Today in this 21st century due the multifarious and complex challenges confronting our country there is an imperative and inescapable need to review our Foreign Policy to safeguard all our vital interests and protect our sovereignty. The justification for the review and recommendations in this context have been made in the succeeding paragraphs. These are not adequately validated or ratified but must be considered or debated for their worth!
It is time that we shed the veil of secrecy and compartmentalization surrounding Foreign Policy and involve the talent India has in our deliberations to enable the framing and articulation of a pro-active, positive and futuristic Foreign Policy. Any further delay on this will result in our Cabinet ministers once again rushing to the US, China, France and other countries without much headway or conclusions being reached and leaving the citizens wondering and ignorant.
Critical Issues & India’s Vital Interest
Firstly: Today, it is of vital interest to India to see as to who rules Afghanistan? A Fundamentalist Taliban regime in place there can pose serious threats to India’s security. Specially, when Al Qaida is striving desperately to get hold of some sort of nuclear arsenal. Further, India is as much interested in oil and gas resources of Central Asian Republics as US, UK, and Russia. And for that matter, from Myanmar and Bangladesh. Towards that end, insufficient efforts have been made so far.
Secondly: India’s second vital interest lies in the possibility of a threat from its eastern flank, Myanmar. Which is now being termed as Chinese satellite. The saying as it goes is, that Myanmar’s foreign policy is drafted in Beijing. India needs to actively engage Myanmar with diplomacy in the first instance besides to meet future challenges from the Chinese Navy as well as to counter support from Myanmar’s bases to various secessionist movements in our northeast.
Thirdly: The third important issue is that the country must decide once and for all whether we want our territories back from China and Pakistan or to compromise and surrender these? But the question is, can India afford to compromise? If it did, many more problems would arise. If not, then the country must prepare itself with all its might. We have kept quiet and let China get on with creating a strategic corridor from Gwadar deep seaport via PoK to KK Pass and then to Sinkiang.
We have not questioned Beijing about the 4100 sq. kms of PoK- Indian territory, given to China in 1962 for construction of KK Highway by Islamabad. A lot of explaining would have to be done to the citizens for this most timid approach in our dealings with China and Pakistan. Further, the country must decide on the Tibetan issue on merits and not because the Chinese want it in a different way and will not have any anti- Chinese propaganda from the Indian side.
Why not recognize the Tibetan Government at Dharamshala? Above all the country must revisit Doctrine and develop a second/ first strike capability along with its missile systems, now that a bold step has been taken to conduct the nuclear tests. All these issues and many others lie in the domain of foreign relation policies.
Fourthly: The fourth issue is that China and Russia have been brought together owing to US pressure. Russia has a choice between China and India. Russia will not intervene in case of an Indo-Pak or a Sino-Indian conflict. Further, Russia does not wish to lose its arms market in China or India. But it will start selling arms to Pakistan should India go to purchase arms and specified equipment from other countries. This tricky situation has arisen due to lack of efforts for Indigenisation by India.
Fifthly: Finally, keeping India’s National interests steadily in view and in full belief in the proposed doctrine, Foreign Policy planners should set about taking initiatives at least 10 years ahead on the various issues some of which are listed at end of this article .
Revamping the ‘Ministry of External Affairs’
But all what has been proposed cannot be done in isolation. To do so, the External Affairs Ministry would need to be revamped in the first instance. As it is one understands, some sort of start has been made to sanction doubling of the present strength of 650 officers. While doing so it has to be ensured that India needs quality and not quantity in the MEA.
Further, the Nation does not know as to what the NSC or the NSA is up to? There is no reason as to why they should not bring together experts from diverse fields to identify India’s vital interests and make concrete proposals to achieve these. To reiterate, the insulation between Defence and Foreign Affairs would have to end.
The launching of a ruthless program for Indigenisation of Defence hardware which would involve the Private industry has been delayed inordinately. A pragmatic Defence policy to support Foreign Policy objectives, to ensure that India’s armed forces are ready to exercise a Military option when the Nation demands it, has yet to be framed
Today, India’s image both within the country and abroad is that of a weak, dependent country which seeks aid and protection from outside. A country which has high ideals but low vigour to implement these. A country which has adhoc Foreign and Defence Policies. No wonder, no one listens to India any longer because the country has nothing to give except markets and cheap labour.
