Moving Beyond Gujral Doctrine
National Security has been a consistent commitment of the Bharatiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance. This encompasses not only securing India’s borders but also ensuring people of India are safe anywhere in the world. Be it the bold move to display India’s nuclear capability in the past, the iconic land boundary agreement with Bangladesh or Operation Raahat where over 4600 people were evacuated from Yemen. This comes from the clarity that there can be no economic development without secure people and borders.
BJP lead NDA government has no compromise as far as national security is concerned. The steps taken by the Narendra Modi government should be seen as a continuum in strategy with a marked shift in tactics. The government does not carry any burden of past policies and its actions related to foreign policy or national security are defined by India’s interests alone. The de-hyphenation of India-Israel relations or the bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir were done keeping interests of the country at forefront. In this context, it will be safe to say that what we are witnessing in India currently is a doctrinal change in India’s national security and foreign policy.
The last known Gujral Doctrine talked of South Asian countries respecting territorial integrity and sovereignty and settling the disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations. Government of India had a self imposed sealing that Indian forces would not cross the Line of Control or International Border overtly. Even during Kargil war when Pakistan Army and its sponsored Mujahideen had captured Indian territory we adhered to this doctrine. Our retaliatory action was confined to the Line of Control. Not anymore, over the past two terms Narendra Modi government has decided to scrap this mindset.
Early signs of this shift were evident along the Eastern borders of the country. After some of our soldiers were attacked and killed by NSCN (K) terrorists in Manipur, India not only acted against them but also publicized its actions, to highlight this shift. The surgical strikes on terror launch pads deep inside the territory of Pakistan occupied Kashmir after Uri terrorist attack was second in sequence. Though it was a covert operation and not meant to be publicized, continuous onslaught by the opposition political parties necessitated that the government had to make it public.
The attack in Pulwama, like that in Mumbai was conceived by the non state actors sitting within the territory of Pakistan with the active connivance of the Pakistani state. Government of India could have waited and sent dossiers but instead decided to act. Jaish-e-Mohammed the UN designated terrorist organization was behind the Pulwama attack of 2019. JeM was founded by Masood Azhar who was released from Indian prison after a coercive act of hijacking a passenger aircraft. In line with the changed doctrine India acted against his outfit. The strike in Balakot in broad daylight with the use of Indian Air Force was significant. India had indicated to the world that it will not hesitate to go to any extent to protect its people and its territory. Sponsors of terror will be targeted at a place and time of its choosing.
Recently, Parliament of India exercised its sovereign right to amend Article 370 and create the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. Although Pakistan is making huge noise the fact remains that it is purely an internal matter of India. Government of India has amended clauses of an article from the temporary and transient part of the constitution according to the provisions of the law. One fails to understand how another country has any locus stand in matters internal to India. The amendment of Article 370 and abrogation of Article 35A has removed gender and socio-economic discrimination and will provide a flip to economic activity in the region. What happened in Parliament of India on 5th August, 2019 is not only historic but has been in line with Government’s policy to take all necessary actions to protect its people and borders. With the creation of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and direct monitoring of the security situation by the Home Ministry, India will be better equipped to handle any untoward situation that might fall upon us in view of the changing geo-political environment in Afghanistan.
Desperate Pakistan which had already divided the territory in its occupation in two parts and abrogated state subject rule in Gilgit Baltistan with the object of changing demography has been crying hoarse on this matter. After failing to get any international support for its protest, it decided to suspend bilateral trade with India and downgrade diplomatic ties. These steps have primarily been taken for domestic consumption to assuage public reaction that some action has been taken. Another objective of Pakistan is to project to the international community that the relations between two nuclear armed neighbours have deteriorated abysmally. Pakistan’s intent for last few decades has been to get the international community to mediate in Jammu and Kashmir. We have repeatedly called out Pakistan’s nuclear bluff and blackmail no longer works. The manner in which Indian government has dealt with Pakistan’s desperate measures show its maturity and the new approach of dealing with security threats both diplomatically and on ground.
(Alok Bansal is Director, India Foundation and Aaditya Tiwari is Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh. The article was first published at Russian Council