Weak abroad

INDIA'S SOFT FOREIGN POLICY

History could not have offered a better opportunity to India. Pakistan, our adversary, has been caught red-handed providing safe haven to the world’s most wanted terrorist.

Osama bin Laden. Osama is dead, having lived for more than five years right opposite Pakistan’s Military Academy in a military town near Islamabad. Pakistan — whether it is its government or ISI or its military establishment — is caught, literally naked, in an act we Indians always knew it was capable of doing. We had always been grumbling that it harboured terrorists. Now, the US action has proved it.

But, what was our government’s reaction to this entire episode? It was as muted as it could ever have been. The nations of the world rejoiced that Osama was gone. They all said so without mincing any words. While, India’s foreign ministry came out with a guarded statement and a very placid response.

This is not the first time that India’s foreign policy has been spineless. For decades we have been basing our foreign policy supposedly on principles of equality, universal brotherhood (remember ‘Hindi Cheeni bhai bhai?’) and peaceful coexistence — all extremely noble principles but rarely followed within our own country. Food rots in our official granaries in millions of tonnes, but we do not give it to the poorest of our poor. We want to ‘price’ it and even the decision on such pricing is not taken for years on end.

Our forest-dwelling tribal folk are constantly being dispossessed of their home and livelihood in the name of some dam or power station or other project. Our governments like to give away good farmlands to one infrastructure project or other. The farmers are, consequently, driven out of their habitat for the sake of some project which we cannot be sure whether it sees the light of the day and, if it ever does, what it accomplishes in the end. Singur and Nandigram are repeated time and again.

Take for example, the present agitation by farmers in Uttar Pradesh. Whether at the centre or at the state level, our politicians do not really believe in all those nice principles we mouth at international forums. At home, weaker sections of our society are always treated shabbily. Weak abroad, atrocious at home. Why do our successive governments behave so?

The answer is: It is typically a weak man’s response. A weak man possessing unworthy habits is more likely to beat up his children and wife, and at the same time kow-tow before other people outside of his house. We do not have real leaders — neither in politics, nor in bureaucracy. The whole system of politics and its supporting bureaucracy is based largely on supplicant behaviour, sycophancy, nepotism and bribery of all kinds. Corruption has eaten into our very souls.

Muslim vote

In order to support their terrible inadequacies at home, our political bosses look for props from outside. We are worried as to whether expressing our solidarity with the West will affect our relations with the Islamic nations. Our politicians’ worry regarding Islamic nations is based mainly on their expediency of ensuring Muslim vote at home and not on any ideals or principles. Had it been so, it might have been worthy of admiration. By turning the heat on Pakistan at this juncture, would it hurt the Muslim sentiment and vote? That is the senseless worry. Thus, large national gains are sacrificed for narrow internal benefits.

Otherwise, this is the ideal time to turn the heat on Pakistan. Certainly not the physical adventure like that of Obama; but, a diplomatic offensive in various international forums.

We could align with Obama’s America and the western nations in general on several issues that are common between them and us. We could sell our story-line to the entire world. There is no better time for it than the present. If we lose this opportunity, it will rarely ever present in the future. We can take an international leadership position in combating and preventing terror.

We could start many initiatives at the United Nations to find a lasting solution to the problem of terror that we face as much as the western nations, if not more. Even the unresolved Kashmir problem can be settled once and for all with diplomatic actions. With its complicity in international terror networks being clear to the world, Pakistan is now on a very weak foot. Even its allies like China will be wary of it for a while.

Many lasting international political deals that will ensure peace and safety to our citizens can be struck at this juncture. But, where are these initiatives from our government? The Union government seems paralysed by the corruption scandals and worries regarding its prospects in the state level elections and the next general election.

Opportunities to substantially enhance our presence in Afghanistan in contributing to its stability, peace and economic growth are immense, provided we want to take them. Likewise, there would be myriad opportunities in several other Asian, particularly South Asian countries, West Asia and the Arab world. India has always hankered after the UN Security Council seat. Actually, much bigger opportunities are knocking on its door now.

What a permanent seat at the UNSC could possibly do for India, can now be done through active and wise diplomacy.

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