Broadly, there are three major sets of challenges ahead for India’s foreign policy. Firstly, meeting strategic challenges; secondly, responding to the challenges of globalization and managing critical issues such as human security, water, energy, environment, and weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD); and thirdly, evolving a national consensus on what constitutes India’s national interests.
Challenge from Pakistan
As regards strategic challenges, perhaps the most formidable and enduring strategic challenge to India emanates from Pakistan and China. The peace initiative launched by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in January 2004 is continuing despite recurring terrorist attacks. The government led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went a step further and formed a Joint Mechanism for dealing with terrorism with Pakistan. This has of course not helped India in tackling the scourges of Islamic fundamentalism.
In this context, India’s experience of marshaling its military might against Pakistan after the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament showed that a military option is very risky in view of Pakistan’s known nuclear capability. The fundamentalists who are in alliance with the Pakistan Army and the Islamic radicals denouncing the US are both extending their constituency in Pakistan. While this is impacting negatively on the domestic situation of Pakistan, it is also hindering any initiatives that could be made for developing people to people contact between the two countries so as transcend the political conflicts facing New Delhi and Islamabad.
The prevailing situation calls for an appropriate strategy to be shared by the civilian leadership on both sides, particularly by the civilian leaders of Pakistan, of finding a way to not let India-Pakistan dialogue be held hostage by the Pakistan army. On India’s part, the remedy lies in better management of internal security, awakening the sleeping intelligence network, providing them with better equipment, giving teeth to anti–terror laws, and above all, political will to give the security agencies necessary autonomy in dealing with the terrorists along with making sincere efforts to address the genuine grievances of the Muslim community.
The international community should encourage the civilian rulers of Pakistan to take courage in their own hands, stop being submissive to the Army’s mandate and open up avenues for mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in areas beyond the hard political disputes. India has, therefore, adopted the strategy of not letting terrorism have any chance of success on Indian territory.
Dealing with China
China has been posing equally, if not more, formidable challenge to the makers of India’s foreign policy. As the gravity of power is shifting to Asia and China is on the top of the power hierarchy in Asia and a significant player in global politics, Beijing resents India’s growing weight in world politics. A few years back when former Defense Minister George Fernandes said that China was India’s enemy number one, there was a great furor from a section of people and media alike, but recent developments in relations between India and China and the Chinese attitude on various issues have upheld Fernandes’ opinion more robustly. Day by day China is becoming more and more hostile towards India. According to strategic affairs expert Brahma Challeney, the rail link to Nyagtri will strengthen China’s rapid military deployment capability in the eastern sector and strike at India whenever it wants to.
India is using a three-pronged approach to deal with China. Firstly, New Delhi is trying to engage Beijing, especially in the economic field. Sino-Indian bilateral trade continues to grow rapidly, with the trade value in the first half of 2008 hitting the USD 29 billion mark, recording a 69 percent jump over the corresponding period the year before. Secondly, New Delhi is strengthening its ties with other major powers in general and the US in particular to counter balance China. Thirdly, it is also strengthening its defense modernization program. In addition, India should make long term strategy by forging military alliances with ASEAN nations which are very important for countering China specially in Indian Ocean.
To defeat terrorist design, the government should make it public that no individual or group can ever stand against national security.
Apart from Pakistan and China, building a strong and enduring partnership with other neighbors too has been a major continuing challenge for India. Without friendly neighbors, India cannot concentrate on socio-economic development, a major (preoccupation) of the Indian political leadership since independence. The country has been engaged in finding a sustainable basis for winning friendship of her neighbors and retaining its political primary in South Asia. Domestic transformations and turmoil in these countries have unfortunately complicated this task. Indian foreign policy establishment must therefore deliberate on how to facilitate stability in these countries and build up interdependency, which not only integrates economies, but also creates stake in each other’s prosperity and stability.
Challenges in Globalization
We are living in the era of globalization wherein liberalization and privatization rule the roost. Globalization, in its different manifestations, has encapsulated almost all aspects of life in the present era. The traditional barriers of time and space have been compressed and expanded its scope to all corners of the world. Man have become liberated from local and national boundaries because of the amazing developments in the field of communication and information technology, which has digitized the modern world in the real sense.
Amartya Sen defines globalization as a movement of ideas, people, technology and goods from one region to others benefiting the people at large. Stephen Gill defines globalization as the reduction of transaction costs, of transborder movements of capital and goods, thus of factors of production and goods. While according to David Held, “Goods, capital, people, knowledge, communication and weapons as well as crime, pollutants, fashions and beliefs rapidly move across territorial boundaries, far from this being a world of discrete civilization, or simply an international society of states, it has become a fundamentally interconnected global order, marked by intense pattern of exchange as well as by other patterns of power, hierarchy and unevenness. It advocates for a ‘global village’, ‘global neighborhood’ and a world without boundaries.”
Globalization releases enormous opportunities and challenges for developing countries like India. Liberalization and privatization are other components of globalization. This trend is called LPG to which India started in 1991 under the pressure of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) authorities. Introduction of several economic reforms under the process in India has created a mixed reaction. One reaction being that it is dynamic and development oriented and the other that it is a destroyer of home economy.
On its implications for our foreign policy, the major challenge faced by India is how foreign policy can be best conducted to help India link itself with the outside world, with the world economy and with the major powers. Globalization has created many opportunities for us. A challenge of foreign policy is to take maximum advantages of these opportunities. This calls for effort to find expanded access to foreign funds for investment in India and enhancing the competitiveness of our economy by importing frontier area technologies. The performance of our diplomats should be judged by the extent to which they have facilitated our availing of these opportunities.
At the 15th Conference of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) held in July 2009, while specifying the causes and consequences of this crisis, Manmohan Singh said, “The benefits and burdens of globalization were so unfairly distributed, it would be even harder for the developing economies to cope with the crisis. And if the aftermath of the crisis is not carefully managed and if the abundance of liquidity leads to a revival of speculative activities, we may well see a period of prolonged stagflation.” He added that this continuing slowdown would force more and more people from these nations back into poverty, bringing down levels of nutrition, health and education. Further, the world recession strengthened protectionism in developed countries’ markets, drastically reduced developing nations’ exports and choked credit and capital flow to the Third World. Evidently, the developing nations were the worst sufferers of this recession and they needed greater resources such as loans and further steps needed to be taken to ensure foreign investment in the development of their infrastructure so that they might properly address social disaffection and enjoy the fruits of development.
Globalization also casts a dark shadow on the whole social fabric and several forms of terrorism and insurgent activities are taking place. Proper multilateral negotiation among likeminded nations and stern action against terrorists are also urgent tasks before India’s foreign policy. India stands on the top amongst nations severely affected by various kinds of terrorists acts, like state terrorism, state sponsored terrorism and Naxalism. To defeat terrorist design, the government should make it public that no individual or group can ever stand against national security. All political parties should have a consensus on national security and integrity. To win over the terrorists’ motives, the support and enthusiasm of all sections of society is the need of the day.
There is also a NAM-related challenge before the foreign policy makers, that is, how to accelerate its pace and how make it more efficient and powerful to sort out the problems of member states and to face successfully the critical situation resulting from power politics at international level. India has proved its strength economically, politically and strategically in the world. Now it has to boost up the moral of NAM so as to make it more pertinent and relevant for a prospective future.