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Sunday, March 16, 2008

New SouthAsia policy for India

Posted by: danish Ahmed 3:04 AM

For a week now Scarlett Keeling rape and murder case has been hogging all the headlines. Columnists, bloggers, political/social commentators and the chatterati seem to have found a new diet for digestion. I am not complaining, it is not just the body of Scarlett Keeling that required a second autopsy, the whole incident and the roles of all involved should be subjected to a public autopsy. But other issues need to be addressed too. It was heartening to see all major political parties of India unanimously criticising US State Department's report on human rights violation in Nandigram. One can never cease from being amazed at American arrogance and idiocy. With the number of human rights violation USA commits everyday, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gautanamo Bay, it must require extraordinary arrogance to accuse an Indian state of human rights abuse. However, India has much to learn from the USA in this particular incidence. While releasing the report US did not allow its growing proximity with India to influence the report. It had no moral right to accuse West Bengal government of human right abuse but it did have the political right as have all other nation-states.
I have written before that India’s China policy almost always borders on extremes, Indian policy-makers view China as the greatest foe or the greatest friend but inter-state relations are hardly construed that way since there are too many factors involved. Right from the days of Nehru India’s foreign policy vis-à-vis China has never been pragmatic but it has taken a new form after the arrest of Tibetan protesters in India. As I write this news is coming in that at least seven protesters have been killed by the Chinese police in Lhasa, international community is concerned but India remains silent. Traditionally India has sympathized with the Tibetans and has accommodated a large number of Tibetan refugees including important political refugees like the Dalai Lama but has never been overtly critical of China's ruthless campaign of intimidation against Tibetan activists. But in recent years there has been a significant shift in India's foreign policy vis.a.vis China. And it is not just Tibetans whose suffering is being overlooked by the Indian government, a few months back when the international community was almost unanimous in condemning Burmese military junta's crack-down on pro-democracy protesters, India chose to look the other way.

This ideological shift in foreign policy is largely attributed to the new economic policy which requires better relationship with both China and Myanmar. In international politics relationships of nation-states are hardly ever defined in absolute terms leave alone emotionalism. Political strategies and statements need not always influence economic policies of a state unless the states are engaged in a major confrontation. Where economic co-operation is concerned, states are more likely to be influenced by mutual benefits rather than political statements. Had India been arming and training Tibetan and Burmese insurgent and secessionists the scenario would have been different. Ironically, Burma continues to shelter Indian insurgents but India instead of lodging complaint, is trying to appease the Burmese Junta by abandoning its support of the pro-democracy movement.

A similar situation may be arising in India's policy regarding Tibet. Being the largest and one of the most functional democracy in the region, it has certain responsiblities including support for democratic movements. Apart from its policy towards Pakistan, , India follows an over-cautious policy when other nation-states of the region are concerned. By distancing itself from pro-democratic movements India risks earning disfavor of Tibetan and Burmese populations. As it is India hardly has a neighbor whose population is favourably disposed towards it.

The US State Department's report should serve as an example to drive home the point that friendly relationship with another state should not deter us from criticising or speaking out against tyranny and suppression.

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