At a time when India aspires to become a superpower and a driving economic force of the 21st century, its directionless foreign policy is hurting its own interest. The inability of our politicians to make strong statements on the regular misdemeanours of Pakistan and China has given our hostile neighbours a chance to mock us at will.
The repeated Chinese incursions and ceasefire violations by Pakistan at the Line of Control (LoC) and other parts of the country are fallout of New Delhi’s weak foreign policy and the reluctance of our ruling class to put Beijing and Islamabad to task for their anti-India moves.
Let`s first look at Pakistan, which has been nurturing terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) on its soil to engage India in a proxy war after being repeatedly defeated in full-fledged wars. The ceasefire violations by Pakistan and the infiltration bids along the border have also been on the rise with the Indian Army recently claiming that there has been 80 percent increase in such instances in the recent past. And in spite of taking strong action against Islamabad`s hostile attitude towards India, the Congress-led ruling coalition has been busy placating its allies and trying to save its face in view of its criticism due a number of scams unearthed during its two tenures. At a time when the nation is seething with anger, the ‘chalta hai’ attitude of our politicians is further demoralising our armed forces.
There is an urgent need to review our existing strategy to deal with Pakistan’s adventurism. The situation calls for giving a tactical response to stop the incident like the recent LoC attack and the cowardly design of Pakistan’s notorious spy agency, the ISI, and the beheading of Indian soldier by Pakistani troops earlier this year. The two incidents are of great concern and warrant an immediate change in our foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan and China.
The contradictory statements of Defence Minister AK Antony on the killing of five Indian soldiers by the Pakistani Army only reflects the insensitivity of our political leaders who appear to be less concerned about national security and people`s sentiments.
Antony had initially told the Parliament that "20 heavily-armed terrorists along with persons in Pakistan Army uniform" were responsible for the killings near the Line of Control. However, after huge uproar from the Opposition, the Defence Minister made a fresh statement saying that a specialist group of the Pakistan Army was involved in the attack and no attack on the Indian Army is possible without the help of the Pakistani Army, adding that the ties with Islamabad will also be reviewed. What apathy for the 1.2 billion plus people where the country’s Defence Minister is unknown of the facts?
Another ugly episode that transpired due to Antony’s statement was the tug of war between the Congress and BJP. The war of words between the two national parties over Antony’s goof up only showed that the political parties here spare no chance to attack its rivals, even if it concerns the country’s security and its integrity.
The biggest problem is that India`s foreign policy is not aimed at strengthening our strategic and national interests, but it is also influenced by the coalition politics, which many times comes in way of formulation of such policies that are required for safeguarding our long-term strategic goals.
In the wake of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressing sorrow over the Loc incident and urging his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to meet and discuss steps for strengthening the bilateral ties, New Delhi should welcome the move, but at the same time ensure that history doesn’t repeats itself and Indian diplomacy does not get outsmarted by the Pakistanis as it has always been. The Indian establishment needs to talk tough this time so that something concrete comes out of the Sharif-Singh meet and issues like cross-border terrorism, ceasefire violation are not put on the back burner.
‘Dragon’ – The biggest challenge
Ironically, when the world is seeing India as an emerging world power and a potent force to take on China, the politicians of this largest democracy are doing nothing to replace China’s “big brother” status in Asia. The political class lacks a clear vision and a roadmap to emerge as a great economic and military superpower. The words and deeds of our diplomats and politicians are often aimed at keeping the `Dragon` happy. They seem to be repeating the same mistake, which our late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did by trusting Beijing and what transpired is a known fact.
China is vastly expanding its military and economy with every passing day and this is an alarming situation for our political administrators, who need to carefully design our response to Beijing. New Delhi urgently needs to warm up to countries like Japan, Vietnam, and Philippines, which have long standing land disputes with Beijing. Getting Japan onboard for investment in various sectors in India will be a huge boost for the latter`s economy. Besides, India should expand its influence in Vietnam, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other South East Asian countries, and give these countries a sense of assurance that China is not the only `power centre` in Asia and together they can check the `Dragon` from rising.
India`s silence on China`s plans to create a dam along the Brahmaputra River, long standing border disputes and Beijing`s unfair trade practices have given the Chinese an upper hand, who consider India`s leadership as weak and indecisive. The continuous incursion of the PLA on the Indian side and New Delhi`s timid response to such aggression only exposes our vulnerability and weakness.
Our defence preparedness has recently taken a surge, but is still far behind China – thanks to our policies formulated by the learned politicians who still want to rely on other countries for importing arms and military hardware – for the reasons they best know.
India should engage with the United States more and take the Indo-US ties to a new high. New Delhi also needs to complement its "Look East policy" with America`s "re-balancing towards Asia". At this crucial juncture when `Uncle Sam` wants to maintain its hegemony in Asia, New Delhi should grab this opportunity and engage more with Washington, if it wants to take on China and Pakistan.