"Bondage...in the uncultivated savage is to his consciousness very small....What he struggles against is the bondage of physical nature, the lack of physical gratification...(his) mind being very little developed. The vast mass of humanity is very little removed from the animals. Not only so, but in many instances, the power of control in them is little higher than that of the lower animals." - Swami Vivekananda














































VEDANTA MASS MEDIAIndia must have grand strategic design in its foreign policy





             India must have grand strategic design in its foreign policy



             By Rajiv Sikri



             Indo-Asian News Service




      There is need for new thinking in India's foreign policy. In today's complicated and fast-changing geo-political situation, India has wisely diversified its foreign policy options, but must retain flexibility in order to be able to pursue an independent foreign policy, on which there is an overwhelming national consensus.


      India can become a major world power in the 21st century only on its own strength and political will, not because others want it to. Power is always taken, never given.


      India is too large and independent to be a reliable ally of the United States on the latter's terms. While there are many short-term factors bringing the two countries together, the long-term strategic interests of the two countries are likely to diverge. India must use the current window of opportunity, when it is being seriously viewed by the rest of the world as a country that will inevitably play a much greater role in world affairs in the coming years, to evolve a strategy that would enable it to become a global player in all respects - economically, politically, militarily and technologically.


      On its own, India cannot become a global player. It will have to work with other rising powers that also want a multi-polar world.


      China will remain among India's most pressing and difficult foreign policy challenges. India will have to deal with China at many levels. It is a possible partner in a cooperative endeavour to build a multi-polar world. It is also a long-term strategic competitor for influence and leadership in Asia. But, above all, it is a neighbour that has exaggerated and made preposterous territorial claims on India, and that is suspicious of India harbouring the Dalai Lama and a large population of Tibetan refugees.


      India should eschew its current defensive, timid and somewhat legalistic approach in dealing with China. There is no need to be in awe of China. As a country with aspirations for a larger regional and global role, India has to do some hardheaded scenario building such as a relentlessly rising China or a disintegrating China.


      What India does vis-a-vis the major global players is perhaps not as important as what India manages to achieve in its own neighbourhood. India cannot be a credible great power unless it has a natural sphere of influence where it is dominant. As India prospers and develops, it has to take along its neighbours; otherwise, its economic growth will not be sustainable.


      Ultimately, India's objective should be maximum possible economic integration with it of its neighbouring countries, which would tie their destinies with India regardless of the political predilections of the regimes in power. Economic interdependence leading to economic integration may also lead India's neighbours to have a better appreciation of India's security concerns and to cooperate with it in this respect. Without this, the chances of peace and stability in South Asia are bleak.


      India has to handle relations with its neighbours with great care and delicacy, mindful of their sensitivities, aspirations and dignity. India has to earn the right to leadership by setting an example, by showing magnanimity, and by successfully managing the growing challenges and contradictions of the region. Patience and an appeal to its neighbours' self-interest have to mark India's attitude. Such an approach will earn India its neighbours' respect and admiration. India has to understand that its neighbours will never love it. India is feared by its neighbours, but perhaps not enough.


      Even as it must be visionary, large-hearted and sensitive to its neighbours, India needs to firmly and unambiguously define for its neighbours the goalposts of India's non-negotiable national interests. India should make it clear that it will be uncompromising on security issues. That has to be India's bottom line. Regrettably, an impression has gained ground among India's neighbours that India is a soft state whose nose can be tweaked with impunity. It is imperative that India makes sure that its neighbours know and respect India's core interests. If not, India should be prepared to use its many leverages against them.


      Will India's relationship with destiny be consummated? It can be, provided there is a change of mindset among India's leaders and its people. There can be no place for a 'chalta hai' or 'anything goes' attitude. Aspiring to become a great power, India will have to behave like one.


      There are no short cuts. Piggybacking strategies are futile. Based on an objective evaluation of India's resources and comparative advantages, India must have a clear grand strategic design. India must have self-confidence in its destiny, determinedly follow clear-headed policies without being pushed around, and work purposefully to build the required institutional structures and public support to sustain its ambitions. Only then can India forge ahead and transform its much vaunted 'potential' into the reality of a strong, prosperous and globally influential country.


      (15.04.2009- Excerpted from Rajiv Sikri's "Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India's Foreign Policy", published by SAGE. Rajiv Sikri can be contacted at rajivsikri@gmail.com)



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