The second part of this 3-part series continues with the two remaining “Opportunities” that both countries can utilize to improve relations. After this, it delineates the pre-requisites to the proposed roadmap to peace.
Collaboration in Different Sectors
This although related to trade (more specifically trade in services), has little to do with the transference of tangible goods across the border but more with direct participation and collaboration between, and in both countries – such as FDI (foreign direct investment), JVs (joint ventures) and investments in different sectors.
There are a plethora of distinct areas where both countries can work together – however, the paper touches upon just three such areas, namely IT (information technology), sports, and tourism. The IT sector in India has experienced enormous growth in the past two decades or so due to a shift of jobs from the West to the East as India offered lower business costs. IT in India consists of two major components i.e. BPO (Business process outsourcing) and IT services.
According to NASSCOM, the IT sector accumulated revenue of $160 billion in the year 2017. India is considered one of the hubs of IT in the modern-day world. Pakistan, although, not on par with India is rapidly accelerating in the IT sector as well. Some authors claim that Pakistan is paralleling India’s past growth in the sector.
According to a New York Times article, Pakistan’s IT sector is carving a niche for itself as a preferred destination for app designers, freelance IT programmers, and coders. Tens of thousands of Pakistani IT graduates enter the IT market every year. Pakistan’s IT sector is experiencing exponential growth and has reached $3 billion; it has doubled in size in the past two years and experts anticipate a further 100% growth in the next 2-4 years’ time.
Outlook India reported that low end IT jobs are now shifting to Pakistan from India. Rather than adopting a competitive approach, both countries should look to take advantage of each other in the IT sector. Pakistan should take advantage of India’s established IT market while India should reap the benefits of Pakistan’s nascent yet quickly growing sector and ride its wave.
Highlighting future prospects, scholar, Maria Syed, states that India should invest in Pakistan’s growing IT sector. Once better bilateral trade relations have been established, it can facilitate cross-border investments in areas such as IT. Furthermore, he notes that establishing research and development facilities across Pakistan and India would benefit the BPO and IT industries of both states.
Sports, especially cricket, has always been a massively popular past time for both Pakistanis and Indians. Although all of Pakistan would want to win against India and vice versa in a cricket match (or any sport for that matter), the cricket stars from both nations are highly respected in their home and neighbour country. Thus, cricket should be used as entrainment but more importantly, a unifying cause for both countries – cricket stars should be ambassadors of the game.
Cricket has even been used as a diplomatic tool when Pakistan’s President General Zia UlHaq was the first to execute “cricket diplomacy” when he made an impromptu trip to India to watch a cricket match between both countries amid escalating tensions in 1987. This visit eased the strains that arose from an Indian military exercise on the Pakistan-India border.
Unfortunately, even before the current high-level tensions between both countries, India refused to play cricket with Pakistan in Pakistan, India, or any neutral venue such as the UAE. This has deprived Pakistanis, Indians, and the rest of the world of one of the biggest rivalries in sports history and sends an extremely negative message to the world. Sports has always been a great equalizer for countries especially ones that are on negative terms.
Pakistan-India cricket matches should be held in both countries to display goodwill. An annual “Pakistan-India Peace Tournament” could work well to bring both countries closer together. A similar kind of initiative should be taken for Kabadi, hockey, football, and other popular sports in the subcontinent. The stratagem employed by Pakistan tennis star, AisamUlHaq, and Indian tennis star Rohann Boppana to compete together in men’s doubles was well received and sent a positive message to the world.
Both countries’ ministry of sports should make a joint team to create, manage, and oversee Pakistan-India tournaments in various sports. Other than sports, Pakistanis and Indians love each other’s film, TV, and music industries. Pakistani music and dramas are enjoyed to a great extent in India, while Indian movies and soaps are extremely popular in Pakistan. Pakistanis, in particular, are pulled to Indian movie stars while Indians seem to adore Pakistani musical sensations.
More lately, however, there has been an increase in stereotypical movies and television shows about one another that propagandizes the reality of each country. It must be contemplated that cooperation in the film industry can bridge the gap of contentiousness between both countries. Harmful movies and soaps depicting a false and exaggerated image of each country should be avoided.
In times of extreme tensions, akin to the present, Indian movies and channels are blocked in Pakistan and vice versa. Joint peace initiatives on established Pakistani and Indian channels should be started and aired to promote cultural and political harmony. For example, the Indian channel “Zindagi” was launched to air the best Pakistani shows throughout the years in India.
Movies and TV shows with both Pakistani and Indian actors, directors, and producers should become a symbol of collaboration and goodwill. It is not only the job of the governments to improve relations but the civil society, NGOs, and different sectors like TV and film to play their respective roles. Other than the aforementioned sectors, cross-border tourism (religious and familial) should be highlighted.
