Need to Restructure Foreign Policy

M.L. Sondhi

The Statesman, Delhi, December 21, 1993

To address the challenges of the changing global order, there should be a heightened sensitivity to problems of peace and development as seen through prisms of developing countries like India. The asymmetries of economic and political power in the international community must be taken into account while seeking solutions.

It is necessary to start with a set of questions about new opportunities to augment transfer of resources from the developed to the developing world. At the same time, technological, social and political implications of conversion should be studied in the context of feasible options for increasing the rate of savings in industrially advanced countries. Quoting the Human Development Report, Mr. Arjun Sengupta argues that, if the resources are transferred, a one per cent increase in such savings would result in a more than 50 per cent increase in the rate of investment in the poorest countries. North-South scientific cooperation could have a significant bearing on the international dimensions of conversion.

A reconceptualization of the "Peace Dividend" theme from a distinctively Indian or Asia-Pacific orientation would help focus on both structural and policy-oriented approaches to post-Cold War issues of conflict and peace. Its importance for restructuring unjust global, regional, economic and political institutions cannot be exaggerated.

After the Cold War, India has to revise its thinking on peace and strategic issues. It needs to formulate a radical response to the new international system, to meet the environmental challenge and to transcend the exclusive military dimensions of security.

The "Peace Dividend" generalizes the notion of the money to be saved by various measures that will reduce unproductive military expenditure and make funds available for improving the quality of life. It assigns a strong role to regional and global cooperation, besides emphasizing the tasks of building a peace economy, maintaining justice, fostering human rights and strengthening sustainable development. The world has been spending enormous amounts of money on security and defence, resulting in the creation of gigantic military machines that consume large portions of national resources. The overarching question guiding research on the Peace Dividend is: how can research contribute to our understanding of the problems and opportunities of the post-Cold War reduction in military expenditure and of new concepts, methods and models for further undermining the legitimacy of the war system?

"Peace Dividend" studies emphasize peaceful resolution of security problems and are devoted to finding ways of reducing military expenditure without compromising national security. In many cases, particularly in developing countries, internal conflicts tend to drag on and use of military or para-military force consumes resources beyond their means. Prescriptive lessons are to be learnt from the escalation and instability in Kashmir and the expansion of security budgets because of tension between India and Pakistan. India is said to be spending Rs. 3 crores a day in Kashmir and Rs. 2 crores at Siachin while Pakistan spends Rs. 1 crore in Kashmir and Rs. 2 crores at Siachin.

It is now even more important to prevent diversion of huge amounts of internal resources under the compulsion of what Anatol Rapoport aptly calls "the endemic war disease of the Third World". A major element in any package of measures to control local and regional conflicts in developing countries must be the recognition that maintenance of national security and containment of insurgency cannot be handled by military means alone.

Opportunities for peaceful change have to be found through new political initiatives to form partnerships based on equality. It is necessary to counter the political and military dangers in the Third World which jeopardizes the capacity of these countries to mobilize local resources for important projects with the result that large amounts of external aid remain unutilized.

It is not suggested that there should be no response to forces challenging legitimate governments with military power. However, it must be recognized that the old concept of security are being replaced by new concepts like adequate, equal mutual and cooperative security.

There are socio-political and economic-technological reasons for demilitarizing international relations among nations. A striking feature of the system-change in Europe and South-east Asia is that nobody can seriously think of war among the E.C. countries or for that matter, among the ASEAN members. There is no reason why policy-makers and negotiations in South Asia should exacerbate rather than control their conflicting interests. The testing of alternative security policies becomes possible by creating a data base which can encompass the role of science and technology in armaments, the expenditures for military R & D and appropriations for socio-economic needs.

The "Peace Dividend" as a concept has to be studied at both regional and global levels. In the case of India the regional level is more important in the 1990s. The sudden collapse of the Soviet Union was received with mixed feelings in New Delhi. This development could foreshadow a potentially major opportunity for India to play a constructive role in the advancement of creative approaches to the management and resolution of regional conflicts with the decline of superpower rivalry in South Asia.

In South Asia particularly, internal ethno-political conflicts spill over to neighbouring countries and develop into inter-state conflicts. Tensions between India and Sri Lanka and the Indo-Pakistan disputes can be attributed largely to internal conflicts developing into inter-state conflicts.

It is important for the control, management and resolution of internal conflict to receive a higher priority in "Peace Dividend" studies. There is strong need for comparative studies of methods other than "law and order" approaches involving the use of the coercive power of the State. Studies should focus on political negotiations and compromises within the framework of the existing constitution, national territory and national frontiers and relating them to demands for more pluralistic and democratic political systems.

Among the choices facing Indian policy-makers is also the "international aspect" of the "Peace Dividend". India is a major nation and must have a major role to play especially on account of the close relationship between democratization and peace-building. India has a strong legacy of participation in international organizations and can contribute realistically to strengthening the role of the United Nations.

The ecological crisis is fast becoming a catastrophe in many parts of the world including South Asia. A significant "Peace Dividend" can be wrested from a pollution free environmental ambience. War itself especially modern weapons like cruise missiles and other similar highly destructive weapons of war devastate the environment. The fate of millions may be affected by the deliberate or accidental use of weapons of mass destruction which annihilate nature with human beings. The growing need for cooperation among the South Asian countries in the field of environmental protection requires alternative strategies to reverse present trends.

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