In a growing global economic scenario, it is quite obvious that a strong foreign policy is a big difference between a country progressing fast and a country which has potential. India seems to be perennially stuck on to being the latter precisely because of lack of strong and focused foreign policy. Indian citizens are emigrating in the thousands to other countries in search of work, education, business etc. Since UPA continues to pat its own back in self gratification every time the point of economic liberalization comes up, one would naturally assume that congress has had a plan to better the standards of Indian Foreign Services. Since we are told that Manmohan Singh is the man behind the economic liberalization process, it becomes even more necessary to check UPA 2.0’s performance on external affairs at the crucial half life point of UPA 2.0.
When S M Krishna was made the external affairs minister in 2009, he was left with a very demanding situation. India was exchanging dossiers trying to prove that it was Pakistani Nationals who attacked Mumbai in 2008. The issue of either freeing Indian sailors held hostage by Somalian Pirates or the issue of attacks on Tamilnadu Fishermen by Sri Lankan navy left one wondering whether MEA was dysfunctional due to any reason! How can any interested observer forget the taunt S M Qureishi hurled on India in public view. S M Krishna’s response was little more than a shocked look! Left liberal friends of UPA continued their own agendas via quite questionable programmes like Aman Ki Asha. While we were told that China is India’s partner of Asian success in this century, questions on issues with China like dam on Brahmaputra, stapled visas in Kashmir to Indian citizens were left untouched.Continued infiltration along the border with Bangladesh has left most of NE states paralyzed. These problems need a good diplomatic and military coordination, which translates to good coordination between MEA and Defense ministries. Unfortunately, this wasnt to be. While this remains the case with neighboring countries, we were told that India will adopt a “look east” policy. What and how exactly was this implemented and what was the objective of such a policy was left to anybody’s guess.
India had a unique opportunity in this year. Some of the most powerful countries in the world expressed their interest in engaging with India in business so that they can create jobs in their respective countries. India and China were least effected with the recent economic downturn due to the in house demand and production capabilities. This obviously was observed by the countries effected by the downturn. David Cameron, Barack Obama, Julian Gillard expressed great interest in doing business with India with a single objective – jobs in their countries. This posed as a wonderful opportunity for India to get those technologies which are needed for a growing nation to maintain strength and pace in moving forward. These technologies could be anything – advanced communication equipment, transportation related deals at cheaper costs, nuclear technologies. While many developed nations look at India as a major market for their finished goods, India needs to have a vision for it’s own future. With the WTO round of trade negotiations running into troubled waters, India had taken a startegic decision to economically engage nations and group of nations outside the WTO framework on bilateral and other multilateral platforms. UPA-1 towards the fag end of it’s term had concluded the Indo-ASEAN FTA , this policy was continued by UPA-2 and FTA’s with South-Korea and Japan were inked. With many external and bilateral bottlenecks cleared, many governance and economic policy related bottlenecks like FDI caps, environmental clearances, land acquisition and infrastructure are obstructing productive and job generating investments in India.
In the age when governments and our own South Block establishment has acknowledged the role of Public-Diplomacy the quality of communication between the foreign policy establishment and Indian public has been poor to say the least. The missing public debate on foreign policy remains a continued issue with MEA. As India moves forward, it would be logical to involve the citizens in deciding what role India should play in world economy, but even with growing literacy rates, UPA has not taken any move to improve public debate on foreign policy. With Prime Minister and PMO firmly taking the lead on Pakistan policy and the Ministry of Commerce asserting itself on the economic matters, one wonders if MEA has been reduced to merely running our numerous missions abroad. If India aspires to emerge as a regional power and a global heavyweight it is absolutely essential for us to invest our resources and energies on the constantly evolving international political situations and also to take a view on it. The still unraveling political turmoil in North Africa and West Asia seems to have come as a rude shock and disturbed many of our calculations and assumptions. India had moved considerably close to and acheived good relations with the regimes of Mubarak of Egypt and Assad of Syria. The ongoing upheavel is a huge challenge for our foreign policy machinery, we seem to be taking the conveient way out by abstaining from voting on crucial UNSC resolutions on Libya and Syria. The recent arrest of an Mr. Ghulam Nabi Fai by the American govt and the unraveling of his connections with ISI and other academics around the world (including India) presents another frontier which will have to be manned and guarded .With many of our neighbours making substantial investments to manufacture opinion and alter the framework of debate in the international community around many of our core national interests, it becomes very critical that MEA be aware of and counter such measures as robustly as possible.
In the ultimate analysis it becomes clear that our foreign policy establishment has come under a cloud of institutional ambiguity with many powerful Ministries like Ministry of Home, Commerce and PMO competing fiercely with MEA. Popular peception about who owns which policy has been muddied to a great extent. We are at a crucial stage where the world is looking at India as a source of economic opportunity. Stable and consistent foreign policy is an essential component of the larger policy framework which will enable India to generate opportunities for it’s vast population. All said and done, the FP machinery under UPA-2 has served the nation in one very unique way ; it has consistently provided an opportunity for our Media persons to gherao our otherwise inaccessible PM mid-air in cross country flights !!