October 3, 2005

Let's get some hypocrisy into our diplomacy

Ranjan Roy

If it’s hypocrisy, so be it. And as New Delhi trundles into a new power relationship with other countries, societies, groups and institutions, perhaps there’ll be more of this to come. For far too long, foreign policy has been constrained by archaic rhetoric. Blah, blah in Bandung, more in Cairo and even more in Belgrade. What happened? We didn’t get chunks of business when Indonesia opened up and Malaysia never relaxed visa rules or favoured India when the Asian boom came. Tito disappeared and so did Yugoslavia.
   The outpouring of grief for Iran’s shattered nuclear dreams is amusing. India has to do business with the US, it has to do business with Iran and the two have to be balanced. That’s the calculus of realpolitik. As a regional power and a wannabe global one, New Delhi has to be on the right side of the proliferation argument. Why do we want Teheran, a theocratic state once tainted by state-sponsored terrorism, to have access to the nuclear highway. Yes, there is a principle involved and there is the sovereign rights of nations, but there is also cold selfinterest, which has to emerge as the fundamental guiding principle in making policy choices. A loss of face among members of the non-aligned countries? Not really. Everybody’s going about their own business, inking deals and contracts.
   It was easy when we were a non-player. Our leaders took shrill moralistic positions on the sidelines of global politics. But Manmohan Singh and his officials are now jostling on the centrefield as playmakers. Here, core values is important but state-tostate relations are tactical and sometimes strategic partnerships, where both sides have to maximise their gains. That’s when rational choices have to be made. Ideology is a factor, but when contexts, over which we have no control, change, course corrections are necessary. Surely Mr Prakash Karat realises this one isn’t as much about politics as about energy. The government has a commitment to providing jobs and a healthy economy as much as it has to a liberal foreign policy. But real gains can’t be sacrificed at the cost of some notional nonaligned image.
   Besides, Iran doesn’t appear to be as upset as the CPM, which has threatened ‘‘mass mobilisation.’’ Teheran, although miffed, isn’t beating its chest about neighbourhood betrayal. It has denied reports about rescinding on energy contracts with India.
   About Iran’s right to nuclear technology. Perhaps, but the logic doesn’t gel. The country is awash in oil and natural gas. It produces more electricity than it consumes and exports 2.5 million barrels of crude daily. Clearly, energy security isn’t an issue.
   For India, it is. We’re pushing thermal and hydel resources to the hilt at great environmental costs. The nuclear option is something we haven’t just started exploring. Indian scientists knew it was necessary if factories were to be up and running and lightbulbs were to burn in villages for children to do their homework. We have nuclear ambitions about which we have spoken about — since 1957 when the Atomic Energy Establishment was set up in Trombay. Scientists had finalised plans for the first pressurised heavy water reactor in the mid-60s and were confident of running nuclear power plants. We’ve got to stop losing sleep about what will happen to Syria, North Korea or Iran and focus on what’s important — India.


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