[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: The art of balance

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Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cold War, UN General Assembly

Mains level: India’s approach towards middle east countries


Complex legacies of India’s diplomatic tradition

  1. Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor had, back in 2010, famously described Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy as a “moralistic running commentary” on international affairs
  2. By saying this, Tharoor was reflecting on the complex legacies of India’s diplomatic tradition, especially Delhi’s temptation for moral posturing on international issues

Change in Indian diplomacy since 1991

  1. The end of the Cold War and India’s economic reorientation saw an inevitable recasting of Indian diplomacy after 1991
  2. Governments have made a bow to pragmatism but the public discourse tends to remain ideological

Finding a middle path

  1. The left accuses PM Modi of abandoning India’s traditional solidarity with the Palestinians
  2. The right attacks the PM for not voting with Israel when the UN General Assembly strongly criticised the US move to shift its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
  3. These rival arguments are indicators that the MEA may have found a sensible middle path

Importance of Israel and Arab nations

  1. The Arab Middle East is the main source of India’s energy
  2. It is home to nearly seven million expatriate workers
  3. It is also a big market for Indian goods

The Pakistan factor

  1. Israeli and Arab leaders also view India from the perspective of regional balance, rather than an ideological framework
  2. Israel will be delighted if Pakistan chooses to establish diplomatic relations with it
  3. The political significance of the diplomatic recognition from the second largest Muslim nation is indeed valuable for Israel

India not getting same support

  1. India’s exceptional political warmth with Israel certainly does not beget uncritical Israeli support for India in its territorial disputes with Pakistan or China
  2. Arab nations don’t back India on Kashmir, just because India extends formal solidarity with the Palestinians
  3. Israelis and Arabs want to maximise possibilities with India, but would want to limit its impact on the relations with Pakistan

Way forward

  1. The pursuit of balance is an essential feature of international life
  2. Domestic political pieties, on the left and right, are the last thing India needs in navigating the Middle East minefield
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East