An “epiphany” of sorts woke me up from deep slumber in terms of career goals and priorities, in my mid thirties. After wandering hither and thither (and having up grown Kashmiri), it dawned upon me to study International Relations and Politics and make it a career choice. The operating premise of my desire to study International Relations was to help in making “the world a better place”. Admittedly, (but , in retrospect and hindsight), there was an element of grandiosity to this desire. In consonance with this new found “vocation”, I studied International Relations and allied disciplines- political economy, cultural studies, policy analysis and other related disciplines-on my own and later sought and worked towards a formal degree, from a Western University, towards my rather vainglorious end. I excelled in the program and was awarded a Master’s with distinction. But, fate had something different in store for me. A family issue made me return to Kashmir. And, here I am now, in my native place.
During the phase or course of studying formally the discipline of International Relations, I was still hunky dory about it. But, as I have grown older, (perhaps more mature), and more exposed through the media coupled with some intuitive as well as empirical study and understanding of International Relations and the world of Foreign Policy (as an outside observer), I have grown to loath the discipline. (In fact, I am disgusted with it). The reasons pertain to my understanding of both International Relations and Foreign Policy. Both, to state the obvious, pertain to and revolve around the primary and fundamental unit of international politics, the state. And, the primary motive and rationale of the state, notwithstanding the lip gloss that some theories put on it, is survival, security and power. In the quest of this troika, any given state can do anything. (Anything means literally anything and , in the final analysis, there are no moral or ethical constraints on states external orientations).
Consider the making of making foreign policy. A state and the practitioners of its foreign policy, in its quest for power, security and interest can define these either in narrow or expansive terms. Either way, the whole process entails competition, rivalry and conflict with other states, sometimes even war. Barring trade (and that too, not all the time), this competition is zero sum. That is, one state aims to gain at the expense of other(s). Sometimes, there is a mutuality of interests that bind together a group of states and they enter into alliances with other states against a state or others. (There are times and instances when non state actors are involved too, either as foes or allies). States, in the quest in contention, take recourse to assassinations, insurgencies, counter insurgencies killings, and other insalubrious and even horrific activities . In the whole saga, to underscore the point and to emphasize it, at the risk of repetition, it is state interests, power and security (as defined by the state), that is the raison d’etre or the animating premise of states. Foreign policy, then is the conduit of state interests and power. Human rights, human welfare, societal or other universal themes like international development, human development hardly figure in these schemata. If at all they do, state interests again are paramount. But, generally speaking, the real premises and agendas foreign and security policy, made usually, sub rosa (in secret) with some going through the motions mechanisms of scrutiny and what have you, so to speak, is often times obscured from the public. But, the presentation of a given foreign policy, is decorated rhetorically with fine sounding (or at times menacing) phrases to make it palatable and acceptable to the broader public (which pays the real prices for a given state’s foreign policy). There then is a load of hypocrisy and double standards that go into the making and presentation of foreign and security policies.
(Yes, there are international organizations like the United Nations and so on that are meant to obviate and ameliorate the competition and conflict between states, but these organizations too, bear the dark ingress of states and state interests)
If a balanced score card of international relations and foreign policy making is undertaken, it reveals a dark and an insalubrious side of secrecy, deception, practice of dark arts, ruthlessness and even a brutal facet. Public or global public good- themes, ideas and practices I had associated with International Relations – are, in reality far from it. I hope(perhaps against hope) that my assessment is not entirely correct regarding these disciplines but the state of the world does not offer or accord any indications to the contrary. I, unfortunately or fortunately, and have grown totally alienated and estranged from International Relations and politics. Have my endeavors then been all in vain? Has my formal, informal and intense study then been a waste of time? I doubt. The realization and understanding that these disciplines are not for me would not have happened if I had not studied these. Yes, there was an opportunity cost involved but, in the final analysis, it was all well worth it.
But now that I think I am neither meant for nor cut out for these, what next for me?
Writing and poetry. And, social work and/ or the world of commerce.
A new more grounded and hopefully decent and honorable world beckons!
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]