[Assam] India tempers its 'outsider' foreign policy - Christian Science Monitor
assamrs at gmail.com
Sun Sep 17 00:57:28 EDT 2006
Looks like India is making a gradual, but determined policy shift away from
the 50s non-alignment era toward wheeling & dealing with the developed
from the September 15, 2006 edition -
India tempers its 'outsider' foreign policy *By Mark
* | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor *NEW DELHI*
Friday, India's prime minister will arrive in Cuba to convince a skeptical
swath of the world that India is, in fact, still India.
It could be a tough sell.
For decades, India happily assumed the role of chief rock-thrower at the
world's political establishment. Freeing itself from colonial rule at the
dawn of the cold war, India sought to find its own way to prosperity,
separate from the influence and imperialism of the world's great powers. So
in 1955 it formed the Non-Aligned Movement with like-minded developing
As the 14th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) begins Friday in
Havana, however, India finds itself becoming increasingly entwined with the
powers it once shunned, particularly the United States. As a result, India
is having to straddle the divide between its historical role as an outside
agitator and its future as one of the world's emerging power brokers.
For India, it is a realization of its growing maturity as a nation. "It's
about how we move from being a protester of the world order to one who takes
responsibility for the management of it," says C. Raja Mohan, a member of
India's National Security Advisory Board, a panel of civilian foreign policy
*A bridge between West, developing world*
This weekend's summit, government officials acknowledge, will be about
trying to find that new balance. "India has a role as a bridge in the global
divide which seems to be emerging," says P. Harish, a spokesman at the
Ministry of External Affairs. "That role is in preventing the global divide
and promoting trust."
The task might not be an easy one. To policymakers in many developing
nations, the United States is the primary imperial menace, threatening
regime changes and cultural domination. Already, NAM member countries are
preparing a draft declaration supporting Iran in its game of nuclear chicken
with the West. At the same time, it is seeking to enlarge the definition of
terrorism to include both the US occupation of Iraq and recent Israeli
actions in Lebanon.
In the past, India might have joined the cavalcade of anti-US decrees.
Today, it clearly will not. India's strategic goals are increasingly
consistent with those of Washington, from economics to security. Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh, for example, wants to take the discussion on
terrorism toward extremists in Pakistan's hinterlands. And with the US
Senate considering a deal that would accept India's status as a nuclear
power, India has no interest in provoking its new friend with bombastic
statements about neo-imperialism.
"We will try to moderate the proceedings to the degree we can," says Mr.
To some, this risks casting India as America's lackey - an easy ally in the
war on terror and a counterbalancing pawn against China.
"We are quite critical of the government of India's approach towards the
USA," says Tapan Sen, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and
a member of India's upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha. What is
needed, he says, is "a firm stand against US hegemony."
Yet others see different forces at work. The decision to open the country to
outside investment in the early '90s began a transformation that is still
changing Indian culture and policy. Before, India made bold speeches but
remained essentially isolated from the outside world. Now, it is belted to
the hip of globalization, leading to more substantial ties with countries
from Africa to the Americas.
This certainly includes the US but is not limited to it. Earlier this week,
Prime Minister Singh traveled to Brazil for the first-ever meeting of the
India-Brazil-South Africa Group - an attempt to harness the collective might
of three of the "global south's" most influential nations. Near the top of
the agenda was a resolve to force first-world nations to open their
After meeting with the Brazilian president, Singh said in a press
conference: "We must endeavor, and we shall be seeking to build a new
international order, which is both more equitable and more participatory
[for] developing countries."
*India's bilateral ties more important*
In the end, these more intimate country-to-country connections are far more
important measures of India's intent than any pronouncements at a summit,
some experts say. "The real issue is what we are doing with these nations
bilaterally," says Raja Mohan.
That doesn't mean that India no longer has any role in NAM. As NAM struggles
to find a post-cold war reason for being, India is well situated to nudge it
away from its dyspeptic past toward a more constructive dialogue on the
problems facing the third world, such as hunger, poverty, and climate
"That is how India will try to move it," says B.G. Varghese of the Centre
for Policy Research in New Delhi. "Not to echo the old line, but to move it
to a more helpful track."
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