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  India’s Foreign Policy & Game Theory  


By: Gaurang Bhatt
December 13, 2003

It is understandable that the left of center views of Nehru, together with his exaggerated sense of self-importance, dictating his grandstanding attitudes to play to the galleries would have made him lean towards the Soviet Union. The American penchant for my way or highway did not help either. The complete lunacy of supporting China`s enosis of Tibet and insisting on the inviolability of the colonial McMahon line, showed a combination of misguided idealism with intellectual bankruptcy and fanatic zealotry, consistent with ignorance of and apathy to history and human nature. The knee-jerk supine catering to minorities by allowing them greater privileges than the majority is a servile idiocy, which has put us in the current mess without any tangible benefit. Unthinking support for the Arabs has not brought us cheap oil or any other benefits. Hardly any Arab League nation or member of the organization of Islamic States has supported us against the terrorism or aggression of Pakistan. It is true that Indians have been the beneficiaries of menial jobs that the Gulf State residents did not wish to take and have been substantial sources of scarce foreign exchange at the cost of being second-class residents. I also understand the poor and deprived do not have the luxury of grandiosely choosing that it is better to die on oneÕs feet rather than to live on oneÕs knees. It is futile to remorsefully weep for past stupidity, but times are changing. It is current policy to court Israel for strategic reasons and the time has come to seriously analyze our options and the consequences thereof.

The present dilemma is how far to toe America or Israel`s line. If we do so it will be consistent with our nature and history. It is true that America is a fading economic power beset by reckless spending, leading to enormous budget, current account and trade deficits and somewhat at loggerheads with its European allies. It is critical to understand that in spite of the highly publicized internecine warfare, the European allies are neither militarily powerful, nor so alienated from their fellow white race, to abandon America and let it flounder. Their umbrage is based on their own ego, but like members of an alienated family, they will still side with each other, rather than allow one of their own to be humiliated by aliens. Israel and the Jews, who never rejected the present for the hereafter, know that it is money and media that bring power. The Western Christians after the Thirty Year war have realized the same and have used Christianity for economic convenience. There is little doubt that the current war in Iraq is immoral, illegal and a quagmire and the treatment of Palestinians is along the same lines as the Nazi behaviour towards Jews. Israel sees Iran as the only potential long-term threat and Sharon and Bush have clearly indicated that we should not be friendly towards it.

The critical decision is what should we do? From the moral perspective we can lament and sympathize with Iran, which suffered the same but lesser colonial oppression and show bonhomie for the more enlightened Moslems (and Christians too) like the Palestinians. It is important to realize that Christian America shows no allegiance to Christian Arabs and chooses to blindly side with the more Westernized Jews, because they share some common values and are more answerable to economic power than a god. This is a crucial fact, because unlike the developed Christian world, which long ago switched its loyalty to economics, rather than a foolishly atavistic concept of god and afterlife, we persist in the negation of this life for a pie in the sky. Thus the American public out of stupidity, ignorance or blind loyalty supports the pre-emptive aggression in Iraq, while most Indian literati, though not intellectuals capable of analysis, are wedded to a non-existent utopia, unmindful of the inexorable consequence of the demise of their nation, culture and civilization. The Indian left consistent with their self-hate and persistent blind allegiance to now defunct Marxist philosophy support overtures to Pakistan and Islam, while excoriating rightist Hindu political parties and a militarist agenda.

There is a mythical inability to face reality, which is the curse of the native religions and leads to untenable and gullible assumptions, divorced from reality. Some insecure people inebriated by some worthless prize and prestigious bribes, meant to pacify or purchase their auctioned loyalties and feed their insecure egos, parrot their financierÍs mantras of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Others parrot the delusion that we are the same people ethnically, linguistically and we will all be one. The very nature of Islam, with its emphasis on the Ummah and not the nation state, language or cuisine, will never allow us to depend on any Muslim allies, irrespective of their internal differences and potential animosities. This is because the very constricted nature of Islam is unable to live in peace with differing views as Michael Lacqeur clearly states on the basis of the abode of Islam and to be converted to the abode of Islam distinctions. Judaism and Christianity had the same constricted vision but the reformation and renaissance have taken their focus away from the rigid tenets of dogma, to the economic integration of a diverse polity. It was not some enlightened altruistic charity that led the founding fathers of America to formulate an amendment for the freedom of religion. It was a promise much transgressed, even after it was written. It was the tragic baggage of history and more so of experience, that led them to formulate the clause, just as it was Matsyanyaya of Manu, the code of Hammurabi and Hobbesian portrait of a life as brutish, nasty and short, that led to civilization and even a belief in god and afterlife. Anyone who has read RawlÕs Theory of Justice would understand.

