Indian conceit about their supposed convivial pluralism and venerable cultural heritage misleads them into believing they are ineffably agreeable to others. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Muslims, a vast segment of the world'spopulation, dismiss pagan Indians with withering contempt. Arabs view them as lowly menials, which is precisely the status of the vast majority abroad. Britain'selites harbour abiding animus towards Indian Hindus because they continue to blame them for their loss of imperial power and associated claims to elevated world status. In Europe, only France'selites, infamously surprising the Nazis by their eagerness to collaborate in dispatching their Jewish compatriots to concentration camp deaths, match them in anti-Hindu vitriol. Xenophobic Christian America is proudly ignorant and sees little real difference between their own former slaves and repugnant non white Indian slumdogs. The Chinese harbour more racial malice even compared to the Japanese or Indians themselves and they remain malevolently poised to put India in its place once and for all. The priapic Pakistani jehadis incubate inborn hatred towards Indians despite mostly being Hindu converts to Islam themselves, held in low esteem by Arabs. India'stwo principal international friends are allied to it for essentially opportunistic reasons because that is the normal modus operandi of international relations.
Indians need a harsh reality check to recognise these hard truths about themselves and how unforgiving the real world happens to be. They need to nurture a degree of cynicism and permanently erase their irrepressible desire to be loved by everyone. Much better to be feared, since they are in fact already heartily detested, and endeavour to protect their fundamental national interests. It need not be accompanied by feeling gratuitous satisfaction in harming others, but it would be legitimate to undertake fitting measures for self-preservation against repeated egregious foreign assault. India'sdomestic politics are the main barrier to the requisite clarity in thinking regarding the urgent tasks that lie ahead and earnest action in pursuing them. India'sthoroughly fractured domestic politics constrains the emergence of a secure and self-confident governing class that is not permanently distracted by the cynical compromises necessary for attaining power. This political fracture has also made India'sgoverning class, both politicians and bureaucrats, vulnerable to foreign subornation that influences domestic political outcomes.
Indira Gandhi was the only modern Indian leader with the personal courage to vigorously assert Indian interests against a formidable array of opponents that included the entire western alliance, China and the Islamic world. Her historic achievement in this regard will remain memorable, assuring her a place among the ranks of India'sgreatest rulers. The inconsequential mid-70s Emergency, mythologised like the innocuous Quit India farce, was precipitated by American entrapment, though Indians still fail to grasp its diabolical origins. In 1973, just two years earlier, an audacious trap, activated by inciting a national transportation strike, had been successfully used to overthrow Chile'sSalvador Allende. A similar stratagem subsequently unfolded to ensnare Indira Gandhi for having been midwife to the creation of Bangladesh. By contrast, of her father, Jawaharlal Nehru'srecord of action and inaction exposes overweening and arrogant self-confidence in dealing with the outside world, though he appears to have compromised vital Indian national interests with uncanny regularity. Of her successors, her son, Rajiv Gandhi, showed unexpected promise, perhaps because he was inexperienced and willing, as a result, to take advice from capable and patriotic advisers. His successors proved dismally unequal to the task of defending India. The abominable IK Gujral betrayed India'sprecious human intelligence assets inside Pakistan to a cruel fate because his cockamamie ?Gujral doctrine? of one-sided amity towards all prompted him to dismantle India'scovert action infrastructure. What followed his premiership has not been much better, the NDA eschewing, according to one retired senior diplomat, retaliatory bombing of Pakistani targets known to restrain further terrorist outrages.
If political circumstances were to allow India could adopt a number of radical policies though that seems unlikely since India'sConstitutional structure guarantees that the domestic contest for political power will continue to take precedence over all others issues. India is facing a diabolical Sino-American-Islamic concert that either seeks to inflict serious harm on it or displays indifference to shedding Indian blood. The contemporary Indian predicament echoes the desperate political challenge post-revolutionary Russia encountered and Joseph Stalin addressed with effective policies and ruthless determination during the 1930s. The conduct of Russia'scompletely unsentimental diplomacy, from the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922 to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, could be the inspiration for an Indian counterpart of equal cynicism, supping with the devil should that prove necessary. More importantly still, Stalin'sunprecedented industrialisation of Russia within the span of a decade, the ultimate economic underpinning of Russia'shistoric victory over Nazi Germany'sgenocidal war against it, would be a much taller order for India to emulate. But something akin to it is necessary if India is not going to break-up into a series of competing mini-States, some of them Islamic, as its implacable enemies, the Anglo-Americans, Chinese and Islamic countries have long sought.
