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“Modi Go Home”: India’s soft power credibility in danger

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Prime Minister Narendara Modi’s April 19, 2018 visit to London to attend the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was much anticipated and discussed in the public domain for two reasons. First, the non resident Indians’ (NRIs) bold protest against Modi was unexpected in the Westminster Streets of London and across the Western capitals. And second, Modi’s double stance was exposed the way he has spoken against the Congress Party when he was the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP with regard to the (December 2012, Nirbhaya incident) and now in the ruling side he responds determinedly tied his mouth to the similar cases.

Where has the 56 inch chest gone? Now people are asking why Modi is silent by watching the increasing attacks on women under his leadership. In the London streets, people were gathered raising slogans ‘We stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed’ with antagonism holding the banners ‘Modi Go Home.’ A big poster of Modi with a Nazi’s symbol carry the message of ‘Modi not welcome’ was fixed next to the UK Parliament building occupied every tourist walk on the Westminster Bridge crossing River Thames in the city of London. It indicates his deceptive politics are now realized internationally among Indian diasporas. Doesn’t he think this would tarnish India’s image in abroad?

In this article, I am analyzing how artificially created fame to Modi, one time he was falsely adorned by the NRIs in London and now brought shame to all Indians by the message of “Modi Go Home” in the world financial capital London.

Modi’s silence!

At the moment Prime Minister Modi is feeling the heat of his leadership failures one after other. One of the ‘hard-power’ recourses in the international power system is ‘economic power.’ His finance minister demonstrated the fact that Modi’s administration has no clue in managing India’s economy in these four years. The complete failure in articulating diplomacy and foreign policy of this government exposed their inability to keep India’s interest alive in international relations but also fails to hold our neighbors with us.

At this juncture Modi is facing an unexpected assertiveness from the NRI’s to take extraordinary efforts in registering their protest. Modi’s Government strategic restraint in arresting the criminals who raped and their stand behind the culprits exposed the original face domestically and abroad. Watching this brutality, India cried and the people were angered. Moreover, this situation gave a perception to the world to take a conclusion that India is against women under Modi’s leadership. The Congress Party led by Shri Rahul Gandhi organized candle light processions across India along with the public to give pressure on the BJP government to take appropriate action against the perpetrators.

After pressure mounted domestically, Modi got up from a week of silence and stated, “I want to assure the nation that no culprit will be spared. Our daughters will get justice”. Now the CBI arrested the BJP party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in connection with Unnao rape incident and link to the victim father’s custodial death. The important thing is the Unnao MLA raped his own constituent.

In the other case in Kathu of Jammu and Kashmir, eight-year-old Asifa was gang raped by a caretaker of a temple, and was finally murdered. You cannot imagine the amount of cruelty the girl experienced. The ugly part of the story was the two BJP ministers Lal Singh and Chandar Prakash Ganga from Jammu and Kashmir state government have participated in a rally conducted in supporting the accused in connection with the Asifa case in Kathu.  In these two incidents, the atrocities against children are not by the common men but by a Uttar Pradesh (UP) BJP MLA and the BJP party’s well wishers respectively. In the last ten years many BJP leaders are accused for their atrocities against women. Listing more than 21various atrocities unleashed by the BJP leaders across India on women ‘Human Rights Activist’ Karthik Navayan says, “Time to change the party name to Balatkari Janata Party?” (karthiknavayanwordpress.com).

‘Go Home Modi’

The central authority of the BJP now could not face the recent embarrassments like scientific corruptions by the BJP leader’s heirs, bank looters are allowed to escape with the support of Modi’s government, social disorder, self-proclaimed God-men and God-women are threatening the society, injustice to women and children. Moreover, one side the people of this country are in anger for being cheated by the false promises of Modi and now the other side women are worrying about their security under this leadership. But Modi says these matters should not be politicized. From his silence over these atrocities we can presume that his mind is more concerned about the Karnataka assembly elections.

In this scenario Modi’s recent visit to London got the attraction of the protestors instead of more plug cards to welcome Modi in the London streets. The streets flooded with the placards of “Go Home Modi” made the prime minster red-faced. The protesters stood strong against Modi due to his mute approach by not acting against his fellow party men involved in these two incidents now gradually loosing the support of India’s expatriates.

