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The Singh doctrine

Nov 06 2013, 11:29 IST
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SummaryPM has left a clear stamp on foreign policy, even if UPA2 let him down.

PM has left a clear stamp on foreign policy, even if UPA2 let him down.

Nobody talks of a “Singh doctrine”, concluded The Economist (London) last month in a hasty review of Indian foreign policy, even though several learned essays have already been published on the subject. To be fair, though, given the missteps of the second UPA government, it is understandable that many are unable to decode a “doctrine” shaping India’s wayward policy in recent years.

The flowering of a new way of looking at the world during UPA1 was nipped in the bud by UPA2. Perhaps to set the record straight and make sure that all is not forgotten, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh utilised the opportunity provided this week by an annual interaction with Indian plenipotentiaries from around the world to explicitly define his foreign policy doctrine. Over these past nine years, the prime minister claimed, he had sought to “engineer a fundamental reset” in India’s foreign policy, based on “national priorities” and India’s “role and destiny in world affairs”.

Not shying away from being explicit, the prime minister enunciated one of the cardinal principles of realism in foreign policy when he asserted that there is an “intrinsic link between our foreign policy and the economic aspirations of our people”. Therefore, he added for good measure, “the foreign policy we pursue must reflect our national priorities and concerns and be in concert with our capabilities”.

Five principles define the Singh Doctrine, so to speak. First, India’s relations with both major powers and her Asian neighbours are shaped by her “developmental priorities”, and so the “single most important objective of Indian foreign policy has to be to create a global environment conducive to the well-being” of the Indian people. Second, greater integration with the world economy is beneficial to India and to the realisation of the “creative potential” of the Indian people. Third, India needs “stable, long-term and mutually beneficial relations with all major powers”, and is willing to work with the “international community to create a global economic and security environment beneficial to all nations.”

Focusing on India’s “neighbourhood”, Singh said his fourth principle would be the building of stronger regional institutions to ensure greater regional cooperation and connectivity in “the Indian subcontinent” — South Asia-watchers, please note. Fifth and finally, underlying these “interests” are “values” represented by “India’s experiment of pursuing economic development within the framework of a plural,

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