June 6, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether India should join NATO-Plus. We also look at the reservation for men in buses in Karnataka, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Should India join NATO-Plus?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call. You could sense a tectonic shift in international geopolitics. Not since the second world war had Europe seen such a battle. As countries swiftly condemned Russia and President Vladimir Putin for the invasion, attention now turned to security for the greater European region. That meant the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
As some European countries sought to join the intergovernmental military alliance, something interesting happened over the past couple of weeks. With security cooperation on the minds and lips of foreign ministers and heads of state, the new NATO-Plus bloc has garnered some attention. Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, there seems to be an invitation for India to join NATO-Plus. Is this an obvious yes, or is this carrot dangling at the end of the stick something India doesn’t need?
The guns fell silent as the second world war ended. The world was divided. At one end was the Western bloc with the US, Great Britain, France, etc. On the other was the Communist Eastern bloc with the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR). Pro-Soviet governments were installed in several territories the USSR had taken from the Nazis.
The US and Western allies wanted to stop this expansion. They came up with the Marshall Plan to help war-torn countries rebuild. They also didn’t want the communist influence to creep further west into the broader European continent.
As the Czechoslovakia government was overthrown by the Soviets, leaders sought urgency. In 1949, 12 countries gathered in Washington DC and signed the North Atlantic Treaty. It was a security pact to have each other’s backs militarily. For the next 40 years, NATO was the backbone of the Western Alliances’ military readiness against the USSR.
NATO had a competitor called the Warsaw Pact. The USSR, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and East Germany were among its members. When the Communist governments in Eastern Europe fell in 1989 and 1990, signalling the end of the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact was defunct.
What began with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea culminated with its invasion last year. In the decades since its independence, Ukraine has sought to forge its own path while looking to align with Western nations. From Putin’s point of view, Ukraine should be a part of Russia and NATO is the enemy.
So where does India fit into all this? Historically speaking, not that much, which makes sense since India had its own history – gaining independence from the British and complicated relations with Pakistan and China. In 2010, world leaders met for the Lisbon Summit, and wondered if NATO could become a true 21st-century alliance. In the run-up to the Summit, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen outlined possible closer relations with China and India.
The reasoning was simple – why not have the world’s second-most populous country be a part of the biggest political-military alliance in history? The thinking at the time was, before 2010, any mention of China or India in NATO would’ve been met with scepticism or even opposition. Things change as they do in geopolitics.
Fast forward to now, ahead of Modi’s visit to the US later this month, there’s an invitation waiting for him. The House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the US and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) adopted a policy to enhance Taiwan’s deterrence. This included bringing India into NATO-Plus, i.e., NATO and five aligned nations including Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, and South Korea. Should or will India accept?
VIEW: It’s in India’s interest
The Committee’s resolution was to enhance Taiwan’s deterrence, as mentioned above. What does that have to do with India? Quite a bit actually. Taiwan faces a real threat from China, given how touchy Beijing gets on that subject. Containment of China is something India could be a stakeholder in, given its recent history. In the past, NATO didn’t pay much attention to the Indo-Pacific. Now, the region gets quite a few mentions in its strategic documents and recognises China as a challenge.
Relations between the US and India have grown over the past decade. Even with someone like Trump as President, things didn’t deteriorate or change drastically. India is part of the QUAD partnership, which goes beyond anything military. Last year, the government said it did touch base with NATO as part of its broader engagement with stakeholders on global issues with common interests.
One thing has been abundantly clear over the past decade – India wants to be a bigger player in shaping the global geopolitical narrative. This would mean greater defence and intelligence cooperation, which NATO-Plus would guarantee. Even for the Global South, India wants to lead. It’s currently at the head of the G20 presidency, and all eyes are on India. So why not leverage the NATO framework to increase its overall influence and, to some extent, with China?
COUNTERVIEW: Does India really need it?
Over the past year, India had several opportunities to call out Putin by name and vote on condemning Russia’s actions at the UN. At every turn, India chose to stay neutral by calling for a diplomatic resolution and abstaining at UN votes. Putting aside the criticism of taking such a stance, the motto is simple – India will have an independent foreign policy. It doesn’t really make sense to partner up with NATO in any capacity.
Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna has been vocal about getting India to join NATO-Plus. Here’s his argument – a formal alignment will help India get quick Congressional approval for defence agreements. However, India will still enjoy the benefits of being an ally of the US without joining an international military treaty. It already does through QUAD, which has trade and economics built in.
China is the obvious common thread here. In the event of a conflict in the South China Sea with the US, India won’t likely involve itself. India and the US have different priorities. They use different means to achieve the same goals. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has described India as a “responsible development partner and a voice for the Global South”. Given where India stands right now and its ambitions for the future, being a junior partner as part of NATO-Plus seems like getting short-changed.
