This piece is a response to Mr. Hussain Haqqani’s article titled “Pakistan’s Pyrrhic Victory in Afghanistan:Islamabad Will Come to Regret Aiding the Taliban’s Resurgence” published in Foreign Affairs on 22 July 2021.Mr. Haqqani has been biased to hold Pakistani military establishment responsible for U.S. failure and Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan. In the entire article he, does not blame America for her misadventure in Afghan territory which
Akhilesh Pillalamarri calls as the ‘graveyard of empires’.Mr. Haqqani also does not highlight Indian strategic ambitions to insecure Pakistan’s western border and make it unmanageable for Pakistan. Mr.Haqqani perhaps did not review the already published literature on Taliban’s gains in the wake of U.S. retreat and now pointing finger at Pakistan like a street urchin.
Peter Beinart’s “In Afghanistan, Trump is Poised to Re-Escalate a Hopeless War” Published in The Atlantic on 12 May,2017
Before I respond to his frail argument I would like to mention an article of Michael McKinley, “We All Los Afghanistan: Two decades of Mistakes, Misjudgments, and Collective Failure published in Foreign Affairs on 16 August,2021.I would like to remind my readers that Michael McKinley had illustrious career as an Ambassador of the United States to Afghanistan(2014-2016) as he also served as U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, Colombia, Peru and as a senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The gist of his argument is that “The blame for this terrible tragedy cannot be laid at any one door.” Then how could Mr. Haqqani blame Pakistan for U.S. failure in Afghanistan. It sounds quite absurd. This response to Haqqani’s article has picked some of his points from whole manuscript and response to clarify facts that have either been absent or misrepresented.
Mr. Haqqani writes “Pakistan’s security establishment is cheering the Taliban’s recent military gains in Afghanistan. The country’s hard-liners have funneled support to the Taliban for decades, and they can now envision their allies firmly ensconced in Kabul. Pakistan got what it wished for—but will come to regret it.” Well! Pakistan’s security establishment is deliberating like China and other regional actors that how to respond to such a situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan never wished anything contrary to the interest of the people of Afghanistan and overwhelmingly extended an extraordinary support which even is unthinkable.
If I ask Mr. Haqqani a question, “Does America let any Mexican enter in the U.S. even if there is a serious humanitarian crisis in Mexico?”. The answer must be a big, fat No! Pakistan has done so decades ago and even now people of Afghanistan pin high hopes on Pakistan as a savior, international media can show massive gatherings of Afghan refugees seeking exit from Afghanistan. Pakistan has already hosted millions of Afghan refugees who were fed, clothed, educated and later granted citizenship of Pakistan. That era wreaked a great havoc in Pakistan as drugs and sectarian killings ruined the social fabric in Pakistan. But how many times Pakistan held America responsible. Instead, the U.S. lashed sanction under Pressler Amendment(1985 Originally banned most economic and military assistance to Pakistan unless the U.S. president certified, on an annual basis, that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device) and later Brown Amendment that Pakistan could not get access to U.S. military aid. Strategic allies are not treated like this as U.S. did by using carrot and stick approach.
Haqqani’s point that a “Taliban takeover will leave Pakistan more vulnerable to extremism at home and potentially more isolated on the world stage.” Is somewhat valid only in terms of waves of extremism otherwise as international isolation Pakistan is concerned that is not a logical argument. But organized attempts of international propaganda machinery to isolate Pakistan cannot be denied whose hub is New Delhi. Indian organized media propaganda campaigns against Pakistan have been counterproductive. U.S. did not trust Pakistan while waging war in Afghanistan and the outcome is trillion dollars, loss of servicemen and major blow to U.S. national prestige.
Pakistan stood by the U.S. in war against terrorism beyond former’s capacity, hosted bases to U.S. for military operations despite intense internal pressure and also earned title of non-NATO ally. United States did not treat Pakistan like other non-NATO allies. According to the U.S. Department of State “Major Non-NATO Ally(MNNA)status is a designation under U.S. law ,that provides foreign partners with certain benefits in the areas of defense trade and security cooperation. The Major Non-NATO Ally designation is a powerful symbol of the close relationship the United States shares with those countries and demonstrates our deep respect for the friendship for the countries to which it is extended.”On the other hand, the U.S. treated Pakistan like an opponent and adopted discriminatory policies towards it. The glaring example of U.S. discrimination is Indo-US civil nuclear deal and U.S. outright support for Indian candidacy by the former U.S. President Barack Obama for United Nations Security Council(UNSC) as a permanent member(with or without veto power).The U.S. launched drone strikes deep into Pakistan’s territory that caused much collateral damage and public outrage. Collateral damage in drone strikes increased anti-Americanism in Pakistan.
