Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Coup that Changed the Diaspora Policy

The Coup that changed the Diaspora Policy

Rediff Column

As India gears up to honour its pravasis on January 9 to mark their contribution in the nation’s development, presents perspectives from eminent writers on the Diaspora.
Kicking off the series is Ambassador T P Sreenivasan, who points out that the change of the Diaspora policy put in place by Rajiv Gandhi following the military coup in Fiji and his decision to stand by them, was the one defining moment in India's dealings with its overseas family.
Also read: A look back in anxiety ' Friends of India
When the third ranking officer of the Royal Fiji Military Forces, Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, marched Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra and his ‘Indian dominated’ cabinet at gunpoint to waiting military trucks and drove off in the first coup in the South Pacific in May 1987, he was not aware that he would be the cause of a change in India’s Diaspora policy.

For the first time in history, India battled an action by a foreign government against the people of Indian origin by imposing sanctions against Fiji, by getting it expelled from the Commonwealth and by raising the issue at the United Nations.

In similar situations in the past elsewhere, India had merely welcomed the Indians who wanted to return to India and made some efforts to repatriate their assets, as in the cases of Yangon and Uganda.

It was evident that Rabuka’s coup was meant to disenfranchise Fiji citizens of Indian origin, but in accordance with the established policy of non-interference in internal affairs in such situations, I refrained, as the Indian high commissioner, from making any statements or visiting the detained cabinet.
During the three days that I had no communication link with New Delhi, I remained totally impartial and held some confidential discussions with the only constitutional authority, the Governor General.
To Rabuka, who was my golf partner earlier, I merely formally conveyed our concern for the lives and properties of the Indian community.

The instructions I received when the communications were restored were a surprise. I was told to support the Indian community against discrimination and the external affairs ministry issued an official statement to this effect. I was also summoned to Delhi for a briefing.

What I heard there from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Minister of State Natwar Singh reflected a change in the policy laid out by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in Parliament to the effect that Indian migrants should be loyal to their countries of adoption and that India would remain alive to their welfare and interests.

I was told that I should return to Fiji and work openly for the restoration of democracy.

Trade sanctions were announced, but the high commission was not withdrawn because it was decided that it was necessary to give moral support to the Fiji Indians.

The new policy, I was told, was that India would stand by their children abroad if there was any affront to their rights and dignity.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said that he had asked the Indian Diaspora to contribute resources and technology for India’s development and the response was heartening.

In that situation, he argued, it should be incumbent on him to support the Indian communities everywhere, if they had any grievances.

It was thus that the new Diaspora policy was born.

The new policy was much appreciated by Fiji Indians, though others raised eyebrows about external intervention.

After two years of uneasy relationship, I was asked to leave Fiji and the mission itself was closed.

But after three more coups and 27 years, democracy has been restored in Fiji and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a successful visit there.

Much credit is being given to India’s tough stand in 1987, and I received a warm welcome when I visited Fiji after 25 years.

Rajiv Gandhi’s new Diaspora policy, which paid off in Fiji, had its repercussions worldwide.

The overseas Indian affairs ministry, the Pravasi Divas, the Pravasi Samman, the Person of Indian Origin card, the Overseas Citizen of India card and many other gestures are taken for granted today, but these would not have been possible without the change of the Diaspora policy put in place by Rajiv Gandhi, following the military coup in Fiji and his decision to stand by them, abandoning inhibitions about intervention in the internal affairs of other countries.

It was a new doctrine like the Responsibility to Protect, which developed subsequently at the United Nations.

No doubt, the Government of India and the Diaspora have rediscovered each other after the new policy was put in place.

Any number of initiatives of the gove­rnment and the community can be cited to show how they have helped each other in different countries and situations.

They have learnt to complement each other as it has been realized that the standing of the community is an asset to the government in building relationships and that good relationship between the host country and India is in the interest of the community.
A remarkable fact is that the political parties are unanimous in the view that overseas Indians should be treated with consideration and respect and that no stone should be left unturned to meet their cultural and other aspirations.
In return, the universal expectation is that they will visit India, send remittances for their relatives and invest in small and big enterprises in India.

