Wednesday, March 4, 2009

20-10-2007 India can afford an ethical foreign policy

On 14-10-07 in the India’s national newspaper, the Time of India, Shashi Tharoor questioned can India afford an ethical foreign policy. The columnist was a contender for UN Secretary General’s post. This is my argument. India can.
That non-argument is just a simple mathematics. Civilization means use of heart and reasoning over head and crude thoughts. Has 15-year experience of current policy on Burma brought tangible pay-back? Is the northeast stable? Has China been checked?

Can India acquire a share of Gas?
Many Indian analysts do not go deep enough into the northeast. Most of the reports are misleading when it comes to Burma army’s actions against the northeast groups. Only Indian intelligent agencies know the ground reality i.e. fake encounters but they naturally don’t speak out. Almost all of northeast groups on the neighbor’s soil are the products of look east. They have never been there before that engagement policy. It is absurd of wanting to resolve that complicated question of the region by military means. Why is Nagaland relatively stable? It is not because of joint military operations. India’s good friend the military junta has no will to entertain India’s worries. The regime provides only shelter and then who is feeding the northeast groups? So India should not rely only on the regime which has never kept promise. India’s patience is too much.
At a meeting between Burmese democrats and key political parties last week, a retired India official spoke about how he was involved in drug issue talks between India and Burma. But he did not know his counterpart, a week later, was arrested because of involvement in that drug trade. It revealed to whom Indians are talking with.
I totally agree with a remark by an Indian scholar from BJP in that meeting that Burmese generals are not of a normal army in the world. Pervez Musharraf who can share power with politicians is much better than Than Shwe. Thai army lets civilian government to run. Burmese army wants to make sure that they are in total control and for ever. The regime which does not care for its own country and own people will not do any good for any one else.
Gas will last well after this junta falls. The country and her people not the military own gas, uranium, timber and etc. The regime which has stopped fighting against its own insurgency will not fight for others’. All arms supplies are to suppress the dissidents.
It is dangerous that Burmese authorities play India/China card for their own sake and caused a virtual regional cold war.
After Nehru as the author referred to, India’s neighbour policy is ought to do critical analysis. To go along with who ever is in power is just pathetic. I don’t think India wants or needs to bury all high moralities. The unique nature of India is because of great personalities who had highest moral values. Realpolitik is of the nations with enough material strength. India’s wealth of today is more of moral strength.
One of the reasons why India made 180 degree turn was lack of strong leadership after Rajiv Gandhi. Surrounded by unstable neighbours, the coalition and weak governments just wanted peace with Rangoon. It cannot be interpreted as Realpolitik.
If I am not wrong public opinion is the key in Indian democracy. Wherever we go and whoever we meet Burmese pro-democracy movement receives strong support. But when it comes to foreign policy it seems different. Moreover and more importantly Indian public opinion does not necessarily mean only the views of high education. Even among the high calibre officials, military views prevail in Indian foreign policy of this decade. It is especially true in the approach to Burma. It is because for the changed relation with Burmese army, military to military relation was the first to come. It is not good enough today. That army has shown true face to the world.
Democracy is inevitable in Burma and if the current approach is not changed by now, then India will have to work hard for a decade or two to re-establish good relation. I don’t think India will have another Bangladesh.
The domestic situation in Burma has changed. World view on Burma has dramatically changed. Even China is making a few alterations. Why has India to keep in the hard nut? At one hand India is so conservative and at the same time India wants to forget good traditions. How can it be?
Following the early silence, India’s expressions towards Burma become wiser. It is good that India is along with the international consensus on Burma: inclusive problem solving and national reconciliation through dialogue. Ministry of External Affairs’ late but correct approach should not be discouraged by old thinking of 15 years ago. Diplomacy does not necessarily mean black and white. While practicing black approach it is worthwhile to add a few white touches. Going all along with the generals and forgetting Aung San Suu Kyi is not a wise strategy. India needs a new Burma strategy.
All correct moves taken by India recently are at the United Nations by participating in friends of Burma group and invitation to UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari. The game of today is “Talk” between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Than Shwe. India can’t afford to let them do their business and I’ll do my own. India must be pro-active in that Talk process.
In stead of following all foot steps taken by China, unique India should be innovative. The Gandhians can play a role as purely non-violent movement has turned the table. Passionate India should offer sympathy to victims of brutal crackdown. Mother of Buddhism should lend a helping hand to Burmese monks who have been killed, detained, tortured and disrobed. Powerful Indian student unions should voice for safety of Burmese student leaders who are being brutally interrogated.
Talking about national interest, a democratic neighbour is real short as well as long term Indian interest. One thing India has to make sure is not to be late. This is time to compete for Burma at transition. It is right time to invest for Indo-Burma relation and to show true colours of India: Morality, Realpolitik and Courage.

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