As a spate of diplomatic debacles rock India’s relations with the international community, it is worth pondering on the concerns aired by the BJP’s leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley. Jaitley has declared that ‘India is getting kicked around internationally’, becoming the target of increasingly noxious assaults on its sovereignty, in the wake of the double whammy of the Italian ‘marinegate’ and Pakistan parliament passing resolution officially condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru. While questions are being thrown at the unimaginably supine behaviour of the Indian government in letting the two Italian marines, who have been charged with killing two Indian fishermen off the shores of Kerala, return to Italy under the guise of casting their votes in the recently held general elections, righteous indignation across the political spectrum has failed to ask if this apparent ‘souring’ of consular relations will have any impact on the ongoing investigations into the AgustaWestland chopper scam. At a time when Italy is in a state of turmoil, with the government-owned defence corporation Finmeccanica under the scanner, could the rabble-rousing surrounding the marines be a smokescreen to shift public attention away from the probes into the kickbacks given and taken in the defence deal? If not, then how is it that Italy, a second-tier European power at present that’s grappling with severe recession, can afford to turn hostile towards India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world that is being wooed by all the major economic giants? Can we blame it entirely on its ‘soft racism’, or do we look within us and enquire into the diminishing efficacy of our country’s ‘soft power’ that was supposed to take care of our foreign policy with the world at large by exporting Bollywood and our motley cuisines?
As Pakistan passes the resolution in its parliament officially condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru, who was an Indian-Kashmiri, on the day following the killing of five Indian soldiers by two fidayeens (suicide militants), the move can be seen as trying to fan the separatist inclinations of some sections of the population in the valley, while also rubbing salt on the fresh wound of the genuinely aggrieved family and empathisers of the late Parliament attack convict. India has called off the Indo-Pak hockey series that was supposed to be held next month, in retaliation. This brings the already souring relationship to a grinding halt, but in the wake of Hyderabad blasts, such affronts to India’s executive decisions within its territory can certainly not be tolerated. With Wharton School snubbing Narendra Modi and India slated to vote against Sri Lanka in the upcoming UNHRC resolution on Lankan war crimes, India’s bilateral associations with the world at large seem justifiably at crossroads. Caught in the mire of worsening ties, India must carefully weigh each of its steps and try to steer away from the choppy waters of tortuous relations without surrendering its integrity or
denting its clout as a South Asian powerhouse.