June 3, 2006Foreign Affairs

Interests in brackets

India should exit defunct international organisations

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Who would find fault with the following statement? (Hint: Yale University is not a member of the Non-Aligned Movement)

NAM ministers urge states to refrain from extending support, protection and shelter to former Taliban cadres, recognizing that failure to do so would seriously undermine efforts by the international community to combat terrorism, and expressing concern that terrorist groups were regrouping in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan.” [AP/Yahoo]

The statement was proposed by Afghanistan and India, and objected to by the America’s FATWAT. As the final NAM ministerial statement required unanimity, this paragraph was put in brackets’ — the diplomatic equivalent of don’t spoil our party”.

NAM itself is an anachronism, still existing to keep fogies of the old diplomatic guard occupied while providing a platform for various leftist autocracies and other Third World kleptocracies to take a short trip out of their diplomatic doghouses. Even so, there would have been a case for India to stay in the club if it was likely to serve its interests. But as the episode with the Taliban clause shows, effectivenes apart, India was not even be able to get NAM to throw its weight behind a cause that threatens several of NAMs own members.

The reality is that the utility of an omnibus international geopolitical bloc consisting of countries with little in common was never clear and is now positively non-existent. International co-operation has become more issue-based and ad hoc — the various G-somethings at the WTO are far more effective in securing common objectives. Similarly states in geographic proximity that form free-trade and security areas have greater cohesion. At the same time, the very concept of non-alignment is laughable now with states with various degrees of alliance with the United States remain its members.

It may be time for India to dissociate itself from bureaucratic and ineffective international talking shops and pursue meaningful relationships, including strategic alliances, with countries which have shared interests. Not doing so can actually be counterproductive — as with SAARC, which was allowed to survive ineffectively until Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal decided to use it to play India against China. And now the United States is interested to join it too. It is going to be far more difficult for India to protect its regional interests at SAARC. The upshot is that India will have to get used to having its interests put in brackets.

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