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Political Process Would Have Saved from Surrender in Indo- Pak War of 1971

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After independence on 14 August 1947, the objective resolution was passed on 12 March 1949 which provided guide lines for framing the constitution. Important clause was “Pakistan shall be federation, principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated in Islam shall be fully observed. It took nine years to frame constitution, major hurdle was the politicians from West Pakistan (W Pak) wanted parity between the two provinces although population of former East Pakistan (E Pak) was about 55 percent. Finally, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy from E Pak, in 1955, after elections agreed to three points, one unit, parity between two wings and Joint electorate. The constitution of 1956was effective from 23 March. National Assembly had total 300 seats, equally divided in two wings. It was abrogated in October 1958 when Martial was imposed by Gen Ayub Khan. This was a setback to E Pak. New constitution by Ayub was promulgated on 8 June 1962 which was presidential form of government, president head of state, as well as government.  Unicameral, national assembly of 150, equal members from each province. Most powers with center. Became a unitary form of government. Ayub Khan after signing of Shimla Agreement followed by political agitations instead of handing over powers to speaker national assembly Abdul Jabbar khan, from E Pak, as per constitution invited Gen Yayah khan to impose Martial law on 25 March 1969. This also became big irritant for E Pak. According to Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi book, Military and Politics in Pakistan, Gen Yayah Khan announced to hold free and fair elections on the basis of one man one vote and permitted political activities with effect from first January 1970 while martial law remained enforced. He also abolished one unit and West Pakistan was reconstituted into four provinces Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan. Reallocation of national assembly seats were, E Pak162, Punjab 82, Sindh27, NWFP 18, Balochistan 4 and Tribal Areas 7. Elections to be held under Legal Frame Order(LFO). National assembly to frame constitution in 120 days of its first meeting. The Constitution bill passed by the Assembly to be authenticated by President before promulgation. It did not clarify the important condition for the Bill to be approved by two third majority. Moreover, time limit for assembly to meet and place was not mentioned.  The imposition of conditions was generally not appreciated by politicians especially from E Pak. National and provincial assemblies’ elections were held on 7 and 17 Dec respectively. Two major parties emerged were Awami League 160 seats from E Pak and nil from W Pak, PPP 81 from W Pak and zero from E Pak, independents one from E Pak and 15 from W Pak. Other prominent parties were Qayyum League 9, Council Muslim league, JUI (Hazarvi) and NAP (Wali) 7 each. Awami league under the leadership of Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman had contest elections under six points which were part of their manifesto since 1967. These were almost for confederation but LFO clearly said federation to be maintained. It is pertinent to mention that as per Gen Matinuddin book Tragedy of Errors, GD ISI forecast was that none of party will get simple majority and it will be a collation government. This un expected result and politically volatile situation demanded an experienced, visionary, self-sacrificing, ruler with sharp political acumen.

