Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lessons from the NSG fiasco

In just two days time, the NSG will be meeting and, on its agenda, will be India's application for full membership of the nuclear cartel. And in all likelihood, it will not happen, despite the Obama administration's strong backing. Yesterday, Switzerland, one of the non-proliferation hardliners in the NSG, vowed to support India's membership, and this move can be expected to bring other hardliners in as well, given India's impressive track record in the area (which is better than a lot of NPT signatories).

But that's not enough - without a shade of a doubt, China is going to block the membership on the ridiculous assertion that Pakistan should be admitted too - a country that has not adopted any of the rigorous safeguards that India has, and which has played a prominent role in nuclear proliferation (AQ Khan, anybody?). Pakistan is a fig leaf of course, just as China's economic support to Pakistan is pure geopolitics. The aim is to stop the US from creating a geopolitical heavyweight in a region that China wants to dominate - 'not another Japan,' basically. Already, the Malabar Exercises have shaken China, as did the proposed Quadrilateral a few years back (dubbed a 'mini-NATO in the East').

So we're not going to get into the NSG because of China's political ambitions. But can we really blame anybody but ourselves? The Chinese have always looked out for their own goals (indeed, so has the US), but thanks to Nehru's naive foreign policy and the establishment it has spawned, we've lived in some philosophical wonderland, thinking about vague principles not rooted in either fact or national interest. Consider the one-sided 'help' we've given China in the past: recognizing the PRC, giving up a UNSC permanent seat for it, backing its inclusion in the WTO, ignoring its incursions in Aksai Chin until it was too late... at every juncture, while we've tried to play good neighbor, China has back-stabbed us, and the NSG fiasco is just another example of that.

And we have nobody else to blame but ourselves for this. While Modi and Vajpayee before him have tried to change India's foreign policy to one suited for a post-Cold War multipolar world, the mistakes of the past and the Panchsheel-hawks in the MEA have repeatedly come in the way. Slowly but steadily, the edifice of the Nehruvian foreign policy is breaking away, but not fast enough for the present needs. Right now, it's India - 0, Nehru - 1 as far as the NSG goes. 

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