"Hindusthan's lonely furrow" – observes DNA

This is an interesting article by Shri Jagannathan. I have of course commented on his writings before and my observations haven’t been too nice to the columnist. This latest too has it’s flaws but I find he’s somewhat on a good track. Or is he?

– Namaste

India’s lonely furrow

R Jagannathan

We have never been in this situation before. Just a couple of years back, in the last years of the Bush regime, it seemed as if an Indo-US geopolitical alliance was all we needed to move up to the big league. But enter Obama and all bets are off. (Pala S – I’m not sure what Shri J means by “moving up the big league”. Does he mean by being a client state? The reason I ask is not because I oppose an alliance with the US but Obama’s presence should not have mattered to the status of such an alliance, ideally. It’s important to ask why it is so easy for the US to break away from Hindusthan?)

The US embrace is no longer as warm as we imagined it to be. Meanwhile, the India-China relationship is fraying at the edges; Pakistan is getting into a Talibanesque mess; Nepal is ambivalent, and the Maoists positively hostile to us; Sri Lanka is cocky after subduing its Tamil Tigers; and Bangladesh is unlikely to do anything to keep its people from spilling over into India or turn overtly jihadi. (Pala S – On what solid foundation did we base our friendship/relationship with the US on? Was it economic like the Chinese? Was it civilizational, like the Israelis and the EU? Was it security we could provide in the region? I guess what I’m asking is – what did we offer?)

In short we have no real friends anywhere — neither in the neighbourhood nor in the wider world of power blocs. How then are we going to protect our national interests? (Pala S – If we really value our national interests, then we should be prepared to commit to friendship with nations we think are on par. How have we visibly committed to any of our friends?)

One thing is for sure. Lazy diplomacy is not going to help. Nor will ambivalence about defence preparedness.

We have, in the past, put too much faith in moral posturing, influenced by the likes of Nehru and Gandhi. But the emerging scenario needs a Chanakya, not woolly thinking, as every country’s foreign policy is driven by realpolitik. China is bashing up Tibetans and Uighurs, but has the friendliest of relationships with Pakistan, the epicentre of jihadi terrorism. (Pala S – I think Shri J places too much faith in the power of intrigue. Of course Chanakya is important in dealing with enemies – he is less so while dealing with friends. China and Pakistan have a lot going between them because they have gone to great lengths in pleasing each other materially and psychologically. Pakistan : China what North Korea : China or even Israel : US)

The US is a muddled up superpower, with no idea of how to protect its long-term interests. It is backing Pakistan in the belief that it will take on the Taliban, but what if Pakistan, driven by blind hatred of India, is not up to it? What if a Talibanised Pakistan is armed to take on the US and India instead? (Pala S – Would we not have looked so much better if we had committed troops in Afghanistan, alongside the US? Why did we not do this? Obviously we decided to play safe by local Muslim sentiment. Why then are we worried about the Taliban? Or the US’ ability to flounder on it’s axis and inability to deal with it’s enemies?)

Russia, a defence superpower with a puny economy, kowtows to China despite being wary of its embrace. The European Union, despite its high moral tone in everything, is the meekest possible force when it comes to fighting for what it believes in. Economically, western Europe is in decline and politically it is effete.  Japan is too self-absorbed with its non-performing economy to stand up for its national self-respect, whether it is against Chinese bullying or North Korean buccaneering. (Pala S – I still don’t see Shri J looking for a bond that would last. All he’s looking for is economy. I’m afraid that’s also what our policy meisters did)

In this world, the first thing we need to understand is that we are on our own. Civilisationally, as Samuel Huntington presciently predicted, we have no natural allies to call to our aid. We have to size up the world and make our moves. (Pala S – Civilizations bond with each other based on what they give to each other. We have not really gone down that road yet, as inheritors of a great Hindu civilization)

As things stand now, these are the major power blocs we have to deal with: the US and north America is bloc one; China and south-east Asia constitute a rival bloc, and its power is growing; the European Union is bloc three, but it is largely protectionist and its economy is losing steam; Latin America is the rising power, and as such ripe for alignments. The west Asian economies — largely Islamic — constitute another node, despite apparent local rivalries and bitterness. (Pala S – This must sound so frustrating to SE Asian nations. If feedback and observation is anything to go by, these nations have given up waiting on Hindusthan to stand up to China. They realize China is inherently hegemonic. They want Hindusthan on their side. We let them down badly. It’s cruel that Shri J now calls them China’s allies)

What we have left is the African subcontinent, Australia, Russia and Japan. Africa is ripe for big power rivalry, and the Chinese are ahead in the game. Australia is aligned to the US, but is of little practical relevance in any international power game.

That leaves Russia, Japan and India as the sole major powers with no natural allies and each with its own weaknesses to attend to. (Pala S – I doubt very much if Japan is isolated. Russia is very assertive these days – in every way. That leaves us; what do we want for ourselves? What do we think of ourselves?)

This is the slate on which Indian diplomacy has to make its mark, and the place to begin obviously is the US, Japan and Russia — in that order. The US is a natural partner but it believes it needs Pakistan on its side and China too. Since both of them are our enemies, Indian diplomacy has to do two opposite things: one is to patiently educate the US on the disadvantages of partnering with countries that are actually inimical to its interests; secondly, we need to resist misguided US pressure to make concessions on Kashmir. We should, of course, give the Kashmiris a large amount of autonomy, but we have to keep the Pakistanis out of there to preserve secularism. (Pala S – Please read this carefully and one realizes this terrible pitfall Hindusthan falls into always. Shri J wants Hindusthan’s diplomacy to educate the US against Pakistan and China all the while giving into the same dangerous forces that we think we can help the US guard against)

On the assumption that our relationship with the US will not be smooth, we have to redevelop our friendship with the Russians and closer economic ties with the EU and Japan. If any country should be shown favours, it is Japan. We also need to develop Iran as a strategic partner, if only to send a message to the US that if they can jump into bed with our enemies, we can talk to Iran too. (Pala S – Shri J suggests that not only should Hindusthan seek purely economy related partnerships, it should also blackmail the US, a power he wants us to actively woo, by playing footsie with Iran (a view not rare in this country). This is not Chankayan diplomacy. It’s Shri J’s version of a comedy show)

Of course, only a militarily strong nation can maintain its independence. We must thus keep raising our defence preparedness with a step-up in defence’s share of the GDP to 4-4.5 per cent for the next 10 years, till we are capable of deterring China on our own. The nuclear deterrence also needs to be beefed up and made real, with proper delivery systems. (Pala S – Spot on)

India is not a warmongering nation, but we must learn the lesson that only those who are perpetually prepared for war can usually avoid it. (Pala S – Wrong first thought. Hindusthan must seek to be militarily prepared and must be prepared to commit troops. This is the only way we can build lasting friendships with our notional natural allies)


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