For example, the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor (a visa-free corridor near the border) which allowsSikhs from India to visit a religious site in Pakistan was hailed as a momentous move.Visa regimes should be liberalized, akin to Kartarpur, to an extent to allow people to visit shrines; meet relatives and loved ones – and even indulge in tourism where people could visit each beautiful country, immerse themselves in cultural festivities and socialize with the locals.
Subsequent to the departure of the U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan in 2014, and the demise of large economic and military payments to Pakistan, China filled this gap with CPEC. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC is the star project of President Xi Jinping’s mega Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
BRI is a series of infrastructural networks (roads, railways, and ports), trade projects, and financial institutions meant to encourage economic activity in Africa and Eurasia and to connect China to the latter. CPEC is a Pakistan specific mega-project within the aegis of the BRI that will consist of a 3,000 km network of roads, railways, and oil and gas pipelines from Gwadar port in the South of Pakistan to China’s Kashgar city.
Unfortunately, India is not a part of the BRI or CPEC due to its severe reservations about these projects – mainly that CPEC passes through disputed territories, and if successful, it will increase Pakistan’s relative power and will allow China geostrategic influence over India. Although India and China are currently engaged in a border flare-up in Ladakh, trade has not suffered. Therefore, CPEC has become another cause of contention between Pakistan and India but this is a myopic consideration of the situation.
CPEC is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both countries to increase trade, energy cooperation and eventually improve bilateral relations. Through CPEC, Pakistan will become a stronger entity with respect to infrastructure and its economy while China will benefit by gaining a gateway to Central Asia.
Pakistan can use the incoming Chinese investment to improve road and rail links with India and get augmented access to Indian markets – and concurrently, China could achieve improved access to Indian economic and energy markets via Pakistan. India, on the contrary, will not only get improved connectivity to Pakistan and China, but also to Afghanistan and Central Asian states – which has been a policy goal of India for decades.
As CPEC has the potential to cement Pakistan as a regional trading hub, India should look to take advantage of this. While India opposes BRI and CPEC, it is on board with the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar) economic corridor that looks to connect all four countries. The Chinese have offered to include the BCIM into the aegis of the BRI, but India has opposed this vehemently.
However, work on the BCIM has been very slow on this and the future remains uncertain. The BCIM is a 2,800 km economic corridor that would connect Kunming with Kolkata while crossing Bangladesh and Myanmar. The preliminary reason for this initiative is to expedite trade and enhance connectivity with north-eastern India and south-western China. The last BCIM forum was held in 2019 after years of slow progress, if any at all – however, things have turned sour due to border clashes between India and China in Ladakh that began in May 2020 and are still ongoing.
China, before the border skirmishes, stated that India should shed its misgivings regarding BRI and join the megaproject – furthermore since Beijing endeavours to connect the CPEC and BCIM together to synergize the BRI, it is a prime opportunity for India to fulfil its east-west connectivity goals (i.e. get a direct route to Afghanistan and Central Asia and vice versa).
In December 2017, China revealed plans to expand CPEC into Afghanistan; a move that Pakistan has embraced. Economies of scale can be achieved if CPEC’s north-south (Kashgar to Gwadar) linkages are complemented with an east-west corridor (India to Afghanistan and Iran). This signifies how an east-west corridor can benefit Pakistan, China, and India if such an endeavour is undertaken under the BRI.
What India must comprehend is that due to its active opposition to the BRI, it will cause further stalling of the BCIM as well (as China seeks to pursue BCIM under BRI’s framework), which will eventually lead India isolated vis-à-vis improved connectivity. Like China, India is a regional hegemon, is energy-hungry, and desires to connect itself with surrounding countries (with road, rail, and sea links) to placate its energy security.
India’s issues with the BRI have a degree of validity, but in maintaining their current stance of antagonism, the country under the economically-oriented BJP government will only suffer. India cannot rival China and its economic endeavours and corridors in the regional landscape, and so the obvious choice would be to reach an agreement and insert itself into the BRI initiative. India should learn from how the GCC states responded to the BRI.
The GCC countries, although initially concerned about BRI due to their major rival, Iran’s, substantial role in it, later opened their doors to this mega initiative to further their own relative power. China released the “Arab Policy Paper” which details, among other things, how they want to continue and expand their relations with the Arab world, particularly the GCC, under the framework of BRI. This includes but is not exclusive to infrastructure construction, nuclear energy, agriculture, new energy, and trade, etcetera. Since then, the GCC and China have built a better understanding and have initiated various projects under the BRI framework. To think that Pakistan and India, two rivals, cannot initiate or be on board with interconnectivity projects, would be a huge mistake. Pakistan and India, despite their issues, have realized the importance of interconnectivity.
