India’s foreign policy trapped between its borders: Jaswant Singh
By Ranjana Narayan
New Delhi – India’s foreign policy is “trapped” between the four lines outlining its boundary with neighbours and there is need to find an answer to this strategic confinement, says former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP also feels that the “disarming of India”, or Indian men being made to give up the age-old practice of carrying arms during British rule, has had a negative effect on the self-reliance of citizens.
Talking about his new book, ‘India At Risk: Mistakes, Misconceptions and Misadventures of Security Policy’ (Rupa) Singh told IANS: “India lies at the crossroads of four collapsed empires – the Qing dynasty of China; the great Ottoman empire, the consequences of collapse of that empire were diverse, which are never taken into account; the British empire and the collapse of great Soviet empire. Each of these have left a consequence which distilled itself into India’s confinement between four lines – the Line of Control, the Line of Actual Control, the McMahon Line and the Durand Line. The book is an attempt to identify the consequences.”
Singh, who held the portfolios of defence, external affairs and finance during the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, feels that the disarming of India and its debilitating effect needs careful study.
“Post-1857 followed a great disarming of India – the carriage of arms, or personal weapons was never as a weapon of offence but as a male adornment and also in a sense a necessary identity,” said Singh, sitting in his 15, Teen Murti Lane small study, full of books, paintings and artefacts.
He recounted his mother referring to his carrying ‘shastra’ or arms as a matter of routine enquiry.
“When I pay a visit to my mother, she asks ‘Shastra to hai, beta’ (you have your arms, son). Why did she ask that, not because I am threatened or anything, but it was routine in my part of the world for anyone to carry a shastra. The British post 1857 disarmed the whole of British East India’s occupied territory, but not the pejoratively so-called native states. There we kept our weapons, till almost the 1960s.”
Singh explains that Indians don’t really follow Mahatma Gandhi.
“His non-violence was not really a debilitating creed, it was in reality an empowerment. Still, do we really feel empowered by non-violence.. We say we are essentially non-violent, but when you look around at India today or in the past six years we are an extremely violent land,” he says.
The disarming “is having a negative effect on self-reliance of citizens. It is my personal view. During the Vijayanagar empire, six million men were available for instant recruitment,” he says.
Would not arms lead to more violence in society, with people resorting to using them at the drop of a hat, like in cases of road rage?
“That is a perversion. Road rage is an urban sickness, 70-75 percent of Indians are rural,” he says.
“What is that we need to do to make our countrymen and women’s spirit more robust? That is the question to be asked. All of us have been brainwashed into thinking, should we go down this path India will go down into violence. I lived my life, in a part of India in west Rajasthan, where people still carry swords,” said Singh.
Singh also terms the 1984 storming of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army as a “great sin” which should not have been done.
“I am not a Sikh, but I really truly think to send the army to attack Harmandir Sahib, Darbar Sahib, was a great sin. It should never have been done. It had never been assaulted after Nadir Shah. Were these (Sikh militants) aliens we were dealing with? They were our own citizens,” he said.
“Who promoted Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale? You plant the seed – ped boye babool ke, aam kahan se khaye (you plant the seed of a prickly thorn bush then how can you expect to reap mangoes)?” he asked philosophically.
In the 292-page book, priced at Rs.595, Singh dwells on the 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 from Kathmandu, which he terms as a “painful chapter of my life, something that I don’t want to revisit.”