Even those communities, which are not in a position to do any of these, are also covered by the many measures that successive governments have taken for the welfare of the overseas Indians.

The Indians overseas belong to a broad and diverse spectrum, ranging from the unsung and unacknowledged poor rice farmers in Myanmar to the billionaire businessmen in the US, Europe and the Gulf.

As such, their capacity to contribute to India and their expectations of India are also diverse.

The workers in the Gulf, for example, have existential problems arising out of actions of unscrupulous agents and employers. The government has reached several bilateral agreements with the Gulf States to resolve these issues, bearing in mind that India has a major stake in their continuation in the Gulf.

The biggest remittances come from the workers in the Gulf and not from the professionals in the developed countries, who tend to keep their assets elsewhere.

In the US and Europe, including the UK, the Indian communities look up to India as a cultural and social anchor, more as a nostalgic homeland, rather than a place they like to return to permanently.

They would like India to acknowledge their success and involve them in India’s development. They have supported Indian policies and generated interest in India in their host countries.

The India Caucus in the US Congress and the Friends of India in the US Senate are outstanding examples of the contribution they have made to India-US relations.

The community played an exceptionally active role at the time of the US sanctions against India following the nuclear tests in 1998 and the long negotiations on the nuclear deal from 2005 to 2008.

But the support of the community is neither automatic nor continuous. They have been critical on occasions, particularly on consular services and the facilities they get in India with regard to travel, ownership of properties etc.

Their remittances and investments remain low and the contribution from the US was minimal even when the Resurgence of India Bond was issued in 1998. But, on the whole, they take their roles as unofficial ambassadors of India quite seriously and rise to the occasion when India needs them.

The Indian communities in Africa, the Caribbean and Fiji have only emotional and sentimental linkages with India. They make no demands on India, but they preserve their way of life, rituals and religions, as their ancestors knew them. They welcome Indian leaders, artists, film stars etc and bask in the glow of India’s clout in the world.

India’s policy towards overseas Ind­ians has benefitted India as well as its children abroad, but there is great potential for further growth in the relationship.

The wealth and technology that they wield are immense and they can be of use to India in crucial sectors, provided the community develops faith in the government and considers the growth of India inherently of benefit to them. The facilities and benefits that India extends to them can also be farther expanded.

The recent relaxation of visa restrictions has been welcomed. The demand for dual citizenship and right to vote in Indian elections raise constitutional and legal issues, but ways should be found to meet the aspirations of overseas Indians.

Overseas Indians constitute India’s ‘soft power’, which should be deployed in the country’s best interest.
T P Sreenivasan is a former Ambassador of India and governor for India at the IAEA; executive vice chairman, Kerala State Higher Education Council and director general of Kerala International Centre, Thiruvananthapuram.
T P Sreenivasan

