Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Soft Power Status!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor, Penguin/Allen Lane, 449 pp; Rs799 (Hardback)
Shashi Tharoor’s Pax Indica is formally written with the three different angels of a career diplomat, an articulate writer and finally a politician, who entered the political fray through the Lok Sabha, despite serving in alien foreign lands for over three decades. Rich in details and with Tharoor’s natural mastership on international affairs, this book inquisite India’s position in the new world order, where it gives the balanced picture of established and newly found strengths and weaknesses that finally shapes the design of India’s foreign policy. The richness of this book lies in the insights and information it exudes for the readers about the nature of Indian diplomacy and its institutional establishments.

Pax Indica, as the name suggests confirms India as a super soft power, which only has to work more meticulously with ‘grand strategy’ to make its presence felt on the world stage. The rational execution of ‘grand strategy’ will be needed a thorough synergizing exercise in the Indian foreign policy; international relationships that have been remain a cornstone needs to be reviewed now. At some front, India must think to amend its outdated policies-certainly the ‘non-alignment’ is one of those core issues, where India should act in favour of its interest, instead only responding for moralistic baggage.

In present global strategic scenario, ‘multi-alignment’ would be in favour of India, both as an individual nation and leader of the developing nations, where its leadership has all acceptance and prominence. Aptly quoted in the beginning of the book from Nehru’s ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech that ‘Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world’ justifies India’s broad stake in the global policy making. The fundamental facts support India to rise up to the high rank, it deserves-since the first Asian Relations Conference in Delhi, India presented its ethical aspirations to the world as a young patient nation but with a strong civilisational history.

Tharoor’s idea behind the Pax Indica is progressively constituted and doesn’t support the ‘idea of global or regional domination along the lines of a Pax Romana or a Pax Britannica but a ‘Pax’ for the twenty-first century, a peace system which will help promote and maintain a period of cooperative coexistence in its region and across the world’. Atleast notionally, India has been maintaining its independent standing in international relations and there is no reason, why it should not continue its conventional stand with spontaneous adaptability to the changes.

Remarkably, some key historical developments since1947, which are important for knowing the basics of India’s foreign policy have generously covered by the author in course of finding the new vision for future. A famous quote of Tharoor, used in the jacket of this book as well perfectly sums up the diplomatic process of India as: ‘Indian diplomacy is like the love-making of an elephant: it is conducted at a very high level, accompanied by much bellowing, and the results are not known for two years’. This way, India will never fulfill the global responsibilities, which its domestic transformations happened over the decades easily allow.

The point of view, even which is being formed in the collective imaginations that the many ‘non-issues’ like, better line and staff management inside the establishment is the need of hour and at any cost, those concern should not be surpassed now. India needs specialists and generalists to run its diplomatic corpses, not alone the tailor-made bureaucratic crowd will really usher it to the prominently crucial position in global policy making. What India also urgently need is the new way of looking on ‘near abroad’ or ‘distant abroad’-revisiting of policies, not maintaining the ‘status quo’ will be the true progressivism here.

Initiatives and reciprocations are very essential qualities that a growing power like India should always follow. In recent past, India has ceased to demonstrate both these qualities on crucial occasions-Nepal could be a case in sight, where the radicals have major reservations against India’s asymmetric diplomatic engagement with their country. It really surprises, why Indian mission in Kathmandu not push for more engaged diplomatic collaboration with New Delhi, when this inertia is causing grave strain in relations between hitherto two most friendly nations. In the same way, India should work with new strategy of engagements with the Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri lanka for promoting the peace and co-operation in south Asia.

Working on the obvious and going beyond the obvious-both should be the prime action in foreign policy agenda. Since 1991, world has changed with the end of cold war and collapse of alternative power block, USSR-in the meantime, India has chosen the market reform that finally has given to a mammoth impression in its side, so now is time to working with fresh approaches. Mr. Tharoor has focussed on some of the path-breaking issues, which normally ignored in mega-observations of self styled foreign policy experts. Writing from a political position and with so many new observations are not lesser than a brave job, which Shashi Tharoor has done it again, following his own track records with more than a dozen of books and numerous articles.