Last time when Modi visited London, his speech was attended by a crowd of 60,000 NRIs at Wembley Stadium. The cheerful Modi gave a long sermon which was neither converted to policy nor helped the expatriates in any way. In that visit Modi enjoyed the support from the NRIs and he was greeted from both sides of the London streets. He was admired for his dress, style, and voice and for his speeches. However, his visits abroad are more concentrated on himself in self-proclamation among the Indian expatriates than in articulating India’s interest with the specific countries. This time also Modi was expecting the same from the NRIs of UK. Like Indians domestically, the NRIs across the world also trusted his words blindly. Gradually watching his party regressive actions in India makes the NRIs irritated. At the end of the day they realized that all his words are utter lies, further no worthy in listening anymore because it doesn’t have any life. Now Modi looks trembling to face the Indian diasporas abroad after his recent visit to London was not a surprise.

Modi is very selective in receiving information from outside. He will only take a message that admires him. Well, he can be selective but he should not forget that the message failed to be received by him will react in the public domain. This is because Modi is the prime minister of this country for every Indian, but demonstrates that he is the prime minister for a selective section of people. He is very happy not to be the prime minister of minorities, women, dalits, adivasis and the devastated poor. After the London incident, Modi has added the NRIs also in this list. Hence, he will not lend his ear to these people.

Under Modi’s administration India’s soft-power credibility in danger

Our past prime ministers since Jawaharlal Nehru understand India’s credentials in soft-power. Hence, they used soft-power approach to promote India’s influence in abroad extensively. Prof. Nayar and Paul in their book acknowledge this and stated, “In terms of soft-power indicators, India’s position is significantly high in some areas while it has considerable potential in others.” In the last four years Modi is using ‘soft-power’ as his doctrine for foreign policy articulations.

In all his state visits he proclaimed to the world that we are a nation living together in peace and respecting each other though we are diverse. Although the prime minister is speaking this core values in his abroad visits, his party affiliates and him fail to practice this domestically. Our principle of unity in diversity is under attack from the BJP and RSS. Today in India, under Modi’s leadership our various institutions are facing huge challenges in discharging their duties. Difference of opinions are not accepted or tolerated by this government. It deeply pains us that the outfits of BJP threaten our different cultures, languages and religious practices but the prime minister of this country is demonstrating only a spectator. The world is watching our prime minister’s words and his actions very closely. Our ‘state capacity’ would be questioned soon if the prime minister is keeping a mute approach for these atrocities against women and minorities. Modi should understand that nationalism without normative concern would not help to build an inclusive national leadership. In his four years as a prime minister he always delivers the one-way communication. He never accepts views from the other side. These unfortunate situations would damage our soft-power credibility while we claim for a global leadership role.

Conclusion

In the international arena protest against war, liberalization policies and Western culture are common. This would be the first time an Indian prime minister was greeted abroad with a message of ‘Go Home’ (go to Delhi) for not listening to the cry of Indian women. Few days back Modi faced the same challenge from the people of Tamil Nadu state collectively raised the slogan ‘Modi Go Back’ (go to Delhi) for not abiding the Supreme Court order to constitute Cauvery Management Board. The memes about ‘Modi Go Back’ occupied the social media for a week. This approach has now been hijacked by the Indian diasporas in London to raise their voice against Modi. One Indian tweeted that, “Please don’t send Modi to Delhi. Kindly keep him in London.” Would Modi lend his ear to these voices?

It is not a surprise that artificially created image of brand building will be grounded by naturally raised anger. Once the Indian diasporas in the UK and other parts of the world thought that Modi has the capacity of inclusive leadership would deliver by his words. But the recent incidents force the Indian diasporas to rethink that Modi is a loud mouth piece of the RSS, voice of the one section of the society and just a specialized orator in spreading lies to cheat the voters. The youths of this country now feel betrayed, ashamed and frustrated with the way Modi’s government fails to give importance for Human Rights. Rape and lynching are unleashed under his rule in the name of ‘Gau Rakshak.’ The self-styled right wing activists are protecting the cows but not considering to feed the humans who are actually suffering. Watching this arrogance in our society under Modi’s leadership, a child who participated in a ‘justice for Asifa’ rally came with a poster that read, ‘Cow is safe, Deer is safe…Mr. Prime Minister …why I am not safe?’

It clearly indicates that all Indians understand the stance of Modi and his party’s regressive agenda. Lies after lies and breaking the rule of law they try to build the BJP’s government across the country now perceived by the people that BJP is against the idea of India. The day is not far – soon the Indian voters will convert Modi’s slogan of ‘Mukth Congress’ to ‘Mukth Modi’ in removing him from the prime minister chair.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Asia-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He consults on academic development and he is currently working on two books - “Discover your Talents” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia.

