|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Impact on India’s secular image and foreign policy. What India should do?
Conclusion. Way forward.
The Indian parliament has passed the Citizenship Amendment Act amid protests all across India. As per this Act, Indian citizenship will be accorded to religious minorities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who have fled their countries and landed in India without valid documents. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has evoked extreme reactions from the international community.
Impact on India’s secular image and foreign policy:
- Relation with Neighbour: The move to provide citizenship to only certain religious sect have weakened India’s image as a secular nation. The immediate difficulties are likely to be in India’s relations with Bangladesh and Afghanistan, both of which are named in the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Bangladesh’s Ministers for Home and Foreign affairs cancelled visits to India last week as protests of the legislation began in the Northeast.
- Stance on Kashmir: It has lowered the voices of support for Kashmir to India. CAA tainted India as a country moving towards Hindutva against principle of secularism. Saudi Arabia softened its stance towards Pakistan and called meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in April to discuss Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.
- US relations: The law has not gone down well with the USA as well. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has threatened the Indian government officials with sanctions if Muslims are not included among ‘persecuted’ minorities.
- Muslim countries ties: Middle East countries are important for Indian energy needs. The Act has drawn criticism from various Muslim countries as an anti-Muslim measure. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), meanwhile, declared that it was increasingly concerned by the CAA due to its apparent discrimination of Indian Muslims.
- Impact on various opportunities: The afore-mentioned instances of global acknowledgement of India’s domestic policy decisions would adversely affect key foreign policy issues and indeed foreign investments opportunities through programmes such as the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Recently, Japan PM Shinzo Abe’s visit to India, too, was delayed citing increasingly violent protests in Assam.
What should be done?
- Reach out: India should reach out to all the nations and allay any fears regarding citizenship amendment act. Government should take its friends into confidence and should remove doubts regarding CAA.
- Diplomatic efforts: Diplomatic efforts are needed at various international platforms to make sure that no country should perceive anything wrong about Indian intentions.
- Clarity about CAA: Government should clarify all the provisions regarding CAA and NRC so as to prevent misinformation and fake propaganda to be used against the country.
- Assurance: Government should assure its neighbours about the effective implementation and no discrimination against Muslims regarding CAA provisions.
India had been the beacon of liberal values in the subcontinent. But the continued lockdown in Kashmir and the CAA have cast a shadow on this image. It might not affect India’s global position, but diplomats across the world will have to find a way to battle the unease that many countries are feeling. India will have to do a lot of firefighting.