The next four weeks will be very eventful for advancing India's relations with the major powers as Delhi prepares to receive US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (March 16), Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (end-March) and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (early April).
The proposal to reconvene the 13th SAARC Summit soon has rekindled the hopes of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) coming into force on schedule on 01 Jan 2006. It is a sad commentary on the regional economic cooperation that although the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has been in existence for about 20 years, the intra regional trade is still languishing below five percent of the global trade of the member states. It is widely believed that all the seven states of the region will benefit immensely in the long run from the economic benefits of SAFTA.
India-Pakistan interaction, in recent days, is fast losing its familiar flavour of distrust and bitterness. This is not to deny, however, that one can still identify the inertial sense of rancour, the propensity to misunderstand and misinterpret each other within the dialogic track that has completed one year.
Putting an end to all speculations, protests from the media and other quarters and hectic Chinese diplomatic parleys in Brussels before the EU-China Summit in December 2004, the EU finally declared (December 8) that the arms embargo on China would not be lifted for the time being. The embargo, which was sanctioned against China in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square tragedy in 1989, remained one of the most debatable issues before the summit. The EU however informed that there was a willingness within the Union to work towards the lifting of the ban.
China has not issued any official statement on the recently concluded elections in Iraq. However, in a Press Conference on February1, 2005, to a question on the elections, the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan said that:
While cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and multiple insurgencies in the Northeast remain the focus of India’s internal security planning, left-wing extremism (LWE) is gradually becoming another major source of concern. An assessment of the developments during the current year reveals their continuously expanding sphere of violence — both in terms of scale and intensity.
A permanent seat in the United Nations (UN) Security Council seems well within India’s grasp. India’s long held aspirations of playing a more active role in the global affairs by acquiring a permanent seat at the UN Security Council has received a significant boost by the report submitted by the Secretary general’s high-level panel on threats, challenges and change.
The tsunami tragedy that struck large parts of Southern Asia abutting the Bay of Bengal and the South Eastern Indian Ocean littoral has been a tragic start for the New Year. It is feared that the total death toll in the affected areas may well cross the 200,000 mark. In many ways this is a multi-national disaster with the affected countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar amongst others and stretching all the away across the ocean to the East coast of Africa.
The Southeast Asian states are critically dependent on regional sea-lanes for trade since most of them have embarked on the philosophy of export-led development. These are also the energy lifelines of the East Asian states and are equally vital for global trade. The Malacca Straits and Singapore Straits enclose the busiest of these sea-lanes, through which about a quarter of the world trade passes each year aboard 50,000 vessels.