Former West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan said while China was playing a waiting game on the border question, its desire for peace and tranquillity on the border was genuine.
Speaking at the launch of “NonAlignment 2.0 – a foreign and strategic policy for India in the 21st century”, Mr. Narayanan dispelled the report’s observations about uniform Chinese superiority on its land borders with India and an upper hand for India in the maritime domain. “There are areas where Indian troops are in an advantageous position,” he observed.
Mr. Narayanan’s who had negotiated the border question as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative made the observation days before Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrives here for consultations on the upcoming BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit which will also be attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao. As a prelude to a bilateral between Mr. Hu and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Yang is expected to discuss measures to increase trust and confidence between the two countries of which resolving the boundary dispute is the most important.
NSA Shivshanker Menon described the report as a “timely, positive text which was not a weeping whining catalogue” and felt it had rightly treated non-alignment as a strategy not an ideology. It broadened the definition of national goals, values and interests, defying the increasing tendency to define interests in terms of straight forward selfish goals. “This leads to the question what kind of power India wishes to be?” he said while wishing for more clarity and deeper explanation instead of “tantalising references.''
On the need to develop a strategic consensus, the NSA was not sure if the goal was attainable or desirable. “There was also no golden age of consensus. Issues were always debated which is why we ended up right.''
Mr. Narayanan felt India would not unable to give unlimited concessions on trade and aid because its capacity was not unlimited. Also it is still not clear whether additional trade and other concessions would translate into a greater sense of security. He faulted the report for suggesting that the moment of reckoning had arrived or that the window of opportunity was limited.
“In my 50 years, I have from time to time been told that this is the moment,” he quipped.
One of the report’s co-authors, Rajiv Kumar intervened to point out that window of opportunity was limited because India’s demographic dividend would last for another 15 to 20 years.
Another former NSA, Brajesh Mishra questioned the validity of non-alignment when there was a contest between a the US, “the number one power, China which wants to be number two and Russia which doesn’t want to be number three.'' India, he said, “wants to be close to the US and the Indian public supports this. The problem is we have less of a global agenda than the US. The problem is how US’ global agenda will align with India’s limited agenda.” This clash, he said, took place in 2003 when the US asked for Indian soldiers in Iraq. “After a great deal of thought, we said no. I am glad this was done.”
He wanted India to keep Russia on its side and become a partner of the US in “real terms after discussing what India can do and cannot do….. This is where non alignment 2.0 will end.” The former NSA felt that India’s ties would be like the French-US relationship -- “of two proud sovereign countries which will be partners and friends and are not taken for granted. At the same time he advocated caution in developing closer ties with the US because “some have got short-changed.''
Former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and a report co-author pointed out that dealing with single domains was not possible in today’s world. “Each domain impacts on the other. For instance energy security means one has to think of the maritime security dimension,” he said. Several other co-authors also spoke on the occasion with Sunil Khilnani providing a synopsis of the report.