It’s a known fact that India’s self-proclaimed challenge to Chinese supremacy in the region of South East Asia has little global relevance as our country stands strategically incapacitated in comparison to the Great Dragon. While China has been asserting itself forcefully in the international arena, India has failed to make its voice heard at any of the major annual diplomatic summits. On one hand we see China facing off with the United States on a range of issues be it concerning Edward Snowden or currency manipulation and on the other, Indian timidity is best exhibited by the mute spectator-like stance which we take on the most significant of the global developments.
We are at best in a state of diplomatic paralysis but somehow a very worrisome trend has emerged in terms of the diplomatic decisions which we have taken. This trend is of a continuous attempt towards framing a religio-centric foreign policy for India. There have been two or three major developments which clearly expose the manner in which political outfits cutting across party lines are trying to influence foreign policy on sectarian lines to make themselves appear favourable before their core-constituency of voters.
In August 2012, BJP stalwart and current President of the saffron outfit, Rajnath Singh intervened in Lok Sabha and mentioned how Hindus and Sikhs were being harassed in Pakistan. He also referred to the infamous live conversion of a Hindu boy in Pakistan which was aired on national television. Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh too joined in the fray and talked about how the crisis was “not a religious but humanitarian issue”.
It is true that Pakistan’s record in terms of minority protection is probably among the worst in the world. Wide-scale persecution of religious minorities like Hindus and Christians in Pakistan has coincided with intimidation of people on sectarian lines, the most prominent sufferers being Ahmadiyas and Shias. What is happening in Pakistan is indeed condemnable but why does the Indian Parliament only think about it when Pakistani Hindus are making the headlines in the mainstream Indian media? The Indian Government was the second after Turkey to send relief help to riot-hit Myanmar but was the Indian Government equally vocal about the atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar than it was about the harassment of Hindus in Pakistan? This happened so despite the former generating global buzz and even making it to the cover page of Time Magazine.
In December 2011, there was absolute pandemonium in the Indian Parliament when the news of banning the Gita reached Indian shores. There was a multi-party support against the madness which was going on in a Siberian court in Russia. This anger was totally justified but shouldn’t there have been a similar response when in 2010, Pastor Terry Jones was threatening to burn several copies of the Quran on the 10th anniversary of September 11 attacks?
It is nothing but a case of complete hypocrisy when leaders in India keep talking about illegal immigration from Bangladesh and highlight how it poses a significant threat to the demographic pattern of the entire nation but these are the very same leaders who don’t mind pitching for providing Pakistani Hindus with extended visas. Aren’t we supposed to treat all illegal immigrants and those staying inside India illegitimately on the same lines? In fact, there are even cases of gross “Islamisation” of our foreign policy stand which were taken keeping into account the large Muslim population in India. Let us not forget that for more than four decades India abstained from maintaining active diplomatic relationship with the Jewish State of Israel. The principle reason behind this was the fact that the Muslim-majority Arab nations were not engaging with Israel and India did not want to anger India’s Muslims by siding with Israel at a time when its arch-rival Pakistan was also firm in its opposition to it. At the same time, Hindu Nationalist leaders were advocating a pro-Israel foreign policy stand from India’s side. The most prominent leader among them was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar himself who viewed Israel’s creation as “joyous” since its pattern of creation was similar to his concept of a Hindu Rashtra.
The Partition of India was unfortunate but does that mean that we won’t engage with Pakistan? The same logic should have applied to Israel irrespective of the circumstances in which Palestine was partitioned. Decades have past and India is making the same mistake by pandering to the supposed “Tamil sentiments” which are best reflected not by the people of Tamil Nadu but by the established players in the southern state. Dialogues and discussions are integral to diffusing all disputes. Those who advocate disengagement can never be successful at diplomacy because continuous engagement is the bedrock of global relations. If we are at unease because of the manner in which Sri Lanka is treating its Tamil minority in the aftermath of a long and exhausting civil war then the best possible way of making our displeasure known is by communicating it to them directly instead of pretending to care about Tamil sentiments by boycotting diplomatic meets. The question is will India rise up to the occasion or has India’s foreign policy once again been punctured at the hands of sectarian forces which is evident from the fact that the Prime Minister won’t be personally attending the summit in Sri Lanka.