The direction of the development of the Indian economy must first be altered in order to promote an integrated national economy. If successful, the high proportion of traded goods in Indian national production will fall, reducing its vulnerability to external events, economic or otherwise. A massive structural transformation of the economy, accompanied by the corporatisation of agriculture and investment in far-reaching economic and social infrastructure development in transportation, health and education would automatically raise productivity and create industrial capacity. The reliance on exports of services for economic growth has fuelled the increase in black money, an associated real estate bubble, destruction of arable land without full appreciation of its long-term implications, an obsession with private car ownership and mindless consumption of imported luxuries. Instead, sustained indigenous growth that encouraged the consumption of basic products like food, clothes, daily household goods, health and educational services would be egalitarian as well as a more sustainable course for the Indian economy. A considered deployment of a part of India'sforeign exchange reserves, with due regard for inflation and the viability of its balance of payments position, could make this a feasible potential path of economic development. It would be ethically just because it would benefit India'sdestitute majority and also insure India against Sino-American machinations owing to its dependence on exports, especially to the US market.
In addition, India needs to confront a number of unpleasant political realities that should inform the conduct of its international relations. The first and most important fact is that US foreign policy is irretrievably amoral, indeed cynical, and a country on which India cannot depend. This is not an inference that counsels Indian hostility or indifference towards the US, but great caution in its dealings with it. The UK is basically a supine American appendage and one that will also slyly seek to harm India whenever the opportunity arises and should be kept at a distance. Pakistan was essentially an American Cold War instrumentality deployed to torment an allegedly pro-Soviet India, a gratification that it began to share with China by the late 1960s. Pakistan is now a Chinese surrogate and its entire nuclear weapons arsenal, designed exclusively to threaten and paralyse Indian action, should be treated as an integral part of China'sown nuclear armoury. The Saudis are indissolubly conjoined to Pakistan, a fact that they have announced publicly and a country that therefore merits some seriously malign Indian attention. Russia has usually been a good friend to India in the past, but seems unwilling to jeopardise relations with China in the uncertain world that is taking shape because it fears a Sino-American alliance. No other country, including Israel, really matters, in its case because of overwhelming dependence on the US for its own survival.
India should renounce its existing ?no first-use? nuclear weapons strategy the moment its own missiles prove technically robust and numerous enough to assure its second-strike capability. It should begin urban evacuation drills, build hardened shelters for its key decision-makers and reduce conventional forces on the Indo-Chinese border. The latter will convey a potent message of willingness to resort to nuclear weapons at an early stage of a major conflict. A discussion in the Indian media should hint at the prospect of Indian nuclear strikes against Chinese and Saudi cities if Pakistan were to use Chinese-supplied nuclear weaponry, effectively outsourced to it, against India. Let both the Saudis and Chinese consider what level of risk they are willing to countenance by abetting Pakistani terror against India. They will have to balance the dire cost to them of an emphatic Indian response, however apparently irrational, if it suffered catastrophic harm, against the ephemeral gains of using Pakistan to cause India grief. India'sfailed Nepal policy should be abandoned and an implacable assertion of Indian interests advanced to curb growing Chinese influence in Nepal. Several additional Tibetan divisions might be sponsored to signal the inviolability of Indian sovereignty in Arunachal Pradesh. All these measures are largely defensive, but signal and threaten without actually initiating a direct military clash.
Finally, India should bite the bullet and cultivate Iranian friendship. Shia Iran aspires, above all, to undermine historic Sunni primacy within Islam and will make incredible sacrifices to achieve it. This goal has been made feasible by the emergence of a Shia Iraq that will likely provoke civil war in the Gulf, jeopardising Saudi control over its oil-rich Eastern Province, which happens to have a significant Shia population. India should offer all possible discreet assistance to help Iran achieve its historic mission of avenging the murder of Ali. An impoverished Saudi Arabia and its putrescent royals, mired in civil strife, will find it impossible to offer financial and political succour to Sunni Pakistan in their sinister attempt to restore Islamic primacy in a fragmented Indian subcontinent. India should instead turn the tables on both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan by helping Iran consolidate its political hold over northern Afghanistan while assisting the latter'sambitions further south, beyond the Durand line. The ultimate goal should be to create several sovereign principalities out of Jinnah'sPakistan, in which Punjab would be a severely truncated minor statelet, engaged in permanent rivalry with neighbouring Sindh and Balochistan. As a prelude, the restoration of Indian capacity for covert action inside Pakistan will prove an imperative necessity though it may take time and cost money. India'swatchwords need to be patience and malicious forethought. But is India'spolitical class remotely capable of engaging in long-term thinking or will it continue vying with each other for inane short-term goals and invite catastrophe for India and themselves?
(The author taught international political economy to graduates for more than two decades at the London School of Economics and is co-author of Analyzing the Global Political Economy, Princeton University Press, 2009.)