Rekindling India’s foreign policy

–‘Work more on reassuring neighbors to rub out perception of India’s high handedness in region’

— ‘Manage relationships within South Asia first to be a great power’

— ‘Non Alignment should extend to the policy of skillfully managing complicated coalitions, not only the independent role’

NEW DELHI, MARCH 1,2012

The strategic autonomy which is more understood in terms of Non Alignment has been the crux of India’s foreign policy since its inception as an independent republic 62 years ago. But however with rapidly changing global context, Indian foreign policy experts now have strongly felt that Non Alignment should no longer be ‘limited to avoiding becoming a frontline state in a conflict between two powers’. Rather it will require a very skilful management of complicated coalitions and opportunities while making sure that ‘India retains a maximum strategic autonomy to pursue its own developmental goals and work to build national power as the foundation for creating a more just and equitable global order’.

This urgency has been reflected in a recent report ‘Non alignment 2.0 : A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the Twenty First Century’ prepared by a group of independent analysts and policy makers—Sunil Khilnani, Rajiv Kumar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Prakash Menon, Nandan Nilekani, Srinath Raghavan, Shyam Saran and Siddharth Varadarajan after deliberations for over a year.

Though these deliberations even saw the presence of National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon, Deputy NSAs  Alok Prasad and Latha Reddy at some meetings, it is still unclear how much the views of these hugely influential experts would be able to find space in India’s foreign policy in upcoming years.

The 70-page report, which mentions South Asia as the most vital factor in Asian theatre for Indian foreign policy, has talked in galore about the policies India should adopt to build confidence in this ‘complicated’ region.

“….. the history of inter-state relations in South Asia is such that India’s neighbors fear it or chafe at its perceived condescension, ” observes the report while suggesting New Delhi  to constantly go the extra mile to reassure its neighbors, particularly the smaller ones. On the backdrop of such mistrust, India should be prepared for many more unilateral concessions on trade, investment and aid rather than insisting on reciprocity or short-term equivalence, reads the report.

The experts have also warned that India may have to live with—and address the fact—that politicians of the neighboring countries will bait New Delhi as India is a factor in the domestic politics of most of its neighbors.

“But we need a strategic culture and public discourse that is willing keep its eye on the long term and not get distracted by the ‘noise’ generated by our democracies,”  the experts have suggested.

The experts have concluded that until and unless India manages relationships within South Asia, India cannot hope to arrive as a great power.

The experts have also felt the need of a strategy to counter expanding influence of other great powers particularly China in South Asia.

“First, we must have a much clearer assessment of which forms of Chinese engagement in the region present a threat, and which actually present an opportunity.  Second, we must recognize that strategic advantage is a consequence of what we do, not what we say, “reads the report.

“The only way to counter Chinese economic engagement is to have a credible engagement plan of our own. But most importantly India has lagged behind because of its inability to follow through—whether on aid, or border infrastructure—on its promises, “the report observed.

Readjust the Tibet policy

The experts have suggested to reassess and readjust New Delhi’s Tibet policy. “Persuading China to seek reconciliation with the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan community may contribute to easing India-China tensions. The initial soundings must be discreet and exploratory and we must be mindful of the risk of hostile reaction, particularly from conservative sections of the People’s Liberation Army,” suggests the report.

This piece also appeared in March 2 issue of The Kathmandu Post and a Nepali translation in Kantipur.Here are the links :http://epaper.ekantipur.com/showtext.aspx?boxid=131338484&parentid=20544&issuedate=232012 and http://epaper.ekantipur.com/ktpost/showtext.aspx?boxid=1343750&parentid=16271&issuedate=232012

Also find the link to the report :1.http://www.cprindia.org/workingpapers/3844-nonalignment-20-foreign-and-strategic-policy-india-twenty-first-century 

2.http://www.cprindia.org/sites/default/files/NonAlignment%202.0_1.pdf

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