India needs a new political thesis

By Amaresh Misra
Editor-in-Chief, Medhaj News

What can be the new political thesis that can make India emerge as a super-power in the coming years? The basic problem here is the absence of  “Think Tank” politics. US, China, Russia and other European nations, invest heavily on intellectuals who form think tanks on various issues; in fact, think tanks come out with road maps concerning foreign policies, ways of combat, defence and re-strategizing in a global context.

In India, the Government-run councils of social science, cultural affairs, and scientific research are basically academic in nature. They do not even venture into political re-strategizing. Private think tanks like Observer Foundation and Vivekanand Foundation are credited more with internal political mapping than creating roadmaps for the future. Take the example of Indo-Israeli relations. India recognized Israel as a nation only in 1991; previously, Pandit Nehru’s foreign policy made it a point to support Palestine over Israel.

What did India gain by supporting Palestine? Victory in 1971 Bangladesh war for one; it was Indira Gandhi’s strong espousal of an anti-Israeli stand that saw the unique phenomenon of Muslim countries supporting India instead of Pakistan during a decisive moment in the history of South Asia.

On the Kashmir issue in the United Nations as well, Muslim countries of the Middle-East supported India.

Siding with Palestine was a major “think tank” product of post-Independence India; besides boosting India’s image as a nation that supports the underdog in a world heavily dominated by socialist thinking and politics, it helped nation-building within the country.

Pandit Nehru encouraged various think tank groups. However, in a new world situation after 1991 where Soviet Union collapsed and US became the only dominant power, India’s recognition of Israel, a US ally, was seen as a smart move.

Indo-Israel relations grew from strength to strength in the 1990s. This was a period of rising communal tension, Babari Masjid demolition, riots and the consequent 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. Israel was seen as a vital ally in helping India combat both International and internal terrorism.

MPs, MLAs, heads of security forces regularly visited Israel -- the thinking in the Indian establishment was that besides teaching a technique or two in defence and spying, Israel would help India against Pakistan politically as well.

One must remember that Israel was seen in the 1990s as an invincible force. Despite being surrounded by hostile Arab-Muslim countries, Israel had successfully resisted their advances; Israel was the victor of 1967 and 1973 wars against Arab nations like Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. Israel also, had been successful in countering Palestinian resistance within its borders and the territories it occupied in the 1967 war. But doubts regarding Israel began emerging in India after the 2001 Parliament attack. Nothing was said officially, but that was the first instance where Indian security agencies smelled a rat.

The 2001 Parliament attack was the first big terrorist attack on Indian soil after 1993; soon 2002 Gujarat riots followed; then suddenly, India witnessed “encounters” that later turned out to be fake, of “Muslim” terrorists, trying to kill Indian politicians.

From 2006 onwards, bomb blasts became a regular occurrence in India; 2008 saw blast after blast by “Indian Mujahideen”, a new terrorist entity. Batla House encounter case followed in September 2008. Communal tensions were stretched to a breaking point. Then Hemant Karkare, the then Maharashtra chief of the Anti-Terror Squad, and one of India’s best IPS officers who had served the RAW as well, came up with stunning revelations regarding the involvement of Hindu, rather than Muslim, terrorist groups, in bomb blasts of Malegaon, Makkah Masjid and Samjhauta Express.

The people Karkare caught as culprits-Saadhvi Pragya, Colonel Raj Kumar Purohit and Dayanand Pandey-were all extreme Hindu nationalists; then it transpired that Purohit had gone to Israel for training.

Swiftly it became apparent that somehow, either the leadership, or some rogue elements in Mossad, the Israeli secret service, were perhaps, involved in some aspects of terrorism in India.

By 2008, Israel had lost to Hezbollah, a rag-tag militia in Lebanon; in 2009 Israel failed to counter Palestinian resistance in Gaza Strip and, finally, in July-August 2014, Israel lost to Hamas and other Palestinian groups in the Gaza war.
So two processes ran parallel to each other: the blow to Israeli invincibility; and the suspicion of an Israeli hand in India’s internal affairs, a perception strengthened by the freak killing of Hemant Karkare during the 26/11 attack, just when he was about to reveal more about the extreme Hindu terror plot.

By 2014, India became wary of Israel. US too got bogged down, as the rise of ISIS signalled the intention of US allies like Saudi Arabia to break free from the American orbit.

At present, US stands helpless in the Middle-East; meanwhile Russia, having established bases in Syria, has gained tremendously; the emergence of Palestine as a nation is only a matter of time-so is the rise of Kurdish aspirations that US, and by extension Israel, are forced to support.

The complexity of the Middle-East situation, weakening of US and Israel, Indian allies for the last 20 years, has forced India to re-think its strategy. What to speak of China, US and Israel are not in a position to help India even vis-à-vis Pakistan.

India’s old relations with Russia, which as Soviet Union stood by India in the 1971 war and did not allow US to help Pakistan, now need to be revived. India has to mend fences with China as well. What should be India’s position if World War III breaks out between the US and the Russian orbit?

In the event of a new World War, or even without open hostilities, US cannot depend on Pakistan or its Middle-East allies; the Indian North-West neighbourhood including Muslim Central Asian republics are, and will be, in a state of ferocious turmoil.

Knee-jerk responses won’t count without correct strategic thinking, India’s military might cannot be put to good use.
Today, India needs a fresh, not just an idea of India, but of turmoil-ridden regions as well. An ideology that unites, say, the Hindu Right with Muslim radicals is the need of the hour. Patronizing both, Israel and the US are hell-bent on creating conflict; but this kind of a struggle is not in India’s interest. US-Israel cannot protect India. On the contrary, they have become a liability and are harming India more. The IMF-World Bank backed neo-liberal stands discredited; and even Narendra Modi, who was supposed to be pro-Israel, is proceeding judiciously, making it a point to do business with Russia and China, while resisting US pressures to barter Indian interests in WTO and other forums.

It is more viable for India to posit an ideology that sides with the arch of anti- Imperialist, pro-Russia resistance-Iran-Syria-Lebanon-Palestine-while advocating a political line that revives Hindu-Muslim unity not of the Congressi type, but harking back to 1857, the first war of Indian Independence against Western Imperialism.

“1857” is such a strong weapon in Indian hands that if used properly, as an anti-West tool, it can create sympathy for India in Asia and Africa including Pakistan andd Saudi Arabia. This would be master re-strategizing, a deft diplomatic-political manoeuvre that will throw everyone off-guard, and stop US-Israel from taking India for granted. We can wrest back the handle we had in the pre-1991 period, maybe solve the Kashmir issue, and start thinking of a “Greater India” in the real sense. This would require, also, a new model of economic development, free from the “crony capitalist” dimensions of the neo-liberal model. Are wise forces of the Hindu Nationalist camp listening?  

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2014 on page no. 1

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