“The Nehruvian legacy is about an unswerving commitment to democracy, citizenship, scientific temper, and a determined spirit to never allow India to become a ‘Hindu Pakistan’. Yes, Nehru made mistakes: be it the dismissal of an elected government in Kerala or the mishandling of Kashmir and China. But in the end, his pluses outweigh the minuses by some distance”
Rajdeep Sardesai | Consulting Editor, India Today Group
West Asia, meanwhile, witnessed a series of changes that posed unprecedented challenges to the world. To begin with, the dollar got linked to oil and the global economic order shifted towards a strong Israel backed by an extremely strong United States. The dynamism of the US foreign policy overtook Europe and West Asia by storm.
Washington started the dual policy of cultivating allies in governments while supporting anti-government movements as part of their understanding of democracy. The economic plans for the region included linking aid and loans to programs and policies that it thought would be useful to its own economy as well as the stability of Israel.
During the Cold War, West Asia witnessed a series of economic and military developments that led to political and economic instability. For example, on the one hand, the Europeans were trying to set up economic bases in countries and help them build factories, pipelines and nuclear reactors; on the other, they were supporting sanctions on governments and movements that were seen as hostile by Israel. Arms, oil, loans, aid and the need to dominate the region based on religion became the norm.
Policy after policy of the US, dictated patterns of domination and control of the region. Each policy paper from the US, and each move by them demonstrated their goal of achieving a West Asia that was pliant to their needs.
The Marshall Plan, the Dulles Plan, the politics of economic sanctions, the process of drawing up lists of countries to be declared hostile to the US interests, the roadmaps of peace, all showed the ability of the country to not just formulate new ideas, but sell them as useful across the world.
During the Cold War, the Indian foreign policy was dominated by self preservation, though not by economic or military means. It went through a series of wars due to which it was unable to sustain the growth model that it began. The wars plunged the country into a series of debt crises that did not allow it to play the role of a world leader that Pandit Nehru wanted. It was also the period that saw the decline of ingenuity in the policy making front.
The end of the Cold War brought the contradictions between the theory and practice of the foreign policy to the fore. A systematic scholarly approach to foreign policy making was absent. The focus had shifted to adapting the US or European foreign policy documents to Indian needs.
There was a perceptible shift from taking independent stands on issues in West Asia to using the UN as a nodal agency for defining India’s stand. As the power balance within the country swung from the centre to the right, the leadership found it increasingly difficult to take a consistent stand over issues related to West Asia.
The results could be seen in the foreign policy tie-ups that contradicted each other. To give an example, the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline that was negotiated to cater to as much as a quarter of the country’s energy needs, was sidelined to prioritise the Indo-US nuclear deal that would cater to about eighteen percent of the energy needs.
The current Modi doctrine is a clear indicator of the problems that leaderships with ideological dogmatism would leave as a legacy for the country. The current prime minister is using US doctrines to pursue an aggressive approach in forming foreign policy partners. While he is seeking investments from West Asia, the attempt is to delink the Gulf states from the rest of West Asia.
From the pragmatic and balanced approach of Nehru to the aggressive approach of Modi, the use of foreign policy as a tool for domestic interests has shown a marked shift. While the previous policy highlighted the character of India as a leader of non-violence and integrity, the current policy is a clear mish-mash of US foreign policy doctrines.
Selectiveness in cultivating partnerships, changing goals from economic co-operation to combating terror and selective sanctions on weaker countries are hallmarks of a US policy that has been understood by the analysts as measures of neo-colonialism. What remains to be seen is whether India would be able to successfully transition from being a champion of global peace to a leader in war on terror.