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Re: 1991 Memo to Rajiv on foreign policy

My position on dual nationality and other matters of Indian foreign 
policy are mostly unchanged since this memo was written by me to Rajiv 
Gandhi in February  1991.  I  published this and two others, one on 
economic policy and the other on secularism in in The Statesman July 31 
1991-August 2 1991, following Rajiv's assassination (which I had 
forewarned his inner circle about!).    My sympathies moved directly to =
Mr. Vaypayee during his May 1996 Government and remain with him (though =
he doesn't know it), though of course I was not a member of the Congress =
then nor am I of the BJP now.

A foreign policy memorandum to Rajiv Gandhi (Feb 1991)
A key principle by which to guide the foreign policy of a large and
potentially great nation like ours can be stated simply as follows:
An action of the Government of India outside the territory of India, =
an act of foreign policy, should be undertaken if and only if it =
protects or
promotes Indian interests outside the territory of India.
Indian interests outside India encompass the private interests of Indian
businessmen, Indian migrant workers and their descendants, Indian =
Indian students, Indian tourists etc, as well as the public interests of =
Indian Republic such as the defence of the territory and property of =
and the promotion overseas of the culture, languages and values of =
     It is an accepted fact that Indian prestige on the world-stage has
declined steadily since Independence.  India's share of world trade and
finance used to be large in the 1750s, considerable in the 1850s, small =
significant in the 1950s.  It is utterly insignificant today as we =
2000.   Accurately or not, we are perceived by those who think about us =
all as a complex mess of a society, rife with caste, class and religious
conflicts; moralistic and hypocritical beggars and braggarts on the =
stage; very weak relative to our potential and our pretensions; with all
talk and little ability.  True or false, whether we like it or not, that =
how we are perceived by many people outside India.
     Repercussions of this view that the world has of us today are felt
everywhere.  At the height of the Cold War, a cynical Pakistani foreign
minister said about Non-Alignment: "Zero plus zero equals zero".  He was
wrong then but he would be right now.   In public international circles, =
Government of India is ignored.  We are generally not consulted, or even
humoured or flattered the way some are because of their oil.  Many =
outside India face harrassment, insults and discrimination of various
degrees.  This is related not only to the fact that Indians are often
competent and successful relative to local populations, but also to the
perception that India is a weak and flabby country unable to protect her
citizens abroad or offer them a proper life at home.  If we are to =
a new and effective foreign policy for India, we have first of all to be
candid and realistic in our assessment of the facts and circumstances of =
world political and economic order and our present place in it.
Ideally the foreign and military policy of all South Asian countries =
be common.
Differences between private Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri =
etc tend to disappear outside the subcontinent in the face of common
opportunities and adversities.  This may be set as the medium-run goal =
Indian diplomacy.
If we are not able to persuade our neighbours about this in the short =
we should proceed nevertheless to act as far as possible as if we have a
common policy, hoping to thereby persuade our neighbours by our example =
the gains from such a policy.  With this in mind, the broad aims of a =
foreign policy for India may be formulated as follows:
   A.  Independence from so-called "foreign aid".  We do not ask for or
accept public foreign aid from foreign Governments or international
organizations at "concessional" terms.  Requiring annual foreign aid is =
indication of economic maladjustment, having to do with the structure of
imports and exports and the international price of the Indian rupee.
Receiving the so-called aid of others, e.g. the so-called Aid-India
Consortium or the soft-loans of the World Bank, diminishes us =
drastically in
the eyes of the donors, who naturally push their own agendas and gain
leverage in the country in various ways in return.  Self-reliance from
so-called foreign aid would require making certain economic adjustments =
commercial and exchange-rate policies, as well as austerity the
foreign-exchange spending by the Government.
Emergency aid from abroad (e.g. for disaster relief) or private =
aid need not be affected.
   B.  Promotion of amity and demilitarisation within South Asia.  The =
would be to aim towards a more or less common foreign and military =
policy on
the pattern of Western Europe within five or ten years.  Obviously this =
require some outstanding statesmanship and domestic political courage
vis-a-vis Pakistan.  It will require solving the Hindu-Muslim question =
the subcontinent, which will require recognizing that Partition was not =
permanent solution or any sort of solution at all.  The divisions over
Kashmir or Ayodhya are false ones, as are those between India and =
or India and Bangladesh.
