India as Natural Ally of the West- Reflected in Indian Foreign Policy Formulations 2020
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Issue Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group | Date : 24 Dec , 2020

India stood firmly embedded as ‘Natural Ally of the West” in 2020 as future historians of India’s foreign policy would record in the years to come assessing from the pattern, trend and intensity of  India’s strategic partnerships exhibited in India’s foreign policy 2014-20 under BJP PM Narendra  Modi.

India’s foreign policy narcisstic dalliance with Communist China by India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru until 1962 and Indian foreign policy flirtations with Soviet Union by Nehru’s daughter PM Indira Gandhi from mid-1960s to 1980s were deviant foreign policy adventurism with totalitarian Communist regimes totally at variance with Nehru’s commitment to democracy and democratic values.

India in 1947 or thereafter had no ideological affinities of Communism of totalitarian States like China or the Soviet Union. Nor did Indian Independence emerge from civil war of class struggles as in China or Soviet Union. Hence there was no logical rationale for India to be drawn to China or the Soviet Union.

When India attained Independence from British rule in August 1947 after nearly 200 years of British colonial rule, India stood completely Westernised in all domains and systems from education to liberal political ethos of democratic values. India’s freedom movement was a struggle by democratic means.

India therefore instinctively in 1947 should have been a natural and logical candidate as “Natural Ally of the West”. The United States and the major Western Powers stood ready to welcome India in their midst. But it turned out otherwise.

India in terms of its foreign policy formulations was rudely shut out from its natural and logical moorings as “Natural Ally of the West” by the personalisation of conduct of Indian foreign policy by Congress PM Nehru. Nehru was strangely fascinated by Communist and Socialism ideologies besides his perceptions and resentment that the United States had not given him his due deference on his first visit to United States in 1948. His daughter PM Indira Gandhi followed by personalised foreign policies.

In my opinion, Non-Alignment policies—the label under which India under Nehru and Indira Gandhi pursued India’s foreign policy tilts towards China earlier and later Soviet Union were grossly misperceived and held back India from evolving as a substantial “Natural Ally of the West” and blossoming of attributes of a Major Power.

Inia denied herself this meaningful role in global affairs. In any case India’s Non Alignment policies did not shield India from four wars of aggression against India by Pakistan and China.

The rest is history and the terminal results of the above misconceived Indian foreign policy as retrospective analysis would indicate cost India heavily geopolitically and strategically till the turn of the Millennium when India under BJPs first PM Vajpayee and US President Clinton signed the ‘Joint US-India Vision Statement for the 21st Century’ which marked the advent of the ongoing substantive US-India Strategic Partnership.

Before proceeding further, it needs to be recorded that unlike China and the Soviet Union, the United States while initiating the US-India Strategic Partnership asserted US intentions that the United States stood committed to assist India in acquiring the status of a major player in global affairs.

The above contextual background was necessary to be briefly sketched when India currently in end 2020 is engaged in foreign policy debates initiated by remnants of Nehruvian era Non Alignment gladiators including some recently retired former Indian diplomats sniping at India’s foreign policies directions of PM Modi. The sniping is at the Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar but the intended target is PM Modi.

The main thrust of those now critical of India’s foreign policies in 2020 is that India’s current foreign policies are not ‘balanced’ and tilted heavily towards the United States and the West. These worthies also resent India’s diplomatic isolation of Pakistan and India’s firm postures in confronting China earlier at Dokalam and now in Eastern Ladakh.

Perceptionaly, it is intriguing as to whether these current criticisms of India’s foreign policies of PM Modi arise from personal convictions or influenced by extraneous factors. Be as it may let us briefly examine (detailed analysis would follow in separate Papers) the three main targets of criticism of current Indian foreign policy are namely, India’s growing security relationship with the United States, India’s firm China policy and India resisting going through charade of peace dialogues with Pakistan.

India’s intensifying Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with the United States today enjoys bipartisan political support both in United States and in India. India’s proximate relationships especially in the security domains have provided the template for India’s foreign policy successes in Asia Pacific, South East Asia and more spectacularly in the Middle East.

If Major European Powers, Japan and Australia and Israel have in the last few years intensified their strategic relations with India, to India’s benefit, this again can be attributed to India’s growing Strategic Partnership with the United States and India subtly and in non-intrusive manner engaging in greater security responsibilities in the Indo Pacific Region.

Arising from the above, India while not a military alliance member of United States or Western Alliances has under PM Modi’s foreign policy thrusts gained recognition all over the world as a ‘responsible and benign stakeholder in global security and stability’. Indi today counts in strategic calculations in world’s capitals.

Let it be pointed out that both the United States and India provide each other ‘Existential Counterweight’ in different ways for each other in a rapidly churning and turbulent geopolitical environment threatened by China.

China does not offer any political or strategic space to India to have the luxury of peaceful and secure frontiers with China Occupied Tibet. China’s demonstrated record in last seven decades is to intensify its military confrontation with India and nothing on the horizon suggests that China will relent from military taming of India. India has no other policy options but to firmly stand-up to China’s military provocations.

Pakistan in recent years has been effectively colonised by China both economically and militarily. Pakistan is in concubinage bondage of China thanks to Pakistan Army Generals. The China-Pakistan Axis as a natural corollary of the foregoing should impel India into further diplomatic isolation of Pakistan.

So where is the question of “Balance’ or lack of balance in Indian foreign policies under PM Modi? If by ‘Balance’ critics of Indian foreign policy imply that India should balance its relations with United States with equal weightage to its foreign policies towards Russia then it needs to be pointed out that then Russia too has to first balance its relations with China to respect India’s strategic sensitivities with a constantly ‘India-Threatening China” directly and through its China-created nuclear stooge State of Pakistan.

Russia is no longer a strategic asset for Indian foreign policy or an existential counterweight for India against China acquiring Hitlerian impulses.

Concluding, once again as I have asserted many times in my past Papers on Indian foreign and strategic policies, that ‘Non Alignment’, ‘Non Alignment 2.0’ and ‘Strategic Autonomy’ are hollow epithets—relics of India’s past eras of foreign policies when India lacked the political audacity and military capacity to stand-up to China or Pakistan and resorting to Chamberlainisque mindsets of ‘peace at any cost’.

India today has evolved as an Emerged Power in recent years and this recognition that has flowed to it, in my assessment, arises from the moment that it recognised that it was a “Natural Ally of the West”


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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Dr Subhash Kapila

is a graduate of Royal British Army Staff College Camberley and combines a rich & varied professional experience in Indian Army (Brigadier), Cabinet Secretariat and diplomatic/official assignments in USA, UK, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan.

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