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India After Kargil : Diplomacy & Politics
Implications & Trends
The private and public stance of many Asian and European countries has also been pro-India, though less vocally so than the US. France has quietly suspended delivery of previously
contracted military hardware supplies to Pakistan, which included 32 upgraded Mirages and a brand new Agosta-class submarine, and senior German and British officials have urged Pakistan to "respect the LOC" China and Islamic bloc nations have remained largely neutral despite intense lobbying by Pakistan, and this in itself is seen as a plus for India. Even the international media, particularly from the US and UK has supported Indias claim that the Kargil war was inspired and supported, if not implemented, by the Pakistan army (see box on Page 3).
This is perhaps the first time in many years that India has not been on the diplomatic defensive over Kashmir, and most people here are somewhat surprised by, and unprepared for, this unexpected show of international support. Reactions among Indian policy makers and analysts have mirrored this confusion: there are either strong misgivings of having been finessed into allowing outside mediation in the Kashmir dispute, or optimism over a "new chapter" in relations with the US.
What happens from here ? What will be the implications on Indian diplomacy, public opinion and politics ? And what will be the impact of all this on foreign investors ? Some trends are already clear:
Continuing Indo-Pak skirmishes over Kashmir, and their mutual incessant battle of wits and words in international fora, have often warped and obfuscated the larger dynamics of each countrys changing relations with the outside world. And if viewed separately from Kashmir, Pakistan has lost much of its Cold War strategic value and has been unable to cultivate strong economic interests, institutional linkages or favourable public opinion within western nations. Pakistan may even be in danger of emulating India of the 70s and 80s: isolated from the global mainstream and able to draw support only from a single international bloc, that too a bloc which has peaked in clout or cohesion. In Indias case it was NAM, in Pakistans it is OIC.
Even before Kargil, newspapers in the US and UK had begun to report on Pakistans complicity in supporting militancy in Kashmir. The Times (London) reported in December 98 that "there are no longer effective Kashmiri militant groups left in the Valley and foreign mercenaries are firmly in control....Pakistans influence in spreading Islamic extremism in Kashmir is pivotal, and fundamental groups in Pakistan admit to training Pakistanis and Afghans for guerrilla warfare in the region." This was the first time that any reputed Western source had supported Indian contention on Kashmir, and was an indication of a shift in overall western thinking on South Asia.
slowly lost much of its early support in the US, and the decline has been rapid since the
departure of Robin Raphael from the South Asia bureau at State. Even the Defense
Department, a key ally in earlier times, has reduced army cooperation and joint exercises,
and did not help Pakistan in getting delivery of F-16 fighter jets. Senator Tom Harkin
(Iowa) is the last key Pakistani friend and can be expected to push for pro-Pakistan
proposals, such as US mediation in Kashmir, but his ability to help Pakistan is limited
because he has lobbied far too often on Pakistans behalf in recent times without
obtaining a desired quid pro quo for American power, pharma and telecom companies.
2) Kargil Aside, India-US Relations Have Picked Up Momentum
It is perhaps ironical that Indias nuclear tests have actually been a trigger for both countries to carry out a more concentrated dialogue and mutual discovery than ever before, and both have come out with less rigid perceptions. The US is now taking a more long-term view of India, removed from the Kashmir dispute, and public opinion in India is also becoming more pro-US, or at least less anti-US, especially after Kargil. India-US ties are moving forward, but the onus is on India to provide real depth by addressing specific concerns over CTBT, tariff cuts and market access. However, India does have breathing time till 2000 and only then will a new US administration (Republican or Democrat) or a new US Congress begin to act strongly over these issues.
US firms are unhappy with hassles and slow pace of reforms in India, but many have also realized that India is relatively safer in the long term because of its legal and financial structures. Whether India does it willingly or under force of WTO agreements, market access for US exporters and manufacturers will probably be given even in the remaining areas in the next 5 years, and the next round of reforms will cover housing, healthcare, insurance and banking sectors, areas where US firms have a global edge. Many existing US investments in India will by that time, in all likelihood, also start showing profits. US economic exposure in India will inevitably become stronger in the medium term, even if the exact path is long and tedious.
