Further discussion on India’s foreign policy objectives

More than simply picking nits and adjectives

Vivek Kumar has raised some interesting points the second part of his discussion on India’s foreign policy objectives. In addition to presenting his own list, he compiles and critiques the responses he received (including this one from The Acorn).

To continue that discussion, let us consider some items from Vivek’s own list:

1. Peaceful resolution of all disputes/issues with neighbours.
4. Combating global terrorism.
5. Reforming and restructuring UN and other international agencies to reflect contemporary realities.
6. Protecting and promoting the interests of Indian diaspora.[License to Hic]

The adjective “peaceful” may be diplomatic (in the non-technical sense of the word), but unnecessarily commits India to a certain behaviours and rules out others. Unilateral renunciation of military options without a quid pro quo handicaps India’s conflict resolution capabilities. So I will assume Vivek used the adjective purely for aesthetic reasons.

Combating global terrorism is a serious enough objective and a very reasonable item to put on the list. While India must participate in international efforts to tackle trans-national and state-sponsored terrorism, it must invest in developing a credible regional counter-terrorism capacity of its own.

Unlike Vivek, The Acorn has the latitude to opine that efforts on reviving and reforming the United Nations are not the best use of time of our best diplomatic minds. The objective of reforming the UN, or even securing that permanent seat, does not merit a place in the top ten.

We agree on protecting the interests of Indians abroad, but not on the definition of who those Indians are. Vivek suggests that this includes the entire diaspora, including the persons of Indian origin (PIOs). This blog would contend that the government of India is responsible for the well-being of only its own citizens.

There are two issues that merit a response in Vivek’s well-reasoned critique of The Acorn’slist:

He contends that cultivating “political constituencies that can influence policies of foreign governments in India’s favour” is a means and not an end in itself. This is a reasonable comment to make. However, there is considerable merit in according it a higher status. In a world that is increasingly globalised, it will be necessarily to mobilise political constituencies on a regular, even continuous manner. The inclusion of this item as an objective rather than simply a tactic represents an innovation over the current way of thinking about it.

Never forgive governments, organisations or individuals who harm Indians.


Project the Indian model as an example for other countries to emulate.

I am not sure if we can afford to “never forgive”, else I am mistaken about what Nitin means. And which particular Indian “model” are we talking about? Is it about our democratic elections model? Criminal justice model? Or a wide-ranging “Indian way of life”? [License to Hic]

The word “never” can never be an ingredient of a pragmatic foreign policy. So an objective of never forgiving those who harm Indians cannot be practical taken literally. But like Vivek’s use of the word “peaceful”, the word “never” is about aesthetics. Unlike “peaceful” though, the word “never” commits India favourably. Forgiveness as an exception is better than forgiveness as a rule.

So what is the Indian model? In the broadest sense, it is that of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, secular democracy. It’s not perfect. But it is a very good way to prevent perpetual Balkanisation of the world into antagonistic entities that strive for homogeneity that forever eludes them. The EU model is a step in this direction. It’ll be as good as India’s if it can admit and integrate with Turkey.

Related Link: If you think that all this is way too serious (or heaven forbid, too boring), Gaurav has just the list to make things more interesting for you.

4 thoughts on “Further discussion on India’s foreign policy objectives”

  1. Nitin,

    I will go with your list, it states the objectives very clearly.
    Diplomatese should be strictly meant for speeches, not for writing a mission statement.

    India as role model for rest of the world, I don’t know.
    The basic ideals behind Indic and western civilizations have been different.
    To give an example while it is comparatively easier in west to separate matters temporal and spiritual (Render unto ceaser ……), it is a hurculean task (if not impossible) to make such a distinction in India.
    For example Bhagvaad Geeta is a religious text and yet it has been a source for many notable school of philosophy in earlier times as well as today

    Oh! And unlike scrater I did get the acorn 🙂


  2. Ok, I see that you are planning a separate national security policy. Shouldn’t it be closely integrated with foreign policy?

    Also, how about using Indian diaspora as a clout to mobilize opinion in diplomatic circles in favour of India?

  3. Firstly, thanks for saying “Unlike Vivek, The Acorn has the latitude..” 🙂 Quite a few people just don’t get it.

    I agree that “Peaceful” is indeed an adjective that we can do without. The objective would stay the same, and we would have more means at our disposal. If I were to make a list today, the word would probably not be there. You are quite right, it was put in for aesthetic purposes only – poor drafting, a young trainee’s privilege 🙂

    We are in agreement on Terrorism, so nothing much to add there. On UN and other IOs, we would probably just have to agree to disagree. I have had such a debate many times, and it has never quite managed to reach any conclusion.

    And now that I have given it some more thought and looked at my notes (all thanks to you), my idea behind including PIOs was aimed at cultivating “political constituencies that can influence policies of foreign governments in India’s favour”. Needless to say, when I say “protect and promote” PIO’s interests, I am talking about interests common to PIOs and India. Such interests would perhaps be more economic/cultural than political. In a way, this partially addresses two of your objectives (protecting Indians and cultivating constituencies).

    On projecting the “Indian model”, thanks for the elaboration. I doubt if “for other countries to emulate” can make it to the Top 10, but I accept that this is something that is needed as part of projecting a certain image of India to the world (which would have to be one of the objectives, IMO).

    As an aside, you will probably have to bear my presence here more often because my readership is simply not into such “serious” discussions 😉

  4. Vivek,

    Your presence is more than welcome…look forward to your comments — serious or otherwise 🙂

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