Gen Yayah dismissed his nominated civilian cabinet on 17 Feb71, opportunities to get political advice from the politicians who maintain liaison at the grass root level diminished. Infect he should have selected sharp, unbiased, and loyal politicians from both wings who had not participated in the elections. The decision making was mainly by president advised by an inner circle of senior army officers. The president visited Dhaka on13 Jan, had detailed meeting with Sheikh Mujib and other Awami league(AL) leaders. He conceded the technical ability of the AL to go alone. However, he did express a desire for the AL to include W Pak politicians in the future government. On the way back Gen Yayah went to Larkana at the invitation Bhutto instead of calling him to Rawalpindi. According to Gen Pirzada, PSO to Gen Yayah, the president told Bhutto to sort it out with Mujib or sit in the opposition.  However, visit to Larkana created doubts in the AL and other politicians. Some politicians even believed that it was sell out to Bhutto. The president announced on 13 Feb for the national assembly members to assemble in Dhaka on 3 March 71(after 87 days of election). It was very late which gave time to politicians to manipulate and take advantage from the prevalent political environments.  Bhutto declared, he would break the legs of any of his party member who dared to attend the national assembly session and those who went without his consent would not be allowed to return. Publically Sheikh Mujib was not showing flexibility about his six points. Military hierarchy in W Pak was generally not in favor of handing power to AL. Gen Yayah called a meeting of senior officials in Rawalpindi on 22 Feb which was attended by Governor of E Pak Vice Admiral Ahsan (retd), Commander Eastern Command Lt Gen Sahibzada Yaqub, Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali, military adviser to governor E Pak, PSOs and DG ISI. He gave decision to knock sense in Mujib and postpone the assembly meeting till AL is crushed. Sahibzada Yaqub, Ahsan and Rao Farman Ali did not agree with the decision. On 25 Feb Mujib invited Yayah to visit E Pak and gave a hint to modify his six points but visit did not materialize. It created more doubts in AL leadership. On 1 March governor E Pak and Sahibzada Yaqub were told by PSO to president to convey to Mujib the postponement of national assembly session scheduled on 3 Mar for indefinite period.  Mujib was upset at the same time requested for the next date as he would not be able to control the situation. Now there will be pressing demand from my people for a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). He further said,the parleys at Larkana have tilted the balance in Bhutto’s favor.Governor immediately sent telex to CMLA headquarters stating “I beg you to announce a fresh date tonight, tomorrow will be too late”. The plea went unnoticed, mid night 1/2 Mar announcement was made without giving fresh date. This became a turning point. The governor resigned and Sahibzada took over as governor. Sahibzada on 3 March when the situation started deteriorating invited Gen Yayah to come to E Pak for a political solution. His request was declined. Sahibzada sent a signal of resignation which is”the situation in E Pak has reached a point which will not admit a military solution. I had urged you to come to seek a political solution. I did not succeed. There is no military solution to the problem. A military solution would lead to large scale killings of the innocent civilians. It would not help in achieving the aim. I cannot accept a mission which would prove disastrous. I, therefore hereby offer my resignation.” (Tragedy of Errors p 160-185)

Gen Tikka Khan was immediately ordered to proceed to E Pak to take over from Sahibzada Yaqub. From 2 Mar killing, burning, looting, ambushing, brick batting and molestation of non-Bengalis was at the peak. A large number of Bihari, and W Pakistanis were killed by AL militants. Shops were gutted, their houses looted, women raped and bodies mutilated. Mujib addressed a large gathering in Platen Maidan on 7 Mar and denounced the military leadership for favoring a minority party and not handing over power.  He gave additional four points which included immediately lifting of martial law, transfer of powers to majority party, army to return to barracks, judicial inquiry for killing of some innocent people on the night 1 / 2 March. He ended speech by saying “our struggle is for freedom”. He did not use the word independence nor in clear words he demanded an independent state of Bangladesh.On 14 Mar, Bhutto made a public statement, “power should be transferred to both the majority parties.” It may be indication of accepting the confederation. Gen Yayah went to E Pak on 15 Mar and stayed till25. Hectic discussions took place on the constitutional frame work between AL and the experts of the president.  Later Bhutto and other leaders from W Pak also joined. No agreement emerged because AL strict to confederation which was not acceptable to the president. The 25 Mar date of national assembly meeting was postponed. According to book Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership by Gen Fazal Muqeem p52, Gen Yayah called Gen Tikka and Rao Farman Ali and asked them to finalize ops order for “Operation Search Light”. Killing of a few thousands would not be too high a price for keeping the country together. Show them the teeth and they will be quiet. The main objective of operation was to create conditions for selecting a civilian set up. The military crackdown began mid night 25/ 26 March. Upon reaching Karachi the president made announcement of banning all political activities, imposing complete censorship and denouncing Mujib’s actions as an act of treason. Mujib was arrested the same night. On 26 Mar Major Zia ur Rehman announced on radio, East Pakistan as People’s Republic of Bangladesh. This day is now celebrated as a National Day in Bangladesh.

      Major task was to dis arm 6 battalions of East Bengal regiments (EBR) and personnel of East Pakistan Rifles(EPR) about 16000 and Raza Kars 45,000. There were Mukti Bahini (freedom fighters) well trained for insurgency operations in addition. By 31 of May writ of the government has been restored. However, some personnel of EBR and EPR crossed the borders to India with weapons intact and joined Mukti Bahini.  Casualties were enormous on both side during the civil war. Mujib claimed 3 million, Indians 1 million, and Tikka khan 34,000.  According to Indians about 10 million crossed the borders to India as refugees. Military action was strongly denounced by the world especially India. In June Lt Gen Amir Abdullah khan Niazi arrived E Pak as Commander Eastern Command.

