On diplomacy, Congress always proactive
In the post-war period, when India gained independence, the fledgling nation was tested as the country faced many crises on the world stage. At the height of the Cold War, there were crises galore, such as the Korean War, the Suez Canal crisis, Hungary, the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Maldivian coup attempt, which was successfully foiled by Rajiv Gandhi in a quick operation and the Sri Lankan crisis, in any case. which India has discharged with dignity and respect.
The BJP regime has not acquitted itself with grace and dignity in handling crisis situations. Despite the Safran Brigade’s contempt for the NAM, it could not get away from it; though he made clumsy attempts to dilute it.
In the Morarji Desai government in 1977, when RSS men held key positions, Atal Behari Vajpayee was foreign minister. He made a determined attempt to dilute the policy of non-alignment, raising the bogeyman of true non-alignment, which was a euphemism for his pro-American stance.
Moshe Dayan’s Secret Tour
During the Janata Party regime, Israeli Minister Moshe Dayan made a secret trip to India. This government did not have the courage to openly invite the Israeli minister.
On the other hand, when Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao established diplomatic relations, he held a breakfast with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and gave him confidence and only later signed the dossier.
During the IC 814 hijacking, the nation witnessed the sad and sorry sight of External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh escorting feared terrorists to Kandahar in 1999 under the Vajpayee government. There have been many plane hijackings, but never has such a horrible sight been seen.
Again, under the Vajpayee government from 1998 to 2004, and now under the Modi government since 2014, the Saffron Brigade could not tinker with the NAM. Despite his pro-American leanings, he could not make India a supporter of the US side, though constant attempts were made by the BJP but without success.
Failure to condemn the United States
For example, in 2002-2003 Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee almost succumbed to US pressure to send Indian troops to support the US invasion of Iraq. The Congress, which was the main opposition party, had put its foot down saying that India could only send forces under the aegis of the United Nations and not that of the United States of America.
Similarly, when Congress pushed for both houses of the Indian parliament to pass a resolution condemning the US invasion of Iraq, Vajpayee faced a dilemma. He did not see himself going against the United States, since his party had always been pro-American.
In a desperate gamble to get out of a tight spot, Vajpayee brought the resolution in Hindi. He tried to get away with a very soft expression, Ninda, which only means Deplore and does not mean Condemn.
Modi Clean-Chit in China
Prime Minister Narendra Modi went so far as to give China a coup de grace by declaring that no Indian territory was under Chinese control, after recent Chinese incursions into the Galwan Valley sector. Prime Minister Modi was not even prepared to name China, far from condemning its military adventurism.
Also during the last Ukrainian crisis, for the first time, India took a step back. Even with a Safran ideologue as external affairs minister, the Modi government has no idea how to handle the crisis. The Modi government is struggling to clearly articulate its position and firm up its stance on the handling of the situation in Ukraine.
For the first time in decades, India has been reduced to the status of spectator and mere spectator. The Modi government is unable to deal with the situation, in order to play a meaningful role in resolving an international crisis.
Stewardship of Nehru
However, India’s record, on the whole under Congressional dispensation, has, in fact, been most gratifying. India was fortunate that the pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who was actively interested in world developments even before India’s independence, became the first prime minister of free India. He became the architect of Indian foreign policy and personally led it during his 18-year tenure from 1946 to 1964.
It was the early years of India’s independence. India was neither a military power nor an economic power. Yet in every international crisis, India has been heard with respect, for the sole moral force behind the Indian voice.
Free India’s first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who single-handedly formulated a comprehensive and credible Indian foreign policy. The Panchsheel policy, which is part of the China-India trade deal, is still seen as providing the ideal framework for bilateral relations. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), launched by Nehru, continues to remain the common thread of Indian foreign policy.
Under the leadership of Congress, India has played a crucial role in several global crises. In 1953, during the Korean War, India played a key role. Although it has no specific geopolitical interests in the Korean Peninsula, India maintained a neutral stance before and during the war years. India believed in the reunification of the Korean peninsula. At the United Nations, VK Krishna Menon took responsibility for effectively articulating the Indian perspective.
