Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Indian Foreign Policy: A Look!

by Jagdish Keshav

It was in 1961 that Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru stood on the podium with other stalwarts and statesmen of the world and proudly proclaimed the launch of the Non-Aligned Movement that heralded India's official entrance to the world of international politics. This platform gave India an image of a player on the world's stage.

This platform gave India an image of a player on the world's stage. An image that was quite well maintained for sometime by the Nehruvian policies of successive governments at New Delhi and duly respected for what it stood for.

India from 1947 was seen as more closely associated with the USSR than the other superpower, the US. Nehru, a clever statesman, knew what would be store for the nation he represented.

He foresaw the advantages of being closely associated with this Socialist nation for at heart, he too was one. Heavy industries, dams, IIT, large collaborations in the defence sectors were on the anvil and became a reality over the decades. From 1947 onwards for a few decades, India saw industrialisation in big proportions, especially in the defence  and steel sectors.

This naturally propelled India's other policy, foreign, in the direction of the same as the nation that helped lay some solid foundations just after independence, the USSR. India unofficially aligned itself towards many developing and under developed nations, of the so-called 3rd world.

Friendships blossomed, support for their causes, Palestine was one and others in Africa such as support against the apartheid regimes in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the  freedom struggle in Angola amongst others. India then was looked upon as a nation with progressive foreign policies, going against the wishes of certain ex and neo-colonial powers who directly and indirectly supported these brutal regimes in south of Africa.

Ronald Reagan pledged for 'positive' (no idea what it stood for) engagement with the apartheid regime of South Africa and Margaret Thatcher called the ANC and Nelson Mandela a band of terrorists!

And there India stood tall, throwing her support for the peoples of these countries in their struggle for justice, much to the dismay of these powers. India's image, too, shone among the people of who recognised the truth behind this game of politics that those were the proactive days for India, proactive started from the Nehru days and carried on by his successors for quite many years.  Yes, from then for a long period, Congress party ruled India and the basic policies remained the same.

Later on, others took power in New Delhi, but could not shake the roots of the policies, even if they wanted to. Alignment stayed on course and remained same, though it was deemed as non-aligned, policies that were aligned to right causes and support of progressive movements that encompassed the world.  There was a period when BJP led a mix of political entities called JDU that took power in Delhi. Many thought and even predicted that the foreign policies of India would take a drastic change.

A change or orientation to the right of centre in politics was anticipated, and that the support to progressive movements, a move away from relations with many nations that supported the same or were struggling on their own, with these movements were expected. But that did not happen.

What Nehru began, his opposites on the other side of the spectrum continued with those policies, perhaps with a tinge of bitterness, for many in that ruling coalition would have opted for stronger relations with the US and other powers of the west, who always stood by these brutal reactionary powers for their own selfish reasons. We are not going to discuss why and the reasons behind these here.

After decades of a continuation of such policies, that witnessed the firming up of India's image that stated that yes, this country does have a say in the arena of world politics, a strange thing has happened here in the recent past.

All the above mentioned acts of support for the right causes, support for the right movements, support for justice for the oppressed, suppressed peoples of various lands have all but vanished from the books of the government at the centre. But a new chapter has begun. A chapter I would not hesitate to call shameful for a nation that for decades carried on with progressive, proactive policies that benefited a lot, a lot of them who were seeking just that, justice for themselves.

Now, very ironically, on the same platform, the same party that began all these as set policies, is hell bent on doing something else, undoing what was earlier done. It is dismantling the progressive acts, bending to the wishes of mighty corporations, domestic or foreign, going against the interests of the nation and its mass of people. Yes, it is the same Congress Party under the (mis)leadership of MMS and his coterie of ministers.

Not surprisingly almost everyone, at least most, have some background from the west. He himself an ex-World Bank fellow and the list is quite long.

What the UPA under the leadership of Congress this time, have done is by its attempts, successful mostly, of dismantling the decades old progressive foreign policies of a nation to please a few governments who still are continuing with their age old colonial attitudes of domination in the garb of promoting democracy elsewhere.

Here at this point, unlike its predecessors, the present government is unabashedly throwing its weight around new 'friends' or corporate partners. Gone is the support to progressive movements around the globe, gone is the support for oppressed peoples and their quest for justice.

Instead, what I would call it is quite a dangerous act of neglecting India's national interests. It is quite openly siding with a power, a lone superpower at that, by supporting its agenda of geopolitics in the region.

It has never happened before in India's history, but thanks to this coterie at the centre, India is playing a subservient part by bowing to the demands of a distant power. India's foreign policy, therefore has seen its demise.

Yes, a country that stood tall during the days of Nehru, Indira Gandhi or many of their successors, has lost its place on the world's stage, no longer a voice that can be heard on the premises of United Nations or elsewhere. Not even a whimper is heard these days from India about the happenings in the Middle East or North Africa.

In the past, a statement would have mattered coming from the corridors of New Delhi, but not anymore. For there is not even a whisper, but a nod in agreement to the wishes of the US and its national interests, that span wide across the globe. All the atrocities that happened in Iraq, Libya or what is happening in Syria have not seen any reaction at all from this coterie at Delhi. In the past, we would certainly have heard loud voices and echoes everywhere, of India's concern about these  kinds of violations of human rights and the barbarism involved during subjugation of sovereign nations by the brute strength of these imperial powers.  Now all we see is total silence, toeing the policies of these same imperial powers, rather shamefully.

So it is rather obvious that India has completely lost the place that was always there on the stage of the world's arena of politics.

Unfortunate though, along with that has gone the respect it once commanded, for it had a voice in the affairs of the world we live in. It is dead now. All thanks to this coterie that has taken power. Everything that India stood for in its beliefs of justice amongst the needy has been uprooted.

Being non-aligned or not, India had a deserved place amongst a few at the centre stage of world politics and decisions that followed. Now India is a follower of certain vested powers, no more a leader.

So will this change if India is given the coveted permanent seat at the Security Council at the United Nations? No, not at all until drastic changes take place at the power corridors in Delhi. Another overhaul is required it seems at New Delhi to replenish the image of India, of what it was in the past!

SOLUTION: India's leadership in the future, whichever party takes over, or even if the same Congress Party continues, will have to reassess its value system when it comes to its foreign policies. It must strive hard to come out of the clutches of the sole superpower for it is not going to solve its problems in the long run, nor will it help India to have a word of its own when it comes its own neighbourhood or a distant one. Change of mind, attitude and personnel will become imperative to achieve that.

Prepared for publication by:

Lisa Karpova