This situation provided a golden opportunity to Indira Gandhi to dismember Pakistan. She called her COAS Gen Manekshwa in April and asked him to be ready for attack.  Keeping in view, rivers& hills, marshy land, a difficult terrain in E Pak, and time required for deployment of troops, his cautious reply was “if you want me to go for war now, I guarantee you 100 percent defeat, but if you give me some time I can guarantee you 100 percent success. It is obvious that India had decided to go to war in April and preparations / planning started thereafter. Our Intelligence set up should have kept the government abreast to the development and counter plans made accordingly in both wings of Pakistan. According to Abdul Sattar book, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy p129,the announcing of Henry Kissinger’s visit to Beijing on 9-11 July 1971 and invitation to visit China by Nixon stunned the world. Moscow’s reaction was angry and quick. USSR signed the treaty of Peace, Friendship and cooperation on 9 August 71 with India. Its article IX committed the two countries to mutual consultation in the event of an attack or threat of attack, in order to remove such threat and take appropriate effective measures to ensure their peace and security. Infect USSR provided an umbrella to India against intervention by China. Indira Gandhi before starting war visited almost all the important countries of the world including USA. Pakistan protested on 21 Nov that India without a declaration of war has launched an all-out offensive in E Pak. There was vast difference in relative strength. India deployed 8 Infantry divisions,1 para brigade, 32 para military battalions and support of 100,000 Mukti Bahini.  Pakistan Army was comprised of 3 Infantry divisions, I3 para military battalions. Indian Navy had deployed an aircraft carrier and 8 Destroyers / frigates and Pakistan Navy had gun boats and improvised crafts with guns for inland operations. IAF had 11 air squadrons and PAF only one. The outcome of war in this theater was obvious. It was the time factor. As a plan for counter offensive in the West, PAF carried out pre – emptive strikes on several Indian air bases along the western coast on 3 Dec. The reasons of 11 days’delay have a question mark. If we had started earlier the chances of UN Security Council resolution for cease fire would have been better, which would have avoided humiliating surrender. Now it was an all-out war on both fronts. After the news of Indians troops having crossed the borders of E Pak, friendly countries advised Agha Shahi permanent rep in UN to take up the Indian aggression to UN. The government advised not to go to security council unless directed. After our counter offensive on 3 Dec, USA moved a draft resolution for cease fire with certain conditions on 4 Dec which was not supported by USSR. Similarly, China moved draft resolution on 5 Dec which was also not supported. The Soviets on 6 Dec accepted a draft resolution (UN document S/ 10425) dated 5 Dec, sponsored by Belgium and 5 other countries calling upon the governments of India and Pakistan, as a first step for an immediate cease fire.The government of Pakistan should simultaneously take effective action towards a political settlement in East Pakistan giving immediate recognition to the will of people of East Pakistan as expressed in the election of Dec 1970. Since it was supported by USSR it may have been considered by Pakistan. Bhutto as a foreign minister arrived USA on 10 Dec.The famous Poland resolution was moved on 14 Dec. It contained cease fire and transfer of forces to pre-set locations and transfer of power to elected representatives.  The contents were approved by the government of Pakistan. (contents were similar to Soviet supported resolution of 5 Dec). However, Bhutto was not available on 14 Dec. When the Security Council met on 15 Dec, news had reached that surrender of the Pakistan armed forces was being arranged on 16 Dec. However, Bhutto made a fierce speech in Security Council which hardly had any effect on the war scenario. According to book on foreign policy by Abul Sattar p133, Indira Gandhi intensions to occupy more spaces of West Pakistan was stopped by USA. Message was conveyed to India through USSR that USA has defense pact with Pakistan. US had moved its fleet to Bay of Bengal in this time frame, but Soviet ensured that India will not occupy more spaces and will accept cease fire on western war theater. On the Western front, Pakistan lost 51,39 square miles. On Eastern front surrender document was signed between Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, the GOC-in- C Indian Eastern Command and Lt Gen A.A.K Niazi, Commander Eastern Command at Ramna Race Course Dhaka at 1631 on 16 Dec 71.It was the biggest surrender after WW-II.  About 93,000 soldiers and civilians were taken as prisoners of war. It is evident that military hierarchy of Pakistan made series of mistakes. Pakistan would have remained intact if initial LFO giving details of election had included that constitution bill should be passed by 2/3 majority. AL had to take elected members from W Pak to pass the bill. Date and place of meeting of elected assembly members within 45 days should have been given in LFO. Gen Yayah may have taken sincere, experienced and unbiased politicians in his cabinet from both wings who were not participating in election instead of completely banking on the advices senior army officers. Advice of the governor of E Pak, Vice Admiral Ahsan and Lt Gen Sahibzada Yaqub Commander Eastern Command not to postpone date of meeting of assembly on 3 Mar indefinitely should have been taken seriously. Policy to linger on should have been avoided. During war, there were a lot of chances to accept UN Security Council resolutions of cease fire and handing over government to majority party. This would have certainly avoided humiliating surrender. There is a famous saying “if every political problem that is created in the world justifies the use of force then there is no end to war”. Lessons learnt are many but most important is the saying of George Clemenceau who led France in WW-II,” war is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.”

