FOREIGN POLICY An Year Of Ambivalence

Sitaram Yechury

  • The first year of the minority Congress(I) government headed by P.V. Narasimha Rao has been marked by ambivalence and vacillations with regard to India’s foreign policy positions. Notwithstanding the positive elements like the improvement of relations with the People’s Republic of China, the consistent refusal by India to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the rare show of defiance in pursuing the advance in rocket technology with the launching of Agni, the year has been marked by succumbing to US pressures on various counts.
    The CPI(M) had all along been cautioning that the new economic policy orientation poses threats not only to economic sovereignty but will eventually mount pressures on India’s traditional non-aligned foreign policy. The most glaring departure of this is visible with the haste in which the Narasimha Rao government established diplomatic relations with Israel. The same party that during the last general elections castigated the Chandrashekar government for permitting US warplanes to refuel in India, went about recognising Israel when it was taking an intransigent position in West Asia Peace talks by refusing to vacate illegally occupied Arab lands. It is interesting to note what the Congress(I) manifesto of the last elections had stated on this score. “The Congress Government will pay special attention to the West Asian problem in the wake of the recent war in West Asia. The stakes for India being too high in this area, the Congress will work in close association with the countries of the region towards ensuring sustained peace and stability in the area, rapid economic growth, freedom from foreign interference and intervention in the internal affairs of the region, the vacation of Arab territories illegitimately occupied by Israel, and a just, comprehensive, definitive settlement in West Asia, including the Palestinian homeland.”
    Within months it went about negating its own pledges without any qualms. Indians were told that by recognising Israel, India would be in a better position to play a role in the West Asia peace talks. Far from playing such a role, the recent months have shown the complete marginalisation of India in this process. In fact, on all major issues in the world, whether it be West Asia or Cambodia, the hallmark of this one year’s rule has been the complete marginalisation of India in world affairs. A country which was traditionally looked upon by the world community to uphold the principles of non-alignment and hence capable of playing an important role in settling these problems is today completely marginalised in this context.
    With scant respect to the wide cross section of Indian public opinion, the Narasimha Rao government went about conducting joint naval exercises with the US Navy. Growing Indo-US military cooperation and this joint naval exercises have naturally sent signals that India’s committment to non-alignment can at best be treated as fragile. Joint military exercises are normally conducted between countries who face similar threat perceptions from a joint enemy. In this context what is the signal that the Government of India is giving to the world community by these joint exercises?
    This comes at a time when US imperialism’s aggressiveness in imposing its new world order is getting more intense. The continued US pressures on India through Super 301; the pressures on the acceptance of the Dunkel Draft on GATT etc are all indicators of imperialism’s desire to dovetail India to further its interests. At a time when these pressures have to be resisted by strengthening the anti-imperialist content of the non-aligned movement, India’s approach has been completely wanting.
    The Congress(I) in its manifesto has in fact stated :”It is for us to ensure that the ending of the cold war does not mean domination by one power centre.”
    And further, “It is for us to ensure that it is founded on the principles enunciated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru : peaceful co-existence, abjuring the quest for dominance, democracy among nations, equity and justice, general and complete disarmament, and a strengthened United Nations structurally reformed to accord with realities of the post-detente world scenario.”
    Yet within months of assuming office this government instead of ensuring that the imperialist new order does not succeed has been taking measures to the contrary. Initially it had announced the cancellation of export of rice to Cuba under US pressure. But mercifully, unable to face the pressures within India, it had to retreat from its position. Notwithstanding the repeated rhetoric at the G15 Summit in Venezuela by the Prime Minister, calling for South-South cooperation or the External Affairs Minister’s thunderings at the NAM ministerial conference in Indonesia, the government is yet to take any concrete initiative in this direction.
    The non-aligned movement was the product of the people’s struggle against colonial enslavement, a movement whose basis was its anti-imperialist content. The pursuance of this policy by successive Indian governments was the reflection of Indian people’s anti-imperialist struggles dating back to the days of our freedom struggle. By simply interpreting non-alignment as a tool for bargaining between the erstwhile two superpowers is a convenient argument to negate its anti-imperialist content. Non-alignment without anti-imperialism cannot have any basis to exist. In the present world situation with US imperialism’s growing aggressiveness, even the preservation of non-alignment would require the strengthening of the anti-imperialist struggles of the peoples. Unless this is done non-alignment would be reduced to mere rhetoric. And this is precisely the direction in which this government has been moving.
    Merely reiterating our consistent position on NPT cannot suffice in the present context. In a situation where relations between India and Pakistan are getting more and more complex with the developments in Kashmir and Punjab, and the blatant interference of Pakistan in India’s internal affairs, the easing of tensions will have to be based on certain initiatives that have to come from the Indian government. That Pakistan today has the capacity to produce a nuclear bomb and that this was due to the continued US military assistance is quite evident. Pakistan’s role in the region as the US surrogate has never been in question. That the USA is pressuring India to sign the NPT in a situation when India is the only non-nuclear weapon country in the region is also obvious. Therefore the question of signing the NPT must be firmly rejected.. Yet initiatives have to come for confidence building measures so that India will be able to live with peace without Pakistan’s blatant interference in our internal affairs. The hallmark of this government has been the supreme lack of direction and clarity on this score.
    Ironically, the Congress(I) manifesto had stated “”respect for India in the world means respect for every Indian”. Both in its domestic as well as foreign policies it is this respect that is being undermined as a result of the policies pursued by this government during the last one year. (05-07-92)