Initiatives like the TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) which will carry natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and finally into India, are initiatives that will mend broken fences and be a symbol for progress amid escalating tensions. TAPI was expected to be completed by 2019 but work has been slow. Despite slow progress, TAPI signifies that there is hope that Pakistan and India can find a compromise with regards to other interconnectivity projects specifically China’s BRI.
South Asia is one of the least integrated regions and trade experts cite the trust deficit, along with other factors, as the primary reason for poor connectivity. Therefore, dialogue and strong-willed initiatives at interconnectivity must be pushed, as these economic endeavours, if successful, will help deter conflicts and political tensions in the future.
Roadmap to Rapprochement
Before the roadmap is outlined and expanded, some pre-requisites and sequencing of events are necessary to enable a stronger chance for the roadmap to succeed in its objects. The sequence of the events should be conducted/unfolded in the order written.
Strong leadership in Pakistan and India
Pakistan’s Imran Khan is a relatively strong Prime Minister. He is considered a forward-thinking and honest politician – seen in Pakistan after decades – and wants Pakistan’s dependence on loans to end. His political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) controls the federal government, the Punjab government (the most politically significant province of the country), Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and is a junior coalition partner in Balochistan.
Only in the Sindh province is the PTI in opposition. This means that Imran Khan and his PTI has been given a strong mandate to govern the country. Imran Khan, after becoming Prime Minister, invited India to discuss peace even though the Indian media had lambasted Imran throughout Pakistan’s election process. However, a caveat must be mentioned here that Pakistan’s opposition forces have recently come together (late 2020) to topple the government and have amassed quite a lot of support.
Many of Pakistan’s public are tired of the high inflation rate in the country and so there is legitimate opposition. Since 2014’s landslide victory, Modi enjoys an even stronger mandate than Imran Khan. The BJP won even more seats in the 2019 Indian general elections. The BJP not only controls the federal government (302 seats out of 543 in the lower house) but also 18 out of 31 states and union territories of India.
Modi’s base is very strong in India but many have turned against him due to unpopular decisions such as the revocation of Kashmir’s special status, the passing of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a struggling economy, as well as not being able to control the coronavirus. Regardless both leaders are still considered strong (but not as much as they were before) and strong leadership is mandatory when it comes to peace.
Kashmiri Protests Subside/Resolved
The resolution of Kashmiri angst, at least in the short term, is an important pre-requisite before a proper peace engagement is initiated. Currently, there is little hope of initiating any dialogue with India, since India unilaterally changed the status of a disputed territory – India revoked the special autonomous status of J&K and made two union territories out of the region.
This incensed Kashmir’s Muslim population as well as Pakistan and China. India also initiated a lockdown in the valley to curb the anger of the Kashmiris, which is ongoing and has been for over one and ahalf years. Besides this, the human rights violations in Kashmir, which the UN has called out India on, remain unabated.
Since the roadmap suggests that Pakistan should not discuss the territorial aspect of Kashmir for 10 years, this kind of news might not go down well with the Kashmiris, and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC)who might see this as Pakistan selling them out – although, this is further from the truth and will be discussed ahead in detail.
In this paper’s opinion, a peace dialogue should only be initiated when tensions and emotions are not at boiling point in Kashmir. Therefore, before a roadmap is presented, India, as the international community has been clamouring for months, must try to resolve the Kashmiri angst (the Kashmiris had been protesting before the curfew was imposed).
Pakistan can, of course, make India aware that they are willing to start a historic peace dialogue with India, but the Kashmiri protests must be handled delicately and humanely and the hardliner approach (such as extended curfews, shooting protesters, disabling communication links, and so on) must cease.
Support of the International Community
The support of the international community especially China and the U.S. is required if a peace process is initiated. If these powers do not play their part, the peace process can easily be undermined no matter how pure the intentions and actions of both Pakistan and India are. China would welcome such an endeavour, but it is difficult to predict how they would react now since its border flare-up with India.
America under Trump showed positive intent when the president did mention eagerness to mediate the Kashmir situation, but only time will tell if Biden will be as keen. Nonetheless, as much international support should be raised for the roadmap to succeed.
This paper continues in part 3.
India’s Unclear Neighbourhood Policy: How to Overcome ?
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
India is in big trouble as UK stands for Kashmiris
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.
S. Jaishankar’s ‘The India Way’, Is it a new vision of foreign policy?
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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