In November 1952, India proposed to the UN the creation of a commission for the repatriation of neutral nations to facilitate the repatriation of prisoners. It was chaired by India, with Lieutenant General KS Thimmaya at its head.
It was through India’s tireless efforts that the Korean War came to an end. Nehru, with a brilliant team that included VK Krishna Menon, Sir BN Rau, KM Pannikar and PN Haksar, successfully carried out his campaign for peace on the Korean peninsula.
Suez Canal crisis
Nehru played a central role during the Suez Canal crisis. At a time when Gamel Abdel Nasser was the spearhead of Arab nationalism, Nehru mais ponts and together with former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito launched the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.
During the Suez Canal crisis, when Israel, Britain and France invaded Egyptian territory in 1956, Nehru showed solidarity.
At the UN, India’s permanent representative Arthur Lall has been instructed to collaborate actively with Egyptian delegate Omar Loutfi. The United States-sponsored Uniting for Peace resolution, passed on November 2, 1956, pushed the fighting forces behind the armistice lines and paved the way for what became known as the Eisenhower-Nehru formula. Essentially, the United States lobbied at the UN to deal with Western powers, while India led Asian and African nations two days later in proposing a 19-member Afro-Asian resolution urging the full compliance with previous UN resolutions calling for a ceasefire.
For Nehru, the former Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956 posed a major challenge. Nehru was criticized for his late response. But once Nehru was convinced that the Hungarian uprising had a nationalist character, he became vocal in his reaction to Soviet actions.
Soon, Nehru demanded that the UN be allowed to do its job and send a team of observers under UN supervision, along with medical supplies and aid materials.
Initiatives of Indira Gandhi
The Vajpayee government during the Kargil War had claimed that the IAF aircraft had carefully negotiated the Line of Control (LOC), so as not to breach it, when Pakistani troops entered deep into Indian territory and with Local cement-built bunkers in Kargil.
Contrast that with Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and again in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. India has made it clear that as a peace-loving nation it is vs; but if the war is pushed on India, it will be fought on enemy territory.
The First Indira Gandhi reacted decisively to the genocide in former East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, after Pakistan refused to honor the term of the Pakistani general elections in 1970, when Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman became Prime Minister-elect of Pakistan.
To confront the American-Pakistani-Chinese axis, Indira Gandhi signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation was signed on August 9, 1971. It was a game changer as the US Seventh Fleet, deployed in the Bay of Bengal in a bid to intimidate India, had to withdraw. Ultimately, the Indo-Pakistani War ended with the surrender of 90,000 Pakistani troops to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora in Dhaka on December 16, 1971, by the Chief of Pakistan’s Eastern Command, Lieutenant General AAK Niazi.
In 1979, Soviet Russia invaded Afghanistan. Indira Gandhi, who lost the 1977 general election, returned to power in 1980 when the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan became a major challenge.
Refraining from taking public positions, Indira Gandhi made it clear to the Soviets that their continued occupation of Afghanistan was unacceptable. The Soviets were looking for a face-saving formula for a withdrawal. Finally, the Soviets announced their withdrawal decision in November 1986 but did not complete it until February 1989.
Indira Gandhi also organized the Six Nations and Five Continents Peace Initiative in 1984 against the nuclear arms race.
Rajiv Gandhi continued it in 1986. In 1988 he presented the Rajiv Gandhi Plan of Action for Universal and Total Nuclear Disarmament at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
In 1987, following the Indo-Sri Lankan accord, Rajiv Gandhi sent the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka to help end the internecine civil war with the Liberation Tigers of V Prabhakaran’s Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Similarly, when a coup was attempted in November 1988 in the Maldives, acting on the SOS of the Maldivian government, Rajiv Gandhi quickly dispatched forces to foil the attempt and save the President of the Maldives.
These initiatives of Rajiv Gandhi helped India to emerge as a regional power.
Venkat Parsa is a journalist and senior writer based in New Delhi.
Opinions expressed are personal