Warning that the time for India to get its act together is now because of the favourable growth prospects, demographic profile and international environment it faces — all of which may subsequently change — a group of foreign policy experts released a report here on Tuesday, NonAlignment 2.0: A foreign and strategic policy for India in the 21st century, which identifies the basic principles and drivers that would make the country a leading player on the world stage while preserving its strategic autonomy and value system.
Unveiled before a packed audience of present and former National Security Advisers, Foreign Secretaries, Ambassadors and High Commissioners and policy wonks, NonAlignment 2.0 was written over 14 months of deliberations by Sunil Khilnani, Rajiv Kumar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Lt. Gen. (retd.) Prakash Menon, Nandan Nilekani, Srinath Raghavan, Shyam Saran and Siddharth Varadarajan. National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Deputy National Security Advisers Alok Prasad and Latha Reddy also joined some of the deliberations.
As the report reiterated several times, the trends for India to extend its global role and influence are favourable but time is of essence. The basic structures suggested by the report must be quickly implemented because the “underlying factors that are propitious for our growth may not last long.” But the authors say India's big challenge will be to aim at not just being powerful but to set new standards for what the powerful must do, because in international relations, “idealism not backed by power can be self-defeating and power not backed by the power of ideas can be blind.” India's legitimacy in the world will come from its ability to stand for the highest human and universal values and at the global level, “India must remain true to its aspiration of creating a new and alternative universality.”
In a situation where the world is no longer bifurcated between two dominant powers, nonalignment today will require managing complicated coalitions and opportunities in an environment that is not structurally settled, the report say. But former NSA Brajesh Mishra, who spoke at the launch, questioned the approach of the report, especially its view that India not take sides in the rivalry between China and the U.S. China's approach was that of the Middle Kingdom, it wants to be number one, and India's priority should be to build a closer partnership with Washington.
The report deals with India's approach towards the ‘Asian theatre,' the international order, hardpower, internal security, non-conventional security issues like energy and nuclear options, the knowledge and information foundations of power as well as the state and democracy.
NSA Shivshankar Menon commended the overall thrust of the report, especially the link made between the manner in which India dealt with its internal and external challenges. West Bengal Governor and former NSA M.K. Narayanan said the report should have devoted more attention to left wing extremism and questioned some of its conclusions on the internal security front.
The report emphasises that for its strategic and foreign policy to be successful, India must sustain domestic economic growth, social inclusion and democracy. Its approach must be to secure the maximum space possible for its own economic growth in order for the country to become reasonably prosperous and equitable. Although India's competitors will put roadblocks in its path, “the foundations of India's success will depend on its developmental model.”