PUNE: Former diplomat and ambassador Rajendra Abhyankar said that Indian foreign policy is ripe for change after 70 years, which seems to have become a template period for any system to see change. He was speaking at the Pune release of his new book ‘Indian Diplomacy: Beyond Strategic Autonomy’, organised by the Pune International Centre (PIC) on Tuesday.
Abhyankar, who is also a Professor of Practice of Diplomacy and Public Affairs and a founder member of the PIC, said that it is around 70 years of existence that systems see change. “Like the 7-year itch is said to bring a rethink of things in a couple, 70 years seem to be a time period in a nation’s lifetime that brings about a need for change. After 70 years is when the Soviet Union had to open up,” he said, adding, “70 years means three generations. The third generation usually feels the need to shake up things and India in its 70s is ripe for a change in its foreign policy outlook.”
He went on to elaborate the journey from Nehruvian foreign policy to that of Narendra Modi. “Today, the fervour of the Non-Alignment Movement has faded. Old alignments are breaking down and new ones are being made. Russia has begun supplying arms to Pakistan and India is veering towards the United States,” Abhyankar said, adding, “And it is not really Russia’s fault that it feels the need to change its approach to India as we are steering closer to the US.”
“Indian foreign policy was about ‘strategic autonomy’, but that concept can only be a method, not a goal. When drafting our foreign policy, the Indian policy included in the Constitution was to play the role of the peacekeeper of the world. Even Ambedkar took an objection to it and asked, we are defining what we want to do for the world but not what we want to do for ourselves,” Abhyankar said, adding, “During the Iraq war in the 90s, it was the first time we thought of building a clear foreign policy.” The programme was chaired by Ambassador MK Mangalmurti. Amitav Malik of the PIC also spoke at the event. “In a multipolar world where China is making diplomatic inroads with India’s neighbouring countries and taking control, without rapid economic development, we will be left behind,” Malik said, adding, “While Modi has taken diplomacy to new heights and worked tirelessly for it, it has not earned us immunity from tariffs, trade wars.”