The evolution of India’s foreign policy – Part IX

The short lived H. D. Deve Gowda administration was not oblivious to the virtues and pitfalls of India’s foreign policy compulsions. Prime Minister Deve Gowda appointed Inder Kumar Gujral as the Minister of External Affairs during his 10 month tenure. Gujral had been the Minister of External Affairs in V P Singh’s cabinet. He propounded his ‘Gujral Doctrine’, which called for better relations with India’s neighbors. Gujral was a proactive foreign minister and was an experienced diplomat. He had also served as the Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union during the prime ministership of Indira Gandhi. Gujral tried very hard to improve relations with the United States of America, the only remaining super power. There were no ideological barriers left post disintegration of the Soviet Union and yet national security imperatives prevented India from constructive engagement with the United States. One of the main obstacles was a Democratic Administration of President Bill Clinton. Democrats have always been more stringent about Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India could not sign either treaty because of the threat from China and to a limited extent, Pakistan. National security took precedence over Indo-US relations.

Prime Minister Deve Gowda’s tenure (June 1996 – April 1997) was also burdened by India’s robust missile program initiated during Rao’s premiership. In 1992, India successfully tested the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) and the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). In 1994, India test fired ‘Prithvi’ and ‘Agni’, two indigenously built ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Plans to launch Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM), that is ‘Trishul’ and ‘Akash’, and an anti-tank missile (ATM) ‘Nag’, were also undertaken during the Rao premiership. These developments alarmed not only the US Congress and the Clinton Administration but also Japan and the European Union. Despite the growth in bilateral trade and American investment in India, these defense related issues killed any chances of improved Indo-US relations during this period. On the other hand the growing numbers of Non-Resident Indians in the United States had started playing a more active role in promoting India’s national interests. The Indian diaspora was emerging as the single most affluent section of the American society. During Deve Gowda’s tenure, the actual inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) also increased. In 1996, the actual FDI inflow to India was US $ 2383 million, which constituted 21.4 per cent of the FDI approval to India. In 1997, the actual FDI inflow was US $3330 million, and it constituted 21.1 per cent of the total FDI approval to India. Despite all these improved financial statistics we in America did not see any visible improvement in the Indo-American bilateral relations!

Inder Kumar Gujral took over as Prime Minister of a second United Front government on April 21, 1997. There was a degree of improvement in bilateral relations during the Gujral premiership (1997-98), and several factors were responsible for this. First, the ‘Gujral Doctrine’ was successful in India’s international relations, and it helped to improve India’s ties with her neighbors. The U.S. hailed the normalization of relations among South Asian nations, because it considered the region to be a nuclear hotspot. Second, the CTBT issue, which had remained an irritant in bilateral relations since the Rao premiership lost its prominence during Gujral’s tenure. The refusal of the US Senate to approve the CTBT became a liability for the Clinton Administration. Important high-level reciprocal visits took place during Gujral’s short tenure, which was not only indicative of better relations but obviously helped to foster a better understanding between the two countries. Besides Gujral’s official visit to the US, his Industry Minister, Murasoli Maran also went to the U.S. to participate in the “Destination India” program organized to promote US investment and tourism in India.  On the American side, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (the first visit of a US Secretary of State in 14 years), the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, William Daley, and the US Under Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Thomas Pickering visited India. While everything looked honky-dory, Gujral’s Doctrine was playing havoc with India’s national security. Prime Minister Gujral unilaterally decided to disclose the human assets of Research and Analysis Wing to Pakistan in a gesture of neighborly goodwill. Pakistan wasted no time in liquidating the Indian spies in their country. Thanks to Shri Gujral, Pakistan was successful in mounting a 26/11 type brutal commando operation in Bombay in 2008! I hold Gujral responsible for it.


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