India’s silence on critical global issues fits poorly with its global aspirations.
Last week, the unstoppable force of international politics met the immovable object that is Indian foreign policy and as usual, a maelstrom of angry commentary ensued. On July 21, while the government refused to table a resolution on Gaza in the Rajya Sabha, the opposition excoriated it for abandoning long-held diplomatic positions, displaying crass political expediency, and denying India the prestige it once enjoyed in the global vanguard against colonialism and Apartheid. On July 23, as the government voted against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council, commentators decried the decision for selling out a friendly country, endorsing Islamic terrorism, and pandering to residual “UPA-style” bureaucratic thinking in the MEA.
Lost in this cacophony was an important line of reasoning that cuts to the heart of the matter. During the parliamentary debate, opposition members such as Ghulam Nabi Azad and D. Raja exhorted the government to act in a manner commensurate with India’s “stature” and “status” in the “comity of nations”. Baishnab Parida expressed his astonishment at the length of time — seven days — it had taken India’s elected representatives to even begin debating Gaza. Kanimozhi reminded the government that if India aspires to become a world leader, it must take a stand on humanitarian issues. Unlike disagreements over moral imperatives or the ever-elusive national interest that inevitably lead down ideological rabbit holes, here was an essentially forward-looking aspect of the national debate that focused on what might be expected of India as a potential
There are, of course, many reasons why India, with no direct interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict, should adopt a minimalist policy of saying nothing and doing nothing — or abstaining at the UNHRC — with regard to the present crisis. Israel’s material support during the Kargil war, its role as a major purveyor of arms to India and the inadvisability of endorsing a terrorist outfit such as Hamas are among them. Moreover, as suggested by some commentators, to single out Israel for its response to Hamas’s rocket attacks after barely taking note of recent atrocities by organisations such as the ISIS, the Pakistani Taliban, and Boko Haram would be hypocritical.
Does this type of studious silence befit India’s great power aspirations? Perhaps India does not espouse such pipe dreams — New Delhi is arguably content to be left to its own devices by the great powers without getting too involved in their machinations, be they in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, or anywhere outside South Asia for that matter. However, continued…