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South Asia

India’s Constitutional Revocation and Prevalent Security Environment of Kashmir

Haris Bilal Malik

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During Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first ever visit to the US on July 23, 2019, President Trump had offered to mediate the outstanding Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan. This move was greatly appreciated by Pakistan with President Trump publicly stating that Prime Minster Modi had requested him to mediate between the two countries over Kashmir during the sidelines of 2019 G20 Summit held in Osaka in June this year. With President Trump’s offer to mediate at such a crucial time, the issue has once again achieved global significance. Moreover, President Trump’s mediation offers, and India’s recent move constitutionally revoke the special status offered to Kashmir would likely have serious implications within the prevalent security environment throughout the region. 

India has often rejected such offers claiming Kashmir as its internal matter. Taking a step forward, on August 5, 2019 the government of India revoked the special status of the Kashmir region that has been previously granted under Articles 370 and 35(A) of the Indian constitution through a presidential order. Referred to as the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill that was later approved by parliament despite the opposition’s criticism. Under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution the Kashmir region had been awarded special constitutional rights and a ‘so-called’ autonomous status of decision making. Following the abrogation of Article 370, the Kashmir region would be divided into two ‘Union Territories’ i.e. Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh governed by the Indian central government.

The timing of this constitutional abrogation might have been influenced by President Trump’s offer of mediation between India and Pakistan that was reiterated by the US President despite India’s rejection. This abrogation was also part of the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election manifesto as promised by Prime Minister Modi during the 2019 general election. By fulfilling this electoral promise, Mr. Modi is trying to assert that Kashmir is entirely an internal matter for India and that it would not allow any third country to interfere in the Kashmir issue irrespective of its relations with India.

Based on this notion India is inclined to project this political and constitutional change as its internal matter. By revoking the special status of this disputed region, India also intends to change the demography of Kashmir as much of the current population is Muslim. India has been involved in various tactics to change the demographic structure of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) which includes a steady stream of Hindu migrants relocating and settling in masse from other parts of India in this predominantly Muslim region.

This trend is also evident in the region’s population numbers. In 1947 for instance, the Muslim population of IOK was about 79 per cent. As of 2018 this figure has been reduced to 68 per cent. In this regard the abrogation of Article 35(A) would likely intensify this trend as in the future, non-residents of Kashmir would be able to purchase property in Kashmir and would become permanent residents with a right to vote. 

The security environment of Kashmir has been at stake in recent years due to India’s desire to oppress the freedom movement militarily. During Prime Minister Modi’s first term from 2014-2019 the Kashmiri freedom struggle has seen greater military suppression, especially since 2016 when a prominent freedom fighter Burhan Wani had been brutally assassinated. However, it seems that India has still not succeeded in achieving its desired objectives. After a landslide victory in the 2019 elections and with Mr. Modi once again in office as Prime Minster, the military suppression of the freedom movement in Kashmir has further intensified. Recently, India has deployed an additional 38,000 paramilitary troops in the region to join more than half a million troops and paramilitary forces already present. Along with this increased military presence in Kashmir, India has also been involved in continued aggression across the Line of Control (LoC) as evident by its use of prohibited ‘cluster bombs’ against the civilian population. These could have seriously provoked Pakistan to respond in an offensive way and might have resulted in another February 2019 episode.

At the present, Indian aggression along the LoC poses a major threat to peace in the region. India might believe that it could carry out a limited attack or ‘surgical strike’ against Pakistan which would stay below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold as evident from the February 2019 military engagement and the recent attacks along the LoC. India has repeatedly attempted to dominate the escalation ladder as was shown in the recent escalation instance the recent escalation following the Pulwama attack. Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned about the possibility of a ‘false-flag operation’ in Kashmir carried out by India for which Pakistan might be blamed. Based on such blame India could launch a limited attack or a low intensity conflict across the LoC. Consequently, Pakistan would be left with no choice but to respond in kind to any such aggression by India.

India’s abrogation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status and its military offensive in Kashmir could trigger another politico-military escalation between India and Pakistan within a year. India’s policy to forcefully make Kashmir an integral part of the Indian Union by annexing it through political and military means would serve a very dangerous precedent which would likely pose as a serious detriment towards the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute. This change in the constitutional status of Kashmir would greatly limit the prospects for third-party mediation in the future especially for the United Nations, whose resolutions on Kashmir clearly provide a right of self-determination to decide Kashmir’s future. Unfortunately, the prevalent security environment in Kashmir is dominated by India’s aggressive behavior which ultimately would have long lasting implications for strategic stability throughout the South Asian region.

