Nepal poses a question at the right time
Even as India is caught up with the energy-sapping intricacies of its own internal affairs, not least those of contemporary coalition politics and economic reform, the events in Nepal have provided a timely wake-up call. Is India ready to make difficult choices, especially in the projection of hard power, in pursuit of its own interests?
The hijacking of IC-814 by Pakistani jihadis was the original wake-up call. India’s poor handling of that episode revealed its softness. But Indian strategic thinking has failed to learn from that experience and evolve a stronger, more robust approach to its own security. Contrary to popular perceptions, projection of global power is not about an impertinent interference into other countries’ affairs — it is only an effect of a serious pursuit of widely defined national interests.
The right message from the IC-814 hijacking, that was only reinforced by the September 11 attacks on America is that India must review its foreign policy dogmas to fit the new context. Even Japan, with its famously pacifist constitution, is changing.
India should have sent troops to Iraq — pointing to the mess that America got into there is besides the point, for Indian involvement could have put history on a different path. Even without sending troops to Iraq, the manner in which it caved in to the demands of Iraqi terrorists was shameful. In Nepal as in Bangladesh, India was content let diplomacy take its meandering course, even as the situation on the ground was fast deteriorating. Nepal has already gone over the edge. In the Maldives, India has allowed the European Union and the United States to take the lead in changing the status quo, and risks losing influence there should a political transformation take place. In JN Dixit’s heyday as India’s ambassador in Colombo, he was dubbed ‘Viceroy’ due to the influence he wielded over the Sri Lankan government. Today India is one of the several, equally ineffective external influences on Sri Lanka.
Unconsciously, India seems to have receded into its own fortress, building fences, strengthening walls and building mental moats. King Gyanendra needs to be thanked for calling attention to India’s own, self-imposed isolation.