'Think 20' must work for both India's economic growth and security
D.C. PATHAK | 25 Jan, 2023
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All nations endeavour to safeguard their security and economic interests
- in that order - and this is what foreign policy is all about. Foreign
policy, by definition, is a product of national security and economic
concerns, and diplomacy provides the means for implementing it.
today's world, diplomacy goes beyond 'hospitality and smiles' to demand
'ideation' that provides the intellectual strength to create a
convergence in the face of differing stands and safeguard mutual
interests in bilateral relations while handling the world affairs.
20 (or T20), the forum of country's top Think Tanks, is the prime
instrument of India's G20 Presidency for deliberating on ways and means
of promoting the country's growth as part of the world economy,
enhancing India's national security and elevating the country's position
as a major power in a multipolar world.
India is rightly taking
up the issues of the South during its G20 Presidency. The situation in
South Asia deserves a closer examination for the reason that in this
India-centric region, the security environ has an overriding impact on
While the focus no doubt remains on economic
cooperation, the challenge in the region is to effectively counter the
dangerous forces threatening not only India's security but the security
of the democratic world at large.
The rise of faith-based
militancy, primarily in the Pak-Afghan belt, has affected India the most
as it is used by Pakistan for cross border terrorism against this
country. What adds to India's concerns is the fact that Sino-Pak axis -
an alliance of a Marxist dictatorship and a fundamentalist regime - is
working against India and has struck an unwritten pact with the Kabul
Emirate led by Taliban-Al Qaeda combine.
graduating into a force behind the call for Jehad on one hand and the
Chinese aggressiveness on land and the marine front, on the other, have
created a serious threat to the security of the countries spread across
the vast stretch from West Asia to Indo-Pacific.
classically defined as resort to 'covert' violence for a perceived
political 'cause'. The 'cause' builds the motivation which may be
'ideological' as was the case with Naxalism or Maoism or could arise
from assertion of ethnic identity as was witnessed in the insurgencies
of the North East but the new global terror exploits the motivation of
faith which in the case of Islam can be strong indeed.
behind this terror are able to exploit the 'supremacist' content and the
pull of 'exclusivism' for turning the minds of their potential
followers not only from among the Madrasa products but even those with
resources as well. They can whip up a call for avenging the alleged
mistreatment of Muslim minorities or just raise the war cry of 'Islam in
danger' to justify recourse to Jehad.
In the Indian context,
the threat of cross-border terrorism was pushed to a new pitch when
Pakistan flush from the success of the anti-Soviet armed campaign in
Afghanistan for which it got all the credit from the US-led West,
planned to replicate the Afghan Jehad in Kashmir by not only doubling up
the infiltration of Islamic militants of Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaishe
Mohammad raised by it, besides the Saudi-funded Lashkare Toiba - who all
had led the anti-Soviet Jehad in Afghanistan but additionally also
inducting Taliban Mujahideen into the 'proxy war' against India.
had used the Taliban for installing the Emirate at Kabul in 1996 and in
spite of its felicitous role in the direct combat between Islamic
radicals of Taliban-Al Qaeda and the US during the subsequent 'war on
terror' that started in Afghanistan, it managed to retain the goodwill
of US by projecting itself as a mediator between Taliban and US for Doha
talks and at the same time reinstall the Kabul Emirate of Taliban.
India, the threat of terrorism has multiplied because of the new found
capability of Pak ISI to set upon this country militants from across the
Islamic spectrum- ranging from Hanafi HuM and the LeT of Ahle Hadis to
the radical Wahabis of Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS - the Al Qaeda's
equivalent rising from the second theatre of 'war on terror' in
Iraq-Syria belt. India's security strategy has to take care of this
India is seeing a new level of hostility from
the Sino-Pak axis following the abrogation of Article 370 of the
Constitution by the Indian Parliament and designation of Ladakh and
Jammu & Kashmir as two Union Territories. There is complete
collusion between these two hostile neighbours in conducting 'covert'
offensives against India including use of drones in Kashmir and Punjab
and stepping up criticism of India's Kashmir policy internationally.
under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has kept up the initiative of
building economic relationship with all other neighbours and the
countries beyond and achieved a remarkable consolidation of Indo-US
friendship on one hand, and maintained strong bonds with Russian
President Vladimir Putin on the other - notwithstanding the
confrontation of the US with Russia on Ukraine.
Modi has emerged as a global leader whose counsel on issues of war and
peace as also on economic advancement of the world commands respect.
This will go a long way in helping India to achieve the mission of G20
Presidency on various fronts.
T20 has a major role in this -
internationally and at home. It should give enough attention to the task
of facilitating formulation of a comprehensive strategy of taking India
economically forward in the face of serious security threats arising
from its neighbourhood.
Pakistan has, in its National Security
Policy announced a year ago, declared India as its principal adversary
and gone on record to allege that Muslim minority in India felt
unprotected under the present regime. Pakistan also took the question of
Kashmir to the Saudi-led OIC as a 'Muslim issue'. During this period
Pak ISI has intensified the use of social media for creating terror
modules and spreading radicalisation which coincides with the trend of
civil society groups of vested interests in cohort with anti-India
lobbies floating narratives about condition of minorities and human
rights in this country.