US firms have lobbied on behalf of India in the past, notably when economic sanctions were imposed after Indias nuclear tests, and have done so now during the Kargil crisis. In a recent article in the International Herald Tribune, titled "Pakistan Ought to Concentrate on Pulling Itself Together," a leading US business executive, not a diplomat or academic, openly commented on Pakistans role in Kargil and criticized its "obsession with India." The expanding overlap between American diplomacy and business in respect to India now includes many former US diplomats acting as advisors to US firms in India, from Henry Kissinger down to a few Ambassadors to countless mid-level officials. There is little of this trend in Pakistans case. This parallel diplomacy track between India-US is providing more access for the Indian viewpoint.
American think tanks and policy institutes have changed in character and focus since the end of the Cold War-- this change is reflected in their staff and research -- and many have now added economic and social dimensions to their analysis, especially the unstated mission to promote democratic institutions abroad. Though interest in India is still low, many have now begun to notice India as a relatively attractive market, open society and viable democracy. Reputed organizations such as the Brookings Institute, CSIS, Cato Institute, Asia Society, Center for International Private Enterprise, Rand Institute, Heritage Foundation and Council on Foreign Relations have shown more attention and favourable treatment to India than earlier.
The diplomatic corps in both Europe and America has slowly changed in the past two decades in demography and culture. There are many more women, business executives, social workers, journalists and ethnic minorities in the service, and most of these new groups do not have the typical big power diplomacy mindset. If anything, they have neutral-to-positive feelings towards India. Similar changes are happening on the Indian side as well, and the younger generation of Indian diplomats is less dogmatic or preachy. It is important not to exaggerate US fondness for India, but these cultural and attitudinal shifts have injected a greater personal ease in the relationship -- the current US Ambassador normally even avoids wearing a suit when meeting Indian leaders -- and less inclination to dwell on an estranged past.
Indias cyberspace triumph was perhaps even more convincing than its diplomatic or military victory, courtesy an active Indian community in America which is becoming more organized and effective in lobbying. Internet polls by CNN/TIME brought forth overwhelming support for India, hundreds of bulletin boards decrying Pakistan were set up (including a site called www.roguearmyout.com), newspapers and Congressmen were sent a deluge of emails and letters, and a full-page ad was issued in The Washington Post detailing Pakistans role in supporting militancy in Kashmir. Growing activism by Indian Americans, and their increasing profile in the US economy, has been noticed by US legislators: one of out four US Congressmen is now a member of the India Caucus.
Repeated assertions of a no-first-use nuclear policy and its demonstrated restraint in respecting the LOC have been important factors in India getting Western support during Kargil, in comparison to Pakistan which has been severely criticized for even hinting at the possibility of a nuclear war. To a large degree, western nations no longer view India as guilty of the original sin, and it is Pakistan which is now seen as the bigger problem on the nuclear question, both in terms of the CTBT and sale of nuclear technology to a third party. In the minds of many western analysts is the unstated fear, and this is perhaps overplayed by India, of an unstable Pakistan selling N-bombs to Islamic terrorist groups.
Leftist intellectuals are still well entrenched in key institutions in India, but their voice is increasingly in a minority. Anti-US mood has declined since the emergence of the middle class, and has visibly abated after Kargil. Even criticism of NATOs bombing of Serbia has vanished almost overnight. In an internet poll taken after Kargil by The Times of India, a majority voted to offer generous terms to the US in WTO negotiations and to provide bases to US army to fight Islamic guerrillas in Afghanistan. The significance is not in the result of this rather unscientific poll, but that a newspaper known to reflect establishment and left-of-centre views should even ask these questions. Indians are prone to quick changes in mood, and Indian gratitude to the US over Kargil could easily wane, but for the first time there is a feeling here that the US has acted as a friend. This allows the BJP some latitude in speeding economic reforms. At a minimum, the tone of Indias foreign policy under Jaswant Singh, who is likely to continue as foreign minister, will become more friendly towards the US.
also been a maturing of western perception of the BJP. The BJPs connection to the
hard-line RSS still draws occasional negative comments in the western press, but the party
has moved a long distance in international credibility since the days when it was viewed
only as a party of Hindu fanatics. In fact, as US officials privately
acknowledge, America would prefer to deal with BJP rather than with Congress. For India,
and for BJP, a valuable lesson which has been learnt is that restraint and going along
with world opinion wins friends. Signing the CTBT is still politically risky in India, but
the BJP/RSS leadership is now more willing to go along than ever before, just as long as
they can get parliamentary approval. Ironically, the treaty now faces serious legislative
opposition in Russia and the US, and is unlikely to be ratified by either country. This
will provide some breathing space to India, at least for a while.
