Friday, August 19, 2022

On India’s Frog-in-the-well Foreign Policy

Modi and Netanyahu (July 2017)

For decades after independence, India took a frog-in-the-well approach to foreign policy because of Jawaharlal Nehru’s two utopian convictions—first, his conviction that capitalist nations are imperialistic and the communist nations are peaceful; second, his conviction that India must maintain its secularism by disarming the Hindus and appeasing the Muslims. 

Nehru was India’s first prime minister, and also the longest serving foreign minister. For seventeen years, from 1947 to 1964, he kept the portfolio of foreign minister with himself, and became the architect of India’s frog-in-the-well approach to foreign policy. 

Due to his suspicion of capitalism and blind faith in communism, Nehru disregarded the horrors of Stalinism and Maoism and took India into the Soviet block. In theory, India was part of the non-aligned group of nations, and free of the Soviet and American blocs, but in reality, the country was nothing more than a Soviet submarine floating in the Indian Ocean. Much of India’s economic potential and geopolitical power was frittered away in supporting the Soviet communists. 

In 1954, President Eisenhower offered American assistance for modernizing the Indian army and making it capable of taking on the Chinese. Nehru refused to let the Indian army be tainted by the touch of the American capitalists—he argued that there was no need to modernize the Indian army, since the communists would never attack us. The myth that communists are peaceful was shattered in 1962, when the Chinese invaded India and took possession of Indian territory.  

Nehru died in 1964, apparently from a broken heart caused by the “Chinese betrayal,” but India continued to pursue Nehruvian foreign policy till 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. With the end of the Soviet Union, the myth that the future of the world was communist was shattered, and India, freed at last from Soviet control, began to make overtures towards America and Western Europe, and that led to far-reaching economic and political changes in the country.  

To keep the Muslim population happy, Nehru made support for Palestine and opposition to Israel a fundamental pillar of his foreign policy. Muslims comprise just 15 percent of the country’s population, but the interests of the 85 percent Hindu population, many of whom consider the Israeli Jews as their natural allies, was ignored, and for much of twentieth century India was part of the cabal of Islamic nations which openly called for Israel’s annihilation. 

The Islamic nations, including the Palestinians, were led by warlords and religious fundamentalists—India, being a liberal democracy, had nothing in common with these tyrannical regimes. The people of India got absolutely no geopolitical, economic, or technological benefit from their government’s policy of supporting the Palestinians and condemning Israel—what they got was global opprobrium for being on the side of tyrannical regimes which sponsor terrorism.

After 1988, India was facing the problem of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and some Middle Eastern and North African regimes. Between 1988 and 2015, thousands of Indians died in terrorist incidents. The Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee from their ancestral homeland in the Kashmir valley. Instead, of condemning the terrorists, the Islamic countries glorified them as Mujahideen and Fedayeen (soldiers of Allah who fight for the Islamic cause). 

The Muslim influence on India’s foreign policy was so powerful that no Indian prime minister dared to visit Israel. The unwritten Nehruvian rule that no Indian prime minister shall ever set foot on Israel’s soil was finally broken in July 2017, when Narendra Modi visited Israel on an invitation from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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