India’s Foreign Policy Ambitions And Capabilities: Options For Pakistan – OpEd

Effective foreign policy making and implementation requires clear vision about self and pragmatic understanding of prevailing international environment. For newly independent countries the role of leadership, especially founding fathers, becomes naturally very important for defining the core objectives of foreign policy of the country. Defining the institutional structure and structuralization of long term core foreign policy agenda requires leadership having the ability to make sense of outside world through the prism of pragmatism.

Jawaharlal Nehru the founding father of India and first prime minter of the country viewed India as great power in its own right. Compensating the hard power deficiency that India had, Nehru took normative stance for projecting India as major power. He viewed India as leader of South Asia. The policy of supporting the freedom movements in Third World especially Africa was designed for promoting soft power of India. What India lacked in hard power, Nehru tried to make it through foreign policy maneuvers aimed at enhancing India’s soft power.

The policy of non-alignment showed perception of India as major power by Nehru and his successors was actually meant for compensating the deficiency of hard power. During Indo-China border dispute, the great power claims by Indian leadership were put to test in ruthless international politics structured on realism. Swift, conclusive and humiliating defeat at the hands of China brought fundamental reassessment of means that India utilized for securing its foreign policy objectives.

For interaction with countries outside South Asian region, India took benign foreign policy. Within South Asia, India even under Nehru followed assertive foreign policy under the assumption that India was leader of South Asia. Its aggressive foreign policy made Pakistan insecure and forced Pakistan to look options for balancing conventional superiority of Indian military by joining the US led military alliances.

Ironically, instead of addressing the threats hurling mindset of Indian leadership that forced Pakistan to join Western camp during Cold War, Pakistan was blamed for involving outside powers in South Asia. Indian foreign policy makers and analysts fail to appreciate the fact that insulation of the region from outside powers desired by India for dominating small states in South Asia was detrimental to national security interests of Pakistan.

Indian expansionist foreign policy stance and threats to territorial integrity of Pakistan meant that for rightful national security interest Pakistan was bound to look for military assistance from either of the powers leading Cold War. The policy of strategic autonomy that India followed was designed as facade with real purpose of establishing Indian dominance over South Asia while sending message to great powers that South Asia belonged to India.

Development of military capabilities by India for plugging the gaps in its claim to great power status became priority after defeat at the hands of China. Under Indira Gandhi, practically India distanced itself from nonalignment movement (NAM), only paying lip service to the true cause of nonalignment and became closely associated with Soviet Union for military buildup. Lack of strong knowledge and skill base for manufacturing advance military hardware made India dependent on imported weapons from countries around the world.

Economic reforms in India during the last decade of 20th century have propelled India among top 10 economies of the world. Capital deficiency problem that India faced at the time of independence is now addressed to greater extent and at same time it has become attractive destination for foreign investment. The power of purse and the size of market has made India sought after country by major powers of the world. Gains made through rapid economic development are utilized by India for military buildup to back bids for major power status. India views its economic rise benign in nature, producing pubic goods for other South Asian countries except Pakistan. Within South Asia, through economic power, military threats and coercion, India has been making efforts for securing support to be recognized as legitimate leader of the region.

The US for its national interest is promoting and encouraging India to play broader role in South Asia and Indian Ocean Region (IOR), without considering the destabilization effect of such moves on regional politics. By signing multiple military agreements with the US, India has sacrificed the policy of strategic autonomy for long term strategic alignment with the US for greater role in world politics.

For narrow economic interests, nuclear deals that the US, Russia, Japan, Australia have signed with India, are adversely affecting strategic stability of South Asia. Denial of permanent membership of United Nations Security Council at the hands of the US after World War II has been Indian misplaced grievance.

Though India claims to have nuclear program for countering security threats from China, judging by fast growing Indian missile and nuclear program real purpose of such program is none other but adding credentials to its major power claim.

Without resolving outstanding territorial disputes with Pakistan, the Indian claim to be leader of South Asia will essentially be challenged. India is trying to manufacture legitimacy through coercion and military threats. After becoming overt nuclear power in response to second nuclear test by India, Pakistan achieved balance of terror by offsetting Indian conventional military superiority.

After losing the conventional military advantage for coercing Pakistan, India has shifted to nonconventional tactics for destabilizing Pakistan from within by promoting and financing terrorist groups in Pakistan. India is destabilizing Balochistan through sending Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) agents who perform espionage and sabotage activities. Such activities are directly affecting the counter terrorism operations that Pakistan has launched against Taliban.

Pakistan should continue to oppose India’s bid for permanent membership of United Nations Security Council till India resolves the Kashmir dispute as per the wishes people of Kashmir. It is new low for countries that have shown willingness to extend diplomatic support for Indian membership of UNSC, keeping in mind that India continues to disregard UN resolutions on Kashmir.

India continues to be among the biggest arms importer of world that means even today India lacks indigenous base for developing hard power capabilities. Maintaining necessary conventional and nuclear military capability is essential for countering military threats from India. Further deepening and broadening of strategic relations with China is required for offsetting pressure of extra regional powers on Pakistan.

Establishing relations with Russia on strong footing is essential for diversifying foreign policy option. Estranging the US will be counterproductive for Pakistan’s objective of bringing peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan needs to play balancing act while devising long term accumulative foreign policy centered on promotion of its national interest. Learning from our adversary India, revival and expansion of economy of Pakistan is first step for enhancing foreign policy option of Pakistan.

*The writer is Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.


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