Non Alignment 2.0: A Critical Review

India’s Foreign Policy in the 21st Century and its Implications on Kashmir



 India is on the cusp of an historic moment and opportunity. India’s ‘tryst with destiny’- a more or less rhetorical flourish gushed by Nehru and informed more by exuberance than sobriety on the eve of India’s independence - is about to be redeemed. It is real. India, to quote Gurcharan Das is `unbound'. The untapped potential and promise that this huge country has, at last, is getting vent. This change and churn is making the world notice India. It is being feted in the halls of power. The world seems to be incomplete without the ‘India factor’.
  Be it interstate relations, the grand strategies of great powers, the foreign policies of states, the changing configurations in international organizations, trade talks, low or high politics or  the corporate strategies of Multi National Corporations(MNC’s),  the ‘India Factor’ is a must in the strategic calculus of these diverse range of actors. India counts. All that India needs to do is maneuver itself into the new great game of international relations and politics and find for itself the alleged role that the protagonists of its nationalist movement held and dreamt for it. This role implied a great power status for India in accord with its civilization state status, differing from traditional great powers in terms of their aspirations and orientation and attitude toward power. India was, in this schema, to be in a league of its own, an exemplar to all, leading and paving the way for a ‘just and equitable’ order. 
India, to realize this, should tap into the opportunities that the new global order characterized by ‘loose multipolarity’ and globalization affords and carve out space for itself that maximizes its ‘strategic autonomy’. This can be achieved by tweaking and twisting an old shibboleth of Indian foreign policy: Non Alignment. This concept essentially entailed taking a distance from major powers of the twentieth century so that no power dictated or forced India to act against its will. The new paradigm, termed Non Alignment 2.0 , would be premised on the same principle and maximize India’s strategic autonomy. However, it needs to be adjusted and adopted to the context of the conditions that define the 21st century where power is diffuse and fragmentation, fluidity, volatility and uncertainty are the norm. Strategic autonomy plus exploitation of the opportunities that the current international offers,  injecting dynamism in its development model along with the alignment of India with latest structural trends in technology, capital, labor, trade and other themes , rejigging its governance paradigms,  a prudent blend of soft and hard power building state capacity and responsiveness, reformulating its relations with its neighbors, and other powers would allow India to reach its potential and lead by the power of example. This would, among other things, allow India to also focus on developing a robust, equitable and economically vibrant society. The path to great power status would be abridged and India would demonstrate to the world new paradigms and leadership formats. The pledge made my Nehru would be redeemed.
These are the recommendations and conclusions of a report made by an eminent group of academics and public intellectuals associated with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), India.   The report is titled,’ Non Alignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the 21st Century’. Some important and well known names involved with crafting the report are Sunil Khilnani, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Shyam Saran, Nandan Nilekani, Siddarth Varadarajan et al. The nature of this report is interesting and it came out at a time (January 2012) when really important structural changes are occurring in world politics, economics, and political economy. While the credentials of the authors of the report cannot be doubted, the report itself- both the analyses and the recommendations- are somewhat curious and even contradictory. It appears to be informed more by wish than fact and even hubris.
Its premises are the structural changes that have occurred in world politics and political economy after the end of the Cold War or structural bipolarity, the intensification of the current phase of globalization and India’s rather serendipitous opening of its economy in 1991.  It is the admixture and conjuncture of these trends and India’s plunging into and taking advantage of these conditions that have rendered India into a potential and emerging power. Or in other words, India is the beneficiary of these structural trends more or less by default than design.  
  Yes, the context-economic and political has changed and India finds itself in a new and bold milieu but this milieu continues to be defined by the Westphalian framework of international relations and western pioneered and inspired philosophies –democracy, human rights, international system and structure.  In this framework, the name of the game is adjustment and accommodation to its tenets and premises or the rules of the game. This means entering into alliances, expanding and developing power and capabilities, obviating security dilemmas, hegemonic rivalries and competition,  arms races, power projection and above all being in the good books of the superpower of the day. It is only the validation of the superpower of the day that can render real the aspirations of an aspiring power. The rest is blarney.  In essence then if India is to attain great power status, it will be within and in the framework of the Westphalian order and it will have to play by the rules of the game, so to speak. There are no alternatives or short cuts. This is almost akin to a law of international politics. This is the Achilles' heel of the report. Can India alternatively take recourse to the power?
The answer is a clear no. Take its development model, for instance. It is not indigenous development and it never has been. Before the Cold War and after its independence, India’s economy was animated by the premises of socialism and autarky and after 1991, it has aligned itself with the economic mood and the successful philosophy of the times: Capitalism.  Stripped of accretions, it is this alignment with capitalism that is responsible for India’s rise. It has unshackled India and laid the foundations for a reasonably decent economic growth. It is this  economic growth and potential growth along with India’s size that is getting India noticed. Capitalism is a Western economic philosophy and system and no one in his right mind can attribute it to India.  In terms of a philosophical and political alternative to the western centric world, again India has nothing to offer. Yoga may be popular in the West but it can not amount to soft power. The dominating philosophies that govern international relations, politics and economics and their normative power emanate from the west.
The choices before India then are stark. If it is to be a power to reckon with, it has to play by the rules of the game. These rules of the game, in spite of the diffusion of power and other structural changes in world politics and economics are the time-tested and time worn classic rules and norms of world politics. In this framework, power matters. Non alignment in any form or avatar becomes meaningless in this power centric world. It becomes a contradiction in terms and can only be practiced hypocritically-exactly like Non Alignment 1.0.
The authors then are barking up the wrong tree. They are in their attempt to fuse and synthesize Nehruvian idealism with realism plain wrong. The report then is a dreamy and bleary eyed thesis that is at odds with the reality of international politics. This is not to say that India is not an emerging power or that its achievements are dismal.  India has made huge strides and its future looks bright. However, this is not my core concern. My concern is with the implications of India’s rise and its new foreign policy orientation on Kashmir. It is to this that I will turn to, taking on board some of the more reasonable and realistic suggestions and recommendations of the report and my own understanding of India’s foreign policy in the 21st century, in the sequel to this article.

(The author is Chairman Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front)

Lastupdate on : Wed, 12 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 12 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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