Foreign Policy with National Interest as the Touchstone – Key to National Security

(Article written in 2009)

It was a couple of days after the deadly Israeli attack on a Lebanese village Kfar Kana that killed scores of innocent children, on the 31st of July 2006, that the Prime Minister of Israel chose to come out with a statement. And what a statement it was!
“There are no words of comfort that can mitigate the enormity of this tragedy” he declares, only to add “Still, I am looking you straight in the eye and telling you that the State of Israel will continue its military campaign in Lebanon. We will not hesitate, we will not apologize and we will not back off. If they continue to launch missiles into Israel from Kfar Kana, we will continue to bomb Kfar Kana. Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.  Here, there and everywhere. The children of Kfar Kana could now be sleeping peacefully in their homes, unmolested, had the agents of the devil not taken over their land and turned the lives of our children into hell.”
“Every place from which a Katyusha is fired into the State of Israel will be a legitimate target for us to attack. This must be stated clearly and publicly, once and for all. You are welcome to judge us, to ostracize us, to boycott us and to vilify us. But to kill us? Absolutely not.” He has a point, doesn’t he?
And his final words to the world around him? “In a loud clear voice, looking you straight in the eye, I stand before you openly and I will not apologize. I will not capitulate. I will not whine.  This is a battle for our freedom. For our humanity. For the right to lead normal lives within our recognized, legitimate borders. It is also your battle. I pray and I believe that now you will understand that.  Because if you don’t, you may regret it later, when it’s too late.”
Alas! When can we hear such words of courage and conviction from our leaders? We are being battered day in and day out by the terror network operating from within and without. We are surrounded by countries that openly profess animosity towards us. And our response?
There were serial blasts in Mumbai last year. As many as 300 + innocent people were killed. Our Prime Minister was there to declare, very appropriately, that talks with Pakistan cannot continue in such situation when it continues to bleed India through such dastardly acts. But once back in Delhi entire tone and tenor changes. There is no alternative to talks, he declares.
Hundreds of our innocent countrymen get killed in Mumbai. Scores are murdered brutally in Assam by ULFA. Our Jawans get killed after brutal torture by the Bangladesh Rifles Jawans. Yet, ‘there is no alternative to talks’.
Tackling terrorism is uppermost in securing the security of any nation. That is why countries in the world are designing stringent laws to counter new age terrorism. After 9/11, America enhanced its Homeland Security system by introducing stringent laws like the Patriot Act. Britain has employed Secret Evidence Act to battle terrorism. Canada, France, China, and even Japan have promulgated new laws.
But Bharat is the only country in the world that has repealed the existing law – POTA. Today we have no effective laws to tackle terrorism. What is more! When the IB Chief asked for proper legislation to strengthening policing to tackle terrorism, the Government flatly denied it. Enough laws are there, it insisted.
On the contrary, our Prime Minister thought it prudent to advise the DGPs of various States to ‘go soft on Muslims’ while investigating in to cases relating to terrorism. That means the police have to first enquire about the religion of the terrorist before proceeding to investigate.
See the consequences! Terrorist-apologist media and politicians launched a campaign against the police during their investigations on the recent Mumbai blasts cases. The reason: ‘that the police is searching only the Muslim localities’. Enormous pressure was mounted on the police. As a result, while the police could do a commendable job in investigating 1993 riots and bringing the culprits to book, albeit belatedly, it is found wanting of late in tackling such incidents. No major terrorism incident could be investigated properly in the last couple of years. Police is the same. Then why this inefficiency? It is essentially because of the political intervention, the subtle and not so subtle.
We, as a government, have become Soft State’. How can then we protect national security interests? Talking about terrorism, see what the man who is the fountainhead of global terror network, Gen. Musharraf says.
“The terrorist has to be faced with full force…. He needs to be physically eliminated (Italics mine)” he wrote in his autobiography ‘In the Line of Fire’. The terrorist needs to be physically eliminated.
