If you get an opportunity to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) you need to ensure that you position your country as a major player on the global stage.
You can do this by resisting the impulse to go with the ‘same old, same old’ and downsizing your foreign policy out of force of habit.
And while we are accustomed to seeing the best in whatever External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj says and does — often deservedly — this time the plaudits being given to her are not commensurate with the lack of vision on display.
Swaraj missed a golden opportunity to bolster India's standing by focussing so much on Pakistan.
While the most quotable parts of her speech are about our embittered neighbour, our foreign policy has always been myopic and we frequently set the stage for Pakistan to strike back with ugly rhetoric.
Even though the Pakistani representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, messed up by foolishly brandishing a photograph of young Rawya abu Jom’a, a girl injured in Gaza in 2012 and attempting to pass it off as evidence of Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir firing pellets on civilians, that embarrassing faux pas is even more reason why we shouldn't focus so much on Pakistan.
By exchanging insults with Pakistan at the UNGA, we're only puffing them up to our size, strength and status and projecting that this is a battle of equals. This is the intrinsic flaw in India's marketing of itself these past 70 years. And we still can't get rid of it.
Let's be frank: Pakistan is not in our league. And never will be.
Why then, give it legitimacy? Let's reduce it to a few pages in our policy blue book and move forth. Onwards and upwards, as it were.
Also, it's high time we decided that we can handle Pakistan on our own. We don't need to go to the world and look for justification.
We're finding solace in a war of words, where none ought to be found. Swaraj received praise for labelling Pakistan ‘terroristan.’ But that's just populist rhetoric. What did that achieve?
Swaraj added that while India created IITs and IIMs, Pakistan created Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and the Haqqani Network.
Lodhi hit back with a load of nonsense about India being the ‘mother of terrorism’. No one takes that seriously.
Thus was an occasion for showing off our country's vision reduced to a 'she said/she said' squabble.
Considering Swaraj brought up vital issues such as climate change, maritime security, unemployment, gender empowerment, nuclear proliferation, and cybersecurity, she should have not brought Pakistan into the mix.
Instead, she should have shown her contempt by ignoring Pakistan entirely. It does us no good to focus on this rogue nation and generates no advantage. Nothing changes.
India should have offered its services as a mediator between North Korea and the USA. Taken the lead over the question of resettling 65 million displaced people, a number that will rise even further by the end of this year.
She should have discussed poverty, disease, unemployment and focussed the world's attention on terrorism without giving Pakistan the opportunity to whine.
Sometimes, ignoring the enemy is the best form of diplomacy.
We have to learn how to use these occasions to focus on the big picture.
All these issues, including Swaraj's call for UN reforms, were eclipsed by the back and forth with Pakistan.
And that's a pity.
The media reported on it as if it was two spoiled brats brawling in the schoolyard during lunch break.
One can only hope that India graduated from that juvenile level a long time ago.
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Updated Date: Sep 25, 2017 19:25:19 IST