POTUS at the Parade

POTUS at the Parade: A Game Changer

Rediff Column

By his very presence in Delhi on Republic Day, Obama is revisiting the most defining relationship of the 20th century after a period of stagnation,' says Ambassador T P Sreenivasan.
The tug of war between US and Indian security agencies over the visit of POTUS (President Of The United States in internal documents) reported in the media is true to form. The fierce battles on every detail will give the impression that the preparation is for war and not for peace, friendship and cooperation.
American protocol and security personnel will ride roughshod over their Indian counterparts. By the time the visit is declared a resounding success, marking another high point in India-US relations, many egos will clash, some heads will roll and many threats of the cancellation of the visit will be held out.
Success is inevitable in the end as POTUS's presence at the Republic Day Parade on Rajpath will signify a landmark in India-US relations.
Never has an American President shown up for the Republic Parade and nobody had even thought of inviting one of them, not even John F Kennedy or Bill Clinton.
Significantly, nobody has questioned the Narendra Modi initiative and Barack Obama's ready acceptance of it. No black flag demonstrations are expected. No 'Yankee go home' placards, even with the addition, 'Take me with you!' will appear in Delhi.
This is remarkable, considering that the one American President, who signed the nuclear deal, George W Bush, could not even address Parliament.
It looks as though there is a consensus today on the importance of seeing Barack Obama in Delhi, the first US President to visit India a second time in office. The deterioration of our relations with Pakistan and China is the catalyst for this consensus.
The brouhaha over Modi's Madison Square Garden and Central Park performance deflected attention from the very substantive agenda Obama and Modi set for themselves in their Joint Statement.
Never before has there been such a comprehensive wish list, with clear indications of the way to go. A mere action report on that agenda will be sufficient to make the visit a success. Even if a few of them are brought to fruition, what is essentially a ceremonial visit will turn out to be a sensational success.
Obama on Republic DayIn the old days, US Presidents came to India with gifts or promises of gifts. The last among them was George W Bush, who came to enjoy the glow of his nuclear gift.
The situation changed in 2010, when Obama came not with a bundle of gifts, but with rolls of wish lists. His own re-election appeared to hang on the jobs to be created out of expected fighter aircraft and nuclear reactor deals with India.
In fact, the disappointment over the non-consummation of these deals may have made Obama indifferent to India till he discovered the 'Man of Action' in Modi.
Obama's wish list this time has three main items -- a 10-year renewal of the defence agreement, dilution of the nuclear liability law and an agreement on climate change, which will bury the Kyoto Protocol. The litmus test of his success lies in achieving these three and there is expectation that at least a certain amount of progress is possible in each of them.
India's wishes are broader and less daunting -- trade, immigration and anti-terrorism, apart from political support on Afghanistan, Pakistan and China.
Here, the interests are mutual and have the possibility of gradual resolution. The balance sheet of the visit therefore must please both Obama and Modi.
Given Modi's twin objectives of foreign policy, namely, FDI and iron clad security, the US is a natural ally. He cannot get either of these in adequate measure from any other source. No wonder, then, that India and the US are burning the midnight oil to find satisfaction on the US wish list.
Getting a robust defence agreement on our terms with possibility of co-designing and co-production fits in well with the Make In India initiative. Defence imports in recent years have already reached $10 billion and it can multiply under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative, DTTI.
There is even talk of cancellation of the fighter aircraft deal with Rafale to bring back F-18 into consideration.
As for the nuclear liability law, Obama has no heart in nuclear trade with India, even though he is under pressure to pursue this issue. Left to him, Obama would be happier if he did not have to strengthen India's nuclear capability.
Moreover, dilution of the liability law may not remove the last obstacle in nuclear trade with India. American lawyers have been saying, however, that there is no legal issue without a legal solution to it.
A mix of relaxation of the law, together with a package of insurance policies is the way they are seeking to put together. But even if there is a delay in a solution beyond the visit, it will not detract from its success.
Obama will attach greater importance to an agreement on climate change than to nuclear liability. For him, it is a matter of great domestic importance. His historic achievement in Copenhagen of moving the world away from the Rio and Kyoto agreements was with the implicit support of India, though India has tried to renege on it in Bali and Peru.
To bring India around in Paris is a dire necessity for him. Like he did before Copenhagen, he has already struck a deal with China. With no hope of imposing mandatory cuts only on the developed countries, India is likely to cave in and accept voluntary cuts for all, particularly if there is adequate compensation by way of trade and technology transfer.
A substantial investment in environment friendly industries and adaptation measures will be irresistible.
Progress on more nebulous Indian wishes will not make or break the visit. Most of them can be covered by innovative formulations. On terrorism, the US and the UK have already won Indian approbation by demanding action against (26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rahman) Lakhvi.
A stern warning has been issued to Pakistan not to engage in terrorism during POTUS's visit. The trade figures are already hovering around $100 billion. Obama has taken bold initiatives on immigration, paving the way for similar initiatives to meet Indian expectations even in the face of opposition in the united States Congress.
On Afghanistan and Pakistan, finding acceptable formulations is not beyond the negotiating capabilities of Indian and American diplomats.
Modi has not shown great attachment to the US position on India's permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council or on the Indian entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenar Arrangement and the Australian Group. These will drag on as India's NPT status is a factor in them and the US cannot act decisively alone, even if it wishes to do so.
The chief guests do not come to the Republic Day parades with heavy agendas. The occasion is ceremonial in nature and reflective of the warmth in bilateral relations. The guests come to celebrate special relationships, not to engage in tough negotiations.
By his very presence in Delhi on Republic Day, Obama is revisiting the most defining relationship of the 20th century after a period of stagnation.
With the advent of Narendra Modi and his experiments with China and Pakistan, POTUS at the parade will mark a game changer for India and the US.
T P Sreenivasan is a former Ambassador of India and Governor for India at the IAEA; Executive Vice-Chairman, Kerala State Higher Education Council and Director General, Kerala International Centre.
You can read Ambassador Sreenivasan's earlier columns here.
T P Sreenivasan

