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December 2005 - January 2006


India's Foreign policy under Congress and Natwar Singh

by Krishan Ralleigh

The foreign policy of India ought to reflect the national interests of India whether it is the Congress dominated UPA or BJP-dominated NDA that controls the government at the Centre. If personal interests or party interests begin to dominate the foreign policy of a government, it would be highly dangerous for the country, its sovereignty and its prestige and power would suffer.

The architect of India’s foreign policy, Jawahar Lal Nehru, was a visionary who was convinced that peace was essential for the rapid development of India. The policy of peaceful co-existence and the emergence of non-aligned movement were his brainchild, which, historians of the future would agree, reduced the danger of head-on collision between communist Russia and the West. By the time of his death, his foreign policy was in tatters. Armed conflict with communist China on border issue humiliated India. At that critical juncture, no other State but the United States of America came to India’s help. At the time of Bangladesh war, both USSR and USA stood aside, waiting for the outcome. Neither of them would have tolerated if India had continued its domination of Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi took the wise course of letting Bangladeshi run their country. A democratic Bangladesh, if it remains democratic, will always be an asset to India and South East Asia.

India, under BJP-dominated NDA government gradually steered India to a more positive role in international affairs by aligning with the western powers, especially USA and UK, in the post 9/11 world. In the Kargil conflict, the United States openly supported India. The nuclear eye-to-eye confrontation between India and Pakistan on the spread of Islamic terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and in India made it clear to Pakistan that India meant business. Here again, the United States forced Pakistan to adopt the sensible and responsible attitude of negotiation rather than confrontation.

The Congress-dominated UPA government supported by the left front from outside, tried to resurrect the old Nehruvian policy of non-aligned movement. Mr. Natwar Singh, the foreign minister, was a graduate of the old school. However, he little realised that the world scenario has completely changed. Colonialism was dead and buried. Soviet Union did not exist. Communist China is communist only in name. It is a monolithic dictatorship of a party supported by a huge army. Natwar Singh and the Congress-dominated UPA government, on the other hand, were still supporting Saddam Hussain’s regime. It was also endeavouring to get oil from Iran through Pakistan for its ever-increasing demand for energy.

The political explosion caused by Paul Volcker, the head of the Independent Inquiry Committee on the corruption generated by the Food-for-oil program, revealing the long list of names of thousands of businesses in USA, France, Britain, Russia and India involved in corrupt dealings, there stood the name of the Congress part and Mr. Natwar Singh. At that time, the Congress was in opposition and Mr. Natwar Singh was its shadow foreign minister.

It was a ‘Tehelka’ in real sense of the term; and not a fabricated one as was done by ‘ on BJP-led NDA government. That was bad enough, tarnishing the image of the BJP leadership even if the scenario created was pure fiction.

Natwar Singh had to be relieved of the post of minister for external affairs. He is still a cabinet minister without portfolio. What about the Congress party? Since when has Congress party been indulging in business activities? What sort of contributions has been made to the Congress party by the Saddaam Hussain regime? It was only a few months ago that the Times of London exposed the continuous financial support to Indira Gandhi’s regime by the Soviet KGB, in a book written by a KGB defector.

The 623-page report presented by Paul A. Volcker, head of a committee formed by the U.N. Security Council to investigate kickbacks to the Saddam Hussain’s regime through the UN Oil-for-Food program, is not a cloak-and dagger story of spies working in shadows. It is the most open and detailed account of how Iraq persuaded almost half of its 4,500 trading partners in more than 60 countries to circumvent UN sanctions by secretly channelling kickbacks into Baghdad-controlled Jordanian banks.

As the Washington Post pointed out, “The report also shows how French and Russian diplomats, business executives, UN officials and anti-sanction advocates, including a former Vatican official, either solicited oil trade from Iraq officials on behalf of companies or benefited financially from the program.”

Volcker’s revelation of the abuses in the United Nations’ largest humanitarian program has already brought charges by federal and state prosecutors in New York against more than a dozen companies and executives with paying bribes to the former Iraqi government. The Security & Exchange Commission has begun its inquiries into American companies doing business with Iraq.

In India, the involvement of the ruling Congress party and one of its top ministers has reluctantly brought into existence a judicial inquiry and probe by the CBI and other investigating authorities against companies owed by Jagat Singh, the son of Mr Natwar Singh and some other friends and relations. It is time, that the BJP leadership also declares its full support to a through probe into this ugly business on international level. If there are some business houses, supportive of the BJP, involved in these corrupt practices, they should be exposed and punished.

If a political party tries to form a foreign policy for financial gains and not for the national interest, it is treading the dangerous path of treason. The communist parties of India - Marxist or Naxalite supporters - had always looked up to foreign countries, Russia or China, for ideological support. They have never been loyal to India’s nationalism or democratic system as a part of their decadent ideology. Unfortunately, a part of the Indian electorate still supports them. This is a price of democracy. Congress party, on the other hand, has been the very foundation of India’s national struggle for freedom. It is almost unthinkable to see that the upholders of the legacy of Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru would stoop so low as to sell their conscience for a barrel of oil. Dr. Manmohan Singh needs a person of impeccable integrity to hand over the external portfolio. Unfortunately, he has to search very hard to find one within the present coterie surrounding the Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

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