3) Instability and Anti-US Mood Will Grow in Pakistan
Both warring nations have indulged in huge propaganda, but Pakistan much more than India. The general public in Pakistan has been fed an overdose of anti-India stories and distorted media reports of developments surrounding the Kargil conflict. Consequently, a majority of people are still not reconciled to the end result, and blame the US. The dominant public mood is a combination of disbelief, confusion, anger and betrayal. It is difficult to predict the outcome of this heady mix of emotions, or to speculate on whether Prime Minister Sharif will ride out the current wave of protests against him, but trends in Pakistan strongly favour anti-western, Islamic tendencies. Pakistan is very likely headed towards extreme social and political instability.
There is an air of unreality in the Pakistani version of events. Most Pakistanis believe they were winning the war "until the US stepped in and saved India." Daily news reports in the local press have been full of stories of how the "mujahideen are whipping the better-armed Indians," and how "Indian forces are on the run." In the last week of June most independent western news media, such as AFP and Reuters were reporting major Indian military gains. For example, The Economist said at that time "With its army gaining ground against the intruders, India has now eliminated most of the threat to a crucial road that links Srinagar to the main city in Ladakh. Faced with setbacks, Pakistani-backed forces have tried to open new fronts." At the same time, the Pakistani media was giving quite another picture. Pakistan News Agency reported that "Indian army suffers setbacks at many places," and The News, one of Pakistans most influential newspapers, reported that "Muslim freedom fighters of Kashmir are consolidating their hold on the Kargil mountains." General Hamid Gul, ex head of the ISI, even predicted "Indian troop surrender" and this was headlined in The Pakistan Observer on June 27. Post-Kargil, the most comment lament among Pakistani commentators is that Pakistan has succumbed to US pressure and that this is a glaring example of "how a fight won on a battlefield is lost on the table."
Extreme anger at the US is now visible in almost all sections of Pakistani society, specially among Islamic groups who have threatened to attack US targets in the event of an American raid on Osama bin Laden. The leader of the influential Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam party, has been reported by western news agencies as saying that "If there is an attack on Afghanistan then there will be war, not against America but against Americans...neither the ambassador nor any American diplomat in Pakistan will be safe." This threat is being taken seriously, and the US Embassy in Islamabad has already evacuated more than 75 dependents of diplomatic personnel in the first week of August. The US has also issued a travel advisory on Pakistan.
Anti-US sentiment is growing not just on the street but also within the armed forces who are perhaps feeling the maximum sense of shame and betrayal. Daily, there are many articles or emotional press interviews by retired Pakistani officers, full of hate towards the US for its purported "anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan and pro-India" stance. Two instances of this are "An Analysis of American Terrorism" and "Defeat Made in USA," both published in The Nation, a newspaper which represents the thinking of the ruling Punjabi elite.
Ironically, senior generals are themselves feeling pressure from lower ranks. Pakistans diplomatic postures and military setbacks (against a larger Indian force) in Kargil have deprived the army a glorious role, unlike in India where war heroes and even whole regiments have been beatified by the media. TV images of India burying unclaimed bodies of Pakistani soldiers has caused enrage. Clearly worried by this mood, both Sharif and General Musharaff have now begun to publicly commend the regiments involved in the Kargil incursion, and the government has announced generous financial compensation to those dead or wounded. But it may already be too late to curb a growing sense of alienation in the army. In light of the fact that middle and lower ranks of the army are already quite Islamicized, this could well lead to a serious rupture in civilian-army balance of power in the future. Whether or not the Pakistan army steps in again to govern the country, it is now more likely that the next Army Chief will be tougher on the whole Kashmir issue and less willing to accept any compromise.
There is no
alternate leader to Nawaz Sharif in sight. Unlike India, Pakistan does not have many
national-level leaders who command respect across the country. Benazir Bhutto comes the
closest, but memories of her corruption are still fresh. And both the army and Islamic
groups will now be less inclined to serve under a woman, non-Punjabi politician, unless
she enters a tacit understanding on allowing them the final say on Kashmir policy.
Socially, there has been an Islamic resurgence for some time -- more than 15,000 new
madrassas have opened in the past decade -- and even educated people are
turning to religion, though this is still at the personal level. The overall political
landscape is unclear, but Kargil may now bring Islamic forces to power. At the very least,
it will distort the domestic political agenda in the short term and delay decisions on
market liberalization and fiscal reforms which are vital to earning badly needed foreign
exchange and international credibility.
