As India turns 62, pivotal changes are occurring in our nation and in our immediate neighborhood that force us to look inward and contemplate who we are as a nation, who we want to be, and where our elected leaders are taking us. Since 1947, India has seen its share of turbulent, traumatic times. We may not have always had geo-political prominence or economic clout to influence decisions made on the world stage, but we have almost always maintained a level of unwavering independence on foreign policy which we were able to sustain (quite incredibly, given the pressures and compulsions of third world nations) for decades. We had nothing, but we had independence. However, even as India stands a very different nation from itself 50 years ago in terms of geo-political and economic prominence, the virtue of upholding independence on matters relating to foreign policy has been surrendered.
The troika of the PM, NSA and Foreign Secretary has bartered away India’s independence on foreign policy for a quixotic alliance with another power. They have since acted not on national interest but on a desire to satisfy the wavering compulsions of that “ally”, and in the process, have bequeathed long standing regional alliances and further bruised already ailing relationships.
On this Independence Day, Indians must demand that their leaders pursue foreign policies that are reflective of the national interests of the country and of the aspirations of its citizens. In the gradual but certain rearrangement of global order, does India want to see itself as a stagnant, underachieving regional player, or as one of the poles in a multi-polar world? Aspiring for the voices of one-sixth of humanity to be heard on the global stage requires both a re-evaluation of the existing vision deficit and trend of outsourcing Indian policy, and a dogged pursuit of independence in decision making.
Subhash Kapila articulates the need for independence in foreign policy decision making and a realignment of foreign policy with national interests:
India cannot afford to emerge as a global player despite the United States or in opposition to it. The opposite is also true that no global power has ever helped another aspiring power to emerge as a global power.
It is high time, that with no end- gains having accrued from such foreign policy fixations, India’s foreign policy is re-calibrated and strong connectivities re-established with India’s proven friends. An aspiring global power like India needs to have multiple foreign policy connectivities to provide flexibility of options.