New Delhi, Feb 9 (ANI): India's foreign policy came in for sharp criticism from experts as well as political leaders during a round table discussion organised by the Observer Research Foundation on the "Unrest in West Asia".
Stressing the role of Iran in the region, the experts and leaders impressed on the need for India to repair its relations with Iran.
Discussing various aspects of the youth uprising against the 30-year- old rule of President Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt, Communist Party of India -Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India (CPI) General Secretary A. B. Bardhan wondered where India is heading to.
"I am still clear about Egypt. But not about India. How it (foreign policy) is going and where it is going? I am not only disappointed, but it is wrong also," Yechury told the roundtable organised by Observer Research Foundation.
Meanwhile, senior Communist Party leader D. Raja said because of the wrong policies, India is gradually losing the moral authority, which it enjoyed till the 70s.
"Earlier, the world used to look up to India. Now, who cares?" he asked, and added that even US President Barack Obama spoke against the dictatorship in Myanmar, but not India.
While most experts and Yechury suspected the spontaneity of the protest movement in Egypt, Bardhan said we should not underestimate the people's movement.
Bardhan warned the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government that the situation in India is not much different because of high corruption, rising prices and poor governance.
"Don't forget people. You are also sitting on volcano. Whatever sparked the protests in Egypt and other countries, it also exists in India. One day, people will come out to the streets," he said.
Former Foreign Secretary M. Rasgotra, who is presently President of ORF Centre for International Relations, chairing the discussion said he was disappointed with the 'wishy washy statement' issued by the Government.
Stressing the need for a contingency plan to deal with future situations, Rasgotra felt that the role of Egyptian Army was controlled or fashioned by the US Administration.
Former Ambassador to Turkey, Bhadra Kumar, who was also present on the occasion, said most importantly, India should work towards mending relations with Iran, which was degraded as India and the US began negotiations on the nuclear agreement.
"Iran's rise is unstoppable. Iran will be the only viable regional power in that part of the world," he said, and added that the Palestinian issue also no more be put on the back burner.
Asking the US to engage political Islam in interactions, Bhadra Kumar said India should try to get less identified with the US regional policies.
"An extra ordinarily brilliant intellectual like Obama is capable of understanding that American and Israeli interest do not converge in the (West Asia) region any more and the time has come for a rethink on the issue. However, it may be too much too expect this in the first term, but may be later," he said.
Describing the unrest as a local phenomenon, former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to Egypt Kanwal Sibal said Egypt, Turkey and Iran would emerge as the most influential countries in the region and India should balance its position and should not put weight on any single country.
Agreeing with Sibal, Swashpawan Singh, another Ambassador to Egypt, discounted the fears that the region would erupt into protests. He asked India not to advise Egypt.
"We should listen to them. Be courteous to them. We should be available when they want to speak," he said, reminding that Egypt is a very old civilization.
Prof. A.K. Pasha of Jawaharlal Nehru University and others said the high unemployment rate (more than 34 per cent) and the rising prices facilitated the uprising in Egypt.
He feared it may spread to other countries in the region - both oil-rich and poor.
Prof. Pasha said the unrest may also affect India's food security in the long term as India is depending on the region for more than 50 tonnes of fertilizers.
The speakers were of the view that India need not worry much about sky-rocketing oil prices as the whole world, including Russia and China, have stake in the region and may not allow things to go out of hand. he speakers also opined that there is not much to be worried about the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been working underground for many decades now.
They also noted that the protests are neither anti-American nor anti-Army. They only want Mubarak to go. (ANI)