The real division was and still remains one between separatist
fundamentalist Muslims allied subconsciously with intolerant imperialist
Hindus on the one side, versus secular Hindus and tolerant Muslims on =
other.  If the separatist/imperialist axis wins, as it has been doing in =
last 50 years, then the problems of not only India but also Pakistan and
everyone else on the subcontinent will continue unresolved.  All sides =
continue to drain themselves against one another, until such a time as =
is a break-up of the subcontinent and a repeat of the 18th century -- =
elites panicking and fleeing abroad if they can, mass blood-letting, =
foreigners competitively roaming the country looking for aluminium,
manganese, coal, iron ore, oil, women, cheap labour, quick profits or
whatever.  Both the Independence movement as well as the desire to =
the cultural identity of Indian Muslims will have become ghastly =
Solving the India/Pakistan question is therefore of paramount =
We have to look afresh at the same problems of the 1940s and find a =
political solution for the whole subcontinent.  This is the key to =
prosperity on the subcontinent.  It will require vision and immense
political skill and courage on our side.  If we are able to find and
persuade like-minded people in Pakistan, we would be half-way there.
   C.  Resolving the border-dispute with China by treaty.
This too will require some clear-thinking statesmanship.  The general
trade-off between sectors is a commonsensical way of breaking the =
Prima facie at least, Arunachal Pradesh which we already have is more
valuable to us than Aksai Chin which they already have in any case.  A =
settlement should allow us to take a firm if quiet stand with them on =
What they do at Tiannanmen may their affair but what they do in Tibet is
not.  Our position on Tibet has not been an altogether honourable one in =
last 40 years.
Also we should seek to protect those of Indian descent in Hong Kong from
the chaos that is likely to occur in 1997 when the Chinese take over.
D. Promotion and protection of emigration
This not only eases unemployment at home but also amounts to exporting =
most exportable product.  It entails too the protection of South Asian
emigrants and their descendants and property in all parts of the globe =
diplomatic and military means.  This underscores the importance of =
the Pakistan question as a pre-condition, since it may be practically
impossible to maintain large land and naval forces at the same time.  It
will mean amphibious adaptation of our large ground forces.  Ideally it
would be a combined India/Pakistan marine and blue-water force.
E.  Promotion of reverse migration from e.g. North America, Hong Kong, =
Africa etc.
Any Indian or descendant of an Indian living abroad should be encouraged =
return at will.  This is important for economic reasons, in effect =
adding to
the value of human capital.
It is even more important for political reasons, as it will undercut the
overseas financing of secessionist terrorism.  Nationality laws have to =
amended immediately giving Indian nationality to as many people as =
of Indian descent.  Every Indian abroad who has taken a foreign passport =
wishes to retain or re-acquire Indian nationality at the same time will =
encouraged and welcomed by us to do so.  This on its own will reduce =
significantly, as thousands of moderates in Britain and North America =
prefer to maintain or re-acquire Indian nationality alongside with their =
nationalities, and therefore we may be able to isolate extremist =
and sources of foreign funding.  Many may rediscover patriotism for =
homeland, where they now feel rootless in alien cultures, which is what
subconsciously motivates the demand for an abstract separatism.
F. Promotion and protection of Indian commerce, finance and investment =
all sorts abroad -- exports, imports, capital flows in and out, tourism,
contacts and exchanges.
This is of fundamental importance for economic reasons stated in the =
memorandum (Chapter Two).  It will entail establishing as quickly as
possible conditions favourable for the freeing of the rupee.  The most
important of the conditions will be a freeze and then a cut in =
spending and and a full stop to wastage of tax-resources.  Without this, =
rupee cannot be freed, the economy cannot become healthy, and therefore =
nation cannot be made strong.
G. Promotion and protection of the culture, languages and religions of =
Asia across the globe
South East Asia is today thriving economically and is quite stable
politically.  It is not very long ago that we exported Buddhism, Islam,
Sanskrit and Hinduism there.  India and China used to be the two =
cultural influences in the whole area.  We have to learn what we can =
them and offer whatever we have in exchange.
H.  Achievement of international standards in sports, music, and the =
Our sporting prowess has become laughable.  This contributes to our =
image in the outside world.  The present system is utterly hopeless =
of the heavy and completely unnecessary Government involvement in =
Sports can be and must be privatized as completely as possible.  Let
commercial advertising and private sponsorship help our athletic =
with minimum Government involvement.  For example, Government can give =
breaks to sponsors who finance athletes for competitive international =
There is plenty of black money in the economy which can be induced to =
out to support sports in the country.   To a lesser extent, the state of
music and the arts and the culture in general have also become hopeless.
