Analysing Indian Foreign Policy is not a worthwhile intellectual endeavour. To be fair, my intellectual engagement with the world began with an interest in India’s geopolitics. This is probably because I have a Schmittian conception of all that is political. Because of this adversarial, Machtpolitik-esque understanding of politics, international politics naturally elicited my intellectual curiosity because it was a playing field in which the friend/enemy antithesis was at its most explicit, at least in the abstract. Nations could define their friends and enemies with relative ease and lack of moral opprobrium owing to their status as the most legitimate grouping playing the game of pursuing power. Thus, the ideal-type of nation operating in the context of a less than idyllic politics dictated by the animal impulses of greed, status and pride would be one that would pursue its interests as defined by power. As Morgenthau said, his Realism is both prescriptive and descriptive. Of course, it exposes the international environment as is, but it also yearns for the national state to act in a certain way, ostensibly because this Nietzeschean behaviour serves the nation’s interests best but because it slots in with Morgenthau’s worldview as well. This is not an indictment of Morgenthau the theorist, merely a reflection of Morgenthau the human.
The ideal environment then, for a political animal in the mould of Morgenthau and Nietzsche is one in which tribes can merrily go about the business of quarrelling violently, vigorously to amass as much power as possible. A necessary prerequisite to this state of affairs of course, would be to know one’s friends from one’s enemies. Juxtaposed on international politics, successful survival and flourishing is premised on having a conception of one’s external environment.
The reason that indulging in enthusiastic analyses of Indian Foreign Policy is an intellectually vacuous and ultimately dishonest endeavour is that they premise themselves on the hypothesis that India and her decision makers conceive of an external environment in the first place and undertake the ritual exercise of evaluating friends and enemies. This is a lie.
Indian analysts of Indian foreign policy are invariably English speaking and true to their post-colonial milieu are half-baked Macaulites. They combine a dazzling lack of appreciation of power relations and the unitary role of the State with a wholesale importation of American national security nomenclature. India, or rather New Delhi has amassed a quaint collection of ‘Think Tanks’ complete with Research Fellows and foreign interns. The city also is also home to a National Security Council (NSC) headed by a National Security Advisor (NSA) aided by a National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) staffed by security experts with doctoral degrees from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
But, I digress. What I am trying to say is that India does not have a Foreign Policy. Hence, any analysis of Indian Foreign Policy is a dishonest exercise because there isn’t any policy to begin with. When I say ‘Policy’, I mean policy in the traditional sense - A course of action designed to achieve a certain objective. In my limited interactions with Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officials, I have found them blissfully ignorant of the external environment as an essentially hostile playground. They find the very notion of strategy esoteric. This is not surprising seeing as 80% of recent Foreign Service recruits did not elect the Indian diplomatic corps as their service of choice, preferring the plump Indian Administrative Service (IAS) instead where prospects of financial entrepreneurship are considerably rosier. Those who do end up in the IFS wangle their postings so as to find themselves in the United Kingdom or the United States as their progeny reach college-going age. As Beijing tests out a new maximalist strategy in Kashmir, it is not surprising that India’s venerable Ministry of External Affairs continues to spout meaningless homilie after meaningless homilie. Neville Chamberlain’s foreign policy has found a new home in South Block.