Pakistan's attempts to cast Indo-Pak
relationship in a Hindu-Muslim framework have to be countered through a
campaign to highlight the intrinsically secular character of the Indian
state demonstrated by 'one man one vote', equal opportunities,
protection of law for all citizens, and the fact of the elected
political executive of India ruling the country without a denominational
stamp. This is in contrast to an Islamic Republic that does not treat
all citizens on an equal footing.
In an electoral democracy,
different communities may have different numbers but so long as there is
adult franchise and equality of rights, the regime cannot be falsely
charged with practising 'majoritarianism' just because the largest
community may return more representatives to the legislature.
in India, law and order and the police are under autonomous control of
the state government and any individual case of failure to prevent
public violence has to be squarely blamed on the latter, and not held
against the Centre for political reasons.
In the prevailing
geopolitical scenario, India's national security is threatened more than
anything else, by external forces trying to cause internal instability
here by fishing in our troubled waters at home.
of India's partition on grounds of religion should have made it the
first responsibility of all citizens of India to accept nationalism as
the basic uniting factor in this country with total freedom of worship
being granted to every body.
The sense of nationalism is a
cultural concept that revolves round shared feelings of pride in secured
boundaries, common view of the country's friends and adversaries and
partnership in carrying the nation forward towards a bright future.
in India first led the rulers to de-emphasise the fact of the new born
nation being a Hindu majority country and then pushed them in the
direction of implicitly placing Muslim minority on a special footing on a
realisation that in a situation of political divides in the majority,
the minority support could turn out to be a 'match winner' in elections.
Communal politics was sustained by vested interests - Ulema and
the communally-minded elite in the main - and this made it possible for
outside forces to instigate communal militancy that would graduate into
faith-based terror - as was illustrated by the emergence of Indian
Mujahideen out of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in the North
in the past, and the rise of the militant Islamic outfit called Popular
Front of India (PFI) from Kerala in the South more recently.
Both SIMI and PFI were banned after an exhaustive investigation.
needs to be mentioned that the average Muslim in India is, like members
of other communities, preoccupied with livelihood issues and family
welfare matters, and appreciated the pro-people measures of the
government, but the politics of the Minority community was traditionally
hijacked by certain leaders for personal interest.
It is a
matter of great concern that nationalism has been made to sound like a
disparaging word and even a plea was advanced that singing the national
anthem and saluting the national flag should be made optional for the
Nationalism has deliberately been made synonymous
with Hindu Nationalism to run down the Modi regime. Even a body of
historians has come forth to emphasise that India was never really a
nation in the past. They clearly miss the point that whatever might have
been the situation earlier, independent India- for the sake of its
present and the future - has to work for uniting its people into a
In the context of India's G20 Presidency,
answers have to be found to the security and economic issues facing the
country as also the world outside, and a framework of policies and joint
action evolved to make this earth a happier and peaceful place in
keeping with the motto 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' ( World is one family)
given by India.
Mention should be made here of the event called
R20 at Bali that Indonesia launched with the express aim of projecting
Islam as a religion of peace, rejecting 'radicalisation' and emphasising
the need to respect all faiths. Representatives of different religions
were invited and they included Ram Madhav of RSS from India.
proceedings conducted by the Mecca-based Rabita-e-Alam-e-Islami in the
largest Muslim country, made R20 a powerful indicator of the importance
of the Islamic world reminding the international community of how it is
their 'faith' that bound all Muslims together.
India would do
well to draw some takeaways from the Bali R20 basically to get
representative Muslim organisations in India and outside to proclaim
that they were against extremism and radicalisation, that Islam had
respect for all faiths and that the world should move towards democracy
that put all citizens regardless of faith on the same footing.
his brilliant valedictory address at Bali R20, Ram Madhav effectively
rebutted the suggestion that Muslim minority in India felt unprotected
and emphasised that the community had produced Presidents, Chief
Justices and Ministers.
In a subtle answer to the 'supremacist'
and 'exclusivist' idea of 'One God', he said that India's culture
believed in 'Only God' spreading the message that ways of worship might
differ but everybody's God was the same and that God united not divided
Coming back to the Indian scene, a follow up on Bali
R20 would be to get Islamic institutions like Darul Uloom Deoband and
Nadwatul Ulema Lucknow, who believed that India was a land of peace
(Dar-ul-Aman), to declare that Jehad was not required to deal with any
political issues of the Muslim world in today's times.
The OIC -
notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan though not a member of G20 had a
capacity to influence the Islamic block - should be persuaded to take a
Many more steps can be envisaged to ensure that
religion was not mixed up with international politics at the cost of
democratic principles. The T20 has a significant responsibility of
studying some of the more important aspects of global security situation
that had a bearing on India and work in close cooperation with any R20
kind of forum formed under G20, to evolve the right Indian strategies
for economic, environment, security, cultural and diplomatic matters.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. Views expressed are personal)
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