Foreign policy on its knees
Mint, April 20, 2011
The “incredible India” of the tourism ad campaign is increasingly showing itself in reality as a “credulous India” — one that refuses to learn from past mistakes or realize the costs of a meandering, personality-driven approach to policymaking. India’s foreign policy kowtows to two of its neighbours on the same day last week highlight this.
It has become tradition for any Indian prime minister visiting China to make an important concession to his hosts. Though Manmohan Singh travelled to Sanya ostensibly for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) meeting held last Wednesday, he still delivered a gift-wrapped, two-in-one concession to Chinese President Hu Jintao — a double Indian climbdown on bilateral defence exchanges.
In resuming defence talks, India agreed both to delink them from the stapled-visa issue and, in deference to Beijing, to dilute the makeup of representation in its military delegation to China. Recall that India had frozen defence exchanges in response to two Chinese actions. One was Beijing’s policy of questioning India’s sovereignty in the Indian-controlled part of Jammu and Kashmir (China controls one-fifth of the original princely state) by issuing visas on a separate leaf to its residents. The other was its refusal to issue a normal visa to the Indian Army’s Northern Command chief, who was to lead the military team to China last summer.
Take the second kowtow — the decision to resume bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan without having secured any anti-terror commitment. Indeed, Islamabad has had the last laugh: the Pakistan-based masterminds of the Mumbai terror attacks remain untouched and the terrorist-training camps near the border with India continue to operate. Yet, New Delhi has returned to square one by resuming cricket ties and political dialogue at all levels.
The use of cricket to re-engage Pakistan at the highest level, with Mohali representing only the first step, mocks the memory of 26/11. Since Pakistan launched its proxy war against India in the 1980s, New Delhi has blended cricket with politics to court Pakistan on three separate occasions, with Singh the architect of two of those.
Brahma Chellaney is professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.