March 29, 2006Foreign Affairs

The long history of communalisation of foreign policy

It goes all the way down to the bone

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

It is impossible not to applaud Sonia Gandhi’s attack on the communalisation of foreign policy’. That’s an excellent principle. Putting the Communists, the communalisers in question, in place was long overdue. It also happens that the Congress party that she heads, as well as its predecessor, have a long history of doing exactly what she is accuses the Left of.

Mahatma Gandhi himself was not above communalising foreign policy — his support for the Khilafat movement and ensuing damage it did to India’s own struggle for freedom from British rule is perhaps one of the lowest points in his career. Even as the Indian National Congress threw its weight behind the faraway Ottoman emperor — who cared little for India or its Muslims — the Turkish people not only got rid of their emperor and caliph but turned themselves into a secular state! Embarassment was not the only result. Both communal harmony and the non-cooperation movement suffered as a result.

And then there is India’s policy towards Israel. For over half-a-century, India estranged itself from Israel. For almost half-a-century, India estranged itself from that country despite having no enmity or quarrel with it. Despite having opposed the creation and its admission into the United Nations, Nehru and Indira Gandhi did not hesitate to seek and receive military assistance from Israel during the wars in 1962, 1965 and 1971 (via Varnam). That Nehru privately favoured Israel but officially opposed it can hardly mitigate the fact that India’s foreign policy was indeed communalised’ by Nehru and his successors.

High moralism may be brought in to hide the communal motivations of India’s Israel policy. But it was hard to find even a grain of that in Natwar Singh’s citing of 150 million Muslims in India, of which a large number are Shia” in his support of India giving a pass to Iran’s illegal nuclear programme.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent a special envoy to France to intervene on behalf of France’s Sikh citizens and their right to don turbans.

So Indian leaders have long shown an inability to avoid the communal calculations from affecting foreign policy. And India has been the worse for it. As for Sonia Gandhi, her statements are more a diatribe against her political opponents than an breath of fresh air as far as foreign policy is concerned.

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