The Nehruvian policy of non-alignment was drawn up in an era which was very different from today and Indian foreign policy should evolve according to the present day circumstances, said Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
Participating in a conversation with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express, and author and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai on TNIE’s Expressions, a series of live webcast with people who matter. He said Nehru himself would not follow the rules he drew up in an era which was very different from today.
With regard to the stand-off with China, do you think it is a moment in history where India can look at adversity as an opportunity.
The border issue is a major setback for India. We were caught napping by the Chinese adventure in the Galwan Valley and across the LAC. There was clearly an intelligence failure. The Chinese are indulging in a much bigger game than we in India have woken up to.
They seem to be thinking long term. The idea seems to be each time there is a flash point, India will try diplomacy and at the end of the disengagement, China is in a better position than before.
Before we ask whether it is an opportunity, let us face the fact that it has been a very serious setback. There is a theoretical opportunity but the building blocks of that opportunity have not been put in place.
The Nehruvian model of non-alignment seems to be dead. Do you think it is strategically desirable for us to join an alliance against China?
I am not pushing for an alliance. I am raising the question. We can create an environment of relationships and a network of partnerships by which we can do something about China. But it can’t be the containment game that the US would like us to play. We should think about a policy of constraining China.
Do you think the Nehruvian model is obsolete and it has to be relooked?
I think Nehru himself would not follow the rules he drew upon in an era which was very different from today. So, clearly Indian foreign policy has to evolve.
The Chinese are rising as a superpower and they are going to overtake the US well before the midpoint of the century.
The template of the Nehruvian era won’t apply here. China is an expansionist power, though they pretend otherwise. China really like to stretch their elbows at the expense of others. They see themselves as the centre of the whole world. Their ideology is hostile to us.
There is something about the way Chinese civilisation is manifesting itself today, ideologically, geopolitical and militarily, which will bring clash with others.
This opportunity should be taken as an opportunity by India to lead or catalyse a group of countries that could form a partnership to constrain China. For example, with countries like Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea. We can leverage our strengths to limit how much damage they can do to the rest of the world.
The difference between the Modi government and the previous government with regard to the relationship with China?
The restrictions on Chinese investments in power, port and telecom sectors were lifted by the Modi government. Tomorrow, we have to examine whether to allow Chinese companies bidding for the nation’s 5G contracts. My party feels there has been a major setback which the government is unwilling to acknowledge. If it is an ongoing process, let us see whether we can restore the status quo and that will be the acid test.
How did the Centre handle Covid-19 and the lockdown?
We were given only a three-and--half-hour notice for the lockdown which eventually became a four-month lockdown. Everyone faced massive difficulties.