Foreign Policy Should Be National

So we might have this weird situation in the forthcoming IPL where Sri Lankan players are not allowed to play in Chennai. While the merits of whether India should continue to have diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka in view of the alleged genocide is debatable (I personally think we should continue to have these relations), I think the “solution” of giving visa to Sri Lankan players and then not allowing them to play in a particular city shows India in bad light.

Regional leaders are entitled to, and should, have their opinions when it comes to foreign policy. However, these opinions should be discussed in Parliament or Cabinet or some similar forum, and as far as the outside world is concerned, India should have a single foreign policy. It might be in the Tamil Nadu politicians’ own political interests to take a hard stand on this Sri Lanka issue, but it is the job of the Union Government (and the Prime Minister) to hear these voices, debate them and make a decision which the regional leaders are bound to obey.

It is well known that Tamil Nadu politicians don’t want the Sri Lankans to participate in the IPL, and this might be a corollary of their stand that the Indian government should not engage with the current political establishment in Sri Lanka. Taking that into consideration, the Union Government should do one of two things – accept the stand of the TN politicians and deny work permits to the Sri Lankan cricketers, or allow the Sri Lankans to participate in the entire tournament, including in Chennai.

It is important that India presents a coherent face when it comes to foreign policy. We have already seen one international deal (on the Farakka barrage, with Bangladesh) being scuttled at the last minute because of last-minute reservations expressed by regional politicians. If we present a divided stance on this IPL issue, it could send out a signal that Indian foreign policy is hostage to regional leaders, and that it is difficult to do business with India (since that entails doing deals with regional leaders also).

At a time when doing business with other countries is paramount (given our energy security concerns) , it is important that we send a signal that we are easy to do business with. And for that, we need to signal that we have one foreign policy.

Tailpiece: I wonder whether under their current stance the TN politicians will allow Muthiah Muralitharan, a Tamil Sri Lankan who is married to a Madrasi, to play in Chennai.

4 thoughts on “Foreign Policy Should Be National”

  1. Come on now! Getting the state governments to agree with their central counterpart on much more important issues is hard enough. Let’s just get them to work on those before they get to Cricket. I won’t blame them if they pay no heed to this issue as long as they give, at least, a passing glance to some of the more imminent ones.

  2. The conception of india as a country is so arbitrary, at best can be a union like EU. Tamil Nadu has every right to dictate foreign policy that closely affects its affairs and borders. It is indded shameful that the rest of India is so butthurt about TN’s actions.

  3. This incident highlights how tenuous the idea of India is.
    Tamil secessionist tendencies that came to the fore in the 60s were never entirely crushed, but always lurking beneath the surface as we are figuring out now.

    To me there are only two things that unite India –
    – Brahminical Hinduism
    – The legacy of British rule

    Areas where both these factors were historically weak have already seceded (Eg: Pakistan). Areas where one of these factors is weak can potentially secede (Eg: TN, North east)

  4. @shrikanthk
    I think the best solution is to have an European union kind of mechanism, and have each state(country) dictate its foreign affairs and other issues. An union would enable the movement of workforce and not change the current situation for people. A complete division into 25 countries with strict border control will be a viable option if people of each state/country decide so in the future.

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