Scores have died since Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen, targeting the Houthi rebels backed by Iran. Not just Yemen, the Saudi-Iran 'Cold War' has affected the whole region, especially, Syria and Iraq. Both sides are trying to further their sphere of influence by exploiting the Shia-Sunni faultline. Now, you might be wondering what is the relevance of this cold war for an article on Indian foreign Policy! Consider this - India has good relations with Saudi Arabia and trade links worth billions of dollars. At the same time India also enjoys close ties with Saudi's Arch Rival, Iran. India is developing Chabahar Port in Iran which will be a counter to the Gwadar port being developed by China. Chabahar Port will also provide India access to the markets in Central Asia, especially, Afghanistan. This is the peculiar thing about Indian foreign policy that it maintains good relations with enemy or warring states, not just in this case but in many others. Take for example Russia & Ukraine, or Turkey & Cyprus, and so on.
This unique and independent foreign policy finds its roots in the Non-alignment movement postulated by the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. During the height of Cold war between US and USSR, when countries either belonged to the western bloc or the eastern bloc, some countries decided to keep themselves independent of either. This led to the formation of Non-Alignment movement organization (NAM) in 1956, with India one of the five founding members. The seeds of independent foreign policy were sown by Nehru at the time. This seed has since grown into a tree which still bears fruit.
Changing political scenarios and emerging threats from the immediate neighbourhood prompted India to become pro-Soviet union and She considerably benefited from that. USSR vetoed many resolutions in the UNSC which were against our interests and also supplied defense supplies ranging from a rifle to an aircraft. Despite this India avoided major conflicts with western powers and managed to maintain effective relations with most countries. In fact, in 1988, Rajiv Gandhi persuaded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to retreat from Afghanistan on insistence of the Americans. Now imagine what would have happened if India would have joined the communist bloc or even attempted to join it. In all probability, India would have ended up as another Vietnam, or Korea. The US could not have afforded to let India turn into a communist stronghold, as it could have resulted in a Domino effect across south Asia. Thus, India took a remarkable decision to remain independent of the communist bloc, while still being inclined towards the Soviet Union.
But what if India had joined the western bloc? Well, then surely India would have transformed into a technologically sound and economically prosperous country like Japan and West Germany which America helped develop. But that would have meant that the following things also have had happened. Firstly, India would have been a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Secondly, India would have had many US bases and her modern but limited defense forces would have been dependent on US as is the case with Japan today. Further, India would not have had any nuclear weapons as US had not have let India develop them. Lastly, India would not have had any independent foreign policy and would have also participated in dirty wars led by NATO and the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
Considering India-Pakistan relations, they could have been better, since during the Cold war Pakistan was an ally of the USA, especially after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when the CIA armed Mujahedeens, who, in turn, operated from safe sanctuaries in Pakistan. With India and Pakistan both being allies of the USA, they might have had warm relations. But there is also the possibility that either China or Russia would have leveraged Pakistan into their sphere of influence, because after all, it was Cold war. Hence, it is also quite possible that Indo-Pak relations could have remained the same. Moreover, India joining the western bloc could not have thwarted the Sino-Indian rivalry that is prevalent nowadays.
To sum it up, joining the either bloc would have seriously hampered an independent foreign policy. This could have seriously undermined our national interest. Thus, it was a constructive move to maintain a delicate balance. Credit is due to Nehru in this regard, as he laid the foundation of our independent foreign policy in the form of NAM. Well, that doesn't mean that our foreign policy has always been right. Misadventures of Sri Lanka, and recently, Mongolia embarrassed us on the international stage. Nonetheless, Indian foreign policy has achieved a lot and has preserved our national interest. The most admirable thing about Indian foreign policy is the policy of non-interference in regional and global conflicts. India enjoys goodwill among other countries as a mature democracy and peaceful nation. Humanitarian assistance by India during disasters is well-known and appreciated internationally.
The post Cold-War unipolar international arena with US as a sole superpower is reshaping world politics. Taking into account the dynamic global affairs and the rapidly changing status quo, it can be said that we are moving towards a multi-polar world order. India will soon emerge as a global power to reckon with. But for this India must have a robust foreign policy. Last three years have seen 'strongman' Modi reinforcing previous Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's pro-neighborhood foreign policy of almost 10 years while also reaching out to the West. While some might criticize former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the fact remains that his visits, although not publicized, resulted in the signing of the nuclear deal with the USA and subsequently got the NSG waiver in 2008. And it was also during his stint that India cultivated close ties with Iran and Afghanistan. Talking about Mr. Modi, his spectacular visits to about 49 countries (as of July 2017) spanning six continents has certainly strengthened our foreign policy and boosted the Image of "India Inc."
Considering the good relation India enjoy with Russia, US, Japan, France, Germany, Vietnam, Africa and scores of other countries, the country's prospects seem bright.
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