|Modi at Vibrant Gujarat summit, 2017|
Experts attached with Reliance Industries Ltd's (RIL's) thinktank have strongly advocated “federalization of foreign policy” for India, insisting, globalization has “eroded traditional boundaries”, and “the Central government by itself is not well-equipped to meet the challenges posed by new political, economic and social forces.”
Part of a project on paradiplomacy under Prof Harsh V Pant, who is distinguished fellow and head of Observer Research Foundation's (ORF’s) Strategic Studies programme, and is non-resident fellow with the Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC , the thinktank argues in favour of “subnational involvement in international affairs”.
In a two part commentary, jointly authored with ORF research assistant Falguni Tewari, Prof Pant says that “states are often better equipped than the Central government to undertake diplomatic measures in areas of trade, commerce, foreign direct investment, education, cultural exchanges and also outsourcing of business.”
The commentary says, “West Bengal can have more successful paradiplomatic relations with Bangladesh and Bhutan than a Ministry of Externa Affairs (MEA) official stationed at the country’s capital”, adding, “Kerala has vested interests in engaging in diplomatic relations with the Gulf countries as a large number of the state’s residents find jobs in those countries.”
Emphasizing on the need to give a “local sentiments” an upper hand over regular diplomacy, the commentary cites Sri Lanka’s Tamil population having remaining sympathetic to the Tamil cause, adding, this makes it “almost compulsory” for any relations to be dependent on the Tamil Nadu government’s involvement.
Crediting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for bringing paradiplomacy – proposed first by John Kincaid, an American scholar, in 1990 – to the “centre-stage of Indian policy-making”, the commentary says, things began in 2003 when he began hosting the Global Investor’s Summit, held biennially in Gujarat.
“The Vibrant Gujarat earned Gujarat not just enthused participation and acknowledgement from foreign dignitaries but also opened the floor for prospective investors to explore opportunities to indulge in business activities”, the commentary underlines, adding, “Gujarat, through its subnational engagements has increasingly attracted not just economic investments but is also now paving the way for cooperation on sustainable development.”
The commentary points to how paradiplomacy helped make Macau “great economic strides” after it was allowed to adopt it by Beijing, even though Goa, which held a similar colonial past, failed miserably. Goa was under Portuguese rule for almost 450 years before it was liberated by India in 1961. Emerging from a similar Portuguese yoke after almost 450 years, Macau gained sovereignty only in 1999.
A joint-declaration between China and Portuguese allowed Macau to enjoy a “high degree of autonomy except in foreign and defence affairs”, the commentary says, pointing towards the fact that in 1999 Macau was a “small economy with no specific role either in the world economy or in the regional one”.
But Macau got the “master plan” to operate under the “one country and two systems” model, it has established itself as “the world’s leading gaming hub... even surpassing Las Vegas”, becoming “one of the most sought after tourist destinations.”
Thus, Macua earns earns approximately US $45 billion annually from gambling industry, as opposed to Goa’s US $1.32 billion, the commentary says, adding, “Macau now stands among the wealthiest regions of the world. Hosting 22 million tourists as opposed to the 4.5 million who visit Goa, Macau’s per capita GDP amounted to a hefty US $28,436 in 2006.”
The commentary adds, Macau has consular services with 78 nations, and has signied up 62 bilateral treaties, even as enjoying “independent status in 13 intergovernmental organizations”, including the World Trade Organization.