The international response to the IAF’s air strike in Balakot reflects not only the changed course of India’s foreign policy but also its growing clout
In the midst of a troublesome war hysteria in the Indian sub-continent, the release of Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was heartening. This is not only indicative of India’s determination to fight terrorism but also speaks volumes about a very successful foreign and defence policy as we were able to expose and isolate Pakistan at international fora. Despite urging both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, China’s keenness for India’s participation in the 16th meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China in Wuzhen on February 27, and the issuance of a joint communiqué to bring countries who back terrorism to justice, reflect Pakistan’s complete isolation.
Statements issued by China are important as they came at a time when Pakistan violated Indian airspace and captured our pilot in the wake of IAF’s pre-emptive strikes at the JeM camp in Balakot. The condemnation of all forms of terrorism as a threat to humanity by the three Ministers signifies the success of India’s foreign policy in isolating Pakistan, an aim which India always failed to achieve in earlier wars/disputes with Pakistan. The best example is the 1971 India-Pakistan war, wherein despite awareness and knowledge about cases of grave violation of human rights, the US sided with Pakistan in support of its policy of triangular relationship with Pakistan and China. The Cold War mindset was so much dominant that the US not only gave a cold shoulder to India’s then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi but also sent its seventh fleet enterprise in the Bay of Bengal to demoralise and terrorise India with its gunboat diplomacy. India neutralised this threat with an all-out support of the erstwhile Soviet Union. However, the diplomatic advantage of good relations with the USSR was lost with the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. India was left on its own. The new economic stratagem — nuclear power status and Look East policy — provided India an opportunity to register its presence in a fast changing, power-hungry world.
China’s resurgence as an aggressive power after the fall of the Soviet Union, policies of territorial aggrandisement and encirclement of India through the Belt and Road Initiative led to a close collaboration between India and America. Though the US’ pivoting of Asia and its stress on the Indo-Pacific paradigm highlight the importance of India in the US’ designs to check China’s growing influence, the kind of support reflected by its current statements was not available earlier. During the Kargil war of 1999, the US’ policy of equating India and Pakistan and the two-country visit was intact even though India was confronting terrorists and the Pakistani Army. Although during his South Asia visit after the Kargil crisis, the then US President, Bill Clinton, refrained from meeting the then Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf, he did visit Pakistan and gave a message of four ‘R’s to both India and Pakistan, which was not in good taste for us. However, this time, even though the US insisted on exercising restraint and avoiding escalation to both India and Pakistan, in contravention to the previous administration’s policies, it did acknowledge India’s right to conduct punitive action against terrorist camps and shifted the onus on Pakistan to take a significant action against the terrorist groups it hosts.
In a press conference held by the three chiefs of the Indian armed forces, where they showcased the pieces of missiles loaded in F-16 planes — sold by the US to Pakistan for the purpose of fighting terrorism — as a proof of Pakistan’s military misadventure, Islamabad stood completely exposed. Further more, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s participation and address as a guest of honour in the organisation of 47 Islamic Countries’ association for the first time put Pakistan in a disadvantageous situation. The non-participation of Islamabad in this forum to protest India’s participation, which generally extends its support to Pakistan on Kashmir issue, is a big diplomatic victory for India’s foreign policy. The opportunity provided to India after a long gap clearly means that Modi’s hugging diplomacy has been successful. Although Modi’s stage-managed town hall-type gatherings at foreign countries and his gesture of receiving important dignitaries at the airport received criticism as being “wasteful” and “useless”, they have surely reaped benefits. The consensus of France and other countries to support the proposal of identifying JeM chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist in the UN further confirms the same.
The use of F-16 against India instead of counter-terrorism operations has also put Pakistan in a bad light. The support received by India from the international community for its non-military pre-emptive strike against Pakistan was unprecedented. This not only reflects the changed course of India’s foreign policy but also its growing clout. India has entered a new path and phase of activist foreign policy, which needs to be appreciated and not criticised.
(The writer is professor of political science, HNB Garhwal University, Uttarakhand)
Tuesday, 05 March 2019 | Annpurna Nautiyal | in Analysis
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