California: The third largest economy in terms of PPP, the second largest defence force, the second most populous country and the world’s largest functional democracy deserves a better proactive foreign policy. The Indian diaspora is one of the most dynamic and faithful ambassadors of Indian culture. Despite the size of the Indian diaspora, Indians abroad, especially Indian Americans, tend to appear powerless as compared to smaller communities from smaller nations. Even a country with dubious terror connections such as Saudi Arabia and Iran enjoy a diplomatic courtesy on par with India in Washington DC. These countries have created dubious organisations such as CAIR, ISNA to carry out their agendas in the Congress. The Indian diplomatic response is too weak compared to the strength of Indian community in USA, because there is no Indian American organisation that really knows the policy of the Indian foreign mission. Cultural events with participation of some American officials is a nicety with no tangible outcome for the benefit of the Indian community. Cultural events cannot be a diplomatic strategy.

Enemy states continue to needle India through diplomatic teasers, while the babus of South Block look at their leaders for direction. The leaders, usually caught unawares, react. And then the entire machinery of babus is activated to respond. This is the story of the Indian diplomatic response whether in India, UN or USA. The time lapse between a provocative act by the enemy states and Indian response is what defines, how the world sees India.

For example, when the Pakistani mission brazenly calls for a non-representative Hurriyat conference leaders who have been convicted of terrorism and money laundering to their high commission, what stops India to officially open Balochistan and Sindh consulates in New Delhi? When China officially vetoes to protect Pakistani terrorists, what stops India to open a counter narrative that checkmates China?

These are complex yet simple diplomatic steps that show to the world that India means business. When the USA offers India any military ware in lieu of troops in Afghanistan, what stops India from accepting that offer? International diplomacy is based on transactions today. Diplomatic niceties have been replaced with actionable outcomes. Maybe this is the time to initiate a change in recruitment of diplomatic cadre of India. Recent proactive military action by the Indian government in Balakot, Pakistan, has been appreciated in all quarters of the American establishment. They have woken up to the prowess of the Indian military and strategic Indian military thinkers. However, the diplomatic handling of the entire incident was exactly the reverse of a successful military operation. Instead of driving a hard negotiation with adversaries through military victory, Indian foreign policy makers fell into the trap of the peace vultures. Ancient history of India tells us that lasting peace is negotiated post military victories. None of that negotiation followed. It seemed as if the diplomatic and military coordination was not there. The effectiveness of military victory was not translated into tangible outcomes for India. Even American policy makers closely watching the Indian response had pleasant mixed reactions at what just happened. Everybody wanted a lesson to be taught to Pakistani blackmailers, but nothing followed after a military operation. Everyone waited and waited and then sensing that nothing is going to happen, took credit for being the peacemaker. Why did we lose on the diplomatic front? What we could have asked in lieu for peace for our enemy? Do we even have answers?

Thanks to the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for taking the bold step which the Manmohan Singh administration could not even muster enough courage for. Today, the world recognises Indian talent, Indian culture, Indian philosophy, Indian people and also the military strength of India, but what will actually make the world to sit up and listen to India—decisiveness and assertiveness. It’s time for Indian policy makers to change the structure of their foreign missions, especially in important countries such as USA, work more closely with the Indian Political Action Committees to drive agenda that favour India and Indian Americans. Now is the right time to launch a united PAC that works for Indian interests.

A private local grassroots organisation is needed to build a support base for the Indian American community in important countries like USA. There are far too many local issues that need to be countered by the whole Indian American community, irrespective of their ideological inclinations. There is today a strong need for an umbrella organisation such as Virat Hindustan Political Action Committee (VHPAC) that works on behalf of all Indian Americans to formulate transactional politico-business actionable agendas on issues that matter to Indian Americans and India. This type of organisation will also assist in filling the vacuum between Indian foreign policy makers and Indian American interests in USA. The six million plus diaspora is yearning for this type of organisation to represent them in the world’s oldest democracy. The Indian diaspora is now ready to rightfully claim its political identity in USA to protect its interests from other politically active communities. 

The current Indian American representatives do not provide enough support to Indian American interests. Most of the burning issues of Indian Americans are left to the mercy of other interest groups. There is no cohesive agenda and policy initiative. This is a great opportunity to create a focused umbrella group to drive an agenda that meets the aspirations of six million plus Indian American diaspora. Indian Americans have made significant contribution to American economic leadership across the world and they are leading in every sphere of life in USA. It’s high time to demand a reciprocal gesture from the US House of Representatives and US Senate. God Bless America! Jai Hind!

 

Aditya Satsangi is CEO, Nymblsoft, LLC; CEO, Nitai Partners Equity Ventures, LLC; and President, Indian American Chamber of Commerce.

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