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Vote bank poliltics holding foreign policy hostage

By K. Raghunathan

The foreign policy of India has exhibited a chronic ambivalence in its conceptual framework. Under the influence of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his friends like Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia and President Nasser of Egypt, India committed itself to what is called the “policy of non alignment”. I have always argued that this policy, even if one may call it a policy, has been disastrous with no returns. Though the number of its adherents has increased in recent years from 25 nations to about 120, yet when India was attacked by China in 1962, not one non aligned country came to India’s help. The only two countries that rendered substantial and effective aid were the United States and Israel, both of them pronounced opponents of the non aligned policy.

For centuries, the key for preserving peace in Europe was a clever and nuanced application of the doctrine of “balance of power”. When the ancient dream of universal empire failed, from its ashes arose myriad political entities based on varied identities, but obliged to deal with one another. This could lead to only two possible scenarios. Either one single state became so strong that it would politically and militarily dominate all others and create an empire, or no state could ever become powerful enough to achieve that goal. In the latter case, the potentially more powerful state could be kept in check by an alignment of the other less powerful states. While each may individually not have been strong enough to challenge the powerful state, a combination of all of them could adequately meet the challenge. This may have been a cynical, realpolitik arrangement, but nevertheless it worked for two centuries.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote that world peace can only be preserved when all nations become democratic republics. History testifies that democracies do not easily go to war among themselves. The burden of unjust wars falls unjustly on innocent taxpayers, and governments that fritter away their assets on unjust and futile wars ultimately face flak from their people at some time or other. It is imperative, therefore, that all democracies must unite and resolutely face the enemies of the free world and civilised coexistence.

The foreign policy of every nation must reflect its domestic values and aspirations. India is constitutionally committed to maintain democratic institutions and has an admirable catalogue of human rights which preserve the security and dignity of the individual and leave to him a sanctum sanctorum into which no arbitrary intrusion is permissible. India is committed to the fundamental principle of religious liberty. It cannot encourage and enter into immoral partnerships or alliances with governments and peoples that do not recognise the primacy of these ideas. India is further committed to the promotion of international peace and security, the maintenance of just and honourable relations between nations, respect for international law and treaty obligations, and the settlement of disputes by arbitration.

All nations which accept these values and obligations must pool their military, economic and moral resources to prevent fanatics like Osama Bin Laden and deranged leaders like Hitler from dominating the world. We are and have to be aligned with those who want terrorism exorcised and the area of democracy expanded. To speak of non alignment when the world today is threatened by terrorists, war mongers and destroyers of democracy is to jettison our national interests. It is amazing that in the 12th year of the 21st century, India still continues to waste its time in sending delegations to meeting of the so called non- aligned nations. Prime minister Manmohan Singh did it a few weeks back. Nothing was achieved and nothing can ever be achieved by the meeting of people who have neither the power nor the idealism to shape the course of human history.

The manner in which we have dealt with the gallant state of Israel only demonstrates that our foreign policy has never, never been guided by high idealism or moral principles. No one, however hard hearted, can deny that the story of the Jews between the dispersion and the creation of Israel is a tragic epic of world history. Add to this moving account, the horrendous story of Hitler’s final solution, the gas chambers, the killing fields of Nazi Germany and the murder in cold blood of 6 million people of this unfortunate race. Yet the PLO’s charter in its Arabic version even today proclaims that wiping off Israel from the world’s map is its prime political objective. This is despite the generous declaration of the Palestinian leader, the late Yasser Arafat, that he will allow Israel to exist, but on his terms. We forget that we have extended de facto and de jure recognition to the state of Israel soon after its creation. However, for years thereafter, a full Embassy of Israel could not come into existence in Delhi, and Israel was condemned to have a Consular Officer in Bombay, whose officers could not even get out of Bombay or travel to Delhi without government’s permission.

This is vote bank politics at its worst. Foreign policy cannot be controlled by illusions of capturing votes of a religious minority. It must serve loftier purposes. We recently had a visit of President Abbas of Palestine, and welcomed should be such visits. There is no harm in extending warm hospitability and treating the visitor as an honoured guest. But should we not also have the moral courage to explain to our visitor that India will never be a party to the destruction of a fellow member of the United Nations, more so, a state that has received our full recognition ever since it was born.

We should not betray our obligations under the United Nations charter. We have to politely but firmly tell the Palestinians and their leaders that we do not propose to get acclimatised to their declared objective of destroying the state of Israel. While Palestine must one day become a full independent state, it can only be allowed to come into existence as a state if it recognises the existence of Israel as an independent state.

India has not sold its soul to be a party to any such design. In spite of the grandiose boasts of the UPA government, we continue to be a poor country. Perhaps the Palestinians are also undergoing economic problems, but they have rich godfathers. I find no rational explanation as to why poor India with its starving millions and malnourished children and women, with poverty and destitution pervasive in every pocket of the country, should hand over 10 million dollars by way of a gift to the Palestinian people.It must also be remembered that the Palestinians are kept in that condition as showpieces for victimisation entitlement, and providing political and international leverage to the rich Arab nations. INAV

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