must have grand strategic design in its foreign policy
There is need for new thinking in India's foreign policy.
In today's complicated and fast-changing geo-political situation,
India has wisely diversified its foreign policy options, but
must retain flexibility in order to be able to pursue an independent
foreign policy, on which there is an overwhelming national
India can become a major world power in the 21st century only
on its own strength and political will, not because others
want it to. Power is always taken, never given.
India is too large and independent to be a reliable ally of
the United States on the latter's terms. While there are many
short-term factors bringing the two countries together, the
long-term strategic interests of the two countries are likely
to diverge. India must use the current window of opportunity,
when it is being seriously viewed by the rest of the world
as a country that will inevitably play a much greater role
in world affairs in the coming years, to evolve a strategy
that would enable it to become a global player in all respects
- economically, politically, militarily and technologically.
On its own, India cannot become a global player. It will have
to work with other rising powers that also want a multi-polar
China will remain among India's most pressing and difficult
foreign policy challenges. India will have to deal with China
at many levels. It is a possible partner in a cooperative
endeavour to build a multi-polar world. It is also a long-term
strategic competitor for influence and leadership in Asia.
But, above all, it is a neighbour that has exaggerated and
made preposterous territorial claims on India, and that is
suspicious of India harbouring the Dalai Lama and a large
population of Tibetan refugees.
India should eschew its current defensive, timid and somewhat
legalistic approach in dealing with China. There is no need
to be in awe of China. As a country with aspirations for a
larger regional and global role, India has to do some hardheaded
scenario building such as a relentlessly rising China or a
What India does vis-a-vis the major global players is perhaps
not as important as what India manages to achieve in its own
neighbourhood. India cannot be a credible great power unless
it has a natural sphere of influence where it is dominant.
As India prospers and develops, it has to take along its neighbours;
otherwise, its economic growth will not be sustainable.
Ultimately, India's objective should be maximum possible economic
integration with it of its neighbouring countries, which would
tie their destinies with India regardless of the political
predilections of the regimes in power. Economic interdependence
leading to economic integration may also lead India's neighbours
to have a better appreciation of India's security concerns
and to cooperate with it in this respect. Without this, the
chances of peace and stability in South Asia are bleak.
India has to handle relations with its neighbours with great
care and delicacy, mindful of their sensitivities, aspirations
and dignity. India has to earn the right to leadership by
setting an example, by showing magnanimity, and by successfully
managing the growing challenges and contradictions of the
region. Patience and an appeal to its neighbours' self-interest
have to mark India's attitude. Such an approach will earn
India its neighbours' respect and admiration. India has to
understand that its neighbours will never love it. India is
feared by its neighbours, but perhaps not enough.
Even as it must be visionary, large-hearted and sensitive
to its neighbours, India needs to firmly and unambiguously
define for its neighbours the goalposts of India's non-negotiable
national interests. India should make it clear that it will
be uncompromising on security issues. That has to be India's
bottom line. Regrettably, an impression has gained ground
among India's neighbours that India is a soft state whose
nose can be tweaked with impunity. It is imperative that India
makes sure that its neighbours know and respect India's core
interests. If not, India should be prepared to use its many
leverages against them.
Will India's relationship with destiny be consummated? It
can be, provided there is a change of mindset among India's
leaders and its people. There can be no place for a 'chalta
hai' or 'anything goes' attitude. Aspiring to become a great
power, India will have to behave like one.
There are no short cuts. Piggybacking strategies are futile.
Based on an objective evaluation of India's resources and
comparative advantages, India must have a clear grand strategic
design. India must have self-confidence in its destiny, determinedly
follow clear-headed policies without being pushed around,
and work purposefully to build the required institutional
structures and public support to sustain its ambitions. Only
then can India forge ahead and transform its much vaunted
'potential' into the reality of a strong, prosperous and globally
(15.04.2009- Excerpted from Rajiv Sikri's "Challenge
and Strategy: Rethinking India's Foreign Policy", published
by SAGE. Rajiv Sikri can be contacted at email@example.com)
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