Bangalore International Centre had arranged a Talk on “Strategic Developments in India’s Southern Neighbourhood” by Shri. N. SathiyaMoorthy, Senior Research Fellow and Director, Chennai Chapter, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), on Monday, 13th August, 2012 at 6:30 pm. The talk was moderated by Ambassador Saurabh Kumar, IFS (Retd), Formerly Ambassador of India to the IAEA, UNIDO and other UN Offices in Vienna; Austria; Ireland and Vietnam; Visiting Professor- NIAS.
In his thoughtful introductory comments, Ambassador Saurabh Kumar drew attention to the facts that there is a striking contrast between the size and potential of India and that of its neighbours and that, while all of them have borders with India, none of them share their borders with each other, with the exception of Pakistan and Afghanistan and Bangladesh and Myanmar. As a result, none of India’s neighbours have any border-related frictions among themselves, inter se. Amb. Kumar felt that this is a very tempting scenario for these powers to try to counterbalance India’s preponderant potential by invoking others outside the region, be it Western powers or China and for ganging up against India in regional and multilateral forums, such as SAARC, UN bodies etc. The nation’s neighbourhood therefore poses a challenge to its foreign policy and diplomacy and to its strategic establishment as a whole. He also drew attention to the decimation of the LTTE in Sri Lanka and wondered whether Simhala Polity was getting ready to accommodate the aspirations of its Tamil Minority.
In his presentation, Shri. SathiyaMoorthy emphasized the strategic importance of India’s neighbours in the Indian Ocean which is no longer a “zone of peace”. He stressed that with China flexing its muscles and with India becoming equidistant from both USA and Russia, India could no longer depend on either of these two countries to come to its aid if an armed conflict develops between India and China. He was of the view that there was a perceptional imbalance in our policy-makers to understand and study in depth the ever-changing dynamics in the polity of our southern neighbours, like Sri Lanka and Maldives and our foreign policy continues to be dominated with our relationships with the developed countries in the Western World. Drawing from his knowledge and insight. Shri. SathiyaMoorthy stated that there has been a subtle change in Sri Lanka’s attitude to India along with the changes in its leadership pattern. He argued that the internal politics within Sri Lanka and the domestic politics in Tamil Nadu have a profound impact in the bilateral relationship between India and Sri Lanka and that this aspect has to be kept in sharp focus by our policy-makers. Similarly, our policy should take adequate care to ensure that the best possible teachers and professionals are sent to Sri Lanka, Maldives and other southern neighbours as they are our ambassadors to these countries. Sending below-average professionals always creates a negative image.
The fascinating presentation was enlivened by well-informed interactive discussions, skillfully moderated by Amb. Saurabh Kumar.