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Sunday, July 19, 2009

#1053, 16 June 2003
Indian Peacekeeping in Iraq? Firdaus AhmedFreelance Security Analyst
That a trial balloon could be floated on whether India should send its troops to Iraq for peacekeeping to replace the hard pressed soldiers of the Coalition of the Willing is indicative of the changed thinking in India’s Establishment. Political parties preferred a response along traditional foreign policy lines citing the unanimous Parliamentary resolution questioning the basis of the United States war on Iraq. The contretemps indicates that the mandarins, led by Brajesh Mishra, believe that they have redefined the terms of India’s engagement with the world; otherwise they would not have courted such an outcome. Here is a case of a reality-perception mismatch that may prove costly for foreign policy formulation in the post post-Cold War era.
The logic is that there is a requirement for India to be more responsive to the needs of the ‘strategic alliance’ being forged with the US. A positive approach would also gain US support for Indian positions on Kashmir, besides drawing the US away from Pakistan. This approach was demonstrated earlier in India’s unilateral offering of operational support in the aftermath of 9/11. Such thinking originates in the Huntingtonian ‘clash of civilizations’ theory, wherein India seeks to deepen its links with the US and Israel, buffeted as it is by problems that the Muslim world is having in adjusting to modernity.
This is a departure from the traditional well-springs of India foreign policy that has been anti-imperialist on account of India’s historical experience. In lending support to the US in redesigning South West Asia, India would be an accomplice in a neo-imperialist enterprise that has more to do with the natural resources of the area than ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy.’ In arriving at the ‘national interest,’ defined here as a balance between self-interest and values, short term gains must not skew the balance away from the non-hegemonic world order that India has consistently sought.
There is also the domestic politics angle to the ongoing reformulation of foreign policy. A feature of the thrust of Indian polity towards the Right has been a spiting of Muslim India, evident from pronouncements such as the propensity to violence of Muslims worldwide and references to ‘Islam’s bloody borders.’ This translates into closer linkages with both Israel and the US. While there is an instrumental rationale for such ties, the rationale is not as important as the roots that lie in the antipathy with which the politically ascendant Rightists view India’s historical Muslim encounter. Therefore the ideology based support of the US and Israel is seen as reinforcing their domination of the Muslim world.
In the present case, there is no gainsaying the fact that there are no better peacekeeping troops than Indians, given India’s trove of experience in a comparable operational setting, viz low intensity counter insurgency warfare. India performed a similar role in the World Wars and their aftermath for the greater glory of the British Empire in Iraq. The lesson is that imperialist impositions are unlikely to yield sustainable domestic political structures and processes. Therefore, Indian participation in the peacekeeping force requires it to take into account India’s self-interests narrowly defined, but the implications of such an engagement for the societies on which it superimposes. Furthermore, should India overtly associate with the refashioning of the Arab world, it would expose itself to proto-nationalist Islamist terrorism, a risk its social fabric could do without. It can be hazarded that this is a risk that may be welcomed in certain rightist quarters for purposes of political consolidation.
UN ‘cover,’ to borrow a telling phrase from the National Security Adviser, would not be sufficient given that Security Council Resolution 1483 recognizes the occupying powers, US and UK, as the ‘Authority’ in Iraq, in whom power will be vested. Therefore, Indian troops will not be under the UN flag but reporting to an Authority moved not by the will of the Iraqi people or the international community, but by the political priorities of Washington. The uncertainty that attends the Authority is evident from the ‘regime change’ that unseated its first viceroy, Lt Gen Jay Garner.
There is a requirement for holistic consideration to such exercises in making foreign policy that could result in the unmaking of India as conceived by its Constitution makers. The advocacy here is that engaging the US and the emerging world order does not require the abandonment of values that have informed the ‘national interest.’

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