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Last updated: 23 Nov, 2021  

India.Growth.9.Thmb.jpg India's rise on the world horizon

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D.C. PATHAK | 23 Nov, 2021
In the narrow narrative of domestic politics - marked by minority versus majority controversy whipped up in the name of 'secularism', a distorted projection of the strong governance of Prime Minister Modi as a symbol of 'authoritarianism' and a deliberate attempt to misinterpret nationalism as the promotion of 'Hindutva', what stands out in bold relief is the rapid advance India has made internationally to get an unprecedented recognition from the world community as a major power influencing the issues of war and peace. This is a major development.

One can recall the regime -- preceding the arrival of Modi on the national scene -- when corruption was at its peak, policy making was at its weakest and development was subordinated to communal politics. In the area of foreign policy there was no independent evaluation of threat to India's security from hostile neighbours and a kind of towing of the American line of that time was in evidence. A telling illustration of this was the Indian response to 26/11 when the government of the day meekly accepted the US stand that the horrendous attack on Mumbai was the doing of 'non state actors' in Pakistan and that the Pak army could not be blamed for it -- this all was meant to ensure continuance of the Indo-Pak dialogue in which the US was interested for its own strategic reasons.

Prime Minister Modi's quick rise as a popular leader was attributable to his personal integrity, firm control on the administrative machinery and political will to take bold decisions. Indians were looking for such a head of the national government. People of India have always favoured strong policies to safeguard national security and while looking for economic development, not hesitated to sacrifice personal comfort for the cause of the nation -- it is relevant to recall how they positively responded to Prime Minister Shastri's call for skipping one meal in a week, in the difficult environ created by the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

Ever since Union Home Minister Amit Shah has taken charge of internal security, externally instigated terrorist violence has been contained, communal conflicts have been controlled and political voices against symbols of nationalism seem to have subsided. He has sent down a message to the states to take firm action against political violence in keeping with their prime responsibility for maintenance of law and order. The threat to India's security today is not so much from an external attack as from the 'new proxy war' in which hostile lobbies at home and abroad instigated by the adversary took to subverting the belief of the citizens in one nation, undivided people and strong national security. These covert attempts should be countered with the help of public education on the role of the citizen in safeguarding a democratic state and by invoking action against any serious breach of the country's laws relatable to maintenance of internal security.

Prime Minister Modi embarked on a number of people-related projects as a part of his 'development for all' mission and launched a massive infrastructure development programme -- some of it catering to the dual civil-military use -- but his image soared when he invoked India's sovereign right to deal a blow to the external adversaries, suspended talks with Pakistan on the grounds of cross border terrorism and sent a clear message to the US that the American policy of hyphenating India and Pakistan and making a distinction between 'good terrorists' and 'bad terrorists' would not do. He has stuck to the line 'terror and talks do not go together' amidst pressure at home and abroad built by vested interests, mobilised world opinion against the threat from terrorists harboured by Pakistan and what is remarkable, built a strong relationship with the US under President Donald Trump and later in the Biden Presidency on the plank of mutuality of interests in the spheres of economy and security. The presence of an extremely competent National Security Advisor by his side has greatly contributed to the success of Prime Minister Modi's policies.

Current developments in the Pak-Afghan belt revolving round the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan -- the battleground of the longest 'war on terror' launched by the US in the wake of 9/11 -- following negotiations with the Taliban and return of the Kabul Emirate with the total support of Pakistan, have created a major security threat for India.

In an extremely fruitful initiative Ajit Doval, our NSA, hosted the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan -- a conference of the countries in the Afghan neighbourhood at the level of National Security Advisors, at Delhi on November 10 -- to discuss the Afghan scenario in its totality. There was no question of the unrecognised Taliban government being invited to this round table. The meet effectively created a broad convergence amongst countries with security stakes in Afghanistan, on the threat of terrorism emanating from the return of Taliban Emirate at Kabul marking the spread of 'radicalisation' in the region. The conference specifically called upon the Taliban government to ensure that Afghan territory was not used for terror activity. India invited Russia which has been with the Central Asian Republics - all of whom including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazhakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan also positively responded to India's invitation. Both Pakistan and China though invited stayed away - the former questioning India's credentials for holding the meet and the latter falling in line with Pakistan in pursuance of its larger geopolitical strategy. Their absence only helped to draw the attention of the meet on the collusive role of the Sino-Pak axis in promoting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

India did well to invite Iran as well - the Shiite country might be having problems with the US and Israel but the fact that Islamic radicals harboured extreme hatred towards Shias puts Iran and India on the same side so far as the Taliban was concerned - and this is of strategic significance for India. India may not have involved the US with the regional dialogue considering the fact that the Biden Presidency was still handling the American pullout from Afghanistan carried out in an embarrassingly messy environ marked by the hostility of the Taliban - despite the Doha agreement. The US would in any case welcome India's initiatives on Afghanistan.

