Sunday 14 September 2014

Forget non-aligned, it’s time to be all-aligned (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

India’s PM Narendra Modi with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe before a delegation level meeting in Tokyo, Japan. PTI
lthough it is considered heresy of a treasonous variety to suggest that not all of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's nostrums were superlative, the reality remains that the country witnessed a "Nehru Rate of Growth" of around 2% annually for more than two decades, thereby allowing countries that had once been below India in economic status to race ahead. Those owning only rupees have seen the value of the currency plummet domestically as well as internationally. A fall in value relative to almost all major currencies has been the lot of the rupee. Across the board, perhaps because our politicians, officials and businesspersons appear to prefer foreign countries and currencies to their own, their policies and actions have ensured windfall benefits to aliens at the cost of those tethered to domestic shores. Diffused across this landscape of toxic policy is the Nehruvian concept of "non-alignment", which in actuality has meant a lack of alignment with the hard-nosed decisions needed to protect and promote India's interests. Or in other words, the interests of Indian citizens vis-à-vis others.
So completely has the mythical benefit of "non-alignment" seeped into the consciousness of official India that adherence to the Nehruvian path was total even while Atal Behari Vajpayee was Prime Minister. Both Nehru as well as Indira Gandhi passed up opportunities for linkages with countries in South East Asia on the ground that these were "too close" to the US. So what? If ties with them could benefit India, what did their other alliances matter? Vajpayee declined to be "aligned" with the US by sending a division of troops into Iraq, a step that would have ensured privileged access to Kurdish oil. Manmohan Singh, as terrified of annoying Washington as Sonia Gandhi, refused to take advantage of NATO sanctions against Iran by snapping up offers of oil and oilfields at bargain basement rates. Instead, he meekly accepted the diktat of the alliance, at the cost of energy security. In effect, what has repeatedly taken place since 1947 is a complete absence of alignment to the national interest of India, an abandoning of opportunity dressed up as high principle. Fortunately for Nehru and his successors, no government has thus far opened up the historical records pertaining to their rule for the people of India to ponder over. Sadly, too few of the officials dealing with that period have given their version of events, the way their peers have in more advanced countries. Hopefully, now that Narendra Modi is PM, all these records will be made public, the way similar records are in countries such as the US or the UK.
No other major power follows any policy other than which is deemed to promote their specific interests, although such a course is usually camouflaged behind verbiage. What is needed is for India to abandon "non-alignment" in favour of "all-alignment", by which is meant the acceptance of polices designed to ensure a double digit rate of growth, hopefully touching 15% annually, that would remove the shame of hundreds of millions starving in a country that became free nearly seven decades back. Just as China or the US adopts only that policy which is deemed (sometimes erroneously) to serve specific interests, so should India. It's time to place the interests of the people of India above that of any other, including futile efforts at winning the Nobel Peace Prize by both Congress as well as BJP Prime Ministers by making concessions for international encomiums that damage the national interest.
Bullet train technology from Japan and expertise to double speeds from existing tracks from China. Technology from Germany and Japan, and investment from China. Using not just the dollar and the euro, but the renminbi and the yen as currencies that could be freely used within India, even while working out deals with other countries to entirely use local currencies in foreign trade, rather than dollars or euro. Joining the war against ISIS by deploying the Air force and Navy, while assisting the search for "peace through prosperity" in the West Bank and later in the Gaza strip, where Indian investment can be encouraged in "non-lethal" fields such as providing NIIT-style centres for training in software development, as well as in other knowledge fields. In sum, a cluster of policies which evolve, adjust and adapt so as to take account of changes in both threats as well as opportunities. Or in other words, getting fully aligned to India's needs and interests. This is what is expected of Prime Minister Modi, that he is not be a compound of past PMs but in his policies be fully himself.

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