A case in point is that during ex PM’s visit to the US to participate in the Non Nuclear Proliferation conference from 10- 15 April 2010, India, the founding father of NAM was excluded from a conference of NAM leaders convened by the Vice President of UN on Apr 14, 2010 because India had not signed the NPT. Isn’t it a snub? If our image is to change, then the country will need a Renewed Foreign Policy based on hard realism, strength, protection of its vital interests, which may also include the restoration of our original geographical boundaries as there were on Aug 15, 1947.
The Way Forward
An attempt has been made in these missives to draw attention to some crucial issues concerning our Foreign Policy. Policy Makers would do well not to ignore the following three recommendations:
Firstly: Citizens have a right to know as to the basis on which India’s National Aim, its interests and doctrine to achieve these have been arrived at? In future, they will demand to know this. Which is only possible by means of meaningful debates in the Parliament.
Secondly: What is the process which is being followed by the Government to arrive at its Foreign Policy Objectives? US, Russia, France, or China, they all have a laid down procedure and process to finalize their Foreign Policies. We, in India have been following ad-hoc methods.
Thirdly: Compartmentalization will need to be removed. Defence must play its part in Finalizing Foreign Policy. Armed forces must know their objectives-both in war and peace. Or they will be severely handicapped in restructuring their organizations, or initiate demands for newer equipment to the DRDO or the Ministry and most important, plan their training, tactics and strategy.
Fourthly: To start with, we will have to put our Governance right, initiate measures for population control, speed up oil exploration and give an impetus to Indigenisation of Defence hard and soft ware and above all, educate our society about India’s Foreign Policy.”
Some Proposals for a Futuristic Foreign Policy
Ensure that besides external and internal threats to India’s northeast, the chances of Pakistan or China (with Myanmar as the base) waging a second proxy war in that area are checked and eliminated.
Formulate and announce a pragmatic policy on India’s nuclear plans, Kashmir and towards those countries which are supplying arms to militants or supporting Proxy wars or other irregular warfare in such a way, that it shows India’s will to pre-empt such moves instead of being caught off guard.
Establish workable and not ideal, relations, alliances, agreements and plans for procurement of oil and gas from Turkmeniston, Kyrgistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand in addition to what India is getting now from Saudi Arabia other Gulf states or Iraq.
Forestall likely Chinese initiatives in the Bay of Bengal, analyse fully Beijing’s “strings of pearl” philosophy in the Indian Ocean in the early 21st Century and if necessary, enter into Maritime agreements with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar to neutralize the likely Chinese influence.
No initiatives have been taken here. In fact we have let China take on the construction of Hamantota port-150 kms South of Colombo which was offered to India for construction seven years ago but we declined. The 3rd and final phase of this port will be ready in the next 5-7 years. And then the Chinese ships will dock here.
Negotiate from strong bargaining position with Beijing in such a way that every Chinese move which threatens India’s security is balanced with a counter move. But this needs highly skilled and competitive intelligence inputs with analysis.
Initiate diplomatic moves which will keep the US, China and Russia away from interfering when and if India uses force to have its territories back.
Launch a drive to educate India’s citizenry as well as those in outside countries- particularly in the US and other countries in the west to remove their ignorance about India and to place its requirements and policies before them. This extremely important to elicit support to India’s Foreign Policy from Indian citizen.
Initiate well thought out diplomatic measures to ensure that countries bordering India do not get involved in Defence alliances and pacts which are prejudicial to India’s security and National interests specially Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Re-examine and re-draft existing treaties with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and initiate one with Bangladesh so that foreign powers cannot use these countries against India’s interests in the future.
Engage Pakistan in a much more serious and meaningful dialogue then what is happening now. If necessary, with the assistance of other countries, over the return of PoK to Circumvent it from supporting the Militants till there is no option left for India but to use force to reunify PoK with J&K.
Support a debate on the goings on in Tibet in the Parliament, particularly the implications of Chinese nuclear missiles targeting Indian Cities.
Ensure that Dhaka does not sign a treaty with the US or China without consulting New Delhi. If that happens, whatever influence India has on Bangladesh will disappear.
Decide on the initiatives India should take in Sri Lanka as that country stands on the threshold of a possible historic change. Here is an area of strategic interest to the US, China and many other western powers vying with one another to get afoot hold here. If we ignore the changes here, we will be left as mere on lookers as in the case of Myanmar.
(Maj Gen VK Madhok is a product of the 1st Course JSW/NDA and was commissioned into the 3 GR. He was the BGS HQ Southern Command and the COS at HQ 4 Corps. He retired as the ADG (TA). He lives in Pune. The author can be reached on Email: [email protected]. Views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')