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China- Pakistan: Centaur of Friendship

Sabah Aslam

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China has been always quotes as an all-weather ally to Pakistan. This mark is not been achieved in a day. Pakistan and China have always been close companions to each other whether its diplomatic or economic fronts. The “deeper than oceans” bond was initiated in 1951 when Pakistan was on the list of first countries who had recognized People’s Republic of China after it officially ended its ties with Taiwan, officially known as Republic of China. Ever since the two countries have actually proven themselves to be iron brothers. Whether it is socio-economic sphere or any issue of national, regional or global importance, the two have stood by each other through thick and thin.

This bond was further strengthened after Beijing launched its Belt and Road Initiative with China Pakistan Economic Corridor as its flagship project. CPEC had been no less than a soothing drug to the maltreated economy of Pakistan. China provided Pakistan with the much needed co-operation specifically in the areas of power generation and infrastructural development. Whereas Pakistan provided China with an alternative route for its trade across the globe that was shorter and beneficial from all aspects.

However, this resolve to cooperate is not limited to bilateral level. China has always supported Pakistan on issues of regional and global importance. This was even acknowledged by the Prime Minister of Pakistan on BRF this year too. He said, “I want to thank China and its leadership for their unwavering support for Pakistan.”

During the recent scenario where India unilaterally scraped article 370 and had illegitimately taken Kashmir under Delhi’s control directly, it was China who rendered its full support to Pakistan’s stance. According to a report of China Daily, China strongly opposes the Indian act of inclusion of Kashmir. China has also urged India to act in accordance with the bilateral ties with Pakistan and with China on the issues of administrative jurisdiction. 

Nevertheless China had also assisted Pakistan in internationalizing the issue of Kashmir, rebuking India that it is not an “internal matter”. China had backed Pakistan’s request for holding a UN Security Council’s meeting to resolve the matter.  The South China Morning Post, called Kashmir “a flashpoint in ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbors”.

Considering the volatile situation, UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Friday, August 16, 2019 with Kashmir Issue as the only agenda point. The meeting was called specifically for Kashmir for the first time after 1965. Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Jun later spoke to media and once again urged the two-parties to refrain from taking any unilateral action that can aggravate the situation and take measures to solve the issue in lines with the UN resolutions.

In 2018, Donald Trump had tweeted threateningly where he accused Pakistan of “nothing but lies and deceit” and fooling US leaders. Trump also announced that he would not provide any further aid to Pakistan. China once again came out to stand for its strategic partner. China urged the global community that the world should acknowledge Pakistan’s “outstanding contribution” as it has made huge efforts and sacrifices to fight terrorism.

Previously, China had defended Pakistan despite the rage, which the decision had received. In March this year, India had requested UNSC to brand Masood Azhar, the leader of an organization already banned by Pakistan, as a global terrorist. The move was vetoed by China, China’s Foreign Minister said that they need more time and decided to put a technical hold. 

China had also stood by Pakistan when back in 2015 it supported Pakistan’s engagement with Nuclear Suppliers Group and expressed hopes for Pakistan’s attainment of membership. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying had replied to a reporter regarding Pakistan’s aspirations for NSG saying China wished to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan.

Despite the fact that in international relations there are not permanent friends but the bond which Beijing and Islamabad shares has turned the caps. This bond without any doubt is based primarily on mutual benefit and respect but there is more to it too. China supports Pakistan and had supported Pakistan even in times of despair. It took decades long cultural, diplomatic and economic understanding to carve this centaur of friendship between both nations. Islamabad needs to enhance its diplomatic understanding with Beijing as recent diplomatic bustle over Kashmir clearly showed the allies.

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Kashmir Once Again Playing out as Diplomatic Theatre at the United Nations

M Waqas Jan

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Friday’s closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on Jammu and Kashmir marked the first time in over 50 years since the issue was discussed at the world’s foremost diplomatic forum. This issue which has long remained at the center of India Pakistan tensions recently received fresh impetus following India’s unilateral decision to withdraw the special status awarded to the region. This was followed by a widespread clampdown in the form of an indefinite curfew as well as a media and communications blackout that is currently in its second week.