Looking for a lady from Eastern Europe

Looking for a lady from Eastern Europe

T. P. Sreenivasan
Comment (6)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
TELLTALE SIGNS: “If a senior official of the Secretariat or a senior diplomat begins taking French lessons in New York, it is presumed that he or she aspires to be a candidate for the post of Secretary-General.” Picture shows Mr. Ban Ki-moon in New Delhi in January 2015. Photo: S. Subramanium
The Hindu
TELLTALE SIGNS: “If a senior official of the Secretariat or a senior diplomat begins taking French lessons in New York, it is presumed that he or she aspires to be a candidate for the post of Secretary-General.” Picture shows Mr. Ban Ki-moon in New Delhi in January 2015. Photo: S. Subramanium

Ban Ki-moon has nearly two more years to go, but the race for his successor as U.N. Secretary-General has already begun in world capitals as well as in New York

If you are a lady in your late fifties or early sixties, a national of one of the small states in Eastern Europe, with considerable experience of working in the U.N. system either as a diplomat or as a senior member of the Secretariat, with no strong views against the well known U.N. consensus positions on fundamental issues, and also speak French, you have a high level job waiting for you. Starting from January 2017, the job will be based out of an office on the 38th floor of the U.N. building in New York and a town house in Manhattan.
But the imponderables are many. The job description is extremely vague and cursory. So are the prescribed qualifications of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who has to be the Chief Executive, negotiator, mediator and the conscience of mankind. In fact, anyone who is acceptable to the majority of the members of the Security Council, including the permanent members, can be chosen in a private meeting. The person has to win two-thirds majority of the General Assembly later, but so far, no recommended candidate has failed to fulfil that requirement. But still, the next Secretary-General of the U.N. should have the attributes mentioned because of the history of the position, convention, practice and expectation.
Factors that matter

