India Tempers Its 'Outsider' Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

Friday, India's prime minister will arrive in Cuba to convince a skeptical swath of the world that India is, in fact, still India.

It could be a tough sell.

For decades, India happily assumed the role of chief rock- thrower at the world's political establishment. Freeing itself from colonial rule at the dawn of the cold war, India sought to find its own way to prosperity, separate from the influence and imperialism of the world's great powers. So in 1955 it formed the Non-Aligned Movement with like-minded developing nations.

As the 14th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) begins Friday in Havana, however, India finds itself becoming increasingly entwined with the powers it once shunned, particularly the United States. As a result, India is having to straddle the divide between its historical role as an outside agitator and its future as one of the world's emerging power brokers.

For India, it is a realization of its growing maturity as a nation. "It's about how we move from being a protester of the world order to one who takes responsibility for the management of it," says C. Raja Mohan, a member of India's National Security Advisory Board, a panel of civilian foreign policy experts.

A bridge between West, developing world

This weekend's summit, government officials acknowledge, will be about trying to find that new balance. "India has a role as a bridge in the global divide which seems to be emerging," says P. Harish, a spokesman at the Ministry of External Affairs. "That role is in preventing the global divide and promoting trust."

The task might not be an easy one. To policymakers in many developing nations, the United States is the primary imperial menace, threatening regime changes and cultural domination. Already, NAM member countries are preparing a draft declaration supporting Iran in its game of nuclear chicken with the West. At the same time, it is seeking to enlarge the definition of terrorism to include both the US occupation of Iraq and recent Israeli actions in Lebanon.

In the past, India might have joined the cavalcade of anti-US decrees. Today, it clearly will not. India's strategic goals are increasingly consistent with those of Washington, from economics to security. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for example, wants to take the discussion on terrorism toward extremists in Pakistan's hinterlands. And with the US Senate considering a deal that would accept India's status as a nuclear power, India has no interest in provoking its new friend with bombastic statements about neo- imperialism. …