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Indian Corrections

editSo much of rhetoric emanating from across the border on the failure of Indian foreign policy vis a vis China is centered around Nepal. This is ironic. In the first place this criticism emanates largely from the Indian Congress which seeded and nurtured India’s traditional foreign policy carried over as inheritance from the British. As a matter of fact, the withdrawal of the British from the region may have facilitated the inheritance but the absence of the British also meant the evolution of several independent states in the region, a development the British would perhaps have taken in stride as the need for change. The emergence of the BJP regime as the dominant policy factor in India would have meant that the policy constants in the neighborhood would have been inherited by Indian Prime Minister Modi who would only naturally have sought to benefit from his country’s previous investments in the neighborhood to pursue his policy objectives. As his critics in India are pointing out, Modi has been denied the advantage. What is forgotten in this new Indian enlightenment is that it was Modi whose ‘neighborhood first’ policy actually underlined the need for change in Indian foreign policy itself. It is another matter that the previous policy machinery in the neighborhood appears to have resisted the desired change simply because the investments of decades in machinery designed for micro management was deemed so close to achieving traditional objectives and also that corrections would have meant compromising the assets built over the years. One thing is certain, though. Indian foreign policy is under scrutiny for its failures.
In the process, a lot of soul searching is taking place currently in BJP ruled India regarding what is now deemed Nehruvian policy. The BJP is not new to this. One precursor is Pakistan itself whose founder Jinnah had had to opt for a separate Moslem Pakistan because of what he said was Nehru’s policy. The Indians had for so long been alleging that Jinnah was a British lackey built to divide India and for so long had India. Invested in Nehru’s ‘Chacha’ (uncle) image that his policies were held sacrosanct and above reproach by a predominant Indian Congress who had the advantage of sharing power with the colonial British in one form or other since the first decade of the Twentieth Century. That it should fall to the BJP to recognize the Congress errors is one thing, but that it should now be expected to reverse the total course of direction is something that Modi should be sympathized with and not just demanded of. Consider Modi pleading for sagacity from our newly elected constituent assembly members in the formation of which Indian policy makers had such a major hand and consider Modi’s undeclared ‘blockade’ after tangibles he sought from them were not readily forthcoming and one does find that previously made investments were misdirected so that malleability was no foregone conclusion. For long have we said that carrying the colonial mantle was an inbuilt policy error in the neighborhood where Indian role as an engine of cooperation has been vital for regional health. Investments encouraging crass opportunism can surely be reflected in unpredictability whereas policy partners require reliability. Rebuilding foreign policy is a difficult task as the Americans learnt concerning China and it took the Vietnam debacle to impress this on their foreign policy establishment. For Modi, any further delays in wreaking corrections may prove even more costly. There is little change in the manner his foreign minister invited herself to Nepal (except hopefully in the contents of the tete a tete she had here).

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