4) India Is Realizing the Value of Moderation & Public Opinion
Both India and Pakistan have played extensively to the public gallery to score diplomatic and psychological points, and thanks to technology Kargil has been much more of a media and information war than any other recent geo-political conflict in Asia. As a matter of fact, Indian commentators are more excited about Indias diplomatic and media success than victory on the ground. A sure lesson learnt by both countries is the importance of world public opinion, a lesson which has perhaps sunk deeper and more naturally in India. But even Pakistani diplomats privately admit that a single interview on BBC Television by Pakistans hawkish Minister for I&B may have cost the country much international goodwill. India can now be expected to become more pro-active in its media diplomacy, but this will also open it to greater western scrutiny over domestic issues, including economic policy and human rights. India is still in the grey zone, between a new imperative to join the global mainstream and a historical aversion to follow what many here consider western dictates, but recent events may encourage moderation in social and economic views.
Earlier noises and demands over Article 370, Common Civil Code, WTO, etc do not figure in the national debate any more. A proposal by the RSS for deploying nuclear weapons in Kashmir was followed by strong editorials across the board, and Vajpayee himself called top RSS leaders to keep them quiet. The leader of the hard-line Shiv Sena party, normally not one to give up a fight, has stayed away from the limelight after public backlash on his remarks against a respected Indian Muslim actor. And Left parties, opposed to the new telecom policy, have avoided references to "pressure from US multinationals," a standard argument. There is now more sensitivity to guarding Indias international image, at least among senior politicians.
The western press has provided India a big edge by establishing and documenting Pakistans direct role in the Kashmiri secessionist movement. Previous Indian complaints about a western media bias have now largely died out, and it is likely that opposition to the entry of foreign newspapers in India will now be visibly less, at least if the BJP comes back to power.
India is better positioned than Pakistan to leverage its media, and this advantage will continue and grow in the medium term. The Indian media has greater experience, reach and credibility than in Pakistan where one section of the press is very hostile towards Sharif while the rest has suffered a serious erosion of credibility after Kargil. For instance, a Pakistan News Service story that "India is using chemical weapons," a serious charge in any other circumstance, was largely ignored by most western news agencies even though PNS carried this story for many days.
journalists in South Asia are generally quite disdainful of Indian officials and
politicians, and this attitude has not changed with Kargil. And so, future media diplomacy
is not going to be as easy as imagined by India. Also, many diplomatic experts in India
lack practical understanding of how international perceptions are shaped. The defense
minister was criticized by almost the whole Indian press and many former diplomats for
weakening Indias case by offering safe passage to Pakistan-backed
insurgents, whereas this offer actually won India many points in western capitals.
5) China Factor Will Continue To Help India
Even though Chinas refusal to support Pakistan was guided by practical self-interest -- China neither wants to set a precedent for Tibetan independence nor encourage Islamic separatism in the vicinity of its own Muslim province -- Kargil may have speeded up the thaw in Indo-China relations by providing a common purpose. Both India and China now have a mutual interest in containing regional instability, even if the mechanics and extent of any formal cooperation in this regard are uncertain.
US-China relations are more tenuous and uncertain than in a long time. The early-90s excitement among foreign firms over business opportunities in China has faded to a large degree, and the evolution of recent events, including Chinese threats over Taiwanese independence, have underscored the possibility of future confrontation on vital issues. Many of these contentious issues, such as WTO, nuclear spying and human rights, are unlikely to be resolved before US elections in 2000. Congressional Republicans led by Senator Jesse Helms, one of Taiwan's strongest supporters, have introduced 11 anti-China bills, and even though none of these bills is particularly worrying China has already queered relations between Democrats and Republicans. The possibility exists that China will become a major election campaign issue in the US.
Meanwhile, in China, the top leadership is trying to appease restive government and military officials who believe that too much has already been given away to the West. China has taken a series of measures in recent months which have made it unpopular all around. MNCs are upset over the withdrawal of concessions in telecommunications, banking and insurance sectors. Human rights activists are protesting Chinas denial of citizenship rights to many Hong Kong-born children. Asian nations are worried about Chinas deferment of arms controls talks and a new mood of confrontation. And China has inflamed pro-Tibet demonstrations in major western capitals by recently imposing its own hand-picked Panchen Lama, the second most important religious figure for Tibetans. Anti-China stories have increased in the international media, specially after US journalists were viciously attacked by Chinese protesters. All told, western honeymoon with China has peaked.
