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Erroneous notions of statesmanship shall prove deleterious to Indian foreign policy with regard to China

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Samved Iyer
Eternal as evolution is, I cannot profess the pretensions of having grown in thorough measure, and I am hopeful of augmenting my perspicacity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

Two supremely significant phenomena are afoot even as I write this article. The first is known to all of us: Chinese aggression against India. The second, however, need concern Indian policymakers in equal if not in greater measure: the upcoming U.S. Presidential Elections.

Eminent defence and international relations analyst Abhijit Iyer-Mitra has long been advocating a robust alliance with the United States. He emphasizes that it is the only possible solution against Chinese expansionism. In the event, however, that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the elections, it shall quite be a challenge for India to work with the United States. Very recently, Biden had expressed disapproval for CAA and NRC, which would engender a credible suspicion that India’s internal affairs would be meddled with. One may well contend that this is pure rhetoric employed in order to propitiate the liberal wing in the US, but it would be evident to the perceptive that the Democrats harbour an inexplicable admiration for China. In a recent interview to the YouTube channel Defensive Offence, defence analyst Major Gaurav Arya noted the following:

  1. The Chinese meticulously study the fault-lines of every nation. In India, the most contentious issue is that of religion. It is noteworthy how the Left ecosystem manufactures a narrative to the effect of, “She was targeted because of her religion” when action is taken against Safoora Zargar. Similarly, the most contentious issue in the United States is that of racism. The Left ecosystem in the U.S. manufactures a narrative to the effect of, “This is an instance of racism” when a Chinese national suspected of espionage is apprehended by authorities. The Left ecosystems of both nations have an inexplicable admiration for China.
  2. China remains politically communist notwithstanding that it is not structured as such economically. Every communist regime subsists on propaganda. It is, therefore, expedient for China to greatly invest in information warfare. China spares no expense in funding its sympathisers across the globe. Articles in The Washington Post, The New York Times seemingly exonerating China for its responsibility as regards COVID-19 bear testament to that effect.

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra corroborated the second observation when he mentioned that the Chinese government bore all expenses of sympathetic professors in various Indian universities during their visits to China. That the proponents of contorted narratives may be engaged in doing so at the behest of China is, therefore, a plausible contention.

Who is to say that the Democrats who identify with the Left-liberal thought in the U.S. would not continue with such disposition in the event that Joe Biden is elected president? That he may not be tough on China is very much a founded concern. Consequently, the inebriated policymakers in India need formulate a proactive strategy to defend Indian interests against Chinese expansionism. Abhijit Iyer-Mitra observed that India had set a precedent by means of its resolute stance against China in the recent face-off, and inflicting a greater damage on China than the damage it received itself. Perhaps, India would then have to take charge and form a coalition of countries, aimed at countering Chinese aggression employing such means as possible. Granting diplomatic recognition to China, increased engagement with Hong Kong and selling armament to Vietnam would be good starting points.

Indians must not concern themselves with Trump’s character and with whether Trump deserves all the slander in the world. Trump is a businessman. He does not hesitate to show that economic interests drive his approach so far as India is concerned. In that sense, he is certainly pragmatic. It is crucial to note that he did not bat an eyelid at the tempestuous anti-CAA protests during his visit to India in February. Accordingly, so long as he does not lose sleep over legislation enacted by our government, it is expedient for India that he be re-elected president.

I do submit that Trump cannot permanently remain president. At some point in time, the Democrats may return to power. India would then have to be prepared for possible hostility from its leadership. On that account, there may be a contention that it is not the party in power in the U.S. but our preparedness that matters. However, I say that a second Trump tenure would be providential, for it would provide India with an opportunity to make amends. As Abhijit contends, India has not sufficiently invested in defence ties with the U.S. Perhaps a second Trump tenure could ensure that this materializes. The India-U.S.-Japan-Australia quad must not remain a quad merely on paper. Further, it would be propitious to include more nations into such an alliance. Trump would certainly be more amenable to such an idea as compared to Biden.

The title of this article uses the term “erroneous notions of statesmanship”. This pertains to the mistaken notion of non-alignment being an indicator of great statesmanship. This is precisely what has forbidden India from investing in robust defence ties with the United States. It may have been propitious in the Nehruvian era–a notion that could also be oppugned–but it holds little to no relevance today. No amount of robust trade with China, for instance, can convince it to support India’s permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. It is a mercantilist state and expecting it to understand India’s interests is an exercise in futility.

A final yet supremely important observation remains to be addressed. The Modi government appears to harbour an inferiority complex in re the bureaucratic system. So far as I am concerned, I find Abhijit Iyer-Mitra’s observations compelling. He notes that the current government comprises of people who have had humble backgrounds, and who ipso facto must have seen the administrative services with utmost esteem and wonder. To the Modi government, therefore, the advice from bureaucrats is most sagacious. It cares little for opinions from policy analysts outside the civil services. Unfortunately, vast though the UPSC syllabus is, passing the examination with flying colours hardly ensures that the bureaucrats have specialized in those subjects. Au contraire, specialization is achieved only after recruitment. Abhijit notes that many bureaucrats lack precisely this. I would go so far as to say that those proponing “non-alignment” and “strategic autonomy” merely seek to use jargon in order to stay relevant.

An overhaul of an almost lackadaisical foreign policy with regard to China would, to some extent, necessitate lateral entry into the Foreign Service. It is of the essence for the policymakers to get rid of their inebriation and formulate a proactive policy without further ado.

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Samved Iyer
Eternal as evolution is, I cannot profess the pretensions of having grown in thorough measure, and I am hopeful of augmenting my perspicacity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

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