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South Asia

India’s Unclear Neighbourhood Policy: How to Overcome ?

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India has witnessed multiple trends with regards to its relations with its neighbours at a time vaccine diplomacy is gaining prominence and Beijing increasing the pace towards becoming an Asian superpower, whereby making these reasons valid for New Delhi to have a clear foreign policy with respect to its neighbourhood.

Introduction

The Covid Pandemic has led to increased uncertainty in the global order where it comes to power dynamics, role of international organisations. New Delhi has tried to leave no stone unturned when it comes to dealing with its immediate neighbours.  It has distributed medical aid and vaccines to smaller countries to enhance its image abroad at a time it has witnessed conflicts with China and a change in government in Myanmar. These developments make it imperative for New Delhi to increase its focus on regionalism and further international engagement where this opportunity could be used tactically amidst a pandemic by using economic and healthcare aid.

According to Dr. Arvind Gupta, New Delhi has to deal with threats coming from multiple fronts and different tactics where it is essential for New Delhi to save energy using soft means rather than coercive measures.. India under Vaccine Maitri has supplied many of COVAXIN doses to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where many have appreciated this move. The urgency of ensuring humanitarian aid during these periods of unprecedented uncertainty are essential in PM Modi’s Security and Growth For All ( SAGAR) initiative, which focusses on initiating inclusive growth as well as cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.

This pandemic witnessed various threats coming in India’s neighbourhood through multiple dimensions which include maritime, land, cyber as well as air threats where adversaries are using these to put pressure on New Delhi to settle land as well as marine disputes as per their terms.  These encirclement strategies have made it necessary for India to open up various options such as holding maritime joint exercises with like-minded countries, developing partnerships, providing economic as well as healthcare support to weaker countries plus having a clear insight about changing global dynamics and acting as per them.

This piece will discuss about various changing tactics, pros and cons which India has with respect to developing its national security vis-à-vis its neighbourhood, why should it prioritise its neighbourhood at the first place?

Background

India’s Neighbourhood is filled with many complexities and a lot of suspicion amongst countries, some viewing India because of its size and geography plus economic clout as a bully where it is wanting to dominate in the region putting others aside. This led to New Delhi play an increased role in nudging ties first with its neighbours with whom it had multiple conflicts as well as misunderstandings leading to the latter viewing Beijing as a good alternative in order to keep India under check.

Ever since PM Modi has taken charge at 7 RCR, India’s Neighbourhood First Policy has been followed increasingly to develop relations, to enhance understandings and ensure mutual cooperation as well as benefit with its neighbours. The relations with Islamabad have not seen so much improvement as compared to other leaders in the past. Even though former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited for PM Modi’s 1st Swearing In ceremony in 2014, terrorist activities have never stopped which could be seen through Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama terror attacks which killed many of the Indian soldiers. Even though surgical strikes were conducted on terror camps in retaliation to these bombardments, Islamabad has not changed its heart at all about its security or regional demands. New strategies and friendships are being developed where Beijing has played a major role in controlling power dynamics.

