Foreign Policy Needs Eternal Vigilance
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Foreign Policy Needs Eternal Vigilance

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Inevitably, in one or two cases, PM Modi has been subjected to wholly unfair blame and criticism

by Natwar Singh

I have no doubts that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aware that foreign policy matters are painted in shades of grey. Not in black and white. We are living in unprecedentedly dangerous and uncertain times. Pandemic-19 has all but put an end to normal life. No 100% cure is in sight.

The priority is not to run foreign policy or diplomacy. It is how to cope and deal with the deadly pandemic.

Yet, the adamantine fact is that no government can throw up its hands and let statecraft drift. It may not be business as usual, but essential work cannot be neglected. New methods of work have to be invented. Responsibility, level-headedness, commitment, dedication are most essential. Easy said then done. But do we must.

The buck stops at the Prime Minister’s desk. He must be a worried man. He has declared Pandemic-19 as the worst calamity humankind has ever faced. Doors in his office open upon darkness. He must resort to ataraxic. No transmogrifying friction is in sight.

Inevitably, in one or two cases, he has been subjected to wholly unfair blame and criticism. Some of these self-appointed foreign policy pundits are transparently fraudulent individuals. His accomplishments will outweigh his mistakes on the scale of history.

Last Thursday, four accomplished and outstanding retired IFS officers wrote a joint article in the Indian Express defending the Prime Minister’s foreign policy. Kanwal Sibal, an ex-Foreign Secretary was born in 1943. He joined the IFS in 1966. Shyamala Cowsik was born in 1946, joining the IFS in 1969. Veena Sikri, born in 1948. Joined in 1973 and Bhaswati Mukherjee, born 1953, IFS 1976.

They have declared that Prime Minister Modi has been “relentlessly criticised” for his foreign policy, although he has carried forward the foreign policy of the UPA government. The four have listed the innovative successes of the Modi government, ranging from China to Pakistan, BRICS to post Brexit UK, from the European Union, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to ASEAN, extension of Indo-French relations to the Western Indian Ocean. Modi dug his heels on Doklam for 70 days without giving in. Relations with the US are cordial. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had a successful and worthwhile trip to New York and Washington last week.

However, much remains to be done. The neglect of Russia should be ended. More thought should have been given to the Hamas-Israeli 11-day mini war. Our statement at the UN Security Council, satisfied neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis. Relations with the Arab world are more than satisfactory.

China remains the most nagging problem/threat. But we must not panic. Quad needs constant diplomatic blood transfusions. Our immediate neighbours—except Pakistan—are free of worry. In the Indian Ocean too India’s presence is felt. While complacency would be unwise, eternal vigilance should never be neglected.

Mr Benjamin Netanyahu (commonly called “Bibi”) has been Prime Minister of Israel for over 11 years.

He has acquired an authoritarian reputation during this time and is still under scrutiny for corruption charges related to embezzlement.

Over the last four years, Israel has had four deadlock snap parliamentary elections that have produced no clear majority for any coalition.

This has come at immense cost to taxpayer money and has led to much voter apathy.

Netanyahu’s successor, Bennet, is likely to follow many of the same policies of his predecessor.

The incoming government in Tel Aviv will largely consist of Netanyahu’s proteges or those who have worked alongside him, in leadership positions.

An eight-party coalition cannot form a stable government. Will it have a common minimum program? Unlikely.

The recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza has made Netanyahu an even more unpopular figure with Arab Israelis, who are citizens of Israel.

This has led the Arab coalition in the Knesset (Parliament) to join hands with their natural ideological opponents, orthodox and right wing nationalist political factions, in order to depose Netanyahu who has become increasingly unpopular due to promoting the cult of personality. Nevertheless, he is an experienced astute, skilful politician. He could be sent to jail, but unlikely to be served a lengthy term.

The next weeks should be hugely exciting.

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