Enlightened self-interest or moral outage?

India chose to abstain on UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1973, which granted the members to use “all necessary force” to prevent Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from attacking those elements of his population that are challenging his rule. This is one of the rare occasions in recent memory that the UNSC has invoked chapter VII of the UN Charter, which deals with breaches of international peace and security, to authorise the use of force against a member state.

India’s failure to endorse this resolution reflects poorly on its ability and willingness to shoulder key global responsibilities and duties. The Indian argument that the current resolution fails to specify enforcement measures is little more than a dubious cover for a policy of inaction and, bluntly put, cowardice. Similarly, its exhortation that all parties should refrain from the use of force amounts to a counsel of perfection. Both arguments reflect very poorly on Indian diplomacy and diminishes its standing in the world. Worse still, this posture suggests that India, despite all its claims to great power status, is singularly incapable of making tough decisions and instead is willing to resort to various verbal smoke screens to justify its inability to act.
Sadly, after long beseeching foreign dignitaries, both trivial and significant, to garner support for the UNSC permanent seat, once again India’s leadership has resoundingly demonstrated that it is probably even undeserving of a non-permanent seat. It is now apparent that the euphoria that surrounded India’s much-heralded return to the UNSC as a non-permanent member after a hiatus of nearly two decades was mostly misplaced. Arguing that two of the permanent members, the People’s Republic of China and Russia, also abstained, will not exculpate India. A country that has made “strategic autonomy” one of the lodestars of its foreign policy cannot so easily take refuge in the argument that it drew its inspiration from the actions of two reluctant permanent members of the UNSC to justify its abstention.
The Indian decision to abstain does the country damage on at least two other counts. The first is moral and the second instrumental. The Indian failure to endorse the UNSC resolution is morally corrosive because the Gaddafi regime’s actions are both reprehensible and egregious. In the immediate term the principal task of multilateral action must be to firmly hobble its military machine to prevent mass atrocities. In this context it must be recalled that India chose to act with much vigour, and indeed unilaterally, to end Pakistani military terror in East Pakistan. At that time, India even chose to defy the disapprobation of the global community to pursue both a moral and a practical course of action.
India’s choice to sit out the resolution also damages its material interests. There is little question that its decision to abstain will harm its incipient and growing relationship with the United States. It needs to be recalled that after much deliberation and with considerable caution, US President Barack Obama had carefully endorsed India’s entry as a permanent member in a reformed and expanded UNSC. At that time, commentators both within India and abroad had publicly expressed concerns about how India would handle these new responsibilities against a backdrop of a vastly changed world and a new, and seemingly pragmatic, foreign policy. Much of the concerns then had focused on ongoing bilateral differences in Indo-US relations, especially those dealing with Iran’s clandestine pursuit of nuclear weapons and Burma’s abysmal human rights record. No one, of course, had anticipated these political upheavals in West Asia and the consequent need to adopt a forthright, if politically costly, position when faced with the unrelenting cruelty of a besieged dictator.
This failure to endorse the UNSC resolution should spark a much-needed debate within India about the premises of its foreign policy. What exactly does “enlightened self-interest” really mean? Does it mean shirking key international responsibilities through the resort to deft diplomatic language? Can India really further its own interests and standing in the global order through the use of such verbiage and an avoidance of painful choices? Since the Cold War’s end, its subsequent adoption of market-friendly economic policies coupled with a more pragmatic foreign policy had catapulted the country into new global realms.
Unfortunately, its policymakers while congratulating themselves on the nation’s new-found status have not given adequate thought to how it needs to conduct itself in the emergent global arena. Tragically, the country’s tepid response to the dramatic and sweeping developments in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya are laying bare both the gross inadequacy of ideas, organisation and will to make critical and decisive choices. Such a paucity of thereof is a recipe for India’s marginalisation in the international arena. As during much of the Cold War when India’s lofty rhetoric failed to match its actions, the current failure to support the UNSC resolution portends badly for the future of India’s foreign policy.

Post new comment

<form action="/comment/reply/63933" accept-charset="UTF-8" method="post" id="comment-form"> <div><div class="form-item" id="edit-name-wrapper"> <label for="edit-name">Your name: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="60" name="name" id="edit-name" size="30" value="Reader" class="form-text required" /> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-mail-wrapper"> <label for="edit-mail">E-Mail Address: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="64" name="mail" id="edit-mail" size="30" value="" class="form-text required" /> <div class="description">The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.</div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-comment-wrapper"> <label for="edit-comment">Comment: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <textarea cols="60" rows="15" name="comment" id="edit-comment" class="form-textarea resizable required"></textarea> </div> <fieldset class=" collapsible collapsed"><legend>Input format</legend><div class="form-item" id="edit-format-1-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-1"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-1" name="format" value="1" class="form-radio" /> Filtered HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Allowed HTML tags: &lt;a&gt; &lt;em&gt; &lt;strong&gt; &lt;cite&gt; &lt;code&gt; &lt;ul&gt; &lt;ol&gt; &lt;li&gt; &lt;dl&gt; &lt;dt&gt; &lt;dd&gt;</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-format-2-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-2"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-2" name="format" value="2" checked="checked" class="form-radio" /> Full HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> </fieldset> <input type="hidden" name="form_build_id" id="form-16e3daf08277e6bb981eb3d04714b3d8" value="form-16e3daf08277e6bb981eb3d04714b3d8" /> <input type="hidden" name="form_id" id="edit-comment-form" value="comment_form" /> <fieldset class="captcha"><legend>CAPTCHA</legend><div class="description">This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.</div><input type="hidden" name="captcha_sid" id="edit-captcha-sid" value="61314484" /> <input type="hidden" name="captcha_response" id="edit-captcha-response" value="NLPCaptcha" /> <div class="form-item"> <div id="nlpcaptcha_ajax_api_container"><script type="text/javascript"> var NLPOptions = {key:'c4823cf77a2526b0fba265e2af75c1b5'};</script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://call.nlpcaptcha.in/js/captcha.js" ></script></div> </div> </fieldset> <span class="btn-left"><span class="btn-right"><input type="submit" name="op" id="edit-submit" value="Save" class="form-submit" /></span></span> </div></form>

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.