New Delhi: The one aspect in India-China relations that gets the least focus is people-to-people contact and it needs to change, said renowned journalist Suhasini Haidar.
Shedding light on how India and China have had a history of strong ties through each other’s traders, scholars and kings, she asked: “…we have had only one war with them, should we then let that one war determine how we approach them?”
Haidar, who is the Diplomatic Affairs Editor at The Hindu, made the comments while speaking on India’s foreign policy and the road ahead at a session organised by Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR) Wednesday.
Before the session, the CPR released its comprehensive policy compendium on ‘Policy Challenges 2019-2024: Navigating Policy Challenges and Charting a New Course for India in the 21st Century’. ThePrint was the digital partner of the event.
The compendium includes papers on a number of policy matters, including foreign and national security, economy, urbanisation and welfare, among others.
The session was part of a series of three sessions held to discuss the policy papers that are part of the compendium.
Former Indian ambassador to Myanmar Gautam Mukhopadhyay was also part of the panel discussion along with Haidar.
Changing world order
The unpredictable nature of the United States administration under President Donald Trump and how that has severely affected policy decisions around the world was one of the first topics that Haidar and Mukhopadhyay discussed.
“The world can now either opt for the American buffet or for the Chinese buffet, we no longer have an à la carte option,” Haidar said.
The ‘Foreign Policy and National Security’ section of the compendium includes papers by Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary and senior fellow at CPR, Bharat Karnad, professor and national security expert, and Zorawar Daulet Singh, author and foreign affairs analyst.
Haidar and Mukhopadhyay discussed how the authors of the papers provided very diverse and distinct viewpoints as far as India’s approach to its foreign policy is concerned.
Mukhopadhyay questioned if we have lost our strategic autonomy even as we continue to talk big, to which Haidar responded, saying we lack ambition in our foreign policy today.
“We are looking at the next five years without a lot of ambition in foreign policy. We are looking to manage the crises that swirl around us because we are thinking this is not the time to be ambitious,” Haidar said.
In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian PM to skip the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit held in Venezuela. Before Modi, it was Charan Singh, the caretaker PM, who had skipped the NAM summit in 1979.
Haidar said, “Non-alignment wasn’t something that was envisioned to keep us oppressed in the world order. NAM was actually a tool of empowerment.”
“It allowed us to punch far above our weight and have a say despite being one of the poorer nations in the region,” she added.
ThePrint is a digital partner of Centre for Policy Research’s Policy Challenges 2019-2024 conversations.