India’s foreign policy : Is it in trusted hands?

A secret US diplomatic cable titled “Iran manipulating Indian elite opinion-makers” exposed by Wikileaks reveals that K.V Rajan, then Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board(NSAB) had requested an urgent meeting with the US embassy Charge d’ Affaires to apprise him of an all expenses trip that Iran was organising for Indian “politicians,scholars and commentators” to which he too had been invited. Rajan suspected that this trip was part of an Iranian Government effort to encourage anti-American, pro-Muslim scholars and think tankers in India to influence PM Singh’s supporters to take a more pro-Iranian and anti-US view.Fearing that his own presence in the delegation would hand Iran a PR coup, he cancelled his visit at the last moment. The cable says that to counter Iran’s efforts, Rajan proposed that he visit US in his NSAB capacity and hold talks with officials, think tanks and intelligence community to discuss ways to better understand US assessments of Iran which he expected would later feed into NSAB discussion on Iran policy options.

The NSAB consists of persons of eminence and expertise outside the GOI who provide inputs to the National Security Council (NSC), which is the apex agency looking into the political,economic, energy and strategic security concerns of India.The National Security Advisor (NSA) is a member of the NSC who is also the primary advisor to the Prime Minister, the Indian Cabinet and the NSC on internal and international security issues.

Since then Rajan has rubbished the US cable.Considering that the cable is correct,it clearly indicates an attempt by Rajan to manipulate opinion making in NSAB by deliberately trying to create grounds for allowing US assessments of Iran to creep into India’s Iran policy making.His request for security discussions on Iran with US officials were prompted not by genuine security concerns but in order to negate any influence Iran’s soft power might have on Indian opinion makers.

Personally , I would really doubt that this is a one-off incident and if one looked deeper, probably many precedents would be revealed. Also, it’s likely that foreign policy crafting in any country would be vulnerable to such lobbying acts.This begs the questions, Are our policy makers acting solely in the nation’s best interests or Are they proxies trying to influence Indian policy making with the interests of another nation? Can we really pin our hopes on them to do an unbiased job? Can we trust them?

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