Thought Box

Pragmatic Panchsheel

Pragmatic Panchsheel

by Alok Jagdhari May 28 2020, 5:13 pm Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 29 secs

Alok Jagdhari walks you through why it is important to stay on the path India has followed for foreign policy, which is based upon the principles of Panchsheel, since independence. Those, which were very carefully thought out and rooted in the principles of pragmatism.

In the last 20 years the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been pushing a more muscular approach to foreign policy, diametrically opposite to Panchsheel. While Atal Behari Vajpayee did not abandon Pancheel during the time that he was leading the country from the years 1999 to 2004, PM Modi's entire strong man 56-inch chest persona has been built upon abandoning the policy.

How was this expressed in the pre-campaign and campaign period?

  • China and Laal Laal Aankh
  • No more love letters to Pakistan. Hum unki bhaasha mein jawaab deinge (We will answer them back in their own language)

To be fair to our Prime Minister, he was set upon gutting India’s foreign policy as soon as he took office in 2014. Milestones for such dramatic changes that happened are as follows:

  • The Bali round of WTO agreement was abandoned - an agreement, which was put together by 170 nations with India as a pivotal nation in its drafting
  • The cross border raid after which Burma paused all military cooperation
  • Hinting repeatedly that the new Sri Lankan President was chosen by RAW
  • Inviting SAARC leaders for the PM’s swearing in ceremony in 2014 and then berating Pakistan's Prime Minister in a private meeting before leaking it to the public, thereby undermining Sharif in his own country
  • Becoming very friendly with Sharif at first with an unannounced visit to Lahore and then refusing to open dialogue with Pakistan subsequently

I can list many other changes that have taken place in foreign policy since 2014 but the above will suffice for me to make my point. The situation is so bad now, that of all India’s neighbors, only Bhutan is talking to us.

Sri Lanka is pissed off, Bangladesh is incensed (incendiary statements were made by multiple BJP men abusing and humiliating Bangladesh - Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) - Pakistan is on high alert, Nepal is openly rebelling and Myanmar has put India in deepfreeze. And, to Afghanistan, we are irrelevant and China has become belligerent; more than at any other given time since 1962.

Today in this article, I want to mainly focus on Nepal and China.

Why is Nepal, a country that has literally functioned as another state of India since 1947, up in arms against us? - The road that’s been built, through a disputed territory, being the last straw. The 3 immediate provocations are as below:

  1. Indian government and RBI have still not exchanged 6000 crore rupees worth of old 500/1000 rupees notes lying with the Central Bank of Nepal
  2. Nepal is incensed by India’s blockade of goods into the country when the Nepalese Parliament passed a new Constitution after a seven-year delay. It was a very important moment for Republic of Nepal, and the Modi government behaved in the most boorish manner, literally pushing Nepal to open up a trade route to China
  3. Building a road unilaterally through a territory that both nations have laid claim to

Now China has pitched itself into Ladakh, which is bordering Aksai Chin. Multiple reports confirm that several thousand Chinese soldiers are on Indian Territory.

So why is China behaving in this manner at this moment?

The Chinese government has signed a security guarantee for Pakistan. This is standard for all nations that receive large Chinese investments. China offers to protect them, which is also a proxy to ensure that these nations don't develop extensive security ties with the EU and the US.

In the last few years Modi government has shown itself to be very clever by taking Pakistan and China by surprise on multiple occasions. Two times that stand out is:

  1. Launching a cross border IAF raid in Balakot and
  2. Changing the status of J&K

Now PM Modi’s fans may be delighted by such maneuvers but in international diplomacy and security circles, such large policy shifts without prior announcements and deliberations have enormous consequences, don’t they?

Therefore it is obvious that China now is extremely wary. Xi Jinping traveled to India for a twenty four hours visit in October 2019, simply to deliver a ferocious face to face warning - don't meddle with Pakistan and reverse course on J&K or else?

That ‘or else’ was left undefined? The two things to note about that visit are:

  1. That it was sandwiched between Imran Khan spending seventy-two hours in Beijing with Xi, and Xi travelling to Nepal for a forty-eight hour sojourn. It was a signal to Mr. Modi – seventy two hours with Pakistan's PM, twenty four hours with Modi and forty eight hours in Nepal - the country to which no Chinese leaders had never visited before
  2. Last year, the months of August and September were filled with at least ten senior Indian cabinet members and army Commanders openly talking about annexing Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). After Xi's visit this number fell to zero for the next months

The recent Chinese maneuvers are the result of following too-clever-by-half moves by Prime Minister Modi:

  1. India asked Google to remove LOC from maps of J&K being displayed
  2. India asked its IMD to start publishing weather forecasts for POK. In retaliation, the Pakistani IMD started to publish weather forecast for the entire J&K
  3. China is convinced that Mr. Modi and his army commanders have a plan to occupy some part of Karakoram Range, with the aim of cutting off the Karakoram expressway that connects China and Pakistan
  4. China is convinced that Mr. Modi is capable of wrecking peace and stability in the region for his domestic political agenda

Hence, we must see all of these moves by Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, and (non action) by Pakistan through a comprehensive lens of China's policy response to Mr. Modi's muscular foreign policy that has replaced Panchsheel. They are a unified and coordinated response with China orchestrating these players, all of whom are frustrated, alarmed and feel humiliated by the way Mr. Modi’s government has treated them over the last six years.

And the only way to comprehensively resolve these issues without bloodshed and loss of territory is to return to our principled foreign policy stance of Panchsheel, which can be accessed in detail here:…/Five_Principles_of_Peaceful_Coex…

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.