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HVK Archives: Let hawks remain hawks

Let hawks remain hawks - The Indian Express

Ranjan Gupta ()
March 27, 1998

Title: Let hawks remain hawks
Author: Ranjan Gupta
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 27, 1998

The coming of the BJP marks a political watershed in India,
between the old and the new. It is not just change of parties but
a clear ideological switch with the old guard, former
Congressmen, present Congressmen, communists, socialists and
others of various familiar hues making way for a new right-of-
centre party. We have never had a real rightist ruling party and
that is what makes the coming of the BJP and its allies so
exciting. Rightists and regionalists were dirty epitaphs till the
other day but today they have a positive meaning.

The West was familiar with the old order. From 1947 to 1998 a
common strand had run through Indian polity. There has also been
ideological conformity with Nehruvian socialism. Faces had
changed but the central theme of national political philosophy
had but undergone only the slightest of variations. Ale old order
could be pushed and shoved and that is what made the West
familiar with India. Ale tug of war between Indian aspirations
and Western restraint had acquired a permanence of its own. Now
shadow boxing must give way to real punches particularly if India
wishes to use its nuclear option, its missile development
programme, its military buildup. In a word, if India is to
stretch to its full length, rather than bend low and be a
permanent understatement.

The West will be making a grave error if it equates Hindu
nationalism with Islamic fundamentalism. While Islamic
fundamentalism is opposed to the Western intellectual tradition
which has as its bedrock liberalism, Hindu nationalism in its
essentials draws inspiration from the rational doctrine of the
Vedas, the same Aryan thought that triggered Western rationalism.

But Western intellectual tradition is playing a minimal role in
European and American foreign policy. In some ways it reflects
the decline of Western intellectualism which, in turn, leads to
confusion in identifying eastern ideology and determining which
is friendly and what is hostile.

The BJP's desire to restore India to its rightful place in Asia
should not be equated in Western capitals with narrow
fundamentalism. Despite all the integration of the European
nations in a motley union, nationalism is still not a dirty word
in Europe. American foreign policy has supranationalist goals.
The problem with the West is its double standards, what is good
for them is bad for us. It is this neo-colonialist thinking
which gets reflected in foreign policy in the US and in foreign
policy and racism in Europe.

The West must look at the BJP's foreign policy and defence goals
with a healthy realism. Not since the old Swatantra Party has any
other party a more open mind towards the West than the BJP. But
do not interfere with what's good for India, the West must be
told, and keep in mind the Islamic fundamentalist threat
emanating from Pakistan, because, it is the same bigotry which is
threatening the West.

The BJP Government must undo Inder Gujral's infamous tilt towards
Pakistan. His Chamberlain Pakistan policy has done little good
for the country but heightened tensions in Kashmir and
demoralised the military. The Pakistani problem must be dealt
with firmly. Experience has taught us that military strength
keeps the Pakistanis on good behaviour. On this question there is
a healthy consensus between A.B. Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi.
Pakistan may become the rallying point to bring the BJP and the
Congress closer.

A tough Pakistan policy is called for. One which will change the
present defensive posture to an offensive one. It is only
military might which will ensure peace in the region. Yet, India
must temper might with pragmatism. The detente with China must
continue. China is India's most important and powerful neighbour
and good relations are absolutely essential. With ,other South
Asian neighbours the new government must be patient and helpful.
Most of them need Indian assistance for their development.

Vajpayee who has been a hawk in the Opposition must not become a
dove in office. The first thing the BJP will have to give urgent
attention to is the widespread demoralisation in the armed
services. The genuine need of the men must be attended to,
morale restored and elan bestowed.

The services must get the equipment they need. There is no point
in talking about capability and not doing anything about it. The
Agni must be developed at the earliest and the missile programme
updated. India's nuclear option should not be theoretical.
Whether a bomb needs to be tested or not should be determined by
scientific necessity, but the competence and capability must be
real. 1974 is a long, long time ago.

BJP's Jaswant Singh in a talk in New Delhi spoke about India, in
European terms, stretching from Scandinavia to Iberia and felt
its security needs should be matched by its geographical size and
location. He was right. But the longer India takes to meet its
geographical requirements the weaker it will get to a point that
it will not be able to regain capability. It might even become a
big, rotting banana republic.

We must be prepared for reprisals and sanctions from the West.
But the Chinese example is extremely relevant. Like China India
can do without the West, but the West cannot do without India.
In terms of trade, location, population, geographical size and
political potential the West will never be able to ignore India,
however much they dislike the government. It is time to call the
Western bluff.

Lack of development assistance and technical knowhow will be a
squeeze and life could turn harder. The government must
anticipate sanctions. There must be a national plan to tackle
problems created by hostile countries and contingencies planned
how, and where, the belt is to be tightened.

Yet, things may never come to that point for all the American
rhetoric. Ale Europeans will be divided and nuclear bomb or not
many will be more than willing to deal with India. India could
exploit the fight between France and Britain to be the dominant
force in Europe and the Germans are always happy to go where
there is profit. As too are several other European nations, the
Japanese and many others.

The Americans will continue to need India as a counterbalance to
China and for all their talk will not risk alienating Asia's two
largest countries. The new government is safe in building up its
missile and nuclear capability. Let's hope it has the will to do
so. The first, and foremost, task of the new government is to
build India as one of the world's great powers. The country has
the size, the manpower and the will. What it has lacked is
leadership. As India's first nationalist government the BJP has a
historic responsibility. Let's hope they are up to it.

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