The Belt and Road initiative, first time mentioned during President Xi’s 2013 speech in Kazakhstan, then officially in 2015,  lays emphasis of achieving a Chinese Dream of bringing countries under one umbrella, ensuring their security, providing them with infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, pipelines, highways etc. The main bottleneck is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor when it comes to India’s security threats, passing through disputed boundaries of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir till Gwadar. Other projects have been initiated in Chittagong, Hambantota, Gwadar , Kyapkyou. These projects form a String Of Pearls in the Indo Pacific where New Delhi is being balanced against through economic plus development incentives being given to the member countries under the project. That’s why in the recent past, New Delhi is asserting its influence in the region, looking at new dimensional threats where Beijing’s threats in the maritime domain in the islands in East as well as South China seas are not being seen favourably in many countries such as ASEAN, US, Australia and Japan which is giving India an opportunity to look towards countries with a common threat. Amidst this great power struggle between Washington and Beijing, New Delhi is stuck between a rock and hard place i.e., having a clear and strong foreign policy with its neighbours.

In this region, India has a sole threat which is mainly Beijing where the latter has achieved prowess technologically and militarily where New Delhi lags behind the latter twenty fold. So, there is a need for improvising military technology, increase economic activities with countries, reduce dependence on foreign aid, ensure self-reliance.

Situation

South Asia is backward when it comes to economic development, human development and is a home to majority of the world’s population which lives below poverty line. The colonial rule has left a never-ending impact on divisions based on communal, linguistic and ethnic grounds. Even, in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, New Delhi lags behind Beijing significantly in the neighbourhood because the latter is at an edge when it comes to bringing countries under the same umbrella. Due to these, many initiatives have been taken up by New Delhi on developing infrastructure, providing humanitarian aid to needy countries.

There have been numerous efforts made by India with respect to reaching out to the Neighbours in 2020 through setting up of the SAARC Covid Fund where many Neighbourhood countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka gave contributions to ensure cooperation, joint scientific research, sharing information, healthcare kits where the countries contributed USD $ 18 million jointly towards this fund where New Delhi made an initial offer of USD $ 10 million.

New Delhi has even mustered ties with the Association of Southeast Asian countries during the pandemic under its Act East Policy where proper connectivity through the Northeast could be useful in easing movement of goods but currently, the infrastructure in Northeast needs more improvement where issues such as unemployment, poor connectivity are prevalent whereby disconnecting it from rest of the other states. This region could play an important role in linking Bangladesh, Myanmar to New Delhi along with the proposed India-Thailand –Myanmar Trilateral Corridor. Focus has also been laid to develop inland waterways, rail links and pipelines to ease connections between countries, making trade free and more efficient.

India is focussing on developing the Sittwe and Paletwa ports in Myanmar under the Kaladan Development Corridor, at the cost of INR 517.9 Crore in order to provide an alternative e route beneficial for the Northeast for getting shipping access

Summing Up

 These above developments and power display by a strong adversary, give good reasons for New Delhi to adopt collective security mechanisms through QUAD, SIMBEX and JIMEX with a common perception of having safe and open waters through abiding to the UNCLOS which China isn’t showing too much interest in, seen through surveillance units, artificial islands being set up on disputed territories which countries likewise India are facing in context to territorial sovereignty and integrity. These developments make it important for India to look at strategic threats by coming together with countries based on similar interest’s vis-à-vis Chinese threat.

There is a need for India to develop and harness its strength through connectivity and its self reliance initiative ( Aatmanirbharta ) so that there is no dependence on any foreign power at times of need . Proper coordination between policy makers and government officials could make decision making even easier, which is not there completely because of ideological differences, different ideas which makes it important for the political leadership to coordinate with the military jointly during times of threats on borders. Self-reliance could only come through preparedness and strategy.

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India is in big trouble as UK stands for Kashmiris

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 A London-based law firm has filed an application with British police seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and a senior Indian government official over their alleged roles in war crimes in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Law firm Stoke White said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit on Tuesday, documenting how Indian forces headed by General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians – particularly Muslim – in the region.

“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to the territory in the Himalayan region.

Based on more than 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021, the report also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.

The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. It also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.

“This report is dedicated to the families who have lost loved ones without a trace, and who experience daily threats when trying to attain justice,” Khalil Dewan, author of the report and head of the SWI unit, said in a statement.

“The time has now come for victims to seek justice through other avenues, via a firmer application of international law.”

The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been initiated abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in Kashmir.

Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK.

Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.

“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.

The police application was made on behalf of the family of Pakistani prisoner Zia Mustafa, who, Camuz said, was the victim of extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and on behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the past two decades in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Muslim Kashmiris mostly support rebels who want to unite the region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi.

Rights groups have also criticized the conduct of armed groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.

In 2018, the United Nations human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir, alleging “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”.

