Current Affairs: “India – The Tolerance and Gentleness of Mature Mind” –Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Jan 19 nehruIndia is the largest democracy in the world. It has the sixth largest and fastest growing economy; it’s the second largest nation in population and the seventh largest in land area. It is a nuclear power and a major player in space research and exploration. India counts among the top four military powers in the world, still India is not a dominant force on world stage when it comes to foreign policy and influence.
Why is India not considered an important participant in foreign affairs? The most likely answers that I get from people are because India is marred by poverty, political complexities, regional unrest, etc. Moreover, most of the Indians don’t care much about foreign policy. India is also much absorbed defending itself against its neighbors, Pakistan and China. It has no breathing room to look beyond its borders. So, it is insular on global scene.
It’s true that India is more an inward looking country than an outward looking country. Expansionism and waging war on foreign lands have never been India’s cup of tea. India’s policy always has been to live and let live. It doesn’t have a willingness to play on world stage, though it wants to maintain neutrality without taking sides. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India was a prime mover of the non-alignment movement. Let’s look back at history for a better understanding:
In 1955 Nehru took a lead in organizing Bandung Conference attended by 29 Afro-Asian countries representing one-fourth of earth’s land area. The purpose of the conference was economic upliftment of the newly independent countries and to oppose colonization by any country. This was the genesis of non-alignment towards then American and communist regimes- the cold war era.
The policy of non-alignment meant judging each issue without bias and prejudice. The policy of non-alignment was based on punchsheel, five principles. Those five principles were, mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, mutual non-aggression, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence through economic cooperation.
Compare that with today’s expansionism of powerful countries. Though India has been blamed for dubious stand on foreign policy, how can any sane country align itself with imperialists and chauvinists?
India doesn’t want to be a pushover of the United States. While this is true that India is growing in importance, India is not a primary player in most of the major issues concerning U.S. policy in Asia. Despite its participation in Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with the United States, Japan, and Australia, India is not going to join any sort of formal alliance designed to contain China in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Unlike China, India doesn’t want to use its economic growth into power and influence. This is where India differs from China and the United States. However, India wants to remain relevant to its neighbors, especially in and around the Indian Ocean. Countries in this region have a choice between a canny gift from China and no gift from India. Unlike China, India offers assistance to its neighbors without the debt and political intimidation. This is India’s uniqueness.
Let us not forget that India has regional expertise and political contacts in countries that the United States simply does not. After all, India cultivated the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban groups in Afghanistan long before 9/11. India still is the dominant player in South Asia, and has the ability to hold its own without being importunate to the superpowers. Beijing and Washington have long been the dominant powers in Southeast Asia, home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But the region is increasingly seeking alternative alliances amid unease over China’s rising influence and perceptions of an unpredictable United States. As the colonial ambition of China’s Belt and Road project is becoming obvious, the Asian countries including Vietnam are looking up to India and Australia as potential partners.
Ultimately, foreign policy watchers must continue to be patient toward what they can expect from India. As its economy and military grow stronger, and with the foreign policy ideals of both its major national parties envisioning a large role for it in Asia. India will inevitably become more important and relevant on world stage.


2 thoughts on “Current Affairs: “India – The Tolerance and Gentleness of Mature Mind” –Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

  1. I really liked Musafir’s optimistic take on India’s place in the world. How true: “India’s policy always has been to live and let live”… I think it’s such an honorable attitude.


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