Pakistan suffered with a direct and indirect cost of $126 billion. It is the economic cost of war that Pakistan fought to support U.S. in Afghanistan otherwise Taliban were not as major threat to Pakistan as to the U.S.
Pakistan’s major military operation starting from operation Alimizan(2002) to Zarbe-Azb(2014) and Raddulfasad(2017) achieved greater success against terrorist groups and dismantled their networks, strongholds and also restored normalcy in turbulent areas. Also successfully managed gigantic challenge of internally displaced persons (IDPs).National Action Plan(NAP) helped Pakistan to address menace of terrorism through institutions as well. Statistics of terrorist incidents from 2003 to 2017 can compared with 2017 to 2021 which shows a complete eradication of terrorist networks on this side of the border unlike Afghan territory where U.S. troops did every effort to establish a so-called democratic government and train army but it proved a soap-bubble that seemed beautiful but quickly burst.
The U.S instead of appreciating such sacrifices blamed Pakistan of playing double-game rather U.S. proved an untrustworthy partner in war against terrorism. The incident of Salala incident (2011) shook Pakistan when NATO troops killed 24 soldiers of Pakistan in an unprovoked incident. No Non-NATO ally has been ever threated like this especially the one who remained a lynchpin of U.S. war against terrorism.
Haqqani’s claim that “The Taliban’s victory will have an equally disastrous effect on Pakistan’s domestic peace and security.”
Pakistan, over the two decades has learn to respond to traditional and non-traditional security threats very efficiently. Taliban may pose a threat to Pakistan if they try to export their ideology beyond border and once again engage in drug trade and transnational terrorist groups set up ties with Taliban. But contrary to the expectations of millions, Taliban after taking over Kabul announced general amnesty for the people. They also appealed for economic aid and cooperation. They provided a safe passage to Indians who wanted to leave the country. American embassy was neither attacked nor ravaged .That is a drastic change in Taliban’s thinking and approach to conduct affairs of the state. The IMF has suspended economic assistance over $370 million to Afghanistan scheduled to arrive on 23 August 2021.An IMF spokesperson said it was due to “lack of clarity within the international community”.
Haqqani’s claim about “ Pakistan’s generals see the Taliban as an important partner in their competition with India. Weak civilian leaders in Islamabad, meanwhile, have acquiesced to a policy that prioritizes the elimination of real or perceived Indian influence in Afghanistan”
Such a claim must properly be analyzed that what are the ground realities. India was never desired by Afghans to be on their soil as investor or partner in reconstruction, as Afghanistan due to landlocked geography has highly been dependent upon Pakistan. If that was the case why did Indians flee from Afghanistan after the takeover as Taliban could themselves see material contribution of India on Afghanistan soil.
Mr. Haqqani forgot to highlight doomy U.S. involvement in Afghanistan to overpower Soviet troops. Taliban were partners with the U.S. when Jallauldin Haqqani met with President Regan and the latter termed him as a freedom fighter against Soviets. Reuters published a story on September 14, 2011 in which the former U.S. Congressman
Charlie Wilson, who fund-raised for the Afghan resistance, once called Jalaluddin ‘goodness personified’. The warrior was held in such high esteem he visited the White House when Ronald Reagan was president.” U.S. betrayal to Taliban and leaving Afghanistan without reconstruction after the war with Soviet Union enraged Taliban and they decided not to trust the U.S.
Therefore, leveling such allegations against Pakistan makes Hussain Haqqani himself a double agent who was ambassador of Pakistan in the U.S.(2008-2011) but worked for the latter’s interest.
Mr. Haqqani has not mentioned any U.S. failure in Afghanistan as puppet governments that U.S. established were not true representative of Afghan People. That is why Ghani had to flee and his forces had to surrender.
Haqqani mentioned General Hamid Gul(late) and referred to 2014 television talk .Haqqani quotes : “When history will be written, it will be stated that the ISI(Inter-service intelligence) defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with the help of America. Then there will be another sentence added . The ISI, with the help of America, defeated America.”He, in other words acknowledges that the ISI has the potential to defeat America with American help.
