INDIA SINCE INDEPENDENCE – IX

Foreign Policy of the 1990’s

The end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union meant that US would now emerge as the sole superpower. India had established commitment towards Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization. Though Indo – Soviet friendship was over but Russia would now become a close ally to India. Fortunately, the Central Asian Republics too were strategically located and had rich natural resources. Their historic ties with India were close too.

India’s relations with the Middle-East too were good. The foreign policy was always in support of Palestinian objective even though India had close ties with Israel. India also refused to support US sanctions on Iran – Iraq. This led to support to India from the Organization of Islamic Unity which Pakistan couldn’t use to its advantage.

Regional trade blocs were being established and India had to work to accommodate them in its foreign policy. The S.A.A.R.C had still to achieve its importance. A.S.E.A.N had emerged but India was still a dialogue partner. Countries on the Indian Ocean Rim would seek to form a forum of multilateral assistance. India would also need to align its strategy to consider strengthening ties with East Asian countries. Japan which was a biggest donor of funds could be used as a leverage to China. Singapore was a tiny city state that had knowledge to become a leading technological world power. India also had good historical ties with Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand.

India had to prevent the uni-polarization of the World and urge the developing nations to assert themselves instead of silently accepting US hegemony. The NAM bloc, G-77 and SAARC could be used to reform existing institutions like UNSC, IMF and World Bank to ensure greater participation and fund flow to the developing countries. Regarding nuclear security India though had conducted tests but wasn’t a signatory to the Non – Proliferation Treaty made by the Big Four nations that wanted to monopolize nuclear weapons. China had joined this club too but this treaty was discriminatory towards India as it imposed restrictions on other nations but made no firm commitment to de-nuclearize weapons on the Big Five nations. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty too was one such discriminatory treaty. NPT and CTBT were not signed by India.

India’s goal was to have a position of respect at the World order, maintain independent foreign policy and keep her interests in view.


Pokhran and Kargil

The Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998 were a scientific achievement for India. However instead of winning praise for them the country had to face sanctions due to irresponsible manner in which the handling of the publicity was done. The Defence minister had earlier named China and Pakistan as Most dangerous threats and identified them in a communication to President Lincoln. The identification of nations led to the belief that nuclear weapons were meant for use against these nation’s. This led to tensions between China and India and spoiled years of diplomatic negotiations. RSS mouthpiece too had courted controversy by claiming such weapons would be for the Pakistani threat.Other peaceful nations became wary of India’s intentions and supported US sanctions against India.

The next controversial incident was Pakistani invasion of Kargil which led to a battle in which the intruders were repelled. The Pakistani mujaheddin backed by the army had infiltrated and occupied strategic positions of Kargil and Indian army had to mount a military exploration against all odds to reclaim these peaks. The battle saw unanimous backing to India from the World including old Pakistani allies like US, China. US supported India due to its growing fear of Islamic terrorism and China as it felt India was it’s only ally against increasing US Hegemony.

The Government was criticized for politicization of the War. It was alleged that intelligence regarding the infiltration had reached the government and that it had deliberately delayed decision for winning public opinion. The communal splinter groups like VHP, BJD, RSS often invited Army officers to rallies and meetings. Rakhi’s and blessings were sent to Hindu officers and personnel by RSS.¬†Often the Servicemen of other communities were ignored. This communalization of army could have serious repercussions. The apolitical and secular nature of the army had been carefully nurtured by Indian polity for last 50 years.

Shortly after the Kargil War the democratically elected PM Nawaz Sharif was removed in a coup by General Musharraf who became the Chief executive and President. Musharraf was accused of being the chief perpetrator of Kargil War as a phone conversation intercepted by Indian intelligence agencies showed that PM of Pakistan was kept in the dark.

The Kandahar incident too affected the ties between India – Pakistan when a plane was hijacked and the hijackers demanded release of terrorists in Indian jails. Musharraf was invited to India by Vajpayee and his visit was broadly publicized by the media. The exercise was a failure of Indian leaders and a success for Pakistan as Musharraf put forth his view that the militancy in Kashmir was due to indigenous public aspirations. The 2001 attack on Indian Parliament almost led to a war like situation with massive built up of military on both sides however war was averted.

The free and fair elections in Kashmir under supervision of Election commission of India and observed by international community led to gaining of credibility for India. Also the subsequent elections in Pakistan neither convinced the indigenous public nor the international community.

Gujaral Doctrine

    1. For Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and the smaller neighbors India doesn’t ask for reciprocity but gives all it can.
    2. No South Asian country should allow use of its territory for attack against another country of same region.
    3. No country will interfere in the internal matters of another.
    4. All South Asian countries will respect territorial integrity of each other.
    5. All South Asian countries shall settle all disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations

Indo – US Nuclear Agreement

The sanctions against India were lifted after the 9/11 attacks on US. India was looked upon favorably even before this by the Clinton administration. The public opinion of India in US was in favor of a dialogue between both nations. Indian diaspora of highly qualified professionals also aided this. The George Bush regime too was in favor of India although it favored the strategic importance of Pakistan in the war against Taliban in Afghanistan. The Indian government wanted to please the US administration and offered Indian soil as a base for operations. It had also offered to send troops to Iraq in 2003 but overturned the decision due to public protests. Indian government had steadfastly disallowed any interference on the Kashmir issue since it was a bilateral issue but it was believed US was an informal intermediator there.

It was on these lines that a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement was signed between the Vajpayee government and the Bush administration. However this agreement was strengthened by Manmohan Singh government. This led to modification of US laws and India got access to full civilian nuclear energy cooperation and trade with US. This also led to civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreements with other nations. On the other hand it is believed India had to vote in favor of a resolution against Iran by the IAEA. This was due to pleasing of US concerns.

The Indo – US Nuclear agreement was a historic deal in which the concessions given to India were more than those given to any other country.¬†By the 123 Agreement, India got freedom to continue with its nuclear weapons program which wasn’t given to any other country by US. India also got uninterrupted fuel supply to its reactors and a right to build strategic reserves.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 or Nuclear Liability Act

This is a highly controversial Act passed by Parliament to limit the liability of operators of Civilian nuclear reactors in India. The Act was passed to ensure that foreign private sector companies could participate in the construction of Nuclear reactors in India. This was necessary to get US manufacturing companies to participate in the Indian process.

The Act has capped the maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded to victims during a nuclear damage to Rs. 5 billion and an additional liability that shall borne by the Central government of upto Rs. 300 million.

The operator of Indian nuclear plants shall be NPCIL and it is a government owned company. Thus the entire liability has to be borne by the Central government and so the tax payers. However the operator can claim a compensation from suppliers of defective parts.

Only the operaor of the power plant can sue for damages and not the victims.

The limit of 10 years has been prescribed for claiming damages under this Act. However nuclear reactor accident victims emerge many years after this. Also Civil courts are barred from interference and only a Nuclear damages commission can handle such cases.