India’s government has denied the alleged rights violations and maintains such claims are separatist propaganda meant to demonize Indian troops in the region. It seems, India is in big trouble and may not be able to escape this time. A tough time for Modi-led extremist government and his discriminatory policies. The world opinion about India has been changed completely, and it has been realized that there is no longer a democratic and secular India. India has been hijacked by extremist political parties and heading toward further bias policies. Minorities may suffer further, unless the world exert pressure to rectify the deteriorating human rights records in India.

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S. Jaishankar’s ‘The India Way’, Is it a new vision of foreign policy?

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S. Jaishankar has had an illustrious Foreign Service career holding some of the highest and most prestigious positions such as ambassador to China and the US and as foreign secretary of India. Since 2019 he has served as India’s foreign minister. S. Jaishankar also has a Ph.D. in international relations from JNU and his academic background is reflected in this book.

His main argument is simplistic, yet the issues involved are complex. Jaishankar argues that the world is changing fundamentally, and the international environment is experiencing major shifts in power as well as processes. China is rising and western hegemony is declining. We are moving away from a unipolar system dominated by the US to a multipolar system. Globalization is waning and nationalism and polarization is on the rise (p. 29). The old order is going away but we cannot yet glimpse what the future will look like. This is the uncertain world that Dr. Jaishankar sees.

Dr. Jaishankar also argues that India too has changed, it is more capable and more assertive. The liberalization program that began in 1991 has made the Indian economy vibrant and globally competitive and it is well on track to becoming the third biggest economy in the world, after China and the US.  The war of 1971 that liberated Bangladesh, the liberalization of the economy after 1991, the nuclear tests in 1998 and the nuclear understanding with the US in 2005, Jaishankar argues are landmarks in India’s strategic evolution (p. 4). So given that both India and the system have changed, Jaishankar concludes, so should India’s foreign policy.

But his prescription for India’s foreign policy, in the grand scheme of things, is the same as before – India should remain nonaligned and not join the US in its efforts to contain China. India will try to play with both sides it seems in order to exploit the superpowers and maximize its own interests (p. 9). But he fails to highlight how India can find common ground with China other than to say the two nations must resolve things diplomatically. He also seems to think that the US has infinite tolerance for India’s coyness. In his imagination the US will keep making concessions and India will keep playing hard to get.

Jaishankar has a profound contradiction in his thinking. He argues that the future will be determined by what happens between the US and China. In a way he is postulating a bipolar future to global politics. But he then claims that the world is becoming multipolar and this he claims will increase the contests for regional hegemony. The world cannot be both bipolar and multipolar at the same time.

There is also a blind spot in Jaishankar’s book.  He is apparently unaware of the rise of Hindu nationalism and the demand for a Hindu state that is agitating and polarizing India’s domestic politics. The systematic marginalization and oppression of Muslim minorities at home and the growing awareness overseas of the dangers of Hindutva extremism do not exist in the world that he lives in. He misses all this even as he goes on to invoke the Mahabharata and argue how Krishna’s wisdom and the not so ethical choices during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas should be a guide for how India deals with this uncertain world – by balancing ethics with realism (p. 63). Methinks his little digression in discussing the ancient Hindu epic is more to signal his ideological predilections than to add any insights to understanding the world or India’s place in it.  

One aspect of his work that I found interesting is his awareness of the importance of democracy and pluralism. He states that India’s democracy garners respect and gives India a greater opportunity to be liked and admired by other nations in the world (p. 8). Yet recently when he was asked about the decline of India’s democratic credentials, his response was very defensive, and he showed visible signs of irritation. It is possible that he realizes India is losing ground internationally but is unwilling to acknowledge that his political party is responsible for the deterioration of India’s democracy.

This is also apparent when he talks about the importance of India improving its relations with its immediate neighbors. He calls the strategy as neighborhood first approach (pp. 9-10). What he does not explain is how an Islamophobic India will maintain good relations with Muslim majority neighbors like Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan.

The book is interesting, it has its limitations and both, what is addressed and what is left out, are clearly political choices and provide insights into how New Delhi thinks about foreign policy. So, coming to the question with which we started, does India have a new foreign policy vision? The answer is no. Dr. Jaishankar is right, there is indeed an India way, but it is the same old way, and it entails remaining nonaligned with some minor attitudinal adjustments.  

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