Guest Writers


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Prasad writes about his view of why India needs to take the center stage in International as well as regional arena.

Former United States Vice President Hubert Humphrey said that “Foreign Policy is really domestic policy with its hat on.” And this is true in every sense if you closely observe Americas’ role in the global arena. However in the present situation, not just USA but almost every country which is stressing on the foreign policy aspects more actively, are now shifting towards ‘Nation First’ approach and the changing public opinion from their respective countries which gets reflected through elections also indicates the same. Interestingly here India has a very dynamic role to play. It is not that we are not taking any actions but the situation is so affirmative that India has an open gateway to play a very crucial role. And we must hit the bulls eye now.

 In the past few years of foreign policy, diplomatic activities and their analysis, one thing is an undeniable fact that the subject matter is now taking a center stage. Though there are divisions and difference of opinions but you will have to be a staunch hater to undermine the activities in the foreign policy arena. Of course, the challenges and battles are not over. In fact they are showing an upward trend but the country’s image which was allowed to be tarnished earlier is now shifting towards a dominant role which the world is noticing now.

In the past many years, there are many positives and yet negatives on the front which is now being discussed. The recent news of British diplomat raising concerns about India’s pro- Conservative Party stand and how it damaged Labour Party in UK elections is a clear cut indicator of how even top players are noticing India’s potential now. Keeping aside an internal politics of the USA, the recently concluded Howdy Modi event in the US is nothing but a display of strength and the might of Indian diaspora which is now proving crucial on the global negotiating platforms. However. these things are not enough though necessary. We have to strike a balance with our economic and trade policies with the international relations approach which is currently a need.

The recent opting out of India from Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was a decision taken in the interest of domestic producers. Though the move may be viewed as protectionist, Japan’s potential back out from the deal due to India is a sign of our rising global value and the government must be applauded for the same. This doesn’t mean Free trade agreements and trade has to be stopped. However, reducing the existing trade deficits, engaging a huge European market in treaty bound activities and need of an uninterrupted dialogue is necessary. Soft power is something which will always remain our strength and we must reach out to unexplored avenues of African subcontinent and even South America more decisively due the unavoidable geopolitical algorithms.

Strategically speaking in the past few years, we have gone miles ahead and for those who are juxtaposing Prime Ministers trip to any other honeymoon tour, the matter is uncomprehending. One must have an ability to connect the dots to understand this great gamble. America supporting us on many international fronts and countering Pakistan, Russia engaging into multi billion-dollar defense deals with India and even Islamic countries sidelining Pakistan and supporting India are depicting a new beginning and a momentum to which India has to adhere to. We can never change our neighbours but we can change the way they act. And by successfully cornering Pakistan to an extent to which even China had to step back in the Masood Azhar case indicates the success of the diplomatic front. However, a burning and torn Pakistan is also a threat not just for India but for an entire region and that is something to be careful about.

While analyzing the facts and figures, one can not just overlook the challenges involved in the multilateral and bilateral policies and striking a balance between the two. We are having a trade talk with USA and the same time have differences on the World Trade Organisation platform. The picture is pretty much the same on the strategic front too. Deals with USA can potentially hamper Iran ties and a deal with Russia upsets USA. QUAD grouping which involves Australia, Japan, USA and India is a positive step to curb the Chinese influence but it also invokes a threat which India faces first being a neighbour of China. And this makes the game interesting as well as ‘not for amateur’ one.

Talking about the regional security and Indian Ocean region, India has now made a huge impact through diplomacy which resulted into recently elected government in Maldives being pro India and also the newly elected Sri Lankan president choosing India as a first country to visit. The neighbourhood first and Act East policy seem to be working but as mentioned earlier, no efforts are enough. The economic hegemony of certain powers in our sphere must be countered and process is very tedious.

A very common perception in the common citizens about the foreign policy is about expecting things in black and white. However, this entire arena is ‘grey’ which should be understood. Dealing with China, middle kingdom complex theory has to be taken under consideration. Dealing with the European powers, colonial era gets a refresh button and one can never ignore the history of Islamic invasions which India has. Hence things are not to be viewed in the short-term analysis but with a longer, deeper and engaging approaches.

Talking about the Afghanistan, this particularly applies the most because there are many interests which are entangled in the theory of great game. Along with this dealing with Afghani elected government and disputes related to Taliban are crucial and though India is growing gradually through soft power the entire country is still in a turmoil and needs a boost for safer region and peace. Bonhomie between PM Modi and Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu is all what we have witnessed but balancing between the Palestinian cause and friendship with Israel is something our country has so far successfully achieved.

Since USA is gradually vacating its role, China is trying to fill the void on the global arena. Though equipped with economic might, its influence can be countered by approaching the cultural, historical and civilisational ties using our diaspora with a garnishing of soft power approach which better serves those nations who were starved due to the sufferings of colonialism.

However, this could only be achieved if India becomes strong domestically by overcoming the ongoing global slowdown. In the field of sustainable and renewable energy, we are already marching ahead but the presence should be in other dimensions too. The foreign policy of ours in the future course of time must identify potential threats and take steps to get them down even though this means passing harsh domestic legislations. Our policy under the present system is definitely not like a caged parrot but we should also not become a dictating hawk. The chosen track compels the world to take cognizance of us. And this must continue to have ‘India which can never be ignored, side-lined or suppressed.’

  • Prasad Pawar

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