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Foreign Minister Krishna’s worldview

It did not take too long for S M Krishna,a self-confessed rookie on diplomatic front,to lay out his worldview over the weekend.

Written by C. Raja Mohan | New Delhi |
May 25, 2009 4:11:10 pm

It did not take too long for the new external affairs minister S M Krishna,a self-confessed rookie on the diplomatic front,to lay out his worldview over the weekend. Krishna’s short statement captures the mood of a self-assured and assertive government.

The first thing that jumps at you is Krishna’s description of India as a “responsible power”. This is a departure from the morbid universe of the left and right where India is a weak third world state that is vulnerable to unending external manipulation.

That the US and the world were out to get India was the essence of the CPM and the BJP opposition to India’s nuclear deal with the United States. Having prevailed over Karat’s ideological inanity and L K Advani’s political opportunism,the new government has declared that “we are at a moment in history when the world situation is rapidly changing and India,as a responsible power,must engage actively with the world.”

Where do we go to after calling ourselves a “responsible power”? The next logical step clearly is becoming a “Great Power”. In the last couple of years,sections of the foreign policy establishment in Beijing have begun to describe China in exactly those terms.

Krishna and his advisers are aware that India has ways to go. Hence the caveat “I am deeply conscious of the opportunities available to us and the difficulties that we face as we continue to pursue our independent foreign policy of peace and development,and strengthen our strategic autonomy.”

Krishna’s emphasis on ‘independent foreign policy” and “strategic autonomy” is part of the unchangeable DNA of New Delhi’s international orientation — that India is too big and too proud to become a junior partner to any one. If Karat and Advani had understood this,we might not have wasted three years examining President George W Bush’s gift horse in the mouth.

India’s new top diplomat,Krishna also reaffirms Dr Singh’s well known commitment to building a peaceful periphery in the subcontinent.

In order to achieve 9 to 10 per cent growth rate,India needs “peace and tranquility in our extended neighbourhood and a supportive international environment”.

What Karat effectively disrupted for four years,Krishna is now ready to resume — the simultaneous improvement of India’s relations with all the major powers. Karat was unable or unwilling to accept that improving relations with one great power increases India’s leverage with others in a multipolar world. And that there was no contradiction in being friendly to both Washington and Moscow.

Krishna is now saying,“To strengthen our policy and developmental options we will consolidate further our existing strategic partnership with major powers like USA,Russia,China,Japan and EU.” The renewed emphasis on great power relations,Krishna tells us,will not be at the expense of our friends in the non-aligned world of Africa,the Middle East and Asia. A good beginning,they say,is a job half done.

(The writer is a Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies,Nanyang Technological University,Singapore)

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