- NATO – History
- Ukraine: Conflict at the Crossroads of Europe and Russia – Council for Foreign Relations
- India and NATO: size no problem – NATO Review
- China Select Committee of US House recommends making India part of NATO Plus – Deccan Herald
- US woos India to join ‘NATO Plus’ ahead of Modi-Biden meeting, harms New Delhi’s strategic autonomy – Global Times
- India’s agony and ecstasy over NATO Plus – Deccan Herald
- Influential developing countries can never be true insiders in the liberal international order – Modern Diplomacy
- Thanks but no thanks; Three reasons why India will never join ‘NATO-Plus’ or any other US-led mutual security alliance – Firstpost
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) India should join NATO-Plus.
b) India shouldn’t join NATO-Plus.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Reservation didn’t cause Odisha accident. The real problem is outdated infrastructure
For the Left:
The Barahoti saga: Failure of ‘Nehru doctrine’ and deceitful nature of Dragon
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Cover 80% body to enter: Temples (Uttarakhand) – Temple authorities in the districts of Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Dehradun in Uttarakhand have implemented a restriction on the admission of devotees who do not adhere to a specified dress code. The requirement mandates that women should cover approximately 80% of their bodies to be considered appropriately dressed.
Why it matters: As per recent reports, the ban is expected to be implemented without delay. Furthermore, there are intentions to extend this rule to temples affiliated with akharas across the country. Temples are considered sacred spaces where individuals come to seek spiritual solace and connect with their faith. In this context, the temple authorities argue that the dress code serves as a means to maintain the sanctity and decorum of these religious sites.
Men to get 50% reserved seats in buses (Karnataka) – As transport corporations prepare to introduce complimentary bus travel for women, they have announced their intention to allocate 50% of the seats specifically for men. This marks the first instance where public buses will have designated seats reserved exclusively for male passengers, as stated by the transport corporations.
Why it matters: The officials have stated that women are allowed to occupy the seats designated for men, but should vacate them if a male passenger requires a seat. There is no limit on the number of women who are willing to stand during the journey. As men are required to purchase tickets, 50% of the seats will be reserved exclusively for them. In cases where all the seats reserved for women are occupied, they can occupy any vacant seats designated for men.
10k saplings planted to mark environment day (Jharkhand) – To commemorate World Environment Day, the Jharkhand Energy Department undertook a significant initiative by planting over 10,000 saplings in their offices and grids throughout the state. In line with their commitment to environmental sustainability, the Energy Department has further established a goal to plant more than 50,000 saplings by the year’s end. This endeavour aims to foster a green and eco-friendly environment within their offices and grids.
Why it matters: The initiative undertaken by the Energy Department has garnered appreciation from the Jharkhand Forest Department, as it contributes to the state’s green mission and aids in reducing the carbon footprint. NK Singh, the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Development), stated that the Forest Department plans to plant over two crore saplings throughout the state during the upcoming rainy season this year.
200 fishermen released from Pakistan (Gujarat) – A group of 200 Indian fishermen, who had been detained by Pakistani authorities between 2019 and 2022 for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) into Pakistani waters off the Gujarat coast in the Arabian Sea, were released. They arrived in Vadodara, Gujarat, on Monday via a special train from Punjab, according to an official. Upon their arrival at the Vadodara railway station in the early morning, the fishermen were warmly welcomed.
Why it matters: According to a government statement, the fishermen from Vadodara are now being transported to their respective hometowns. Notably, last month, Pakistani authorities also released 184 fishermen from Gujarat. The release of these fishermen was made possible through diplomatic endeavours undertaken by the central government, as well as the concerted efforts made by the Gujarat government.
Demand to make Tura winter capital resurfaces (Meghalaya) – The A’chik Holistic Awakening Movement (AHAM) has recently called upon Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma to address the longstanding demand of designating Tura as the Winter Capital of the state. This demand has also been raised by the A’chik Conscious Holistically Integrated Krima (ACHIK) and other organizations based in the Garo Hills. AHAM has submitted a memorandum to the chief minister highlighting this issue.
Why it matters: This request traces back to the time of Meghalaya’s formation, when the founding leaders from the Garo, Jaintia, and Khasi communities agreed upon having two capitals for the state. According to this agreement, Tura was envisioned as the Winter Capital from October to March, while Shillong would serve as the Summer Capital from April to September. In the memorandum submitted, it was emphasized that this agreement has not been upheld, and Tura has been unjustly denied its rightful status and neglected by successive governments. Such disregard for Tura and the Garo Hills region is seen as an injustice to the people residing there.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
100 – Under the ‘My Tree My Child’ scheme, Sikkim plans to plant 100 trees for each newborn child.