India must have its own well-defined foreign policy!
India must have its own well-defined self-perception!

China will always be our troublesome neighbour and big brother
Mr.Pranab Mukerjee, our foreign minister made a recent visit to China. What did he do there and what did he achieve?

Not much. There are criticisms in the press that he went almost uninvited and in a way snubbed by his hosts, the Chinese Premier absented himself for four days when Mukerjee was there and in fact, the foreign minister had to put up with some more new demands from his Chinese hosts about claims to Indian territory, this time territory in Sikkim! Yes, there are Chinese incursions in recent times, they are increasing all along the long border and also the Chinese don’t seem to care to be polite with its neighbour or don’t seem to display any long-term thinking in dealing with India.

Unfortunately, our government can’t do anything; almost we have kept quiet and don’t seem to take any initiative except to some polite diplomatic claims that are, said to be misleading.

Only one senior Indian leader, George Fernandes, has been quite outspoken, calling China India’s number one enemy!

Unfortunately, even China seems to think that the Indian government under Dr.Singh is the weakest, so it doesn’t care a damn.

There are now new books on the rise of Asian countries. Even some fancy talk like “de-Westernisation” is taking place! One Singaporean diplomat and academic Kishore Mahbubani, once president of the Un Security Council, has lots of new things to say. This he said in a new book and also in a discussion on the BBC. Much of what he says is admirable and must kindle the pride of Asians like us.
But on a closer reading there are certain aspects which might not appeal to India. One significant point that won’t go down well with Indians is the argument that we, Asians needn’t accept the Western conception of democracy and freedom. Also, he quotes, more than once the Chinese leader Deng and also others to say that it is “myth of Western Superiority”. This is a bit to go off track.

We needn’t accept any Western definitions. But we have to agree on what democracy means.

In India we all know our democracy is by far the largest, also the most well-drawn up Constitution-mandated democracy.

The point is that Asian nations must be doing well in economic terms but in terms of democratic institutions, Asian nations have still to go a long way. Now my point here is that while the Western notion needs to be taken note of, we have to be a bit self-critical too when it comes to democracy movements even in the Asian countries. There are too many distortions, so many oppressive political practices and no one can take China’s claims for any measure of a democratic country. So too there must be reservations about others, including Singapore, Malaysia and not to speak of others like Burma.

Now, the point is that even books by writers like Mahbubani don’t give us the full picture of what Asia is and what China and Japan and India might mean for a collective Asian outlook.

From what he says, his apology to China’s strong dictatorial ways, suppression of freedoms, no opposition party etc doesn’t qualify him, however eminent Mr.Mahubani may be, he is not just a senior diplomat with important foreign postings, he is now with the Singapore Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, his thesis is flawed and it wont carry weight with the learned West.

India is a robust democracy and this is our strong moral case.

Next, India is now a success story in making us the world’s Software Super Power and this we have to leverage on.

India has a long history of Third World, on-Aligned Movement and this we needn’t surrender to any one but we have to build upon, however tenuous this movement at the moment may be.

After all, we have a long history and Gandhi and Nehru are revered names, unlike, say Mao or Lenin or any other Asian name. This is also our legacy.
Now, coming to the more substantial points, we, Indians needn’t surrender to any other nation or nations to interpret us, the Indian legacy for us.
Yes, there is still the point that the economies of the West, not just the USA but even the UK and Germany are larger than the Indian economy in terms of wealth and per capita living standards.

There is poverty, illiteracy etc.

However, India can’t leave the interpretation to some UK or US or even, I dare say, to the NRI academics.

For instance, we are fed by the British historians that the second world war was won by Britain. We need to interpret the defeat of Britain on Asian soil during the second world war.

In a new book, Forgotten Wars, The end of Britain’s Asian empire, (Christopher Bayly & Tim Harper, we see that while we have so many histories about UK’s win, in the Pacific, there is none on what Britain did, how disastrous Britain found itself, when Japan almost came to establish the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere led to the bust of the imperial infallibility.

The number of countries involved in this geography, come to as many as nearly ten, including Japan, Burman and Indonesia and others in this part of the world.
India was no more under its sure grip and one reason for Britain’s decision to quit India was this disastrous course of the war in Asia.

A previous book, a sequel to the present one, Forgotten Armies by the same authors also gives an account of the British army’s defeat in Malaya and Burma.
Now, books by Peter Kagan, the American foreign policy official also brings up the theme of India emerging along with Japan, and China and Russia. There is another book, Rivals by Bill Emmott that deals with the supposed rivalry that is likely among China, Japan and India. The point is: are we debating such issues?

The point is that at least in Russia we have opposition parties, also great individuals with an international reputation the Nobel Laureate Alexander Solzestein and Gorbacheve. But not in China. It is a closed dictatorship.
So, we in India must encourage independent voices to articulate our stance on a number of issues. How India matters in today’s world. What China is up to? How India can expand its moral stance with the Third world issues? Take independent initiatives as part of NAM initiatives to conduct peace Congresses, reduce international tensions, arms reduction, disarmanent etc.

Our government must be open to such initiatives.

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