First and foremost, no woman has ever been elected Secretary-General so far and, in these days of gender balance and empowerment of women, the U.N. cannot overlook this fact. Equally sacrosanct is geographical rotation, which is at the centre of selection of personnel at all levels. Competence is often sacrificed at the altar of regional distribution. The fact that nearly half the staff of the U.N. are selected on the basis of geographical representation and not merit was acknowledged by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, when he said, “about fifty percent”, when he was asked as to how many people worked at the U.N. Among the five regional groups, one of which every member state belongs to, only the East European Group has not had a chance to provide the Secretary-General so far, while Asia (Myanmar and South Korea) West Europe (Norway, Sweden and Austria) and Africa (Egypt and Ghana) have provided more than one and Latin America (Peru) has provided one. The East European Group has undergone major changes after the end of the Cold War and it will be difficult to deny it the chance to nominate a Secretary-General this time.
That no woman has been elected U.N. Secretary General cannot be overlooked in these days of gender balance and women’s empowerment
The leading state in the East European Group, Russia, does not qualify as permanent members are excluded from consideration, as there will be too much concentration of power in a permanent member, if it also nominates the Secretary-General. This argument was used against India as India was a candidate for permanent membership. Even while opposing India’s permanent membership, the argument was used to deny support to an Indian candidate. But some of the former Republics of the Soviet Union like the Baltic States or some states, which were part of Yugoslavia may be able to offer candidates that fit the bill.
Age is no bar, but in the traditional world of diplomacy, in which age and experience are respected and the youth are seen as upstarts, persons with no more than 10 working years to go have an advantage. The experience can either be in the missions at the Ambassadorial level or in the Secretariat or both. Kofi Annan was the only Secretary-General who came from the Secretariat and some of his faults were attributed to his having been a part of the U.N. Secretariat for long. Foreign Ministers and above look attractive, but former Presidents or Prime Ministers have never made it. Overqualification is as deadly as under qualification.
Holding strong views on any subject is not an asset to the aspirants. Inane and colourless commitment to the consensus positions of the world body should help. The smaller the country, the more committed it will be to non-proliferation, human rights and the environment as it does not have to give up anything in espousing the consensus within the U.N. A representative of a country like India, which has its own angularities on these issues has little chance of leading the U.N., unless he disowns his national positions. No wonder, then, that the Indian candidate last time had never represented India at the U.N. Mr. Ghali was denied a second term basically because he brought his own perspectives to the job. Initially, it was thought that his Coptic Christianity and Jewish wife distanced him from the country of which he was Foreign Minister. In the case of Kofi Annan, his European wife may have been a helpful factor.
The permanent members

The permanent members have repeatedly made it clear that they will not accept any procedure to elect the Secretary-General that would detract from their own role in choosing the next Secretary-General. There have been suggestions that a search committee should be constituted with Kofi Annan at its head, with representatives of the permanent members as members. Nothing would be more objectionable to the permanent five. They demand absolute loyalty of the Secretary-General and will not be party to any arrangement which brings in other king makers. For this reason, the aspirants should be totally acceptable to all the five of them. It is the U.S. which identifies a potential candidate and sells him or her to the rest of the permanent members and then to the rest of the Security Council. The best chance is for someone who is willing to abide by the wishes of the permanent five without questioning as in the case of the previous incumbents except Dag Hammarskjöld and Boutros Ghali. The first was killed in a mysterious aircraft accident and Ghali was denied the customary second term. A “head waiter image” is the most suitable. Brilliant ideas or thinking out of the box are not assets for them. Like it happened in the case of Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, after several rounds of voting, an exhausted Security Council picked the one candidate who had nothing negative against him even if he had nothing positive either. Pérez de Cuéllar was fishing in Peru when he was elected unanimously.
With the sartorial elegance associated with diplomats, the aspirant has to be smartly turned out and well groomed. This is particularly important if a lady becomes the next U.N. Secretary-General.
The run-up

If a senior official of the Secretariat or a senior diplomat begins taking French lessons in New York, it is presumed that he or she aspires to be a candidate for the post of Secretary-General. France absolutely insists that it will veto any candidate who does not speak French. But mercifully, no desirable level has been clearly established and the French vote is often determined by other factors. Ban Ki-moon’s French is not particularly strong, but the French had other reasons to support him. But the French trump card is a nightmare for aspirants. If China and Russia too had imposed such conditions, the language courses at the U.N. would be heavily subscribed.
Ban Ki-moon has nearly two more years to go, but the race for his successor has already begun in the world capitals as well as in New York. Since there is no established procedure, whispers in the delegates’ lounge and conference corridors lead to speculation, emergence of candidates, controversies, convergence of opinions and even consensus. One agreement that has been reached so far is that the next Secretary-General shall be appointed as early as possible, preferably not later than one month before the term of the incumbent expires. The decision in November 2016 may be a surprise, but it will be no surprise if a lady from East Europe walks away with the post.
(T.P. Sreenivasan has represented India at the U.N. in New York, Nairobi and Vienna. He was also the head of the U.N. Division in the Ministry of External Affairs.)