’s action mustn’t endanger our legitimate bilateral security interest with both these countries…until the rubicon has not crossed; there is no need to hype such involvement.

Q: - What’s the official stand of India on Non Aligned Movement {NAM}? Strategically, should India retrieve its earlier closeness in ties with Russia?

A: - NAM remains a key cardinal principle of Indian foreign policy, but it needs not to be seen in blocks, as Cold war doesn’t exist now. It has historical importance, as the basic ideals of NAM reflect our consistent opposition to the colonial ironies. As a leading member and the world’s largest democracy, India will continue to sideline those anomalies for better equality on international platform. We will keep playing crucial role on the matters of importance at multilateral level negotiations…world need a voice, India offers that along with Brazil and entire participants of BRICKS. So, with a different shape, NAM remains relevant. As far as India-Russia relation is concerned, NAM plays practically no role; we have other intrinsic commonness in our outlook besides a very closely shared historical past that plays rather cornstone of our relations. Our collaboration in defence and science-technology is still touching high sphere, now with the enhanced capacity, India is equally crucial for Russia.

Q: - What should be the India’s next course of action in Srilanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh?

A: - After the end of LTTE's dissemination in Srilanka, there emerged some contentious issues, like the presence of large numbers of refugees created by long civil war in the country. India keeps pressing Srilankan authority for the welfare of Tamils. Economically, both nations are on fine course, yet India will be concerned for Tamils who have been badly affected by the parochial ideas of LTTE and consistent ignorance by the Srilankan authority. We have old links with Myanmar that reached in closest terms during our shared struggle against the colonialism…unfortunately democracy couldn’t sustain there for long and Military rule’s shaky treatment with Aung San Sui Ki created bad feelings. Though India kept engaging Myanmar government, they have recently introduced a formal democracy, following that, visit of our foreign minister and high level envoy Nirupma Rao and their meeting with Aung San Sui Ki shows a positive development. Myanmar’s connectivity with ASEAN is crucial for us. With Bangladesh, we are working closely and many outstanding issues are being resolved now. Bangladesh has shown great action in extraditing top ranked ULFA leaders; and moreover also showing goodwill in other directions as well. We have high regards for our bilateral relations and bond of sharing.

Q: - It’s quite intriguing to observe the mix reaction of Pakistani Air force following the end of military aid from U.S…will the China leverage Pakistani Army in same way as till recently U.S did? What would be its implications on India-U.S relations and India’s interest in Afghanistan and north-west frontier?

A: - Pakistan seems to remain a close partner for U.S, even U.S had reduced military aid to Pakistan but it will not affect their ties too much…it should be taken in long perspectives only. China is an all weather ally of Pakistan, so their level of co-operation can be easily anticipated. Ofcourse, Pak-U.S relations have implications for India and in the specified regions particularly, but for now, there is little possibility for big change in geo-strategic scenario.

Q: - Do you think, now time is conducive for India to pitch strongly a permanent in UN Security Council? Should India fix a balance between its traditional foreign policy with the newly strengthened alliances?

A: - India, overall regard its right to be in UN Permanent Council, as it has always subscribed the ideals of UN. So, India naturally deserves permanent membership. It will be our thirst in the days ahead…now; we are expecting all positive moves from both the U.S and China!

Q: - What’s your view on the India-U.S Civil nuclear deal? What’s true meaning of new twist on non waiver issues? Are we heading on the right path for our energy requirements…especially after FUKUSHIMA incident?

A: - It’s indeed a positive development and must be regarded as our diplomatic achievement that secured the recognition of matured Indian position on all nuclear questions all along. We have well guarded nuclear establishment, so shall be sanguine about the future.

Q: - How Arab uprising should be seen…as democratic upheavals against the west supported autocracy or series of revolt, generated by the local causes? What will be its impact on India, and the world at large?

A: - Unrest is localized and against the western domination to some extent. India is closely watching the scene, however welcome the mass aspirations for democracy. Some of the movements are less bloody; those could be listed in positive category.

Q: - India’s opportunity in Libya and Arab world?

A: - India has good relationship with the Arab world including of Libya, so has big stakes in peace making process inside these regions.

Q: - Will inclusion of India and Pakistan in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation {SCO} make any constructive development in bilateral ties?

A: - It seems ambiguous. SCO may not influence bilateral ties but sure will leave sound impact in the regions of Central Asia. So, overall it’s a welcome development. Only SCO meetings shall not be considered as end in bilateral ties.
Atul Kumar Thakur
August 29, 2011, Monday, New Delhi
Email: summertickets@gmail.com


  1. And diplomacy too..great conversation under the arms of strategy..Varsha Singh

  2. Very thoughtful blog...Sonia Kundra Singh

  3. Nice reading this interview..Sudhir Devare is one of the most remarkable diplomat,India has produced..he is always a man in action-Ashutosh Thakur

  4. Hi Atul, good to hear from you. Hope all is well. All good at my end. currently based in Bangkok working with one digital media consulting firm. Went through ur blog..never knew your were this good with writing :):) ..keep up the good work. All the best!Sujeet K Singh

  5. Atul, have been following your writings for sometime now, often on FB, occassionally on your blog. I find that your prolific output could put a lot of people to shame. And your point of view is always refreshing, as it is unencumbered by predispositions. Keep going..Banibrata Mahanta,Department of English/BHU