The threat that India faces emanates from not just terror groups from a expansionist China and its time tested ally Pakistan both of which have always found a common ground to collaborate for countering India. Such issues can be taken care of with a combination of a strong National Defence Policy as well as a pragmatic Foreign Policy. India's failure is a failure of both in the last one decade.
Does India Really have a Foreign Policy Now?
In many a respect India has consistently failed over the last one decade to streamline its foreign policy with the changing realms of global politics and use its Diaspora, soft power and well as its cultural, linguistic, historical and religious linkages to further its economic influence to ensure energy security, economic security, national security and consolidate its standing in global affairs. OneIndia last month had a detailed article about India's failures in the realm of foreign policy and how it has hurt India badly.
It was expected that the BJP manifesto would steer a diagrammatically different approach towards how India's foreign policy should be set up than how UPA has run it. Basically, to put things in perspective, the UPA's foreign policy has been nothing but an extension of the Nehruvian legacy of foreign policy grandstanding in the international arena without ever trying to leverage that for anything substantive in material terms for the state.
If that is one peculiarity, the other unique peculiarity of the traditional Congress Foreign policy, the other invariably is that of sheer vacillation and inability to take a stand. The second peculiarity became more prominent the last 10 years with India having failed to take a strong stand on many an issue and more often than not, it was not national interest but a grand posturing decided the stand.
How BJP Plans to Make it Different
The BJP manifesto states, ‘The vision is to fundamentally reboot and reorient the foreign policy goals, content and process, in a manner that locates India's global strategic engagement in a new paradigm and on a wider canvass, that is not just limited to political diplomacy, but also includes our economic, scientific, cultural, political and security interests, both regional and global, on the principles of equality and mutuality, so that it leads to an economically stronger India, and its voice is heard in the international fora.'
How this is going to be different from that of UPA's foreign policy is reflected in the statement, ‘India has long failed to duly appreciate the full extent and gamut of its soft power potential. There is a need to integrate our soft power avenues into our external interchange, particularly, harnessing and focusing on the spiritual, cultural and philosophical dimensions of it.'This is incidentally what Oneindia advocated in one of its articles last month.
The BJP manifesto further states, ‘The absence of statecraft has never been felt so acutely as today. India is seen to be floundering, whereas it should have been engaging with the world with confidence. The collapse of the Indian economy has contributed to the sorry state of foreign affairs in no small measure.'
Foreign Policy as an Extension of Statecraft
Therefore what can be expected without doubt in case BJP comes to power is that of its foreign policy becoming an extension of statecraft for furthering national interest. From US to China everyone has done that. But for a long time in India it has remained an abstract thing without quantifiable gains. India can no longer afford its foreign policy to be a mere sphere for intellectual discourse, academic indulgence and diplomatic cocktail parties.
A key essence of the entire BJP manifesto as is invariably reflected in the foreign policy aspect as well is the INDIA FIRST approach. It says, 'India First' puts the national interest first while taking any decision or step both by Governments and citizens. Even more simply put, you have to just see the face of India and Indians when you are in doubt. This is what separates 'India First' from the present day politics and Governance of the Congress-led UPA.'
Two salient points in the foreign policy approach of BJP as stated in the manifesto are:
1. Instead of being led by big power interests, we will engage proactively on our own with countries in the neighbourhood and beyond.
2. In our neighbourhood we will pursue friendly relations. However, where required we will not hesitate from taking strong stand and steps.
In foreign policy perspective it means that it the core of its the approach would revolve around what is in it for India. On several occasions it has been seen in the last few years that India took a stand on certain issues in order to make sure that it remains in the good book of major powers like US or avoided taking forward a decision or action for fear of antagonising other major powers like China.
The second point is a clear statement for the likes of Maldives who have been harbouring Chinese interest and taken most bizarre anti Indian stand in the recent past. Sadly in spite of that UPA failed to protect Indian interest when India's GMR was ousted from a $500 million project it was executing in Maldives, by the new Maldivian regime, allegedly to keep the Chinese happy.
Several of India's neighbours have consistently taken anti-India stand and frequently play the China card to often settle their scores with India. Even while it is of supreme primacy for India to maintain cordial relation with its neighbours, it is perhaps also the time to take stands when the need be in self interest and read out the riot act when some obstinate neighbouring state act as a proxy of any adversary of India or conducts actions with malafide intentions.
India's sheer failure to prevent its neighboring countries from becoming Chinese bastions or in preventing Pakistan from continuing its anti-India acts of terror reflect the necessity of a new approach.
Why India First Approach is the Future.
If China has been extremely successful in expanding its footprint across the contours of Africa and Central Asia, if it has been able to leverage its economic might to garner favour from other countries and further its economic and energy security, it is all because of its China First foreign policy approach. They don't indulge into abstract day dreams of creating an ideal world. Instead they use their foreign policy to do what is doable and quantifiable for them and is in best interest of China.
It is time India does the same and bring an INDIA FIRST approach to its foreign policy paradigm. This would go a long way in not just improving India's long term security and economic partnerships but would also increase the weight of its words in global arena. The world listens to you if your pockets run deep. That is the reality.