Challenges of Nehruvian model of foreign policy


Challenges of Nehruvian model of foreign policy


IN THE FOUR years that he has been in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has animated domestic politics in India and the country’s foreign policy by departing often from conventional methods and shibboleths. As he focuses on winning the next General Election, the key question is whether the Modi era will mark a defining moment for India, just as Xi Jinping’s ascension to power has been for China. The answer to that question is still not clear. What is clear, however, is that Modi’s stint in office has clearly changed Indian politics and diplomacy.

In domestic politics, Modi has a stronger record: He has led the Bharatiya Janata Party to a string of victories in elections in a number of states, making his party the largest political force in the country by far. Under his leadership, the traditionally urban-focused BJP has significantly expanded its base in rural areas and among the socially disadvantaged classes and spread to the country’s eastern and southern regions. His skills as a political tactician steeped in cold-eyed pragmatism have held him in good stead. Modi, however, has become increasingly polarising. Consequently, Indian democracy today is probably as divided and polarised as US democracy.

Even before Modi came to power, India’s fast-growing economy and rising geopolitical weight had significantly increased the country’s international profile. India was widely perceived to be a key ‘swing state’ in the emerging geopolitical order. The political stability Modi has brought, coupled with his pro-market economic policies, tax reforms, defence modernisation and foreign-policy dynamism, has only helped to further raise India’s global profile. However, India’s troubled neighbourhood, along with its spillover effects, has posed a serious challenge for Modi.

Challenges of Nehruvian model of foreign policy

His policy towards Pakistan: The period 1947-1952 saw India and Pakistan facilitating a transfer of populations, rationalising bilateral relations after the violence of Partition, sorting out canal-water issues and evacuee property disputes.

The Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950 was a declaration binding the two states to “protect the interests of minorities in both their countries”. Both governments solemnly agreed that each shall ensure, to the minorities throughout its territory, complete equality of citizenship irrespective of religion, a full sense of security in respect of life, culture, property, freedom of movement, occupation within each country and freedom of speech and worship subject to law and morality.

During the period of British rule in India, large canal systems were constructed. After 1947, the water system got bifurcated, with the headworks in India and the canals running through Pakistan. After the expiration of the short-term Standstill Agreement of 1947, on April 1, 1948, India began withholding water from canals that flowed into Pakistan. 

The Inter-Dominion Accord of May 4, 1948, required India to provide water to the Pakistani parts of the basin in return for annual payments. Negotiations came to a standstill, with neither side willing to compromise. 

In 1951, David Lilienthal, former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, visited the region and suggested that both countries should work toward an agreement to jointly develop and administer the Indus River system, possibly with advice and financing from the World Bank. 

In 1954, the World Bank submitted a proposal for a solution to the impasse. After six years of talks, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan signed the Indus Waters Treaty in September 1960.

The treaty required the creation of a Permanent Indus Commission, to maintain a channel for communication and to try to resolve questions about implementation of the treaty. Numerous disputes are peacefully settled over the years through the Permanent Indus Commission.

Leadership of third world countries:

Post- independent India initiated a new path of foreign policy and proclaimed for the unity of the Third World. The relevance of non-aligned strategy acted both as a foreign policy instrument as well as framework of interaction with the capitalist and the socialist states. 

This resulted in the development of the NAM. The dynamics of India’s relations with the Third World is linked to its foreign policy and economic policy. 

India articulated a non-aligned policy and developed friendship and cooperation with the United States and Soviet Union. Non-alignment further strengthened solidarity with the Third World countries which had the same socio-economic and historical experiences as that of India. 

From an economic point of view, being aligned neither with the United States nor with the Soviet Union allowed India the possibility of diversified trade, investment and credit relationships with both powers and their allies. 

This policy of India proved to be extremely attractive to other newly independent countries which followed India’s lead and began using non-alignment as the philosophical basis for their own external relations and policies.

Thus, the Indian position served as the catalyst for the genesis of the NAM. It became a potent force that helped unite the Third World in a common perspective on world affairs. Meanwhile India carved out a specific role for itself in the global arena.

India’s positive gestures to China, notwithstanding internal differences over the political and legal status of Tibet, led to a consolidation of India’s foreign policy objectives vis-a-vis Third World countries in the form of Panchsheel agreement that rapidly gained the status of a common agenda as well as the basis of relations with other nations. 

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