Foreign diplomats, including those who have served in Beijing, confirm that China is genuine about its neutrality between India and Pakistan. Even in 1991, during Premier Li Pengs visit to India, China had categorically stated that Kashmir was purely a bilateral dispute. Indo-China relations have thawed in recent months, an Indian delegation in March was warmly received and, what is significant, was given appointments with all the top people. Keeping Chinese sensitivity in mind India also did not allow the Dalai Lama to speak at an international democracy conference in New Delhi early this year.
above trends and equations, a number of implications can be drawn. First, neither China
nor any G7 government, and specially the Clinton administration, wants to rock the boat by
activating Kashmir as a burning global issue and, in the process, opening the Tibet
question. And it also does not suit China to allow US a primary space in Asian
geopolitics, especially in light of Kosovo. Second, Chinas stance on Kargil should
really not have come as a surprise to India, and the fact it did is a reflection of
continued Indian insecurity and confusion vis-à-vis China. There is no unanimity in
Indian policy circles on whether India should ally with China to stop US predominance, or
the other way around. Indo-China relations will continue to be ambiguous at a higher
geopolitical level, but in the short to medium term, and certainly in the immediate
context, the China factor will help India in multiple ways.
6) Kashmir Has Been Internationalized, But So Has The LOC
Kashmir has been internationalized, but in a context which is favourable to India. First, Kargil has brought about a slight pro-India change of heart around the world. Second, and even more significantly, western countries are now less concerned by finer points of law and history, and want a practical and quick solution which can stop this conflict from spiraling out of control. There is growing international opinion, quietly but surely, on converting the current Line of Control into an international border, an idea which India would gladly accept but which Pakistan vehemently opposes. Ironically, it is Indias own opposition to international mediation which is becoming a barrier to public endorsement of this formula by western nations.
One subtle side-effect of the Kargil conflict is that the Line of Control has become a psychological reference point for many western nations to judge who has been the aggressor and who the victim. The LOC is identified both with the beginning and the end of the Kargil war, and words such as "incursion across the LOC" and "respect for the LOC" were among the most frequently used phraseology in international press reports and official statements. In some ways, the LOC has already been sanctified as an international border.
Indias defensive and ducking attitude over the years on Kashmir have frustrated most western diplomats, and if anything have only added to western doubts over Indias moral and legal claim to Kashmir. The Indian case looks more shaky every time Amnesty International reports on human rights violations in the province, and even during the Kargil war many international agencies and editorials were demanding a greater say for the local population, if not for a final solution to Kashmir under UN auspices (see page 3). But whatever the international press might say, western nations in reality have few choices after Kargil, and neither independence nor plebiscite are attractive options from the western perspective. Both would only strengthen militant Islamic forces, at least in the immediate context, which is the least desired outcome. The LOC formula appears the most sensible to western diplomats, but no country is willing to take an open stand unless India accedes to international mediation, something which the current public mood and politics in the country will not allow.
Kashmir does not offer any clear strategic gains to the West, and it is important only because of the risk of nuclear escalation or regional instability. Already, Islamic groups have intensified their fight for independence in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan. With elections around the corner and far more important issues on hand, President Clinton is likely to assign a lower priority to this dispute as long as another India-Pakistan clash does not erupt. The US will prefer that India re-starts dialogue with Pakistan, even if only to offer the latter a face-saving way out and to avoid further escalation, but it will not push India to the negotiating table. And after Kosovo, Arab or Muslim sentiment is now less likely to be a factor in US policy in South Asia. America has already won diplomatic points with a majority of the Arab world by helping the Muslim population of Kosovo, allowing the US to adopt a tougher and independent line against Islamic militancy.
Events in Kosovo favour India in yet another way. Despite NATOs success in that operation, western unity has actually been stretched to the brink and EU nations have lost enthusiasm for any costly military or diplomatic intervention around the world, much less in a messy dispute (Kashmir) which offers no attractive choices. Some EU nations, specially those who have a history of diplomatic activism, had been quietly working to push the Kashmir dispute higher on the global agenda, but that was before Kosovo and before Kargil. These initiatives have now been stalled. In fact, recent developments in Brussels favour a more accommodating European view of Indian sensibilities: both Mario Soares, the newly elected Speaker of the EU Parliament, and Romano Prodi, the new head of the EU Commission, are known to be very fond of India.