But see what our own Government says. “How do you want us to treat the boys and girls who are in forests and tribal areas, who do not get jobs, who do not, at times, get food, who do not have shelter, who do not have medical facilities? And if they become angry, and if they take arms in their hands and start Naxalite activities, what role should the Government play?”
This was Union Home Minister Sri Shivraj Patil to the Parliament in April 2005. “They are our children”, he declared. ‘Hum unke karta dharta hai’, he added. How can a Government that has terrorists as its Beta and Bhatija work effectively towards national security?
Do you know that one of the dreaded Naxal leaders arrested recently by the MP Police was found using his address as ‘S/o Shivraj Patil, Latur’?
Foreign policy is vital to national security. We have two schools of foreign policy in our country; that is what the experts say. One the Idealist School and the second the Pragmatist School. Unfortunately we are too much idealists and too little pragmatists. Idealism leads to emotions. Our approach becomes clichéd.
A visiting American dignitary narrated his experience with one of the top advisors to the Government in Delhi. They were discussing the question of Iran – India ties. Naturally the Americans are very concerned about the ties. So he asked our advisor as to what is the fall back thinking in India in case the talks with Iran fail. ‘Talks cannot be allowed to fail’, pat came reply.
We hear this line quite often in our country. Mumbai blasts take place. But ‘we have to ensure that they don’t derail the talks’ cautions our Prime Minister. ULFA kills scores in Assam. ‘There is no alternative to talks’ goes the rhetoric. If you kill two people in India, you will be sent to gallows. But you kill two hundred people; the governments will hold talks with you. Because ‘There is no alternative to dialogue’.
It is this idealism that guides us at every stage in our international relations. And we end up sacrificing vital national security interests. Take the case of Burma. We were opposed to the military rule there. We supported Aang San Su Kyi’s so-called democracy movement. China chipped in with support to the Military Junta and run over the entire country.
Today Tibet has been given up. What is worse we are preparing to hand over Arunachal too. ‘There is no harm in transferring unpopulated areas’ declared one CPI (M) leader. And our National Security Advisor went one step further to declare ‘Transfer of less populated areas can be considered’. Notice the shift from non-populated areas to less populated areas.
We have to do that because ‘Talks cannot be allowed to fail’.
And what do we get in return? Nepal got permission to open its embassy in Lhasa. Not we.
We are living in romanticism and negationism. We assume that Pakistan is doing every thing on its part to contain terrorism.
We would not fully blame the (Pak) Government.  Because, even if they express their intention, probably, they have not been able to put it into practice effectively and not been able to curb the actual terrorist activities there.It is sometimes difficult also.  I am not shifting the blame to them” – says our Home Minister in the Parliament.
Chinese call the entire Arunachal Pradesh disputed. We are ready to talk it out. We forget that the Chinese press does not call that State Arunachal Pradesh, instead it calls it the Southern Tibet. Instead we compare it with Kashmir and say, with a little hawkishness, that if we can discuss Kashmir with Pakistan, why not Arunachal with China? Two wrongs make one right?
Even while talking about Pakistan, Musharraf knows what he wants when he says he wants to hold talks on Pakistan. But do we know what we want when we say we are ready to talk Kashmir with Pakistan? We don’t. It is Pakistan that sets the agenda. We just respond to it.
Foreign policy cannot run on emotions and romanticism. We have paid heavy price for it since Nehru era in terms of our national security.
We need leaders with vision. We need only one school, neither idealist, nor pragmatist, neither PMO school nor MEA school. We just want one school that holds India’s interests as the touchstone on which to frame and pursue our policies.
Just remember a few more words of the Prime Minister of Israel:
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time you understood: the Jewish state will no longer be trampled upon. We will no longer allow anyone to exploit population centers in order to bomb our citizens. No one will be able to hide anymore behind women and children in order to kill our women and children. This anarchy is over. You can condemn us, you can boycott us, you can stop visiting us and, if necessary, we will stop visiting you.”

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