Eight objectives of a new and effective Indian foreign policy have been
outlined above.  For these to be achieved, there must be a clear-headed =
consistently formulated long-term policy.  The basic means towards this
would be to make a major and distinct move away from multilateralism =
bilateralism in international affairs.
An important and dramatic way to take such a step would be to take a =
unilateral decision to withdraw temporarily from, or suspend membership =
most international organisations, especially the UN and its affiliates, =
the Non-Aligned movement.  We say truthfully to the world that we have =
put our own house in order, that economic reforms make it vital for us =
cut all extra Government expenditures especially in foreign exchange, =
we are turning to solve our domestic South Asian Hindu/Muslim problems
first, that we have to re-evaluate our position and capabilities in the
world in view of the new international economic order and our own =
problems and objectives.  We make it clear to the world that we shall of
course continue to abide by the princples of the UN Charter, plus Vienna
Conventions, plus all treaties, obligations, contracts etc that we have =
party to.
     What will be the world's response?  Most will not care a hoot.  =
voice is not sought out or heard now and will not be missed.  Others =
wake up and say that the deliberations of the world in the absence of =
20% of
the world's population would be somewhat diminished.  They might fear =
will lose out on their "leverage" with us.  We could be asked, =
begged or threatened not to leave.  Our response should be polite but
irm  -- we hope to be back soon, our thoughts and hearts are with you, =
commitments to world peace and world trade and finance remain as firm as
ever, but for the time being we are determined to concentrate on setting =
own house in order and cannot afford to be with you for some years.  =
few Indians working as bureaucrats at the UN, World Bank etc would not =
happy as they might risk their cushy lifestyles, but they are not =
most important constituency.)
   There would be an unspoken and subtle consequence of such a policy in =
favour.  Regardless of appearances, while the Cold War was on, the UN =
an ineffective third world debating society.  Now that the Cold War is =
the UN is also set to become, regardless of appearances, a rich Northern
club, with honorary membership for Japan, and the Chinese and Soviet =
The world may be about to witness a repeat of the golden age of =
and imperialism between 1870 and 1914.  By withdrawing even temporarily =
the UN we may be in fact more effective in the international arena than =
staying in as a weak and impotent member.
The move towards bilateralism would begin with Pakistan and China, on =
lines already discussed.  Next our most active foreign policy must be =
them and with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Afghanistan and =
Then there are the major powers: the United States, the Soviet Union,
Germany, Japan, Britain and France.   Then there is the Islamic crescent
from Morocco to Indonesia.  (Ideally, if and when the India/Pakistan =
is resolved, this would be safely left with Mr Yakub Khan and his
successors.)  Then there are countries where Indians have gone or can =
go as emigrants or where there are significant Indian interests.  These
include Australia, Canada, South Africa,  East Africa, Fiji, the West =
and the North East of South America.   Then there are continental powers
like Brazil and Argentina and Egypt and Nigeria.   Then there are =
groups -- ASEAN and the Far East, the European Community and =
treated individually and/or collectively.
With the South Asian countries, the relationship should be made domestic
and familiar with the aim of forging a common policy as soon as =
With the others, a rational bilateralism would involve starting with a
thorough assessment of bilateral relations on a country-by-country =
What are the principal components of imports and exports and their rates =
expansion or contraction?  What are the Government of India's assets and
liabilities in each of these countries and how liquid are these?  How
significant are Indian private interests in each (immigrants, tourists,
students businesses etc)?  What is the scope for expansion of ties in =
of our objectives?  Etc.  Long-term foreign policy requires a constant =
of reliable information and also a continuous flow into and out of that
stock.  This may fundamentally require overhauling some of the civil
services.  For good foreign policy to be made and implemented in the =
term, there should be easy flow between the IFS and IAS, the academia =
military and intelligence services.  The objective would be to have a =
of highly qualified people voluntarily pursuing foreign languages and
research of national importance with respect to the different countries =
the world.  The dozens of unthinking think-tanks in Delhi may have to be
overhauled to actually produce something useful after all.
    Having determined what are the priorities and what are not the
priorities, a reallocation of the foreign exchange resources of the
Government of India will be called for to achieve stated foreign policy
objectives.  This has to accompany the process of economic reform, as =
as the vigourous pursuit of reasonable solutions to the subcontinent's
continuing political problems.  Obtaining a broad national consensus on =
objectives is very important.  Once the thinking has been clarified and =
pieces put in place, this may not be so hard to achieve.
SR: Please recheck if this is the entire message ( there was a considerable
amount of HTML code and text in the latter part of the message - mostly
garbled, which I edited off before posting.  )  Antony

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