Consequently, the above mentioned UNSC meeting on Kashmir forms a key component of Pakistan’s diplomatic offensive following India’s actions. As such, it represents a highly interesting case of diplomatic theatre where the anticipation of possibly resolving or bringing about at least some semblance of positivity to a long-festering conflict has generated considerable interest the world over. This includes interest from both the international media as well as several observers and diplomats as a possible precedent for a consensus driven approach to conflict resolution in general.

However, the lack of any meaningful outcome or even a joint statement directly arising out of this meeting has led to an almost perverse battle of sorts over optics and narrative between key stakeholders, which aims to leverage the UN’s significance as a platform for international consensus. Especially with a view towards placating an international audience’s expectations of what is just or right, the absence of a joint statement following this meeting has led to a vacuum that has resulted in even greater discord regarding this issue. Thus, instead of a collective decision or stance taken on the issue by the UNSCC, what was instead witnessed was China and Pakistan presenting their cases for international mediation at one end, and India insisting on the issue remaining an internal matter at the other.  This for instance was clear in the press statements given by each of these countries’ representatives following the end of the UNSC meeting.

Against a backdrop of the UN Security Council and speaking in a microphone carrying the white on blue letters of the ‘UN’, Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun was the first to state that all the UNSC members were gravely concerned at the human rights situation in Kashmir and that there was general agreement that all parties concerned should refrain from taking any unilateral action that might aggravate the situation further. He went on to state that as per China’s stance on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the status of Kashmir was still undecided and that it should be resolved via peaceful means in accordance with the UN charter, the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions as well as the bilateral resolutions pertaining to it.

Pakistan’s representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi whose remarks closely followed the Chinese Ambassador thanked China for lending assistance in her country’s request for calling the UNSC meeting. She pointed out that the fact that the meeting was held was itself a major diplomatic victory and that the voice of the Kashmiri people, despite all attempts to silence it was heard at the world’s highest diplomatic forum. She stated that this meeting was the first step taken as part of a protracted and drawn out struggle for justice for the Kashmiri people which Pakistan remained fully and vociferously committed to.

Considering how both the Chinese and Pakistani ambassadors while speaking in quick succession nearly echoed each other’s policy stances on this issue, it was as if they might as well have written each other’s statements themselves. Many observers in the media had later pointed out that the statement given by the Chinese ambassador was in fact a version of a potential joint statement that was to be ideally given by the president of the UNSC. However, since other P5 members had raised reservations regarding its wording and assumptions of the UN’s role in mediating the conflict, it was presented instead by Ambassador Jung as China’s position on the matter, to which Ambassador Lodhi had voiced her approval. 

Both their stances however stood poles apart from the statement given by India’s permanent representative to the UN, Mr. Syed Akbaruddin. Given after a brief interlude to the previous two statements, Mr. Akbaruddin explained how following China and Pakistan’s statements he was self-admittedly compelled to present his own country’s stance on the matter. The gist of it was that India’s move to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s Special Status was wholly an internal matter. That it remained committed to resolving its issues with other countries bilaterally and that it was saddened by Pakistan’s approach of using violent jihad and terrorism as a precursor to any potential negotiations. In a characteristic show of one-upmanship that has remained a hallmark of India and Pakistan’s interactions at the UN, Mr. Akbaruddin also made a flamboyant point of taking questions from Pakistani journalists with whom he at one point even came forward and shook hands with as a gesture of his country’s willingness to engage with Pakistan. All while repeating India’s decade old stance that Pakistan stop terror in order to initiate talks.

Yet, considering the stage, setting and timing of the situation at hand, what the audience of journalists was in the end left with was a shrewd and knowing diplomat presenting a clear denial of the spirit of the UN. While employing his best smoke and mirrors it was evident that the press conference was being used by Mr. Akbaruddin as an opportunity to distract, disguise and deflect international opinion from the issue at hand. In essence, it presented another example of one of the many slick PR driven spectacles that are passed on for diplomacy at the UN these days. Yet, considering the lack of unity from the UNSC, and China and Pakistan having already attempted to leverage the stage and setting, can one really blame him?

For an organization that once embodied upholding the ideals of peace, justice and equality as its very raison d’être, it is extremely disappointing to see the UN’s own inaction and passivity reducing it to being nothing more than mere spectacle. Especially during a time where the world is increasingly plagued by strife and discord, seeing Kashmir being reduced to just another metaphor for such issues speaks volumes of the lack of direction and principles guiding global leadership in our world today.

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