By Dr. D.K. Giri
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)
After the recent Chinese incursion into Indian territories, Indians and India-observers abroad expected New Delhi to radically redraw its foreign policy; to have a stronger, dependable and durable security arrangement in short term. In longer terms, New Delhi is expected go all guns blazing to join the rest of the world powers to liberate Tibet, the buffer built by British between China and India and other territories occupied or threatened by China.
Alas! The statement by Foreign Minister S Jaishankar disappoints. At the Mindmine Summit, he said, “Non-alignment is an old concept, but India is not and will not be a part of any alliance system.” He added, “It will be opening up spaces for middle powers like Japan, European Union and others”.
As he elaborated the strategy, the contradictions became too apparent. The argument has been that India could not afford an ‘absolute security’ system, defending its territory by herself. With an economically more powerful and predatory neighbour like China, India could not spend heavily on defence procurement to match China military, and to demonstrate power-parity. New Delhi is doing exactly that, buying weapons left, right and centre– from Russia, America and France to augment its defence.
Second, the old non-alignment concept, which Modi government seems to continue with, while the Prime Minister has been building personal contacts with leaders like, Netanyahu, Trump and Shinzo Abe. A nation’s interests are promoted by structures of relationship, not by personal charm, although the latter may aid the process.
Even the non-alignment policy did not stand the test of time as we had to sign a treaty of friendship and security with former Soviet Union in the wake of our conflict with Pakistan, in Bangladesh liberation. In fact, it was one-sided, as Pakistan surrendered without a fight. But the threat of United States to intervene on behalf of Pakistan threw non-alignment out of the window and pushed us straight into the Soviet camp, the other super power at that time.
Now, as we have been quietly invaded by China, we are still groping. In fact, on China, the present government has erred like Nehru did although the BJP leadership is quite abhorrent of him. It has also been the victim of same old non-aligned policy in trying to deal directly with China and not succeeding.
The contradictions I referred to earlier on in the exposition of the Foreign Minister are simply that he demolishes his own argument which is why India should not be a part of an alliance. On the contrary, India should be part of an alliance system, as India is a developing country, it is vulnerable security-wise, and too weak economically to develop an independent security system against China.
The Foreign Minister cites the factors that affect India’s foreign policy. He said “we did not industrialise enough, did not push our manufacturing, opened up a full decade and half later than China. These are same reasons why India’s economy is five times smaller than that of China.
The Foreign Minister also said, India’s foreign policy carries three burdens of the past– the partition, delayed economic reforms, and prolonged exercise of nuclear options. Well, the partition became inevitable but it was incomplete. The Kashmir issue, he is alluding to would not have been a determinant of our foreign policy if we had the whole of Kashmir with India. Second, on economic reforms, we were too influenced by Soviets to see any other model. Nehru and Indira were both anti-west in their approach.
But the present government is no different. The first country our Defence Minister Rajnath Singh rushed to was Russia after the Chinese encroached into our land. On nuclear option, yes, that too was delayed by Nehru. But it has no more relevance in security strategy, only for peaceful use. Nuclear weapon is not good even as a deterrent, because it cannot simply be deployed.
All in all, we were expecting a robust, radical and fresh foreign policy formulation, not an old, neutral, non committal, non-aligned, non-engaging one. In fact, the action on the ground gives more encouragement and hope than the statements. The joint military exercise in the oceans, space and on the ground point to an ‘India Engaged’ scenario. It may be a good strategy to emphasise upon action than words, as Indians are known for words, but no action. If that culture is changing, that is heartening. But statements of Foreign and Defence Ministers are important as they are perceived as policies by friends and adversaries.
To amplify our disappointment, with the exception of India, all other middle powers are a part of the alliance system, namely in alliance with the US. Their security is guaranteed by it. The European countries are part of the NATO security system, where as others including Japan, Canada, and Australia have bilateral security arrangements with USA. Hence, their security concerns are relative, if they had no alliance of any kind; they would have to allocate massive resources for defence preparedness. The Alliance provides them with an immense advantage of saving their resources.
India is not only without any alliance system; it is not the nucleus of a sub-regional security, or any other sub-system. It was her non-aligned policy that imposed a heavy burden on resources for creating an absolute security on her own. The Foreign Minister continues to evoke the same strategy by claiming that India will not be a part of any alliance.
The consequence of such a policy is that India remains vulnerable even if it may have the fourth largest army in the world. Besides, the needs of her absolute security as a non-aligned power stretch her resources beyond the dire needs of development.
In terms of international trade and other economic activities, the middle powers compete with even super powers. They have developed enough economic and technical excellence to compete in world markets. But not India. Some middle powers have advantage in some sectors over one or both super powers. India is nowhere there.
The third role a middle power can play is that of mediation, or influencing the decisions at the international level. But India, due to her vulnerability on security and economy, fails to play that role. New Delhi clings to a rapprochement between USA and China, like it did in the past, to a detente between USA and Soviet Union.
That is why New Delhi sought to do business with USA as well as China. Foreign-policy makers in India must realise that their present preoccupation with pervasive bilateralism will be of limited value. This has landed India in a no-man’s land in international arena.
Modi’s foreign policy suffers from the hangover of the past, burdened with abstract dogmas and moral imperatives. In a recent television debate when I called for the break-up of the ‘Chinese Empire’, the BJP spokesperson innocently protested, “We are not for vivisection of any country’ Bangladesh happened by chance”. She failed to differentiate between ‘China as a country’ and “China, the Empire’, which has forcibly occupied Tibet, Xinxiang, ‘part of Mongolia,’ and threatening the liberty and autonomy in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The tone of the Foreign Minister was reminiscent past, not much has changed. New Delhi can no longer have a foreign policy of platitudes. It has to protect and promote her national interests. — INFA