"If you (India) want to run with the big dogs, you have to stop pissing with the puppies".
Robert Blackwill, Ex US Ambassador to India
|Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Top Foreign Policy Advisor Ajit Doval
What Mr. Blackwill said about India back in 2006 still rings true with Modi's foreign policy team's poor handling of Nepal. In a piece titled "Has Narendra Modi's foreign policy bubble burst", a BBC report summed up the situation in the following words:
"For many in India, Narendra Modi is seen as the country's best brand ambassador. That's quite apparent from his many overseas visits in his first 16 months in office - he has generated plenty of interest, airtime and drawn adulation from the extensive Indian diaspora. But that may not be enough in sustaining relationships in the neighbourhood, as he is fast finding out."
India's Regional Ties:
There seems to be emerging consensus that Prime Modi's "Neighborhood First" policy he announced at the time of his inauguration last year appears to be on the verge of collapse.
The Hindu Nationalists' foreign policy spearheaded by former RAW Chief Ajit Doval is causing rapid deterioration of India's relations with most of its neighbors ranging in size from China and Pakistan to Maldives and Nepal. Written during Prime Minister Modi's recent US visit, including a large reception given by Indian Americans in Silicon Valley, an opinion piece by policy analyst Jyoti Malhotra concludes as follows: "So as the prime minister charms America, flanked by his two key aides Ajit Doval and S Jaishankar, the thought surfaces: Let him also spare a thought for India’s crisis-ridden neighbourhood".
India's Biggest Policy Blunder:
India threw away its substantial conventional military edge over Pakistan when the Hindu Nationalist government of Atal Bihari Vajapayee decided to carry out its nuclear tests in 1998. It gave Pakistan the justification it needed to go nuclear a few weeks later, thereby achieving balance of terror with its much larger neighbor with a huge conventional military.
Indian analyst Krishna Kant explains his country's policymakers blunder as follows: "Nuclear weapons have reduced Pakistan defense cost while we (India) have been forced to spend tens of billions of dollars to acquire latest military hardware in a bid to retain the edge. Its shows in the defence budget of the two countries since 1999 nuclear blasts. All through 1980s and 90s, Pakistan was spending around a third of its government budget and 5-6% of its GDP on defence, or about twice the corresponding ratios for India. After going nuclear, Pakistan’s defence spending decelerated and its share in GDP is expected to be decline to around 2.5% in the current fiscal year, slightly ahead of India’s 2%. This is releasing resources for Pakistan to invest in productive sectors such as infrastructure and social services, something they couldn’t do when they were competing with India to maintain parity in conventional weapons."
Ajit Doval's Rhetoric Against Pakistan:
Kant argues that the Hindu Nationalists blunders in the past have severely limited India's policy options vis-a-vis Pakistan. Here's how how he concluded his Op Ed in Business Standard: "In this environment, a hard talk by Mr Doval followed by a high-decibel drama by the government on the National Security Advisor’s talk between the two countries seems nothing more than a show for the gallery. The audience may be applauding right now, but claps may turn to boos as the public realises the inconsistencies in the script and the pain it inflicts on the hero."
Hindu Nationalists' superpower delusions have led them to policies that are hurting India's position in South Asia region and the world. No amount of hard talk by Ajit Doval can change this fact. Former Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh has recently said: "India and Pakistan need sustained engagement to realise the vast potential of benefits of liberalisation of trade and investment in the South Asian region." Modi and Doval need listen to Mr. Singh. India's best bet is to engage with Pakistan as well as other neighbors on a sustained basis to deal with the realities as they exist.
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