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Rhetorical Shift in India's Foreign Policy

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently has outlined five priorities of Indian foreign policy that his government has evolved during its nine years of rule to firm up India's place in the changing world order.

The Indian Prime Minister claimed that his government has reset the fundamentals of India's foreign policy based on national priorities and concerns in tune with its capabilities and role and destiny in the world affairs.

First, international relations are increasingly shaped by our developmental priorities and the single most important objective of Indian foreign policy is to create a global environment conducive to the well-being of our country. Prime Minister meant to create a global economic and security environment as India's relations with the world were increasingly shaped by its developmental priorities.

Second, India should integrate more closely with the global economy because it has benefited from globalization. He likes India to integrate with global economy as our country would be highly benefited by integration with the world economy.

Third, India seeks stable, long term and mutually beneficial relations with all countries and is prepared to work with the international community to create a global economic and security environment beneficial to all nations. He meant that cordial relationship with all the countries would help the international community to freely invest in India and push our country's developmental activities.

Fourth, "Indian subcontinent's shared destiny requires greater regional cooperation and connectivity." In this he lays emphasis on regionalism recognizing that the sub-continent's common destiny requires greater regional cooperation and connectivity. He likes India to strengthen regional institutional capability and capacity and invest in connectivity.

Fifth, "Our foreign policy is not defined merely by our interests, but also by the values which are very dear to our people." What he meant that India's experiment of pursuing economic development should not be mercantilist but should based on values. He defined India's core values as plural, secular and liberal democracy. These values according to him have inspired people around the world and would continue to do so. He would like India to align with such countries that espouse these values.

When we apply these five points foreign policy objectives in the context of what India wishes to achieve and where does it see itself in the changing world order, then the stark realities glares at our face. There is little to cheer if we critically analyze all the five points in India's foreign policy as enumerated by our Prime Minister.

The first objective of creating global environment for developmental activities in the country does not sink with the domestic conditions prevailing in our country. The government policy of creating economic zones has run into trouble and many foreign investors have backed out due to lack of conductive global environment for investment in India. So this needs to be sorted out in tune with India's domestic developmental priorities, before we promise to create friendly global conditions.

Second, pushing the cart of globalization is a mountain to climb. If globalization is the panacea of the mankind, then why there are nation states? Today, if a referendum is held on globalization, Manmohan government can hardly survive. Notwithstanding the fact that globalization can bring significant improvement in our lives, but it has to answer some question asked by traditional nationalist on this issue. Is India's policy of 'Hind Swaraj,' 'self-sufficiency,' 'self-reliance,' is given a go by merging its economy with the global economy. So the globalization agenda pose a huge challenge of convincing the nationalist and how India would tackle this issue remains nebulous.

Third, point on seeking mutually beneficial relations and create a global economic and security environment beneficial to all nations seems to be rhetoric. When Indian economy was buoyed by 8-9 per cent growth and aiming higher growth, such words may sound music, but now when we are slipping to about 4 per cent growth rate, it sounds mere hyperbole. The global economic slowdown and India's economic mismanagement cast a shadow on this foreign policy objective.

On regionalism, Manmohan Singh's idea of having "breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul," may remain a dream because peace remains elusive in our region. There are host of issues that vitiate peace in the subcontinent. India faces tension with all its neighbors, barring Bhutan. There is no peace in India's periphery. Terrorism poses a bigger challenge, not only to India but also to its neighbors. SAARC, the organization that's pushing this agenda of regionalism and is closing to be 40 years old now is still taking baby steps. So there is total disconnect between this objective and the realties on ground. The connectivity cannot solve the conflicts and this foreign policy objective can only be achieved if peace is established in the subcontinent.

The last point on values is again rhetoric. The question is asked, whether foreign policy is designed on national interest or on the lofty ideals and morality. If the later is the case then how India's growing relationship with Myanmar can be explained. This totally exposes Manmohan Singh's words and deeds.

The Prime Minister instead of making India's foreign policy as another 'Pachsheel' had stuck to his articulations made in 2004 as three point objectives. "First, strengthen ourselves economically and technologically; Second, acquire adequate defence capability, and third, to seek partnerships to widen our policy and developmental options."

He could have summed India's international relations based on three pillars were at work during his tenure and continue guide in future, would have been more modest summary of his nine years of rule. It could have avoided the rhetorical shift in India's foreign policy.

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