India may have gained diplomatically from Kargil, but it is now more committed and constrained militarily. Pakistan has shown that it can easily create another Kargil-like situation, and has been successful in raising Indias cost of defending Kashmir by tying down a large body of Indian troops and equipment.
continue to fester as a problem and there are chances of another limited escalation --
Pakistans army generals will not sit by quietly, and pressure on them to avenge for
Kargil will grow -- but a full-fledged war between India and Pakistan is unlikely. This is
because of a couple of reasons. First, India has learnt a valuable lesson about
moderation, and knows that it risks losing both its moral high ground and economic
recovery if it overreacts to any Pakistani provocation. Second, irrespective of their
brash rhetoric in the press Pakistani generals have privately been quite surprised and
taken aback by Indias strong military response, and are acutely aware of Indian
superiority in conventional forces, specially in the air. Border skirmishes will continue
but the risk of war is low, at least in the short term.
7) Indian Foreign Policy Will Focus More On US & Europe
One of the expected consequences of Kargil is that Indian foreign policy will now increasingly focus on Europe and the US, and disparate diplomatic initiatives of recent years, such as the Look East policy, the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative etc, will now assume lesser importance, at least in the purely diplomatic, non-economic sense. Already, there is increasing mention among Indian officials and intellectuals that what matters most for India is not G15 or G7, but G1, that is to say, the US. This may perhaps be typical Indian hyperbole, but recent events do support the view that at least in the context of Kashmir, which still remains its primary diplomatic concern, Indias success or failure will be shaped by its relations with the US.
Islamic-bloc nations, perhaps Pakistans last remaining friends, have lost clout in the past few years. Various developments of the nineties, such as globalization, satellite TV, internet and the Arab-Israeli peace accords, have put Islamic nations on the defensive, forced them to turn to domestic issues and have taken away their earlier sense of cohesion and international zeal. Indonesia and Malaysia are going through a painful process of political change, and are now anyway more anchored to Asia than Islam. Oil producing Arab states are threatened by new petroleum discoveries in Central Asia, and oil prices have been stayed at historically low levels in recent months. Militant Islamic movements pose a serious problem for Turkey, Egypt and Algeria, so much so that Pakistani lobbying on Kargil at the recent OIC summit was overshadowed by Algerias attempts to discuss laws for extradition of terrorists. And the emergence of the Taliban has been a divisive and destructive development, causing a PR problem for all Islamic nations. Even Iran is unhappy with the Taliban, and the two sides almost went to war last year after Taliban kidnapped nine Iranian diplomats. Also, very importantly, forex repatriation from overseas Indians working in Gulf nations is no longer as important an economic lifeline as it once was. Given this background, Islamic countries will become a lesser consideration for Indian foreign policy. Many Indian analysts have already started paying less attention to OIC resolutions on Kashmir, and a recent ban by the UAE government on import of South Asian labour, which would have become a major issue in earlier times, was only routinely reported by the local media.
During most of this conflict both Australia and Japan have stayed relatively aloof, and their response ran along neutral lines of wanting "peaceful settlement of all disputes." Same was the case with the media in both countries. However, well after Pakistans role in Kargil was already exposed by the western press, the Australian Financial Review came out with a hard hitting article, titled "Islamabad Pays High Price for Kashmir Incursion." At the recent ARF summit in Singapore the Australian Foreign Minister also commended India for showing "great restraint." Japan, whose initial offer to mediate in the Kashmir dispute irked India no small amount, has in recent days tried to make amends. Its ambassador to India, departing from Japanese media shyness, has given many interviews to the local press obliquely apologizing for Japans mishandling, and the Japanese Prime Minister has written to both Vajpayee and Sharif stressing "the need to resolve the Kashmir issue in the spirit of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration." The conclusion drawn by the Indian foreign office and many analysts is that neither Australia nor Japan are very important since they take their cue from the US.
officials are quite frustrated with Japanese reluctance to invest, and with their frequent
complaints about various regulations on import, indigenization, royalty payments and the
like. South Korea has in recent months overtaken both Japan and Germany in total foreign
investment in India, and is now beginning to be seen as a much more valuable Asian ally
than Japan. South Korean firms have also done a good public relations job in India in
recent months, including sponsoring foreign travels of key Indian economists and editors.
