India is currently one of the foremost players in the international arena. It is unfortunate however that although home to almost one sixth of the total population on the planet, this sixty seven year ‘young’ country still has much to learn from its Western counterparts when it comes to building a good strategic framework.
Foreign Policy is primarily based on careful planning. This requires analysis, supported by a workable strategy. A strategy is all about integrating activities within the state utilizing and allocating resources within the state to meet the present objectives.
In the case of Indian foreign policy the present objective is a detailed ‘Neighbourhood strategy.’ Regional strategic issues top every agenda in bilateral talks with other members on the continent. The reason for emphasis on the immediate neighbour is because India is one of the few countries in the world that has more adversaries than friends in its own backyard. It is the persistence of the economic ties between the countries that has kept a permanent worry at bay.
Currently India has brilliant analysts but is lacking in strategists for International Relations. Analysis of India’s international relations has given us the theoretical basis of the issues that we should be focussed upon. Knowledge itself is not enough. Strategy however is currently the point of focus that needs careful re-thought. Jayshree Vivekanandan in her ‘Interrogating International Relations: India’s Strategic Practice and the Return of History,’ states that with the onset of the Cold War, culture was politicised and was seen as an identifiable national characteristic. She urged for a rethink of three notions; firstly, international systems must move beyond the Westphalian State; secondly, culture should be understood in more dynamic terms and lastly, power should be interpreted in its social context.
Streamlining the neighbourhood policy of India is quintessential especially since in the context of India’s immediate neighbour Pakistan. Post – independence era saw an exchange of one set of difficulties for another. Eight core issues have been narrowed down analysed and studied extensively. These eight include the Kashmir dispute, Siachen for starters. The issue now however is if the problem areas have been identified then why is there a delay in resolving the issue. India granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1995. Pakistan is yet to reciprocate. Diplomatic talks have been carried on many levels, to no avail. Mulayam Singh Yadav a Parliamentarian once stated, “We always win in a war with Pakistan but always lose on the negotiating table”. The lack of strategic planning in terms of policy framework in the geopolitical scenario is a major issue when it comes to Indo- Pakistan bilateral relations. The consistent evasiveness of Pakistan reflects the hesitation on its part to work on a concrete solution. On the other side of the border it is the snail pace at which the ad stratagem operates that is rather exasperating.
In the case of India’s other immediate neighbours namely China, Bangladesh and Nepal, the latter is perhaps the least of its worries but also is a minor power. Indo- Bangladesh has been experiencing land and maritime disputes.
Sino- India disputes revolve around Arunachal Pradesh and the long standing border dispute. If one carefully reads through this article again one can easily apprehend that the disputes have already been around for way too long. The issue at hand is not the problem but the solution which seems to be flawed for the moment. India must channelize its foreign policy to ensure that maximum disputes are now resolved in minimum time. Laxity on India’s part makes others question the effectiveness of its statements on peace in the global community.
However it is essential to note that it takes two hands to clap and if India has to effectively work on solutions for peace, equal inputs are required from its neighbours.
The whole world has known since the dawn of civilisation that you cannot change your neighbours. It is indispensable for peace on the continent that we realise the truth in this statement.