Foreign policy is a battle of perception and India is on a losing streak, scaring the ruling Congress that faces elections in 2014. After the Chinese occupation of parts of Depsang valley on 15 April followed by Sarabjit Singh’s murder in Pakistan, questions are being raised on who is running Indian foreign policy.
Is it the Prime Minister, with his conciliatory attitude towards India’s belligerent neighbours? According to reports, Sarabjit’s release was not even on the agenda of talks between Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Zardari last April, though Chishty, an ailing Pakistani scientist was released by India on humanitarian grounds. Zardari had campaigned for his release while India kept mum on Sarabjit. Does the helpless Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid—whose China visit slated for 9 May is being met with China’s apparent indifference—have a say in formulating Indian foreign policy? Is it India’s ineffective foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai, who retires in June and is not allowed to take decisions within his own ministry like appointing key envoys who takes the call on India’s international stance? Or is it the National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, the advocate of a soft policy towards China and other neighbours who decides Indian foreign policy? Defence Minister A K Antnoy—known as St Antony for his peacenik image—toed the PMO line on the intrusion by advocating diplomatic resolution. However, the Army and Foreign Ministry were at loggerheads. Sources claimed the army had told the China Study Group that, “the first 48 hours after the intrusion was detected were crucial”. It would have been “easier to evict the Chinese then, but there was no green light”. But the South Block repeated a single chant—the army should stand down and there should be no confrontation at the border.
DITHER AND SLITHER: The NSA-led Ministry of External Affairs is hawking peace even as Chinese soldiers are sitting within Indian orders and Indian soldiers were beheaded on the LoC. Manmohan Singh, desperately but ineffectually trying to save his image is abstaining from opening any other front. The US pressure to maintain military stability in the region has weakened a pliant India, which has been told to refrain from military action against an election-bound Pakistan. Even symbolic actions like suspending group visas and restricting business visits of Pakistani citizens are not being done in order to prevent Manmohan’s ill-fated peace process from failing. On Wednesday, the army chief briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and given various options to remove the Chinese, including the use of military aggression. But he was vetoed.