After the high profile summit with US President Barak Obama, has Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed India firmly in the US camp, much to the chagrin of the old foreign policy establishment in Delhi that reveled in the business of non-policy making under cover of non-alignment.At the outset, our so-called non-alignment was not really so, as we were clearly in the Soviet camp for reasons not entirely of our own making. Pandit Nehru was ideologically sympathetic to the Soviet Union while his daughter went a step further and cemented the relationship with Moscow with the Indo-Soviet treaty in 1971 prior to the launching of war to liberate East Pakistan. The fact that Nixon-Kissinger led America at that time was openly ’tilting’ in favour of Gen. Yahya Khan and towards Mao’s Communist China instead of a ‘socialist democracy’ in India was one of the contributing reasons for our alignment with the USSR. In fact, before signing the Indo-Soviet Treaty, Indira Gandhi went to London and Washington to seek their support to end the massacre in East Pakistan, but returned empty handed.
Though the Cold War formally ended in the winter of 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, we clung on to its attendant but no longer relevant policy of Non-alignment for well over a decade, though the countervailing force to the US had ceased to exist. Then declaring our antipathy to a unipolar world with one single hegemon, we went around building multi-polar alliances such as RIC, BRIC and are seeking membership of the SCO. The architecture of these multi-polar alliances has been inherently weak as it lacked an underlying commonality of interest or shared values and a single unifying enemy. They remain trading blocs with hardly any political commons.
Prime Minister Modi, within 8 months of coming to power, has gone about strengthening India’s relations with Japan, Australia and the US, in what seems to be a well laid out plan with a clear agenda.However, one must grant that the initial steps in this direction were taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who after signing the India-US nuclear deal in 2005, however, went into policy paralysis, bullied by the Left wing coalition partners.
The BJP, traditionally known to be close to the US and Israel, came to power with an immense advantage that was denied to PM Manmohan Singh; a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. With that, PM Modi has been quick to take off in shaping a foreign policy that has been the dream of the Right wing. As it is, the BJP ideologues have always faulted Pandit Nehru for his idealistic ‘anti-power’ political philosophy which coined such agnostic policy as Non-alignment and his socialistic predilections that only led to the creation of a License Raj and distributed poverty all round.
Modi understands the importance of wealth and might — the two forces that actually rule the world. At home, the captains of industry are close to him. Outside, his best friend appears to be the US. He clearly does not mind being aligned with the rich and powerful. Well, you may fault him for that, but you cannot say he does not know his mind. He has a plan and is working towards that. If he can use both these forces to achieve an economically and militarily powerful India, there should be no complaints. However, the problem with the Americans is once you are with the Americans, you cannot be with anyone else. President George Bush made it clear in September 2001, ‘you are either with us or against us’. If you are their friend, you are with them on all their campaigns, right or wrong. And their campaigns can be so dreadfully wrong; ask Obama on the Iraq war led by George Bush Jr.
President Obama himself is not very different from his predecessors on certain points. It is the White-House mindset. It was clear while he answered a question from an American journalist in Delhi, on January 25, when he launched a tirade against Russia on its alleged atrocities in Ukraine. He said quite emphatically that the ‘core principle here is that a big power cannot attack a smaller country’. He forgot that American history is replete with such attacks against smaller countries, right from Vietnam to Iraq. Obama’s take on Moscow in New Delhi seemed to have a specific agenda. He appreared to be sending a clear signal to both Putin and Modi, within a month after Moscow and Delhi had signed the Druzhba-Dosti accord. He was telling Modi to make up his mind who his best friend should be. And look at the paragraph on Iran’s nuclear programme in an Indo-US joint statement. When was the last time Delhi commented on something like that? The era of non-policy formulations is truly over for the MEA. They will have to take a stand on everything that matters — to the world, or at least Washington.
(The writer is a Visiting Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)
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