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India's Foreign Policies in
South Asia Need Review
|by Dr. Subhash Kapila|
In the last decade or so under different political dispensations India has steered its foreign policies in the management of its relations with the world's major powers in an effective manner. India is unique today in that it enjoys strategic partnerships with the two leading powers, namely, the United States and Russia. The same is the case with its relationships with the European Union countries, China and Japan. It is a measure of India's forward movement away from its much hallowed but politically irrelevant Nehruvian policies of non-alignment that the major powers today feel comfortable and are encouraged to establish strategic partnerships with India.
However, the same cannot be said of India's foreign policies closer home in South Asia. Not that Indian diplomacy lacked vision or competence in formulating or crafting effective policies for the region, but that a combination of external intrusive powers pressure on India and domestic political pressures of Indian politics have stymied India's foreign policies towards the countries of
Pakistan heads the list of distinguishing itself as the biggest problematic country in South Asia. As a garrison state under the iron grip of Pakistan Army rule for more than half its existence, Pakistan has been in a permanent state of confrontation with India. It launched four wars against India and a proxy war and state-sponsored terrorism against India. It has now carried its terrorism right into the heart of India and the capital city of New Delhi in the last couple of years.
India's foreign policy towards Pakistan over the years has been soft and appeasing in nature. This has occurred due to unrelenting pressure from United States to concede concessions to ensure General Musharraf's continuance in power to serve American strategic interests. India had no business to enter into a peace dialogue with a nation that launches unrestrained terrorism against India. Pious hopes that a process of dialogue with Pakistan will soften Pakistan Army's Generals attitudes towards India are misplaced.
The problem with India's political establishment and the votaries of Indo-Pak peace is that they feel wrongly that the aspirations of peace with India of the Pakistani masses is also shared by the Pakistan Army Generals who control Pakistan's foreign policy. Pakistan's military ruler, General Musharraf is no exception. Lately, much to the discomfiture of Indian foreign policy planners he has started conducting Pakistan's foreign policy towards India through the Media emboldened by the Indian media's penchant for lapping up whatever he says.
India's national security interests in terms of sanctity of borders, internal security and the protection of the lives of its citizens are being constantly being trampled by Pakistan. India needs to adopt firm policy attitudes towards Pakistan including discontinuing the redundant peace process. India in this context has also to make it clear to the United States that India's national security interests are paramount and that it is not in a position to accommodate American priorities in the region centering on Pakistan.
Bangladesh is in the clutch of Islami Jehadis whose proclaimed intent is to Talibanise the country. It also is being used knowingly or unknowingly by Pakistan's ISI for destabilization of India's North East. India's policies towards Bangladesh have to be a mixture of firmness and also assistance for economic development to overcome its problems so that it is not exploited. Scope does exit to turn around Bangladesh from its mistrust of India and its motives.
Nepal is a country which India's political leaders are pushing into China's strategic embrace. The need of the hour was to hold the King's hand and assist him in firmly liquidating the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. India does not enjoy a good chemistry with the King and this has distorted India's current foreign policy towards Nepal by harping on a democracy crusade in Nepal. India's national security interests would be seriously compromised should a China-friendly Maoists emerge in power in Nepal. Only the King can prevent that eventuality and India needs to support him. The Leftist parties in India are also influencing current misplaced Indian policies towards Nepal for their own vested reasons.
India also should not allow Sri Lanka to be fragmented by internal strife despite the domestic Tamil factor being in play . Sri Lanka needs to be supported to the hilt to prevent its straying into other strategic orbits.
India's rise to a global power status will also be largely dependant on the foresight and firmness where due is exercised by it in its neighborhood. Spoiler states created by external intrusive powers need to be put on notice and if necessary can be put out of business by imposing an arms race which they can ill-afford and which their external sponsors find it hard to subsidize.
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