Indian Foreign Policy and Immediate Neighbours

Even as India was engaged in elections, the infamous role of the Indian government in its policy towards its immediate neighbours was being played out. The Manmohan Singh-led Government has been sworn in for another term; and democratic and progressive forces will have the challenge of further intensifying the struggle for a paradigm shift in our foreign policy in the neighbourhood.
 New Delhi's antipathy to the Sri Lankan Tamils who are being slaughtered by the hundreds and thousands is fully consistent with its role in the island nation since 1980s. It is well-known that at one time India had extended support to the Tamil insurgency, and then sent a ‘peace-keeping force’ that engaged in series of war crimes including the Operation Pawan and the Jaffna teaching hospital massacre. And today India's diplomatic initiatives actually boil down to keeping the Sri Lankan government in humour while simultaneously pretending to try and restrain the inhuman military offensive launched by the latter. If the former motive is guided by an urge to maintain and strengthen its influence in what it considers to be a traditional backyard, the second concern is dictated by the compulsion of wooing Tamil parties and voters ahead of Lok Sabha polls. 
  Where India extends covert support to the repressive national chauvinist government in its southern neighbour, in the north too it has chosen to side with the regressive forces bent on stalling the process of progressive change. It denies any involvement in the denouement of the crisis in Nepal, but defends the actions of the Nepal President as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. But the constitution does not allow him to use that authority against the advice of a lawfully constituted government because parliament is sovereign. (Just imagine what type of constitutional crisis India would find itself in if Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, who was unjustly sacked as Navy chief by the Vajpayee government in 1998, had been reinstated by President K.R. Narayanan!) The Indian authorities know all this well enough, but they cannot digest the prospect of the Maoists, who control 40 percent of the parliament seats, getting stronger and more coherent. So they threw a spanner in the wheel of progress.
 Earlier, during Jan Andolan II in April 2006, India sent Karan Singh to Kathmandu hoping against hope to somehow save the monarchy. Later it interfered on all sorts of issues ranging from appointment of a head priest in a major temple to the Nepali government contemplating a treaty of friendship with Beijing. And now, again, it has destroyed the prospects of long-term democratic stability in the Himalayan republic for the short-term goal of undermining the Maoists, in the process isolating itself from the people and the government in that country.
 India is well aware how in Pakistan and Bangladesh the political dominance of military over civil authorities has permanently damaged the democratic institutions in these countries. As Comrade Prachanda said in an interview published in The Hindu on 11 May, on this score his party wished to learn from the experience of India, not Pakistan, and expected that the former would take a consistent position in favour of civilian supremacy because of its own traditions and because it had supported the struggle for democracy in Nepal. In the event, he was badly let down.
 Equally shortsighted is India's attitude to the trouble- torn country on its western border. By unilaterally withdrawing from the composite dialogue, and by refusing to resume it despite repeated requests from Islamabad, New Delhi has unwittingly served to further complicate the situation in the subcontinent. With the Pakistani government engaged in a bloody offensive—including strafing by warplanes and heavy artillery—against Pakistani Taliban militia in the North West Frontier Province and still facing a two-week ultimatum from the US, it is urgent that negotiations are resumed and all outstanding issues are settled without the intervention of the world policeman. 


The Home Minister of the outgoing government has said India is caught in a “ring of fire”. But there is no denying that in most cases India itself, in its quest for strategic influence over smaller neighbours, stoked the flames. Now it is time for the people of India to force the new government to get rid of all these baggage of the past and work up a just, forward- looking and pro-people foreign policy that would help ensure peace, stability and friendship in South Asia.