The Hitavada - - THEOPINIONPAGE -

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.

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