Is Indian foreign policy under siege? Reacting to the recent actions of the Indian Government
BY: Vinod Subramanian
In recent times, India is facing its most challenging time, not only due to the COVID-19 pandemic but also due to various challenges mounting on its foreign policy front.
Let us look at the issue holistically,
What is happening?
In recent times, India’s relations with some of its friends have deteriorated due to a myriad of reasons.
Starting with the neighbourhood, relations with Nepal are at an all time low due to Nepal’s cartographic aggression. Nepal recently introduced a new map showing certain Indian territories as an integral part of Nepal, amended their Citizenship Act which is deemed to be against Indian interests and issued an order to ban the transmission of Indian television channels.
Another country in the immediate neighbourhood which elicits attention is Bangladesh. The relations appear to have steadily deteriorated since December 2019. This relationship is often described as a model of good neighbourly ties is under considerable strain now.
India has also been left out of the Afghan Peace Process, despite it being one of the largest donors of civil aid to Afghanistan.
Sri Lanka too appears to have tilted towards China when only in July 2020, India was dropped from the Colombo Port City development project.
Moving westwards, Iran too recently went ahead with the Chabahar- Zahedan railway link project after waiting for India to execute the project. An agreement to this effect was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in 2016.
India is also facing its worst national security crisis in recent times. China with absolutely scant regard for peace or even international law is threatening India in the Galwan Valley and other places with mindless aggression.
It is this choking in the immediate neighbourhood that has prompted many people to ask whether New Delhi’s foreign policy is under siege?
There is hope!
Not everything has gone sour if one were to look into some of the positives that have emerged in recent times.
India is now a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), whose candidature was supported by almost all members of the comity of nations.
Its relations with the US, Russia, Australia, Mauritius, Japan and France are at an all time high.
Starting from May, the government has also begun the Vande Bharat Mission to rescue its citizens from around the world. This mission is one of the largest rescue missions being undertaken by any government in the world. As per the latest information, more than 0.2 million people have been rescued to date. The process is currently underway.
Hence, there are challenges to be tackled, but not everything is lost. Now, the important question to address is what has gone wrong and how did we reach this situation?
What caused the challenges?
Three main reasons could be ascribed to these challenges that have threatened Indian national interests.
Firstly, India lacks a strategic vision. Years after independence, successive governments have failed to build a strategic blueprint and in the absence of it, foreign policy is at best shooting in the dark with no clearly defined targets.
This often gives way to knee jerk reactions as seen in India’s policy of dealing with Pakistan prior to 2016. It was only after the Uri attack that India resolved to punish its western neighbour for acts of terror committed against it.
Also, India which values its strategic autonomy has yielded to US pressure and more specifically, the fear of attracting sanctions under the Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) while dealing with Iran. In recent times, India has reduced its oil imports to near zero from Iran and has delayed various projects. A strategic vision in place would have enabled India to pursue its relations with Iran and at the same time, carry forward its Global Strategic Partnership with the US.
Finally, the lack of a strategic document has also hurt India in terms of its China policy. China has actively sought to interfere in India’s internal matters, supported UNSC sanctioned terrorists and continues to undermine India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. India has responded meekly in the past and there are signs that this policy may be junked. In recent times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed India’s willingness to challenge China’s neo-imperialistic tendencies across the world. This should be ideally followed up by granting diplomatic recognition to Taiwan and countering Chinese actions at every forum that exists. India should take the lead in exposing Chinese actions with respect to COVID-19 too.
Secondly, the issues emanating from the neighbourhood can be easily resolved by a sustained dialogue. Bangladesh is historically of India and issues pertaining to the Citizenship Amendment Act can be solved by a sustained dialogue process. But things will have to move at a faster pace.
Lastly, another issue that has caused many of these challenges is the slow execution of projects by India. As mentioned before, fears of attracting sanctions under CAATSA and sheer bureaucratic ineptitude has resulted in the present conditions. India should realize that having a grand vision and not implementing it is surely a death knell that will affect India’s national interests.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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