WE ARE STRONG!
ARMY Chief General Bipin Rawat has done well to state that China may be a powerful country, but India is not weak. Even as General Rawat talked of shifting the security focus from India’s border with Pakistan to that with China, General Rawat insisted that India must also start taking care of its smaller neighbours so that they do not tilt towards China and remain in India’s circle of friendship. He implied that if India could achieve that kind of success of a stronger circle of friendship, then India will become a truly strong country.
What the Army Chief wants to assert is that India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy of diplomacy is going to prove useful in the long run and will help India retain its friends in the immediate neighbourhood such as Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan etc. In that manner, General Rawat has appreciated India’s diplomatic approach to neighbourhood and has felt that it would help the country in long run.
No matter the great potency in General Rawat’s suggestion, implementing this policy involves a great effort on India’s part. For, when India applies its ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, China, too, is engaged in expanding its circle of influence through various developmental assistance projects in countries encircling India. India has often noted those effort and has felt duly concerned about the aggressive method of Chinese diplomacy.
Of course, India also has noted as subtle difference and positive difference between the Indian and the Chinese approaches. While China often extends help with a hidden agenda of owning up assets in the neighbouring countries and attaching a military purpose to the effort, India does not do anything beyond proposing and promoting a developmental agenda. It offers assistance to a country, allows the people there to decide where that assistance has to be utilised, and how it would be implemented. All this is done with no strings attached.
This effort has not gone waste. Most countries now acknowledge the cleanness in Indian offer of assistance. They are realising that India’s developmental diplomacy is an altruistic endeavour aimed at achieving greater parity in terms of development and growth in all neighbours. India’s friends in the neighbourhood realise that India engages them in endeavours that do not aim of secretly robbing their sense of sovereignty. This is a great plus point in Indian diplomacy.
As India engages its neighbours in such a positive manner, China does almost the opposite. It dominates the engagement with other countries with projects that are aimed at handing assets over to China in the long run. Most countries develop certain suspicion in their minds as China starts pushing its agenda more vigorously once it sets its foot in a country.
General Rawat seems to suggest to the Government that it would be in the best interest of the country’s diplomatic campaigns to ensure that no country tilts towards China for whatever reason. His concern is obvious. He realises the danger of allowing the neighbours to develop a China tilt since that would mean losing one nation in the circle of Indian influence. If this aspect of the Indian engagement is tackled well, India will certainly prove to be a strong country.