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It pays to be less hegemonistic

Amazing that two heavyweights of the Indian foreign policy establishment should travel to Kathmandu with such a lot of media fanfare and to draw blank. According to External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, the big achievement of his visit was that he could meet leaders of different political hues in a short period. Wonderful!
But there was a time when such high-level visits used to be well planned and had an agenda. Nepalis are very accessible and Krishna could as well have invited any politician he cherrypicked from Kathmandu to take a flight and come and have lunch with him in Hyderabad House. Nepalese press is full of stories that the two most influential politicians today are, in fact, both keen to be invited to come to Delhi.
The stunning reality is that India’s Nepal policy has been reduced to nitpicking and verbal duels. South Block doesn’t seem to have any clue how to arrest the growing instability in this strategically located neighbouring country. And India’s image in Nepal seems to be in the pits and it is pathetic that Krishna had to go all the way to Kathmandu to tell the politicians there to advise their followers not to stamp on the Indian flag or to mock at India’s ambassador. There seems to be a complete paucity of ideas in South Block. The mantra sounds increasingly funny – ‘India is committed to assist Nepal’s transition to stable, inclusive democracy’, blah blah. Somehow it doesn’t seem to register that you can’t order others to respect you, especially politicians in foreign countries who aren’t on your payroll but draw sustenance from the mass support they enjoy.
The Americans learnt the hard way in Central and South America how it pays in the long run to to be less hegemonistic. Barack Obama made two regional tours in two years to Latin America and slowly but surely US is realising that the stability of its neighborhood is vastly more important than ‘influence’. China is indeed a big presence in America’s southern backyard but Obama kept cool and confident that America’s glow will never fade in the Latin American dreamworld and China can never substitute America. Maybe Krishna should exchange notes with Hillary Clinton how she tackles such leftist ‘toughies’ as Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Nicaragua’s Jose Daniel Ortega Saavedra and, of course, Venezuela’s irrepressible Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. Clinton will probably collapse into giggles and then collecting herself, tell Krishna to take it easy because it ultimately pays to be less hegemonistic and to be more benign toward tiny, hypersensitive neighbours.

Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.

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