Early this year, Indian authorities fined a large number of Japanese firms for non payment
of tax, and despite high level lobbying by these MNCs the government did not bend. Unless
there is a jump in foreign investment from Japanese companies in the future, emotional and
diplomatic ties between the two countries will stay cool. India is no longer very
interested in wooing Japan.
8) Domestic Mood & Politics: Kargil Will Help BJP, But Only Slightly
Because of better media, and also some clever manipulation of public sentiment by the government, Indians have been more emotionally involved in this fight than Pakistanis, and there has been a resurgence of nationalism and anti-Pakistan sentiment. To some degree, though not much, there is a feel-good factor in the country which is due as much to positive economic news as to Indias victory in Kargil. But there is also a growing sense of uncertainty and disquiet at the course of future events in Kashmir, and over the possibility of war, at least among the educated classes. Public memory in India is also notoriously short, and already, just a few weeks after Kargil, the BJP has come under some pressure from opposition parties over accusations of an "intelligence lapse" and "unnecessary deaths of Indian soldiers," charges which are beginning to bite. Kargil will clearly favour the BJP, but it will be not be a dominant factor in these elections. The positive impact on the BJP will perhaps be felt more in the long term. Whether support for the BJP will increase or not in these elections, anti-BJP sentiment has certainly come down.
The way Vajpayee has handled this crisis has been appreciated by a majority of people. Even BJPs critics have noted that the hard-liners were kept on a tight leash and, except for a local incident in Gujarat, there were no anti-Muslim incidents. But nothing succeeds like success, and more than the way Kargil was handled is the end result, which is now a major feather in the BJPs cap. Intense media coverage of the war has also given party leaders more publicity than to the opposition, and has also helped build new bridges between the party and the English-language press. Most editorials and articles, even from long-time critics of the BJP, have largely been positive towards the BJP government.
In comparison, the Congress party has appeared ungracious and petulant at what many consider its needless criticism of the government at a time of war. Even though the BJP has been put on the defensive on the question why Kargil was allowed to happen in the first place, Congress has probably lost some support in northern India where anti-Pakistan feelings run high. Congress partys insistent demand for an emergency session of the Upper House, denied by the BJP, has not had any impact because legislative process is an obscure and irrelevant point with the masses. Kargil has limited Sonia Gandhis visibility in the media and has brought the Sonia v/s Vajpayee debate into sharper focus, both developments being to the disadvantage of the Congress party.
Another political consequence of Kargil is that the Bhagwat incident has now been pushed into distant memory. Admiral Bhagwat, who was fired by the BJP government last year as the Naval chief, was reportedly ready to join politics as a Congress candidate in these elections, a development which could have turned potentially embarrassing for the ruling party.
The BJP government on the whole has acted with restraint, but there have been a few incidents where the government has vied with the private media in going overboard on patriotism. For instance, huge advertisements issued by the Indian government in many national newspapers carried the following lines: "We, the people of India, affirm that we are with our brave soldiers as they go about giving the enemy a bloody nose," and "The nation salutes you, brave Indian soldiers, for your decency and big-heartedness in announcing that the Pakistani soldier captured will be treated as per Geneva conventions, and for giving Pakistani soldiers killed in battle whose bodies are turned away by their motherland at the LOC a decent burial." In any other circumstance, Left intellectuals in India would have lambasted this display of jingoism, and the fact they did not is a telling reminder that Kargil so highly consumed the nation that no major political group in India could afford to be seen as being soft on Pakistan.
all this, Kargil has genuinely touched a nerve in every part of the country. Whole
villages and localities have turned up for cremations of dead soldiers, strong passions
for rushing to the countrys defense have echoed in rural areas, school children have
sent cards and poems to soldiers by the bagful, celebrities have volunteered to visit
border troops to raise morale, and Indian companies have donated generously to various
Defense funds. The Indian Red Cross, which normally has to all but beg for blood
donations, received so many potential donors during the Kargil war that it had to publicly
request people to stop coming. Body bags of dead soldiers have arrived in almost every
province, and Kargil is perhaps the first India-Pakistan war which is really pan-Indian in
an emotional sense, and not just restricted to the northern states. In fact, Tamil Nadu
has collected the maximum private donations for war widows. In a perverse way, Kargil has
perhaps been good for national integration. It may also have arrested the growth of
regional political parties in India, though it is perhaps still too early to judge.
Also in August 1999 Issue
|Election Analysis & Forecast||Overall Summary & Impact on MNCs|
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