They call it Pragmatism

Rivalry with China dates back to the Bandung days. Nehru’s efforts to contain China’s growing influence in the region by way of floating Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), predomi-nantly with some newly independent states, failed miserably. NAM was not really non-aligned. Nor was it strongly aligned with any military bloc—to some extent it was Moscow-centric. The concept of maintaining equidistance from both superpowers was vague. NAM never challenged American hegemony in any theatre of war, particularly in Vietnam war. In truth India’s role in UN sponsored International Control Commission during Vietnam war was an abject surrender to American domination. That NAM has long lost its relevance, with one of its founding members Yugoslavia, disintegrated, doesn’t require much to elaborate. Those who see in Modi’s rejection of Nehruvian ‘idealism’, a step forward in articulating pragmatic approach to the changed global reality have nothing to cheer about. This progmatism ends in showmanship but diplomacy in foreign affairs cannot sustain itself through showbiz.

India didn’t pursue independent foreign policy in the yester years and even today it is the same old story of how to play the second fiddle, notwithstanding psycophants’ euphoria over Modi’s progmatism in foreign relations. In Afghanistan, India has business stakes but the Modis are in no position to do anything there without the tacit approval of America.

Despite the decline of American empire the White House is unlikely to withdraw from any conflict zone. Modi’s pragmatism doesn’t see reason to condemn American and Russian barbarism in Syria. India has no policy on the Middle East. Even New Delhi’s stance on the Palestinian question now looks obscure as Modi’s desperate attempt to woo Israel is anything but realistic.

India is completely isolated from its neigbhours in the region. Things were not different during the NAM phase but the situation is moving towards chaos during Modi’s pragmatic phase. Modi’s pragmatism cannot save India from further isolation. No neighbour, big or small, trusts India. It is not really the case with China. India’s daydream to become a regional power with the backing of America has been dashed.

The basic orientation of India’s foreign policy has not changed much since the days of Nehru. What is called Modi’s pragmatism is aimed at serving American strategic interests. Not that Nehru’s India was against American domination. It was Nehru who actually opened India’s defence sector to America after border-clash with China. The way Modi is trying to woo the Uncle Sam is somewhat naked.

After assuming office in 2014, Modi tried to bolster India’s image abroad by shaking hands with scores of diplomats and heads of state but in the end the net result was zero.

The idea of projecting India as a regional power by sending peace keeping force—IPKF—to Sri Lanka during the Rajiv-regime, proved a disaster. And now the month-old stand off with China in the Sikkim sector is a major irritant in India’s foreign policy manoeuvring. As India doesn’t maintain good neighbourly relations with any of its neighbours, big or small, nobody will come forward to support India in case there is a full scale confrontation with China.

The bone of contention with Bangladesh is how to share waters of Ganga and Teesta judiciously. As for sharing Teesta waters full story behind the deadlock, never gets revealed. Teesta originates in Sikkim. For all practical pursoses, Sikkin consumes more than 60 percent of Teesta waters leaving very little for West Bengal and Bangladesh. Unless some hydel units in Sikkim are dismantled, equitable sharing of Teesta waters, is an absurd proposition.

Modi’s pragmatic approach to foreign policy is too shallow to be taken seriously by the international community. Three years in office, Modi’s pragmatism has failed to redefine India’s foreign policy in a fast changing world.

Vol. 50, No.6, Aug 13 - 19, 2017