Friday, Oct 24, 2014

The missing debate

The BJP and the Left were one with the government on the Devyani Khobragade episode, at least in the initial stages. PTI The BJP and the Left were one with the government on the Devyani Khobragade episode, at least in the initial stages. PTI
Written by T P Sreenivasan | Posted: March 24, 2014 12:12 am | Updated: March 23, 2014 11:20 pm

On election eve, the opposition has not challenged UPA on its foreign policy.

India is divided on many issues on the eve of the elections, but foreign policy is not among them. Neither the government nor the opposition is anxious to bring international issues to centrestage. The government has nothing spectacular to show in our external relations, but it has nothing to be ashamed of either. We sailed along pretty steadily in the turbulent international waters. We avoided forging alliances but reacted with a mix of firmness and flexibility as problems arose in our neighbourhood and further afield. Strategic autonomy is alive and well.

The trophy that the government held up in 2009 was the Indo-US nuclear deal, signifying a spirit of accommodation as far as the US was concerned. The medal it claims this time is for the uncompromising stand it took on the humiliation meted out to an Indian diplomat, even at the risk of vitiating bilateral relations. While the BJP and the Left opposed the nuclear deal, they were one with the government on the Devyani Khobragade episode, at least in the initial stages. Their only criticism was that the government’s uncharacteristic show of defiance was designed to win votes.

The public mood of sympathy for Khobragade has given way to suspicion, in the wake of reports about wealth beyond her known sources of income, her taking advantage of the preferential treatment she received in the service and her violating the rules on dual citizenship. Many feel, now that she has come back home and the New York court has ruled in favour of our position, that she did enjoy diplomatic immunity at the time she was indicted — the government should close the case and move on.

In the case of China, the complaint is that India has not been responding adequately to Chinese moves to encircle us and dominate the region. There was consternation that the numerous interactions, including those at the highest level, did not deter the Chinese from venturing deep into Indian territory in the western sector. When it comes to border issues, the strategy of building cooperation with China on matters of mutual interest does not seem to work. Border negotiations have reached the second stage, but no one knows how long they will take. Meanwhile, China continues to expand its sphere of influence and build partnerships across the globe, undermining our security and interests. But the government claims that there is no likelihood of conflict. The opposition has nothing to prescribe with regard to China, except to be more tough with it.

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