Not necessarily, change should be always taken as ‘unconventional’; especially a rising soft power like, India must be more receptive with the dynamicism of new global political order, which is working covertly though needs proactive response and on the real time basis. This book has written on time and its specific suggestions should appeal the ruling UPA government, as the reality checks pointed by Mr. Tharoor are easy to reckon. The idea of Pax Indica is not timid, despite it’s written by a full time politician, probably a ‘writer’s virtue’ has succeeded here!
Atul Kumar Thakur
October 20, 2012, Saturday
(Published in The Kashmir Monitor,dated on October21,2012)

Big brother is not watching

Be it during the long rule of the monarchy or during the one-and-a-half decade in which Nepal experimented with semi-democracy and even in the subsequent phases of complete democracy, the Himalyan nation has never witnessed a more dangerous, anti-India programme in action. The manner in which the new breakaway group from the UCPN (Maoist) called the CPN (Maoist) has been blatantly attacking every Indian symbol in sight in Nepal is worrisome.
The CPN (Maoist)’s most recent decision to ban Indian vehicles and Bollywood cinema within the country marks the height of bankruptcy in Nepal’s ultra-Left movement. First, it violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007, in Article 12(2). Second, it negates Nepal’s long history of co-operation with India.
The psychological complex that has produced such action is, however, strikingly different from the Orwellian notion of a big brother figure watching over the country. Or else, the people propagating the anti-India message would have similar apprehensions about China as well. But they don’t, possibly because Red China is offering the seed capital with which to destroy the tightly knit fabric of India-Nepal relations.
China is already outpacing India as a major investor in the Himalayan state, besides controlling the nerves of that country’s ultra-radical political forces. India should never have taken China’s hidden game in Nepal so lightly. Also, India’s diplomatic mission in Kathmandu has miserably failed in recent years to nourish the goodwill of the Nepalese people.
People-to-people contact between India and Nepal is New Delhi’s sole edge over Beijing. Probably, this is the reason why the average Nepalese stands against the ban on Indian vehicles and movies, having dismissed the dictates of the CPN-Maoist. But this is not surprising.
Since 1996, when civil war broke out in Nepal, the Maoists have consistently defied the common man’s aspiration. Even those with the most radical of imagination will agree that the Maoists don’t qualify as the leader of proletarian movement. Indeed, it is the average Nepalese, the civil society in that country and the Press that have been the biggest victims of the Maoist’s hypocritical people’s movement.
Ideologically, the Maoists’ movement in Nepal is impure and reflects the personal cynicism of its leadership. Next to the ideological line, these leaders have been nurturing their political ambitions by pumping up a ‘sovereignty phobia’ or ‘Indophobia’ in Nepal. Maoists are divided entities now, and those who sit outside the power circle, try to carve a niche for them. They hope that the anti-India demonstration will give them the mileage to do so.
A recent report by the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, charting 10 years of human rights violations during the Nepal conflict, presents the trove of horrific data regarding the number of dead, the number of abducted people etc. As expected, the ruling Maoists have rubbished the report. In fact in a bid to corner the international watchdog, the Maoist Government has begun distancing itself from the UN in multilateral arenas. This marks a complete departure from its earlier reliance on international agencies such as the UN. Clearly, transition from a power-seeking role to a position of power-mongering has altered the basic principles of the Maoists.
Political theory suggests that a state’s sovereignty rests with its people. Nepal has always successfully maintained its sovereignty and independence. Since the end of the Malla confederacy and the political unification done by the founder of the ruling house of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan Shah, in the 18th century, Nepal has in fact never faced any sovereignty crisis.
Even the present time of political transition has hardly allowed for any systemic vulnerabilities in Nepal that might result in the country falling to the domination of a foreign power. So, this new-found ‘insecurity’ regarding sovereignty, especially among the radical politicians, is really the result of the kind of petty politicking that is rampant in Nepal.
Let there be no doubt that political strategies based on anti-India, hate campaigns will not last long enough. This is because neither Nepal’s economic nor sentimental impulses will ever allow India to be any less participative in its soil. Besides, India still has a positive footprint inside Nepal. Any apprehension towards India’s role in that country is misplaced and principally irrational, and the fighting political parties of Nepal must acknowledge this. They must also understand that there is no merit in engaging in a tease game with an immediate and friendly neighbour, who also strategically ranks high in global power-politics. The Nepalese people deserve better than vile rhetoric.
Atul K Thakur
October10th, 2012, Wednesday
(Published in The Pioneer,dated on October23,2012)