When leaders form governments in functional democracies with popular support it should be construed that the whole country has spoken in unison and that leader is indeed a strong leader. The story of from no where to Prime Minister of Mr. Narendra Modi not only confirms the influence which middle class population of India has but it also reflects the maturity and power of Indian Democracy. In the life of every modern nation state there will be few leaders whose actions, commitments and popularity will have a lasting impact on the collective psyche of a country. Mao of China, Nehru and Indira Gandhi of India, John Monroe & Woodrow Wilson of USA, Churchill & Margaret Thatcher of England are some relevant examples.
All these leaders made a contribution or two that helped in augmenting their country’s comprehensive national power, they have done it either by pursuing certain policies or by making their priorities explicit by releasing doctrines. The famous Monroe doctrine of US president John Monroe which has said that European colonizers have no business in American continent because it is USA’s backyard and any interference will be considered as direct interference in America’s internal affairs which was further strengthened by the actions of President Wilson and that policy is relevant till today.
Our primary interest here is on the plane of strategic culture and emphasizing on the need of creating a new doctrine that identifies India’s sphere of influence in Indian Sub-Continent not only in security aspects but in the area economic cooperation too. The element of geography in strategic thinking is unavoidable, especially with hostile neighbors on two fronts this becomes all the more relevant in our strategic planning.
Often the efficacy beliefs of a leader becomes a driving force in charting out policies for countries, this includes strategic priorities too. This question is discussed in detail by Andrew Bingham Kennedy in his book – The International Ambitions of Mao and Nehru: National Efficacy Beliefs and the Making of Foreign Policy. Both Mao and Nehru understandably held their allegiance to different variations of same ideology ie., Communism. Both had their views on Internationalism which are drawn from their inclinations of Left wing thinking, but the means and methods applied were different. While Nehru followed a soft communism, whereas Mao was practicing Communism in its fundamental form. Nehru was more of an Internationalized person but Mao’s thinking was anchored on China’s national interest, whose policies are followed by the subsequent dispensations in the strategic domain with out much of a dilution. Though Nehru tried to make his mark on global stage and increase India’s influence beyond the sub-continent by his Panchsheel and Non-alignment policies, they in reality produced no great benefits for Indian state. Though there are many failures to quote one stunning example for his failure is Chinese aggression on India in 1962.
For Nehru his mistake lied in giving immediate national interests a second priority and was busy in taking a stand on every international issue that existed during his time. The fact that he personally handled Foreign ministry portfolio throughout shows his interest. After Nehru’s China focused appeasement policies and doctrines it is Gujural who came up with an explicit doctrine focused on immediate neighborhood that tried to bring all neighbors to the table and projected India as a responsible regional power. Though most of the principles of Gujural doctrine reflected Nehru’s Panchsheel, there was one marked difference ie., the clause of non-reciprocity, which means India will assist her neighbors in good faith in their trying times without expecting anything in return. Rigorously followed this one step alone would multiply India’s soft power globally. It is understood that we were constrained by economic resources and political will to follow it in full spirit.
PM Modi has an important chance in history once again to set out India’s priorities explicitly in the form of a doctrine for Indian sub-continent to have a positive impact on India’s security and economic situation for a long time to come.
Padmaja Murthy’s review on Gujural Doctrine may be a good starting point on understanding the effect it created. One important point was that Gujural excluded Pakistan from this calculation and the reason is an open secret.
A country cannot create a sphere of influence with out a significant amount of comprehensive national power at its disposal. A good review on what comprehensive national power is and how it is calculated is well articulated in this article by J S Bajwa. A mistake Nehru committed was that he projected India to global audience as a super state with no national power at home, hence no one took India seriously.
But Mr. Modi is a PM at a time when CNP (Comprehensive national power) of India is at a relative best and all the actions taken by him since his historic win are encouraging. But a Modi doctrine will go a long way in providing a vision for India on how to engage her neighbors for times to come, especially when Chinese presence is alarmingly deep in Indian sub-continent and has a strategic edge over India.
What the new doctrine should address? New document must complement Gujural vision and further build on the non-reciprocity clause rather than completely abandon it and create a new one altogether. SAARC region by default must be asserted as India’s sphere of influence.
The new doctrine should touch on the points mentioned below.
1. Starting point should be strengthening South Asian Free trade agreement . For that India should move beyond this notion of preferential trade agreement and convince her neighbors on this and make unilateral concessions for all her neighbors including Pakistan and give free access Indian market. India should do it despite the fact that Pakistan does not allow Indian goods to reach Afghanistan through its territory but allows Afghanistan products through its territory to India. Pakistan’s paranoia will further strengthen India’s position.
2. An agreement that would allow people to move freely across the borders, this can be a cue from European Union. But there is understandably a security scenario, conditions of which can be worked out by security agencies.
3. A line of credit to all the countries based on the demanding needs. Expediting the process of setting up a robust SAARC bank can be a step towards this process.
4. And last but not the least mutual security co-operations agreements must be entered in to factoring in Pakistan.
The death of Bipolar system and advent of Multipolar system necessitates that regional powers have their own sphere of influence and asserting those intentions through an explicit doctrine which is non-provocative is an essential first step. Prime Minister. Narendra Modi is in a right position to do it and it is an appropriate time.