Monday, July 18, 2016

More realpolitik for India's foreign policy

The US drone strike that killed Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the Taliban leader, a few months back, while driving across Pakistan's Baluchistan Province, may have interesting consequences. A few observations.

1. The "violation" of Pakistan's airspace and the Pakistanis being unaware of the strikes may signal more strains in an already tenuous relationship. That Mullah Mansour was close to Pakistani military and intelligence establishment lends further credence to that view.

2. This victory for the Americans may be short-lived since Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is expected to succeed Mansour, is close to the Pakistani ISI and is a more hardline opponent of the peace process. 

3. For India, the US policy towards Pakistan is a teachable moment in realpolitik. The US are actively engaging with Pakistan, even willing to provide them military assistance, despite their soldiers suffering at the hands of terrorists supported by Pakistan. They see no problem with the apparent contradiction and neither do continuously complain about Pakistan's duplicity. They realize that the Pakistan army and intelligence apparatus are largely outside the control of the country's elected government. But engaging with the government at least leaves them with the best possible lever to influence the trajectory of developments in the country. Further, the weapons supply also helps them exercise some influence over the all-powerful Pak military establishment.

India needs to emulate the US foreign policy calculus in its dealings with both China and Pakistan, especially the latter. In contrast to the Americans' (public) nonchalance with the recurrent stream of Pakistani-supported Taliban attacks on its soldiers in Afghanistan, India makes a very public remonstration and suspends talks after every attack. I am not sure whether this even contributes to keeping Pakistan on the backfoot at international platforms. Playing to the domestic audience, maybe, but this trend has predated the rabble-rousing 24X7 media channels.

There is nothing inherently odd about juggling contradictions - deepening engagement even as we stave off the insurgents. The US foreign policy revolves around a marriage of Wilsonian idealism and George Keenan's realpolitik, although it sometimes throws up ugly contradictions. In dealing with nations, India's national interests dictates that we imbibe a dose of realpolitik. 


Naveen Juvva said...

it may work for the US which has a common interest with the Pakistani government, not the case for India with which Parkistan a has border disagreement.


Unknown said...

What is true realpolitik? Is it to act tough and talk weak or is it to act weak and talk tough? I think realpolitik is the former. China does it. US does it. India does the latter. So, big powers practice true realpolitik. A wannabe power has not grown the spine to emulate them, yet.