5 Dec 2008

India's foreign policy

From Non-alignment to Multi-alignment

It was India under Nehru, which along with erstwhile Yugoslavia, Indonesia, Egypt and Ghana gifted the world a bold doctrine to thaw the Cold War which was compartmentalizing the world into two parts freezing the mutual interaction between them. Did India actually follow this doctrine religiously or eventually wavered towards the left is an issue for genuine debate. However, what I am talking about here is the shunning of this doctrine by the Indian State half a century hence and the adoption of a more pragmatic outlook towards ongoing international developments in the form of what I am calling here multi-alignment.
Visits of the U.S. Secretary of State and the Russian President with just a day between the two are in itself a sign of this major policy change. While the U.S. diplomat was here on an emergency meeting to show solidarity and promise cooperation to India which suffered an unprecedented terrorist attack, the Russian President has landed on a pre-planned visit which will see the signing of the nuclear cooperation pact between the two nations today.
Day before yesterday, seeing the way Condoleezza Rice asserted India's right to act in any way to safeguard its sovereignty, my father was surprised at this unprecedented support of the U.S. which until now had been warning India against flirting with an idea of war in the subcontinent. He asked me if all this bonhomie between the two nations will affect India's relation with Russia, the age old partner of India. A valid question indeed. But the answer is a simple 'no'.
The way things are turning out; I believe India will have a major role to play in preventing any tensions from developing between the two powers. During the days of Cold War, India took the step of non-alignment. At that time such a step might have been important for a young democracy but in present scenario India can not close its eyes from the international developments which are seeing another spell of Cold War emerging.
If India wants to assert its place in the comity of nations that drive the economy and politics of the world, be it through U.N. Security Council or G8 or other forums, it has to come forward and take the initiative and sides as well. Taking sides mean, not allowing any other nation to dictate us our foreign policy and the relations with other nations, and siding with those who are playing the right game. There should not be an India, preaching the doctrine of Non-alignment to the world and at the same time signing a 'Friendship Pact' with the leader of one of the blocs as in 1971. Similarly, there should not be an India which is cooperating in the nuclear field with the only superpower but stalling the progress of a highly beneficial gas pipeline with the superpower's adversary, as has been happening since the last couple of years. Everyone has to make compromises in the light of realpolitik but as far as possible India should play a fair game. It's because of this fairness on the part of India that today, world had to acknowledge our special place in nuclear arena while our adversary across the border could just cry fowl.
Non-alignment, no doubt was a balancing doctrine but so is Multi-alignment. The bonus is, the latter is also pragmatic as mentioned already. As far as the new Cold War is concerned, the resurgent Russia under Putin has been asserting its clout of late. If U.S. is trying to contain this large nation by supporting the 'colored revolution' governments around its western borders, Russia has also perched out to join hands with those to the south of U.S. In such a situation where the world is again polarizing, the bigger players are staying away. So we have E.U.(specifically its major members like France and Germany) and China not committing themselves to any one of them but at the same time cooperating with both. This is the stand which India has also taken. In this era of globalization, cooperation between the nations is a must. Through Non-alignment, such cooperation becomes difficult. Political and economic realities force even these competing blocs to cooperate with the same set of nations. Hence the polarization is averted. With the new found friendship with U.S. and the existing friendly ties with Russia, India has a great role to play in the international arena. Let's hope our domestic troubles don't hinder us from taking this initiative.

Images Courtesy
http://im.rediff.com and http://www.japanfocus.org (edited)


Sourav Sengupta said...

Hello Vipul.

Insightful post. NAM was a good idea when it was mooted by Nehru, and as you said, non-alignment was the wise thing during the Cold War. But even conceding that multi-alignment is necessary and prudent in these globalising times, I think that India should take an aggresive stance against nations in its neighbourhood like Burma which are run by totalitarian regimes. India's passive attitude towards Burma irks me a lot. Being the largest democracy in the world, ensuring a free society in Burma should be top on our foreign policy agenda.

Vipul Grover said...

Hi Sourav, its nice to see someone visiting and commenting on this post right now burried in the archives.

Definitely, on a personal front, even I'll like to see my nation uphold and fight for the cherished principle of democracy around the whole globe and not just the neighbourhood.

However, here realpolitik has to be considered too. India has had a troubled North East. Most of the guerilla terrorists had received training at the behest of China in bordering Myanmar.

Hence, to curb this menace, good relations with Myanmar are needed.

India can not afford alienating the Myanmar Junta in this scenario. Moreover, Mynamar is also acting as a bulwark against China. China has been trying to assert its supremacy in this region and India can not afford more foes in its periphery.

Therefore, India has been competing with China in attaining infrastructural and Energy projects in Myanmar. This is part of our diplomcy.

Maybe, when time is ripe, India might push for diplomatic reforms in Myanmar.

What happened due to India's support to Tibet is evident. Hence, we need to be more practical.