This statement was cherrypicked out of context leaving whole of his talk aside just to malign Pakistan’s security agencies. Pakistan has been a partner in global war against terrorism and how could it defeat world’s strongest power which failed in Afghanistan due to its flawed strategy and prolonged unnecessary presence in Afghanistan without empowering Afghans. If Haqqani believes what General Gul (late) stated in 2014, then Haqqani does not have any confidence in operational capability of U.S. forces who are apparently are easy to defeat in Afghanistan.
Mr.Haqqani’s point of internal dysfunction and economic challenges, and terrorist attacks on minorities in Pakistan are false and baseless. Pakistan’s slow economic growth is the outcome of lending support to U.S. in war against terrorism and inviting wrath of terrorists who attacked on soft targets as well deterred investment and inflicted on Pakistan’s economy. Regarding attacks on minorities in Pakistan, Indian involvement was brought to surface when Kulbhushan Yadav was caught with organized network for aiding terrorist groups to carry out terrorist activities in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s constitution is the supreme law of the nation and it is Islamic in nature that no law can be formulated in direct contravention to Quran and Sunnah. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan respects religious and cultural values of other nations and similarly, it is obligatory for other nations to respect Islamic culture and values. No nation has any right to disrespect other religions and its sacred personalities. Such an act is tantamount to stoking fire in a jungle that can engulf whole area. Mr.Haqqani knows the sensitivity of the topic therefore, does not get much into it.
There is a huge difference between Islamizing curriculum or reforming curriculum according to the needs of the society. Mr. Haqqani forgot to mention his friend Mr. Modi who has launched nation-wide campaign of hatred for religious minorities and even introduced Citizenship Amendment Act(2019) that is a major blow to secular spirit and democratic values of so-called rising India. How many articles Mr. Haqqani published on plight of Kashmiris especially after the revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution? Did he raise the voice of poor Kashmiris that they were under siege in this modern age. No country spoke of their freedom of expression and freedom to move. There has been a complete media blackout and no one allowed to come out of their homes. Use of brutal force to implement unjust, unilateral policy of Modi.
Instead of appreciating Pakistan’s good-offices in Taliban and-U.S. negotiations Mr. Haqqani finds fault with Pakistan’s facilitation of both the parties to Agree to Doha Agreement (2020) which set the stage for U.S.-long-awaited withdrawal from Afghanistan. He quotes UN Security Council Report published in June which found that “Taliban have not broken-off ties with Al-Qaeda and that senior Al-Qaeda officials have recently been killed alongside Taliban Associates while co-located with them.”
United Nations Security Council report must be very credible but it also questions U.S. presence in Afghanistan for last wo decades, making high claims of destroying high value targets, dismantling Al-Qaeda networks. Whereas the reality is the opposite, the U.S. presence strengthened Taliban and their hold on Afghanistan which caused Kabul’s fall within three weeks of U.S. withdrawal.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, has said that “al-Qaeda could reconstitute itself in Afghanistan within two years of an American withdrawal.”International community collectively must ask U.S. presidents a question, what did you achieve in there? Except killing people indiscriminately. Human right organizations must dig into massive violations of human rights to unearth the truth. If Al-Qaeda still have the potential to reconstitute itself then whom were you killing in numerous operations. Regarding Mr. Haqqani’s prediction about Pakistan and U.S. relationship, he contends “The two countries’ relationship seems poised to become even more unreliable in the years ahead.” It is not due to Taliban take over, but U.S. assertiveness about backing out of CPEC, providing air bases in Pakistan and other multiple reason.
In conclusion, Taliban came to power again because they were more powerful than their 1996 rule and had backing of their own people. It was the American government that kept lying to rest of the world about gains in Afghanistan. Regional actors are deliberating to deal with the latest and unexpected development in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been the major victim of terrorism for last two decades. Like other regional actors China, Iran, Saudi, Arabia, UAE, Pakistan is also looking into that how to engage with this political reality (Taliban) and work for preventing any crisis-like situation in Afghanistan. U.S. seems not to engage Taliban politically but that will antagonize Taliban towards the U.S. and its allies. Majority of the international media are reporting from Kabul which reflects there is a sense of security for them. A stable and economically viable Afghanistan is better for regional peace and security than an economically shattered and security-wise unstable. Therefore, it is the responsibility of great power and regional actors to extend humanitarian assistance and economic aid to avoid any resurgence of drugs and Kalashnikov culture. Transition from a puppet government to a Taliban regime is crucial for people of Afghanistan. History teaches great lessons, perhaps states don’t wish to learn them.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of author’s own and do not necessarily represent or purport the organization he works for.
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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