Diplomacy is not just the art of sweeping difficult situations under the carpet. It is also an instrument to score invisible victories. Indian diplomats have acquired new expertise in converting inconvenient realities into inglorious heritage. Last week, when Defence Minister A K Antony was cornered for his ministry’s failure to contain the Chinese Army’s growing incursions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), he blamed the 1962 war for India’s current border woes. Antony hardly speaks his own mind. But he was told by diplomats that sending strong signals of protest to the Chinese would provide fuel to warmongers and pseudo-nationalists. For the past few years, Indian diplomats have become internationalists who care more about how their words impact international community than their domestic consequences. Never before has the Indian Foreign Service been so concerned about kowtowing to aggressors like Pakistan and China as they are during the UPA regime. Absolving our hostile neighbours is their new mission. For example, for the past few months China’s People’s Liberation Army has been arrogantly establishing physical control over large areas falling on the Indian side of the LAC. But India’s Ambassador to Beijing Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is more concerned about his future responsibilities as India’s next ambassador to the US. It is during his three-year tenure that China successfully captured not only India’s markets by dumping cheap goods but also expanded her geographical girth. Yet he has been rewarded with a better assignment for failing to raise the alarm and advising the government to take corrective measures against our neighbour’s hostile intentions. Jaishankar represents the new breed of Indian diplomats who are successful in pursuing their own agenda even at the cost of damaging the political credibility of the government they serve. It is not surprising that not even once have the Opposition and foreign policy experts blamed our diplomats for ignoring the national mood. After some of them realised that in the New World Order, strategic and security considerations play an important role in their future prospects, they are succumbing to the pressure mounted by strategic thinkers. Since adopting an aggressive posture against Pakistan and China is deemed as going against global strategic considerations, South Block mandarins are willing to sacrifice good diplomacy to protect strategic dialogue, whether in India or abroad.
In the past decade, the offices of the National Security Advisors of countries, from the US to India, define the contours of diplomatic moves. Their objective is to ensure an unreal yet tenuous global peace even if the results are lethal economic and security blowbacks in the long run. It is not just a coincidence that both China and Pakistan have taken on India at a time when America is involved in containing or toppling regimes in West Asia using its military might. The US establishment is determined to ignore domestic opinion against military intervention in Syria. It’s no wonder that the US advises India to exercise restraint but ignores China and Pakistan’s military adventurism. Taking a cue from Big Brother, Indian opinion-makers and think tank “intellectuals” have maintained a diplomatic silence against US aggression in West Asia. New York was the centre for launching the US economic doctrine for the rest of the world. Now Washington has become the launching capital for defining the template for global security.
Last fortnight when I wrote about the collapse of Indian diplomacy, a failed and accidental diplomat launched a diatribe against me. Short of calling me names, he questioned my sources and logic, forgetting that I knew more about his kind of diplomacy and other shenanigans going on in South Block. There were a couple of factual errors in my column. The thrust of the article, however, was that cronyism is the key determinant for choosing diplomats to key positions. Some officers like Ashok Kantha and P S Raghavan mentioned in my column are outstanding officers with impeccable integrity, but their appointments were marred by the ad hoc selection of other colleagues for better sinecures. Now the government is moving fast to fill vacant posts and correcting past errors. For example, I questioned the absence of an expert to deal with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Last week the Prime Minister chose Dr Rakesh Sood as his envoy to deal with disarmament. Sood is one of the rare diplomats who knows nuclear diplomacy and science like the back of his hand. Similarly, the foreign ministry finalised the appointment of the current Ambassador to Malaysia, Vijay Keshav Gokhale, a 1981-batch officer as India’s next envoy to Germany. His compulsory foreign language is Chinese, yet he has been picked to replace Sujatha Singh who took over as foreign secretary recently. T S Tirumurti, an Arabic-speaking officer of 1985 batch, replaces Gokhale. An excellent diplomat, Tirumurti has been “rewarded” for his rebellious nature; in 2011, he was moved from the key position of joint secretary (BSM). The Prime Minister, however, is yet to find a candidate for the UK because he has to make a choice between a person who can protect both the Indian market and security or one whose only concern would be to become a part of the diplomacy dictated by Big Brother.
As the elections draw near, the PMO is moving very cautiously, since the next government would scrutinise in detail the credentials and credibility of those diplomats who have been or would be chosen for important assignments. With half a dozen of them retiring within the next few months, Indian diplomacy is also likely to suffer much damage to its authority and effectiveness along with the political establishment. The new dispensation will not only inherit a mauled economy but also a diminished diplomatic legacy.
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