In the post Cold War years, in a world where the old friendships have become meaningless and where global institutions such as UNO and NAM which represented law and legality in international relations have lost credibility. It is essential to ensure that Indian’s vital, strategic and economic interests are maintained. We must ensure that the process of development and the economic and social betterment of our people are not, in any way, hampered or set back by developments beyond our borders.
The process of recasting India’s relationship with the world naturally began in our own immediate neighbourhood. This is why we reached out to our small neighbours, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives and promised them that India would help them in times of needs. This approach was essential because we were to create a new climate of cooperation and goodwill in our neighbourhood which would help India both in political terms as also economically.
The good neighbourhood policy has paid back. In our neighbourhood as well as in the world in general this approach showed India as a responsible reasonable and generous nation which was more than willing to accommodate the legitimate concerns of its smaller and weaker neighbours. This contributed to neutralising Pakistan propaganda about India and isolating Pakistan diplomatically.
On the economic front this policy paid rich dividend. The South Asian subcontinent has immense resources be it of men, materials or energy that have remained unutilized because the trust and cooperation required to utilize these resources sensibly have been lacking.
The new atmosphere of trust and good will that India sought to generate attracted many investors, both Asians and others. We received many ideas and proposals from the global investing community which was quick to see that numerous projects in the field of infrastructure, transportation, energy and communication would become viable and bankable once the barriers to trade and economic cooperation in South Asia began to be lifted.
Unfortunately the country is confronted with heavy road block that the Kargil conflict has placed in its way. The war and upping of the terrorist activities in J & K and elsewhere have very much damaged the Lahore process and given a serious setback to the South Asian Regional Cooperation. It is saddening to notice that the politicians now talk more of armed confrontation and less of the vision of the SAARC community that the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh Pakistan, India promoted. As we enter the next century, this is a formidable challenge confronting our diplomacy. But not only for us, is it an important concern for all neighbours too.
India’s diplomacy has always been a mirror of India’s plight. In the 60s and the 70s the main tasks before our diplomats was to go around the world seeking assistance for the purchase of foodgrains and other essentials. In the 80s they had to convince a skeptical world that India was not about to be torn apart on account of various ethic and religious differences. But now in the latter half of the 90s India has come into its own. Our progress in science and technology, the steady and sustained performance of the Indian economy as also the achievements our (countrymen the Non-Resident Indians) who have settled in various countries abroad have won respect for India and Indian capabilities.
We are confident of Indian capabilities and that we can not only meet but also benefit from the ongoing challenges of globalisation and international competition. For if Indians can prosper without subsidy or protection when they go to reside elsewhere in the world then there is no reason why they will not do the same when the rest of the world come to India.
One modern trend that should worry us considerably is the progressive marginalization of the United Nations and it agencies particularly now when the superpower of the world, U.S.A. invaded Iraq without solid reason.
The importance of the UN can be understood from the fact that it represents an international system built on the foundation of the Rule of Law in the conduct of international procedure. It is this system which has allowed all nations, whether big or small or weak, to participate in the affairs of the world with an equal voice. If this system lapses it would inevitably lead to marginalisation of the weaker countries and clashes for power and influence among the stronger and more powerful nations. Only a neutral UNO can establish the peace and stability that the world has witnessed over the 50 odd years since inception of the United Nations.
Today the paramount power of the UN is in danger of being fully escaped by the major industralised countries. Iraq-America clash is a pointer how the powerful nations of the world have chosen to take the law in their own hands and how representative bodies such as the United Nations have been bypassed.
These are some of the principal challenges before India. We have no reason to be scared of the changing world.
The Bhagwad Gita tells us that the ideal person is one who neither seeks the world nor runs away from it. This should be our approach as well as India today is developing many new strengths, military scientific, technological and economic and we have no reason to be afraid of the main challenges before us. In fact, we should use our strengths responsibly and for the betterment of the world as a whole.