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Modi Has No Idea How To Deal With The World

By AAKAR PATEL
February 27, 2022 09:25 IST
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What is being exposed is we have no real doctrine and no idea how to deal with the world, asserts Aakar Patel.

IMAGE: US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, British Ambassador Barbara Woodward, Albania's Ambassador Ferit Hoxha and Brazil's Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting, on a resolution regarding Russia's actions toward Ukraine, at the United Nations, February 25, 2022. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
 

India has abstained on the vote in the United Nations Security Council (where we are a non-permanent member) condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

India said it was deeply disturbed, called for an end to violence and for respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and 'for these reasons' chose to abstain.

This may appear puzzling because India is repeating the world's case against Russia's war and then refusing to condemn it.

But the reality is that India faces a difficult period in diplomacy.

Russia provides more than half of India's military material.

For instance 96 per cent of our main battle tanks are Russian, our only aircraft carrier and only nuclear powered submarine are Russian, 71 per cent of our fighter jets and all six of the air tankers are Russian.

This is not classified information: These numbers come from the United States Congressional Research Service.

War and even training in these extremely high performance machines requires constant spares and servicing and for this reason India must remain connected to Russian suppliers.

Additionally, experts see Russia as the peacemaker between us and China on the issue of Ladakh.

So we cannot afford to displease Putin.

India's vote did not matter in the result, because as a permanent member Russia has a veto which it used and it was known the condemnation would fail.

However, it was an opportunity for the world to come together against aggression and the largest democracy chose not to side with the invaded. Interestingly, China also abstained with us.

India's foreign policy under the current government has not been able to find its rhythm because it doesn't have a theme.

Throughout our history as an independent nation, India has presented itself abroad as an ancient land with secular and inclusive traditions.

This changed after 2014, but without an official shift in doctrine, meaning there was no written policy that proclaimed Hindutva was India's ruling ideology.

Recent studies show that the government began instructing diplomats to focus on events abroad which showcased India's Hindu traditions.

This made some diplomats uncomfortable, but the change was also accompanied by recruiting more diplomats who were aligned to the BJP's ideology.

For the first five years of this government the change did not matter because the ideology did not show itself within India to any large extent.

After 2019 our diplomats have been kept busy in a defensive posture because the ideology bared its fangs against our minorities.

After the second win of 2019 came a series of internal strokes that had external repercussions.

The first was the decision to undo Article 370.

This was accompanied by an Internet blockade on all Kashmiris for 17 months.

Kashmiri children had no access to online education for all of 2020.

In the United States House of Representatives (their Lok Sabha), a resolution was moved to condemn India's actions against Kashmiris.

The resolution could not progress far because the Republicans were in charge and Donald Trump was our friend.

Only days after the Biden administration was sworn in, India lifted the 17 month blockade and one reason was the pressure it felt was sure to come now that Trump was out.

Weeks after the 370 move, a confident BJP passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The world was again alarmed. In the European parliament, a resolution was moved condemning India. It was reported here that it would likely pass.

India's diplomacy managed to stave off the vote, but the quid pro quo was that we would not implement the CAA (which still has not been enforced).

These are the sorts of things that India's diplomats have not had to deal with in the past with those who are supposed to be our friends.

The contradiction -- portraying ourselves as secular and pluralistic abroad while acting in the opposite fashion at home -- has not been easy to resolve.

To add to this issue which we have brought on ourselves is the problem of the neighbourhood, also coming after the change in Article 370: The Chinese incursion in Ladakh.

We must defy China, but also be friendly with Russia (which is aligned with China against the West).

We want to get closer to the United States militarily and have signed a series of agreements after 2014, but we do not know how close to get.

The Quad alliance was meant to be a naval partnership, but that role has now been given to something called AUKUS of which we are not part and the Quad is dealing with vaccines.

Our foreign minister Jaishankar says the world is multipolar and so India must be opportunistic and discard what he calls are the hesitancies of the past.

However what is being exposed is we have no real doctrine and no idea how to deal with the world.

It is hard not to conclude that our standing in the world has reduced because of what we have chosen to do internally.

On the other hand we have gained no new friends or allies by going down the road we have.

Fortunately, we do not have to debate this or even recognise this debacle.

Our global stature is less important to us than opposing namaz, beef and hijab and we will remain focused on that.

Aakar Patel is a columnist and writer and you can read Aakar's earlier columns here.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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