Pulwama- a tipping point in Indian’s Foreign Policy?
by Dr. Anjali Kanojia, Ph.D
As the diaspora woke up on Valentine’s day, most received good morning text messages with flowers, heart photos, and emojis while many of us also had news awaiting on our phones about the brutal attack against the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Pulwama. The immediate response to such depraved inhumanity imposed by Islamic terrorists on Indian soil warrants our sympathy and financial help for the forty souls who lost their lives without a real chance to fight. But, most of us remain shocked and exceedingly perplexed about long-term strategies towards Islamist terrorism and the deteriorating state of Pakistan.
Solutions covered in the media and within public opinion range from diplomacy to declaration of war on the same groups which have been responsible for multiple attacks on India. Further solutions include: increasing dialogue and engagement with Pakistan, Islamic terrorists, or a combination of the two, engaging the international community to isolate Pakistan via sanctions and re-examining aid, engaging China in order to weaken Pakistan-China ties, immediate strikes on those responsible to seek revenge, a planned surgical strike to isolate and weaken those responsible, empowering separatist movements within Pakistan to further weaken the state machinery and governance highlighting the plight of minorities in the provinces and exposing the day-to-day hardships faced by them including but not limited to kidnapping of minority, including Hindu children and women, forced conversions, love jihad, and brutal murders, and long-term strategies such as engaging and empowering Non-Governmental Organizations NGOs on the ground to do exactly the type of work which has been occurring in India. Lastly, a strategy from outside the government involves the use of social media to expose the realities on the ground, including education through facts, historical accounts, and statistically valid data to counter alternative facts and false narratives which have been increasingly prominent in all sectors of society, including academia.
Let us examine the feasibility of some of the strategies. Dialogue and diplomacy are the pillars of democracy and international relations. However, what is the value of diplomacy for nations which are religious republics or those who are communist in nature? Should India utilize instruments understood by the nation with which she’s trying to build bridges with, or continue to use democratic tools which seem to have little to no effect throughout history, at least during her post-independence period? How does India efficiently deal with the growing threat of the Islamic-Communist nexus within her soil and outside her borders? Active international engagement with hostile nations ought to continue in nature, not just reactive after experienced setbacks. This will require a larger budget toward growing India’s diplomatic corps as well as active lobbying by the Indian diaspora in respective nations.
The United Nations too needs lobbying from the Indian angle given China usually sides with Pakistan and against India. If we look at increasing India’s pressure on Pakistan internationally, most likely the aid going to Pakistan will slowly dwindle, allowing non-governmental actors such as NGOs to step in and provide help and stability to those who have been marginalized by society. This may not occur overnight but the strategy might work. As far as strikes and retaliation is concerned, the common public is rarely aware of such moves until after they’ve occurred. However, the unity of the Indian public opinion including the diaspora seems to indicate that such a strike orchestrated by the Government of India would be more than welcome. Use of social media to show the reality in Kashmir, and education of the people on the history of Kashmir, such as the exodus of Hindu Pandits and miscalculations and bad policy-making post-Independence, might prove worthwhile in the age of hyper-liberalization regarding situations and circumstance. In the short-run, better planning and coordination are warranted in moving large convoys, and petitioning for better protection such as body armor, vehicles, and tanks to be included in the budget is important as well. The Government of India has big objectives to accomplish with her neighbors, such as strengthening relations with Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal is crucial; maintaining dialogue with Iran and influence over the Maldives, contributing towards stability in Afghanistan too is a must. The need for a strong diplomatic core is important now more than ever.
History and Political Science research has shown that the public rallies behind the flag in moments of turmoil such national upheaval. In this case, it would mean that the citizens of India would be more supportive of Prime Minister Modi and trust his judgment regarding Pulwama. The incumbent therefore, has an advantage when national security is under attack. Stability in government and the unwavering support of whichever party or entity is at the Center is usually preferred by the public in comparison to unnecessary political swaps during times of crisis. Many of us remember our differences with U.S. President George Bush (43rd President), but the traumatic events during 9/11 served as a tipping point in his presidency, united everyone behind his agenda, including the war in Afghanistan and then fighting in Iraq.
Though the public may forget the emotions, despair and loss felt on February 14, 2019 and onward, this extremely sad and violent attack on the CRPF may help keep the Modi government in power during upcoming elections in May 2019. Also, this event may allow a usually cautious India to actively take an aggressive stance against terrorism, and not simply the usual reactive approach. Families who lost members in the attack stated that they are proud of the family member’s life which was lost and though they are devastated, have no regrets; this shows their pride in service to the country and resilience against evil forces. Many of us who have looked upon this tragedy have further firmed up our belief that the code of dharma, or righteous conduct will prevail and that the laws of karma will spare no one.
Anjali Kanojia, Ph.D. is a Political Scientist and views expressed here are her own.
अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का न मे लक्ष्मण रोचते जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी
THE COUNCIL FOR STRATEGIC AFFAIRS, NEW DELHI