India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is supposed to have built the foundations for the best foreign policy that India could ever have had. It can be argued that this is untrue. It is part of the propaganda that his followers have built around him right from 1947. Throughout his 17-year leadership, Nehru advocated democratic socialism and secularism and encouraged India’s industrialization beginning with the implementation of the first of his five-year plans in 1951. During the Cold War, Nehru adopted a policy of non-alignment in which he professed neutrality, but was criticized when he refused to condemn the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and later requested foreign aid after China invaded India’s northern border in 1962.
One big thing missed out is that the biggest component of Nehru’s foreign policy was “fear”. Far from being the bold Foreign Minister that he was touted to be, he was probably quite a fearful one. There are a number of examples that bear this out. When India and Pakistan got Independence, Kashmir Valley was in limbo land. It was sort of independent entity for some time because the British had left and it was neither in India’s and Pakistan’s hands. Nehru showed absolutely no interest in having anything to do with Kashmir despite he was a Kashmiri Pandit. The inaction continued even when Pakistan sent armed tribals to take over the Valley. It continued till the tribals seemed poised to take over Srinagar. This point was raised by Field Marshall SHFJ Manekshaw. During the post-Independence Kashmir crisis, Manekshaw was in the Directorate of Military Operations and in the thick of things. It was Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel who virtually gave the orders for the Kashmir operation. We should be thankful to Sardar Vallabhai for Kashmir rather than Pt Neheru.
In 1962 the Indian Air Force was superior to the Chinese Air Force and we could have given a good counter-punch. But for reasons best known to Nehru he refused to employ the IAF. The result was a humiliating defeat and an emboldened attack by Pakistan in 1965. After the war Nehru refused to show courage and take the blame for the debacle. During the Cold War, we were firmly allied with Russia and Nehru was too afraid to acknowledge that and formed something extremely hypocritical called the Non Aligned Movement. Nehru was reluctant to leave the Commonwealth of Nations even though he could have chosen to do so. According to BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, Nehru even turned down a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and handed it on a platter to China!Coming to recent time, while most Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers were scared to deviate substantially from the path of Nehru, current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a much bolder approach. Till recently most Indian leaders would be scared of engaging the Big 3 (US,Russia & China) in this manner but Modi has proved that it doesn’t have to be a Zero Sum Game. We can have good relations with all three and get benefits from them and not at the cost of the other.
Modi has also become aggressive on the Sino-Indian border to check their advances and is open to getting more allies in the rest of Asia to counter China. That’s the true art of diplomacy—to talk sweetly, act tough and focus on economic ties too. Modi has also signed crucial uranium fuel deals with Australia, Canada and Ukraine. He looks to be building ties with every country in the world, no matter what its ideology. Another example is his taking ties to the next level countries like Israel, Iran and UAE even though the former and the latter two are rivals. He has adapted this dual policy on Pakistan. By strengthening ties with every country around our neighbour, he is isolating it. Modi has given freedom to the troops at the border to fire back at Pakistani troops. He has increased surveillance at the border and helped the BSF with things like desert scooters. At the same time he showed no hesitation in visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at short notice.
Modi has finally brought out Indo-Israel ties into the open. We can expect great help from Israel on matters like defence, security, intelligence and agriculture. Interestingly this is not at the cost of ties with Arab and Muslim countries which are paradoxically getting better. Modi is not afraid of engaging any country in the world in any fashion. As complete re-evaluation of Nehru’s foreign policy is needed so Modi is trying to rectify it as per the recent time political Map. He has taken foreign policy to the next level.