Further Justification for a New Foreign Policy

    Dr.Rao VBJ Chelikani


            We reiterate the thesis that there is an urgent need for reviewing radically our policies of external relations as well as our strategies of defence preparations. This is brutally reminded to us by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Unlike any other war in any other continent, this war in Europe among Europeans has challenges for us. So far, we have brilliantly succeeded in protecting our interests thanks to the ingenuity and tactful public relations deployed by our prime minister, minister for external affairs and the diplomatic corps. The world community too, because of our frank appraisal and our strategic importance in world politics has accepted this situation, nevertheless embarrassing. Nevertheless, we should not think that we have convinced everybody and that we are on the right path. We cannot continue to say before the world community that our foreign policy is that which serves only our national interests the best. Right now, Russia is also saying the same thing. All along with the history and especially during the two world wars, all the states have said the same thing. The present diplomatic posture is only tactical and contextual and it cannot be considered an enlightened policy for the future.  We have to draw some conclusions. A policy that does not refer to any democratic or humanist or universal values and to any international framework or treaties that strive for international development, solidarity and peace, does not command any respect in the community of nations, even if they don’t tell you so in words on your face. Our policies are to be coherent with our oft-repeated concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. In any case, this position would not be helpful very much before the international community, if we come into conflict with China or Pakistan. The present war reminds us of the fact that even though the world has changed and the Indian citizens have changed, our policies of external affairs have remained the same.

1. What is the purpose of the state?  The modern states in the 21st century cannot claim anymore to be the absolute sovereigns over the citizens living within the state. They are only custodians of the liberties and welfare of the people within and, while doing so democratically, they should not put them in conflict with other people beyond their borders. It means their internal, as well as external policies, should be people-centred and not power-centred. The present culture of many political states in the world and their leaders along with their corps of career diplomats are imposing enormous suffering on the human beings in their own state as well as on those in other states. Still, less democratic and more authoritarian states, in which we can safely include Russia, with their bureaucratic approach, are causing more international havoc and anarchy. While playing lip-sympathy, they are blocking the UN agencies from functioning efficiently and are rendering its mechanisms ineffective. The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine is the most appropriate example of the crisis in the role being played by the strong political states against better human relations.

2. The strategies and operations of our foreign policy cannot be entirely in the exclusive interests and for the glory of the state. Basically, it should promote people-to-people understanding and cooperation among those who are separated by the boundaries which have nothing sacred about them. They are drawn wars and inherited incidentally and people have not chosen their birth within those boundaries. No state can ever be a super-state for long, even though sometimes and for some time, it might be possible. Moreover, India has been from times immemorial more a cultural entity with universal values, than a monolithic political entity. 

3. Since the 19th century, more than a king or a hero, the people are emerging as the subject as well as the object of all democratic governance in all spheres of human activity. This trend is strong and valid within each state as well as among the states. This is a historical process of democratization of human societies. After the 2nd world war among the states, the peoples of all nations, came together, not in the name of the states, to promote international understanding and peace, by setting up the United Nations Organisation as an expression of International Democracy among nations. The UN Charter has never been conceived as a super-State. Its objective has been to promote and protect by democratic dialogue, the fundamental human rights of all the individuals as well as of all the peoples, which means all human communities.

4.It is clear from the above that the state as a political entity and diplomats as its chief negotiators cannot and should not have the last word in the future world governance and that people-to-people relations are more important than state-to-state relations.

5. In order to accomplish the above objectives, our traditional corps of diplomats and embassies abroad have to be reduced radically or closed, thereby saving much foreign currency. The associations of the Indian diaspora should be recognized and be given a more active role. We should have Cultural Centres with their cooperation. Now, the ambassadors are to be from the people as the states are made of people, for the people and by the people.

6. Since for the past 70 years, only political accords among the states have been the focus of all diplomatic energies, all the strong states with authoritarian regimes with bureaucracy and the career diplomats have ruled the roost and the people are only spectators in this game. There is a diplomatic culture in which the absolute sovereignty of each state over its people is mutually recognized and that nobody from outside should intervene in the internal matters of a state. The formerly colonized countries have eagerly accepted this thesis and jealously upheld their independence from other states, inspired by anti-Imperialist convictions. In the poor countries which became independent, the new leaders who were oppressed by a few within the state in the past are now impatient, intolerant and authoritarian with popular approbation and even turned into cruel dictators. As a consequence, the relations among the states have always been conflicting. But the European states are giving up this obsession with state sovereignty, and are forming a union with collective security arrangements.

7. But, meanwhile, the people have improved their communications with each other, and they have been commutating across the states; and we are in the process of speedy globalization of economic, social and cultural relations. People see that there is a vast world beyond their own state. But the political relations among the states are lagging behind as they are exclusively managed by the power-wielding state structures.


In view of the above analysis, hereafter our external relations should have the following objectives and activities:

1. Our bi-lateral relations with Russia have to be radically revised while watching the Russia-China relations. We need not be forever thankful for what Russia did for us in some instances in the past. Russia had done it so obeying certain given geopolitical realities of the context. Further, this long bureaucrat-to-bureaucrat discreet relationship did not, at all, lead to any people-to-people relationships. During the Ukrainian war, Russia is treating us as a dependent state, rather than as a partner. Whatever might be the outcome of the present Ukrainian war, even with a change of leadership, Russia will be a rogue state in the eyes of the international community for many years to come. In spite of it, it is and it would be treated as a part of European nations.

2. Facing China, we should have wide and collective security arrangements, rather than aiming at individual state-wise security and defence preparations. We should diversify our outsourcing.  But, neglecting so far our own countrymen in the private sector in defence preparations is our biggest bureaucratic blunder. A state that depends upon another state for its very basic security or defence needs is a satellite state   that cannot have a place in the international community.

3. We should continue to be active in the UNO, without spending time, energy and money campaigning for a seat in the Security Council with a right to veto.  We should collaborate more intensively with the UN bodies in peace-keeping and peace-making operations. Our foreign aid strategies should not compete with China; we should rather align our loans and aid with the World Bank and IMF. Instead of entirely filling all the missions and operations with bureaucrats, the vast human capital available in the civil society in India should be given free opportunity to participate in UN-related bodies. In return, the UN Agencies should be allowed to work with the civil society organizations and NGOs in the country directly, a practice that is being stoutly opposed by the Indian administrative authorities. In the case of Afghanistan and Ukraine, to take only recent examples, all the peace-making and humanitarian activities of other states are being carried out with the help of international non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross, instead of insisting upon bureaucratic and diplomatic channels. India could have projected, at least those NGOs which are in the good looks of the ruling party.

4. India because of its history of divergences and diversity and low levels of human development has some undeniable and inevitable expressions of impatience, intolerance and violations of freedom of speech and other fundamental human rights by the agents of the state as well as by the political class in general. We have all the unmistakable symptoms of an authoritarian state. When impartial UN bodies like the UN Human Rights Council point out such lapses, it is unbecoming of India to state that they are strictly internal matters and that outsiders should not comment about them. Instead, India should frankly admit the happenings in an emerging democracy, and cordially seek the cooperation of the non-governmental organizations to avoid and prevent such happenings in future.

Pic courtesy: Randy Fath


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