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India and its foreign policy
Publication Date : 07-03-2013
(In this first of a three-part extract from former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey’s latest book, "India’s Foreign Policy--Coping with the Changing World", the ex-diplomat writes how our foreign policy remains constrained by domestic factors in spite of the high profile it has recently acquired.)
India’s rising stature in the global community has also been partly due to the emergence of India as a de facto nuclear weapon power after its testing of nuclear weapons in 1998.
It is debatable if this alone would have sufficed to enhance India’s international standing. It may even be argued that in a stagnant and adverse economic situation, India’s going public on the possession of nuclear weapons could have landed it in greater trouble and increased its vulnerability to pressure for applying standstill on and to roll back the production of nuclear arms.
Thus, the newly acquired dynamism of the Indian economy ha played a decisive ole in enhancing India’s standing in the world, lending a much higher profile to its foreign policy, and in getting the major world powers reconciled to India’s status as a nuclear weapon state.
This high profile is reflected in the almost incessant visits of Heads of States and Governments of major powers to India for clinching big commercial deals and for entering into agreements for jointly meeting threats of a transnational character like terrorism, drug trafficking, natural disasters and HIV/AIDS. There is also a veritable scramble on their part to elevate their relations with India to a strategic level.
This change in the attitude of major powers is also reflected in the new salience acquired by Sino-Indian relations-in the dramatic expansion of Indo-Chinese trade in the last few years and the initiation of dialogue between the two countries on a variety of issues, particularly those figuring in multilateral economic negotiations.
Till a few years ago, China’s response to overtures by India to have a dialogue on the nuclear issue was one of total indifference, on the ground that India, being a non-nuclear weapon power, had no locus standi to have such a dialogue with China. But today, discussions on strategic issues have become an integral part of the Sino-Indian dialogue process.
In spite of the high profile it has acquired recently, India’s foreign policy remains constrained by such domestic factors as poor infrastructure, poor performance on the social front, particularly health and education, socio-economic inequality, social exclusion and marginalisation, regional disparity and the abysmally poor state of governance. There is a growing credibility gap between the masse and the elite who run the state.
India is still struggling to live up to the social contract embodied in its Constitution. It has not been able to cope effectively with ethnic aspirations and the primordial urge to preserve cultural identities. As a result, there is simmering discontent at various levels which often erupts into conflict and violence, and there is a near insurgency situation in the north-east and the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the government’s own admission, 125 out of a total of 640 Indian districts spread over 12 states are in the grip of Naxalite violence, and in a good number of these districts, the dictate of the state does not prevail. It is the dismal state of governance in the country, coupled with the denial of justice and unmet socio-economic needs and cultural aspirations, which is mainly responsible for the eruption of violence and terrorist attacks in different parts of the country.
Frequent attempts by India’s political class to divert attention from these factors, for which they are mainly responsible, by attributing these acts of violence and terror to the designs and actions of foreign intelligence agencies, have only served the purpose of exacerbating the prevailing tensions in India’s relations with its neighbours.