Why is India sounding weak to the world?

IBNLive Blog - March 15, 2013

The most defining moments over the past week has been the way India has handled countries within its neighbourhood as well as beyond South Asia. The bilateral dispute between India and Italy over the two sailors has triggered a diplomatic war between the two countries and has made us question the need for India to be more reactive rather than proactive. On a broader context, it also makes us wonder, has our diplomatic muscle been disproportional to our economic might? Some of the incidents over the past few weeks might provide a peek into the scheme of things.

Italian Marines:
The saga of the Italian marines has been an intriguing one. They had gone back for Christmas break as part of their petition at the Supreme Court of India and we had allowed them on the same grounds for their casting of their ballots in their elections. While the SC judgment paved the way for them to return to Italy, one has to ponder whether the Indian state could have been proactive in dealing with the entire issue? Why would you want to see the sailors back when postal voting is legal in Italy? On the part of the government, shouldn't there have been a faster track court to try these sailors. From the past experiences, there is a good chance that this entire saga might go into cold freeze mode once the media attention goes away. Our economic presence in the globe gives us the platform to exert more pressure much like the other countries. My biggest question is this; would the same thing have happened had the Chinese or Americans been the victims?

The Maldives fiasco:
The Maldives has been one of the few neighbouring countries around India where India had some say over the last few years. Post the coup by Mr Waheed over the ex-President Nasheed, there was an opportunity for India to put its back behind a democratically elected President. In contrast, it initially sided with Mr Waheed and then did a flip flop by providing Mr Nasheed support even during his stay in the Indian Embassy in Male. This lack of uncertainty in its policy towards its much smaller neighbour reflects a broader sense of indecisiveness in its foreign policy. While we see China making inroads into countries such as Sri Lanka with decisiveness, we seem to be either uncertain or struggling to get our moves on the spot with the countries around us.

The dilly-dally with Pakistan:
Our policy with our most vigorous neighbour seems to be always on the side of submission. While peace has been the most desirable outcome, the tantrums thrown by the neighbouring country seems to be not ending. I do agree that the main issue seems to be with the Pakistan Army and not the people of Pakistan; however, how can every issue be considered a bygone? Be it 26/11 terror attack or even the latest beheading of the Indian soldier over the border, has the neighbour even been accountable for anything? Are we throwing the red carpet way too often? Now, they have passed a resolution in the Pakistan assembly condemning the hanging of a convict in one of India's largest terror strikes, isn't that intrusion into our affairs? It is understandable that the nukes that they possess make us thread on cautious lines, however, shouldn't there be more other ways to tighten the screw on the neighbour who is always bound to have double speak?

In all of the countries mentioned above, our economics trumps theirs. Italy is reeling under economic crisis with a negative GDP, Pakistan's economy is in doldrums and Maldives, well, their economy is equal to some of our cities. Despite these large economic advantages that we posses, one needs to ponder why we are not able to transfer this into a greater say in diplomatic affairs with these countries. Economics is not responsible for everything; however it does play a vital role in diplomatic muscle.

At times, I feel we should be more aggressive in our dealings with other countries in order to mitigate our economic power to the maximum. This does not mean that one should go to war but there are numerous means to assert pressure economically and through international forums where we have a good presence.

Don't you think so?

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