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A series of unfortunate missteps

K.T. Jaleel, who represented Kerala at the conclave, complained that he was not allowed to raise the issue there. The bitterness over the flood money still persists. Competitive federalism, in the context of interaction with foreign countries, promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has proved to be a double-edged sword. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan now stands accused of violating rules regarding the seeking of foreign assistance. He remains unclear on how to make up for the shortfall, of several crores. The Central government is unable to provide the funds while Kerala has been stopped in its tracks from seeking resources from abroad, either from the Kerala diaspora or from friendly foreign governments. The present situation is a result of a series of errors of judgment and misunderstandings on both sides. Mutual political suspicion and a lack of appreciation of the complexities of the international situation have brought about a confrontation. The Chief Minister may have even made diplomatic and tactical misjudgments. Diplomatic trajectory India had no qualms about receiving foreign assistance for disaster management till 2004. But when India’s aspiration for permanent membership of the UN Security Council met with strong resistance, New Delhi hit upon the idea of forcing a vote in the General Assembly. The game plan was to secure a two-thirds majority and then attempt to embarrass the permanent members into supporting the expansion of the Security Council. The two false presumptions were that India would win the required number of votes and that the Security Council would wilt under pressure from the General Assembly. In fact, many Assembly members were opposed to the veto even for the existing permanent members and had no interest in creating more permanent members with veto. India thought that it could win over the other countries if it was seen to be helping them in emergencies rather than seeking such assistance for itself. The tsunami of 2004 and the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean provided India an opportunity to test its new posture. Everybody was grateful, but it made no difference to India’s claim to permanent membership. There were other factors too which militated against India’s claim. The Modi government decided, however, to lay down the rules regarding foreign assistance in order to bring some clarity to the situation. The rules, which were framed in 2016, clarified that India would not solicit any assistance but would receive relief assistance, even as cash, from individuals, charitable institutions and foundations. If cash were to be offered bilaterally by foreign governments, the matter would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Even before the extent of the damage was fully known, I had urged the Central government in early August 2018 to make a suitable amendment to the rule as the damage in Kerala was beyond the capacity to handle it. Needless to say, nobody responded at that stage.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-series-of-unfortunate-missteps/article26189054.ece

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