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{Op-Ed}States in Indian diplomacy: when Sharjah ruler visited Kerala

What this op-Ed is all about:

States role in competitive federalism in the light of recent Sharjah rulers visit to kerala & its associated benefits to india & especially kerala.

Kerala-sharjah deals

Key aspects of Kerala visit:

  • Kerala government honored sutan with a D.Litt from the Calicut University.
  • The ruler had agreed to release 149 Indian prisoners from Sharjah jails.
  • Instead of returning them back, sharjah offers job to continue work there itself.
  • Kerala government handed over some ancient documents about kerala & suthan proclaimed that its his duty to preserve these precious documents.
  • This 5 day visit makes kerala as an example for Narendra Modi’s concept of competitive federalism.

According to our PM- “Team India shall not be limited to the Prime Minister-led team in Delhi, but will also include Chief Ministers and other functionaries as equal partners.”

Author says that Centre always respect states initiatives. The example quoted is about andra pradesh.

  • In his earlier stint as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu negotiated with foreign governments to make Hyderabad an IT capital, prompting even presidents and prime ministers to visit the city on state visits. Given his personal reputation, the Government of India invited Mr. Naidu to lead an Indian delegation on IT.

Author says that ,Centre had established the basic mechanism for the States to play an important role in not only implementing foreign policy, but also in formulating it.

Back to history:

  • Earlier there was a period when Pandit Nehru wrote letters to the Chief Ministers, explaining certain aspects of foreign policy, but did not solicit their views, though they could ask questions or make suggestions.
  • But those were the days when he could do no wrong as he was considered infallible and unflappable. But as regional parties began to exert influence at the national level, States began to dictate terms even in foreign policy.
  • The States exercised veto on crucial issues, making it difficult for the Prime Minister to have his way in formulating policy.

Remodelling the MEA

Some examples of states interference:

West Bengal: The Chief Minister of West Bengal stopped then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from signing an agreement on sharing of Teesta waters with Bangladesh after the agreement was negotiated.

Tamil Nadu: Political parties in Tamil Nadu not only insisted that India should support the U.S. resolution against Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council, but also stopped the Prime Minister from attending a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on the ground that Sri Lanka was not safeguarding the interests of the Tamil minority.

Kerala: Insisted that the Italian marines who killed two fishermen should be tried in India and punished here, causing a rift in India’s relations with the European Union.

Authors conclusion:

  • The promise made in the BJP manifesto that States would be involved more in foreign affairs has not been kept as yet as the moves made so far are tentative and half-hearted.
  • A major change in mindset is necessary to accomplish it.
  • The States must also develop expertise on foreign affairs to be able to take responsible decisions in their interaction with foreign lands.

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