We could pontificate till the cows come home, but the purpose of this discourse is what should India do? The first thing is not to refer to the Ramayana and understand the Mahabharata, which gives two practical, though not ethical solutions in the classic Krishna statement to Arjuna, ñShathaam Shathyamî and the compromise that even Dharmaraja made when confronted by Drona on the rumor of death of Ashwatthama, ñ Narova kunjerovaî. Take a leaf out of the book of smart America and the West. Knowing fully well that Pakistan is a terrorist state which supported and still supports the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Bin- Laden, it is publicly praised as an ally, and while putting many unjust restraints on Muslims, it still proclaims loudly and hypocritically, that Islam is a peaceful religion and Muslims are our best friends, though we treat them like criminals when they enter our country. Any unthinking affinity for any Muslim country is a castle built on sand, as a millennium of experience should have taught us, Indians. They only understand power and domination, as America has realized. Laaton ke boot, baaton se nahi maante! On a more serious note remember the classic British foreign ministerÍs statement that nations have no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests and ChomskyÍs wise words that states are not moral agents. Unfortunately I have to add, that individual human beings are also rarely moral agents.

The best strategy is to fall back on PrisonersÍ Dilemma of game theory. Two collaborating crooks have robbed a bank and the police are holding them on the basis of some circumstantial evidence, but have no clear basis for conviction. The authorities hold them in separate cells and threaten each one by telling him, that the other is on the verge of cooperating to turn state`s evidence and likely to go free, while he will get life imprisonment. Both the detainees are smart professional criminals and know that there is no real proof. Both know that if they refuse to squeal, they will escape with at most a six-month sentence and subsequently enjoy their ill-gotten gains without fear or hindrance. Their dilemma is the lack of faith in each other and the severe punishment that the non-squealer must face if the other one saves skin by squealing. If both confess, they get ten years. Both are aware of all these facts including the length of sentences and know the superior benefits of keeping mum, but unsure of what the other will do. Their dilemma has a clear dominant strategy for a single game and that is to turn state`s evidence. If the game is played repeatedly with no clearly defined number of encounters, then cooperation between the crooks is the best strategy. This is the probable genetic basis of the evolution of intra-species cooperation in diverse life forms destined to unlimited innings of this game India and Pakistan cannot alter their geographical proximity and are destined to play the reiterated game of Prisoners` Dilemma. Unfortunately Pakistan has chosen to consistently defect and ignore the larger numbers of Moslems of India, while pursuing its fanatical obsession with Kashmir. This strategy can work only in so far as the other party does not have the means to permanently silence the potential defector and there is a higher authority with the wherewithal to impose a punitive sentence. The United States is in that position and thus Pakistan abases itself to this new Khalif, while India is hesitant to anger him.

There are other situations in which there is no dominant strategy and the choice of the best strategy by one player is dependent on the choice of strategy by the other player. One way is to pre-announce the choice by one player and make it known that he is willing to make an unpredictable and irrational choice and stick to it at any cost in the hope of persuading the opposite player to behave prudently and avoid unacceptable destruction. This is like the American teenager game of chicken, where two drivers approach each other for a head on collision and the one who swerves is the chicken. The daredevil pulls off his steering wheel and chucks it out of his car in full view of the opponent, making him aware that he has neither the intention nor the ability to swerve and it would be prudent for the opponent to turn chicken, if he wishes to avoid disaster. USA under Nixon attempted this strategy with the Soviet Union during the Vietnam War and under Kennedy during the Cuban crisis. Pakistan has used this strategy by threatening to use nuclear weapons first, if faced with any unspecified but critically dangerous threat and India has used the Assured Destruction, Mutual or probably that of Pakistan as the deterring defence. The fault in this approach is that it leaves Pakistan free to infiltrate terrorists into India and use salami tactics to pare off India, slice by slice under the aegis of America, like Shikhandi wounding Bhishma. It is imperative that India, take a leaf out of the book of the United States, by clearly announcing that any terrorism will meet with a limited but devastating conventional retaliation over Pakistan occupied Kashmir, from which the terrorists enter India and which India believes is illegally occupied by Pakistan. Granted India does not have Israel`s clout to proceed in utter disregard of American wishes, but it would put Pakistan, America and the world on notice that its patience is wearing thin and it will not tolerate the empty braggadocio of this third rate weak bully of a failed state, like Pakistan. This picking of the strategy tailored to combat and neutralize that of the opponent leads to a situation where neither player benefits by alteration and is called a Nash Equilibrium, for which he got the Nobel Prize.

Gaurang Bhatt

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