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Commentary on Indian Foreign Policy

Why are India’s Foreign Policy analysts producing raddi*. Do they realize that paper is produced after cutting down a lot of trees.

A un-appetizing masala-mix of bias, prejudice, ignorance. Maybe, even a sense of inferiority. |   Cartoon by Sandeep Adharyu; on 19 December, 2010; source and courtesy - cartoonistsandeep.com.  |  Click for larger image.

A un-appetizing masala-mix of bias, prejudice, ignorance. Maybe, even a sense of inferiority. | Cartoon by Sandeep Adharyu; on 19 December, 2010; source and courtesy - cartoonistsandeep.com. | Click for larger image.

Indian Foreign Office is remarkably risk-averse and conservative. With honourable exceptions, it spends much of its time thinking up reasons and excuses to not take a particular step, not change direction, not go down a path that seems obvious to everybody else but the ministry of external affairs (MEA). (via Pacific partners | The Asian Age).

Is a 2ndlook needed

Malik-bhai, even a cursory examination of India’s Foreign policy establishment will show that your statement is based on ignorance – if not on prejudice and bias.

The thinnest diplomatic corps

For one, you should know, being a foreign policy maven, that the IFS is the thinnest diplomatic corps for any G20 country. Compared to less than 1,000 IFS diplomats that an ascendant India has, declining Britain has a diplomatic crops that numbers 15,000.

Secondly, if you do look at the three different foreign policy regimes (what 2ndlook calls FP-One, FP2 & FP-III to remember easily) that India’s external relations apparatus has made in the last 60 years, you will appreciate that it is second to none in the world.

One hand clapping

The one other thing, that you will appreciate is that relationships are based on reciprocity. The fact that India may find it advantageous, beneficial, useful, right, et al, does not mean that we will have a positive relationship with any other government. Equally, the other government must see some advantage and benefit.

At best India can take an initiative – but there must be response from the other side. If not equal or proportional, at least symbolic.

Part of the problem

Malik-bhai your carping about ‘lost opportunities’, especially with Western nations is part of the problem.

Not a solution – or even any direction.

*PS – raddi in Hindi means waste paper – usually sold away to recyclers on a per kg basis.

The table below presents a matrix to map outcomes, objectives, alliances and policies that Indian foreign policy has used in the last 60 years. As can be seen, Indian FP-One, FP2 and FP-III were rooted in the global realities of that time – and based on Indian needs and requirements of that time.

FP-One (1950-1970)

FP2 (1970-2000)

FP-III (2000-Now)

  • Nehru’s charisma
  • Indo-Soviet Alliance
  • Indian economic power
Key Achievements
  • Decolonization
  • Third World dialogue
  • India heard at world forums
  • Defence production gathers steam
  • Soviet technology used for oil exploration
  • 1971 Bangladesh War
  • FP not influenced by armament purchases
  • Armament vendors instead of alliances
  • Un-committed to any super-power
Key Failures
  • Defence unpreparedness
  • Relationship with neighbours deteriorate
  • Tibet lost to China
  • UN interventions
  • Foreign policy influenced by Soviet line
  • Economic interests neglected
  • Limited access to Western technology, economy, finance
  • China, Pakistan relations not stable
  • Over engagement with West
  • Global initiatives (like NAM) impaired.
Key Features
  • Indian interests secondary
  • Global situation in focus
  • No Super-power tilt
  • Indo-Soviet alliance stitched
  • NAM acquires traction
  • Indian interests acquire importance
  • Super-power interventions rejected.
  • Indian interests paramount
  • FP-III depends less on Super-power coat-tails
  • Issue based engagement with P5
Key Persona
  • JL Nehru
  • Indira Gandhi
  • AB Vajpayee in Janata Party govt (1977-1979).
  • Rajiv Gandhi
  • AB Vajpayee
  • Manmohan Singh
Key events
  • Nehru-Eisenhower dynamics
  • Hungarian Uprising
  • Suez Crisis
  • 1971 Bangladesh War
  • Pokhran Atomic blast
  • MNCs brought to heel; IBM, Coke thrown out
  • Indo-US Nuclear deal
  • India Vietnam alliance in South China Sea
  • G20 inclusion

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