G Parthasarathy

India, no rubber stamp for West

G. Parthasarathy | Updated on March 31, 2011

India will not be a rubber stamp for Anglo-American and NATO policies of selective use of force against regimes considered distasteful, such as Gaddafi’s in Libya.   -  The Hindu

Rather than blindly following the West's lead, India is, rightly, seeking to forge and back a regional consensus in formulating its policies.

Emerging from the situation two decades ago, when the country was bankrupt and internationally isolated with the collapse of the Soviet Union, India can derive satisfaction from what has been achieved since then.

The nuclear tests of 1998 and end of global nuclear sanctions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 led to worldwide recognition of India as a legitimate nuclear weapons power.

With a sustained high rate of economic growth and increasing integration with the global economy, India is now a member of the G-20 and the expanded East Asia Summit comprising the members of Asean together with the US, Russia, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand.

It is closely linked to emerging economic powers such as Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa through BRICS and IBSA.

It is only a question of time before India joins the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, laying the ground for a larger profile in Central Asia. But it is crucial that, despite its economic progress, India retains its strategic autonomy, if it is to be respected internationally.

India's candidature for Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) has been endorsed by all the Council's Permanent Members except China.

In the meantime, there have been unambiguous suggestions from the Americans and even American client-states such as the UK that India would be considered worthy of a Permanent Seat on the UNSC only if the “international community” (euphemism for NATO members) is satisfied with how India “behaves” in its voting on important contemporary issues, as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. These are pressures India will have to resist and deftly deflect.

Resisting double standards

Despite these western blandishments, New Delhi appears to have shaped the broad contours of how it will proceed to deal with pressures involving the typical western double standards on “human rights” and the “responsibility to protect”.

One is all too aware of how NATO did not hesitate to dismember Yugoslavia in the 1990s, after virtually demonising the Serbs. Force was used to carve out Kosovo — an action not sanctified by a majority of UN member-states.

The UNGA Resolution of 2005 on the “Responsibility to Protect” has been used at the convenience of NATO members, to remove regimes alleged to be guilty of “crimes against humanity”. Needless to say, NATO would not dare to act on anything the Russians do in Chechnya, or against Chinese clampdowns in Xinjiang, or Tibet. Genocide in Rwanda will be long ignored, because it is a poor African country with no oil or mineral resources.

A blind eye will be turned when a Sunni minority ruling elite in Bahrain clamps down on the Shia majority in the country, because the US 5{+t}{+h} Fleet is based there. But if Col Gaddafi clamps down on oil-rich Libya, he is subject to a no-fly zone and bombed by the British and French, with American backing.

There now appears to be a clearer enunciation of Indian thinking on such issues. After consultations with like-minded emerging powers such as Brazil and South Africa, India made it clear that on issues such as the Libya developments, it will first seek consultations with regional groupings such as the Arab League and African Union, before finalising its response.

Rather than blindly following the western lead, India would seek to forge and back a regional consensus, in formulating its policies. Thus, in developments in sub-Saharan Africa, Indian policies will take into account prevailing views and a consensus, if any, in the African Union. On Zimbabwe, the advice of South Africa would be more important than that of Whitehall.

On Myanmar, India will seek to promote a consensus evolved in consultation with Asean. The views of the GCC would be of primary importance in formulating policies on Bahrain.

This policy makes it clear that India is not going to be a rubber stamp for Anglo-American and NATO policies of selective use of force against regimes considered distasteful.

India stance on Libya

Over 17,000 Indians living across Libya have returned home safely, thanks to commendable work by Indian Ambassador Manimekalai and her staff. Muammar Gaddafi knows that India is not exactly pleased by his use of airpower against his own people.

India, nevertheless, joined hands with Russia, China, Germany and Brazil in abstaining on the March 17 Security Council Resolution on Libya, because of the absence of carefully considered guidelines on the use of force amidst a raging civil war, the lack of specificity on the countries and organisations undertaking the military effort and the absence of clarity on how a political solution would be evolved to end the Libyan impasse.

India is concerned that the military intervention in Libya is going to result in a prolonged stalemate and growing radicalisation in West Asia. It will inevitably be perceived there as an attempt to partition an oil-rich Muslim state.

If ‘gunboat diplomacy' was the hallmark of European colonial powers in the 19th Century, ‘no-fly zone' NATO diplomacy seems to be the order of the day after the Cold War. Lessons will be learned only after the European powers, who have no appetite for real combat in tough places such as Afghanistan, face the wrath of people opposing them, as the US did after its ill-advised military interventions in Lebanon in 1983 and in Somalia, in 1993.

Tired and tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Americans understandably appear to be more cautious in taking the lead in intervening in Libya.

(The author is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan. > blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

Published on March 31, 2011

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