The Delhi meet has given a vital lead to India on Afghanistan. It is good that this regional conference was hosted by the NSA because Afghanistan under the Taliban Emirate is more of a global security problem than a diplomatic issue - the democratic world was still pondering over the question of giving recognition to this regime in the first place. It has to be noted that the NSAs of the Central Asian Republics around Afghanistan who were present in strength at the Delhi Dialogue, all represented predominantly Muslim states which favoured moderate Islam and clearly saw the risk of being overtaken by radicalisation if the Taliban were to have a free run in Afghanistan.

The conference adopted the 'Delhi Declaration' that reaffirmed the commitment of the participating countries to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including its financing, work for dismantling of terrorist infrastructure and counter 'radicalisation' to ensure that Afghanistan would never become a safe haven for global terrorism. It expressed 'deep concern' over the deteriorating socio-economic and humanitarian situation and underlined the need for providing urgent assistance to the troubled country. The Declaration pointed to the critical need for establishing 'an open and truly inclusive government' in Afghanistan that would have representation from all sections of the Afghan society and uphold the fundamental rights of women, children and minority communities.

What is important is that the statement was as comprehensive and complete as the democratic world would have wished it to be and goes a long way in securing international disapproval of the rise of Islamic extremism and radicalism that the return of the Kabul Emirate signified.

The event has brought a great strategic gain for India in as much as it helps the two largest democracies of the world to lead the global combat against the danger of radicalisation and the threat of a new global terror arising from it.

The Biden administration is currently focused on dealing with the Communist dictatorship of China in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere in the face of the express intent of President Xi Jinping to make his country the second superpower - in the process it seems to be overlooking the Sino-Pak strategic partnership that had become a notch deeper since the emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The US needs to have a closer look at the significance of a Communist regime and a country standing by Islamic radicals, coming on the same side politically in the emerging 'Cold War' between the US and China. The conference of the NSAs hosted by Ajit Doval has precisely drawn attention to this. Pakistan has predictably responded to India's regional initiative on Afghanistan by calling a meeting of the big three - US, Russia and China - at Islamabad close on the heels of the Delhi summit, and inviting the foreign minister of the Afghanistan Emirate to it - Pakistan is the only country that has recognised the Taliban government. Pakistan knows that because of its role in Afghanistan it is on a discount in the eyes of the countries of this region. It has however, sensed that the Biden Presidency still valued its friendship for its mediatory role in the Doha negotiations and its importance for the Saudi-led block in the Muslim world that was pro-US. Policy makers in the US however, do seem to be taking cognisance of the duplicitous play of Pakistan in the 'war on terror' and also analysing the implications of the Sino-Pak collaboration for the emerging geopolitics. India is playing its cards well in dealing with the Pak-Afghanistan belt on the one hand and countering China's aggressiveness both on the border and on the marine front, on the other.

It goes to the credit of Prime Minister Modi that he has in a short span of time elevated India to the position of a major power that had a say in global issues of economic cooperation and security. This has largely been made possible by a combination of policies that drew upon bilateral relations resting on mutual economic and security interests free of any ideological baggage of the past, assertion of India's sovereign strength in handling any adversary and demonstration of political will in taking hard decisions. This has enabled the Modi government to respond to Chinese aggressiveness on the LAC with a matching defence build up, actively associate with Quad to show its solidarity with the democratic world's geopolitical moves against a hostile Communist dictatorship and send a message to Pakistan - through the surgical strike at Balakot - that any act of mischief against India will be severely punished. Prime Minister Modi has done remarkably well in establishing India's credentials as a believer in world peace, international cooperation for economic development and human welfare, at various forums addressed by him including the UN General Assembly, G20, SCO and even Quad.

India's call for a joint fight against terrorism has been combined with the initiative on vaccination against Covid - this has already been acknowledged by the world - and cooperation in the field of technology for economic advancement. Modi's leadership has taken India's image forward internationally in spite of the disruptive politics that its opponents have taken to, at home.
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