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Need for a comprehensive policy on foreign front
Unless India champions cause of egalitarian political order by rallying with small and medium powers in the world, the Big Fives will not do anything more than paying the lip service to the reform agenda.
MANY A times, aspirations of a nation does not fully compliment with its practices which has a direct affect on the utilisation of its full national potential. Today, India aspires for a world power status; the desire arising from its ancient civilisation, modern democratic foundation and strength of human resources. However, the governments in power have fallen short in their attempts to rationalise strategies to realize this dream. An important missing aspect is clear formulation of foreign policy goals that the government must strive to achieve.
As a result, the terminology of foreign policy remains the same as was devised by its founding fathers in the early days of independent India. The practice, however, is now different that makes the foreign policy blurry and confusing. The need to do away with this dichotomy becomes urgent considering the increased importance of India for many big and small countries in the world politics. Moreover, this will help in setting the clear targets for Indian diplomats to pursue their external endeavors.
Lack of comprehensive foreign policy vision is partly a result of non-conviction of incumbent leadership about India’s pre-1991 positions in world politics; but having no courage of its public denouncement. As a result, political leadership simply can not connect with fundamentals of Indian foreign policy and fails to provide it new direction in the ever-changing world scenario. Panchshila, anti-colonialism and Non-alignment have been the three central pillars of Indian foreign policy since independence.
Hesitation of political establishment in reinforcing these principles opens up two possibilities; one, India will be part of military alliances in the near future and two, India will interfere and try to dominate internal politics and policies of independent nations. However, there are no policy statements or documents ascertaining such possibilities, these are only assumptions.
This necessitates the government to clarify whether it has abandoned Panchshila and non-alignment as guiding principles of foreign policy conduit; if yes, what is its new normative framework and if not, why is it shy of proclaiming them in discussions and negotiations with foreign countries and multinational institutions?
The Nehruvian leadership was not apologetic about its world view and India’s foreign policy pursuits therein. Therefore, in the realm of foreign policy it had almost practiced what it preached. The post-Nehruvian leadership should demonstrate similar courage and fashion the foreign policy issues in public domain.
Perhaps, India is the only major country wherein the government neither states its foreign policy goals even once during its full tenure nor are they discussed in the Parliament at full length. There are two useful examples to learn from; the Chinese and the American. China has published white papers on foreign policies and strategic issues elaborating its positions and goals.
Similarly, American Congress extensively debates each aspect of President’s foreign policy compelling the chief executive to reveal his administration’s objectives and plans. India can adopt both the practices with its own characteristics. This will keep the public informed about government’s intentions while the latter will gain more clarity and purpose in its actions on external fronts. A foreign policy document; elaborating India’s objectives, policies and approach to conflict resolution, will help enhancing India’s image at the world stage if put in right perspective.
It will be a meaningful exercise to connect non-alignment with peaceful emergence of multi-polar world as well as interpretation of Panchshila as India’s efforts to normalise and maintain friendly relations with all its neighbors including Pakistan and China.  Anti-colonial legacy can be carried forward in the form of support to Palestine as well as demand for de-nuclearisation. Indian establishment is bogged down with adjusting in the existing world order but lacks the vision of how it wants to shape this world.
Indian political establishment must realize that foreign policy is not a mere bureaucratic process but requires political vision to achieve nation’s aspirations in the world. It is imperative on the incumbent government to initiate such a policy document and also amend the constitution to bring in Parliament’s role in scrutinizing government’s foreign policy details. Instead of showing mirage to its citizens, government must keep them informed and involved about the challenges and daunting tasks on external fronts.
The greatest illusion that has been impressed upon general public is India’s ‘natural’ claim on UNSC permanent seat and its being just a matter of time to win this bid. The expansion of UNSC requires sustained international campaigns exposing unjust power hierarchy created due to the present order. The expansion of UNSC is intrinsically linked with overall reform of the United Nations.
Unless India champions cause of egalitarian political order by rallying with small and medium powers in the world, the Big Fives will not do anything more than paying the lip service to the reform agenda. Foreign policy establishment in India has to deliberate upon this aspect to devise a long term strategy to generate international pressure on existing big share holders in the world order.
India’s inclusion in the expanded UNSC on equal basis is even more difficult task given the complexities of the world politics. India has to maintain a fine balance between strengthening relationships with great powers and maintaining its traditional ties with third world countries as well as regional powers.
Instances of annoying Iran and distancing from left-leaning governments in Latin America to please the United States will at best result in these countries’ non-enthusiasm in supporting India’s bid and at worst these countries’ lining up against India at crucial juncture; for example, at a time of securing overwhelming majority in the UN’s General Assembly for its cause. Similar can be the approach of India’s smaller neighbors unless New Delhi works out comfortable relationships with them.
The UNSC is the leadership position, if not seat of power, in the world politics.
Therefore, India must demonstrate its ability to provide leadership in solving complex international issues, which will require New Delhi’s intensive engagement with countries in all the regions of the world. Furthermore, India must come out with its own approaches on important international matters other than the climate change issues and negotiations in WTO. This includes future of Iraq and Afghanistan, question of Palestine and preventing Iran’s nuclearisation in the overall context of de-nuclearisation. In the present case of western powers’ utter failure in providing optimistic scenarios on these burning issues, India should calibrate innovative diplomatic solutions on such fronts.
Last, but is the most important, India has to demonstrate its capability of resolving its own international disputes in a peaceful and constructive manners; mainly Kashmir and border imbroglio with China. The great power status, including the UNSC permanent seat, will naturally come to New Delhi’s way when India succeeds in achieving these tasks; but not the other way around.
If Indian leadership hopes to play bigger and independent role once it gains the UNSC permanent seat, it is following the mirage wherein India will have neither of it. In fact, it will be condemned to be merely a regional power in South Asia embroiled in its own cross-border problems with neighboring countries.

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