ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Domesticating Foreign Policy

Devoid of ethical concerns, domestic pressures on foreign policymaking are meaningless.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally did not go to Colombo to attend the meeting of the heads of government of that colonial artefact – the Commonwealth. However irrelevant the Commonwealth may be in the 21st century, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is a place for diplomatic grandstanding and quiet networking among its members. Its importance for India has increased with the growing aspirations of our state to take on a global role. India has been using fora like the Commonwealth, and new ones like the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summits, to project its “emerging power” status. Thus, all said and done, Manmohan Singh’s absence from CHOGM is perhaps of some import, particularly to him. After all, our prime minister has often lamented the fact that the only place he gets any respect is at international fora.

India’s diplomats and strategic affairs community have bemoaned, in a single voice, the intrusion of domestic politics into its diplomacy and berated how local actors have messed up India’s grand strategic plans. The wanton large-scale killings and torture of both Tamil civilians and captured combatants by Sri Lanka’s victorious army during their last operation have been largely ignored by the Indian state and political establishment, including the Tamil parties who are clamouring for a “strong stand” today. The Rajapaksa-led government has not only gone back on its feeble promises on devolution of powers and protection of human rights, it has put in place a political regime bordering on majoritarian tyranny. All these are reasons enough for its neighbours and other international entities to condemn the Sri Lankan state and demand protection of basic democratic rights and justice to the victims.

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