Millennium Post

Negotiation works, not brute force

Safe return home of 46 nurses and hundreds of Indian expatriates from strife-ridden Iraq is an example of Quality Track-I Diplomacy and governance, in which Indian government has excelled once again. This is the third time in last three decades that a major possible social crisis has been cleverly averted. There were two earlier occasions, equally grave, when the governments of the time were put to litmus test. During both times the governments had BJP alliance, and now it is leading from the front, as a strong governing force in the 2014 NDA. The first Track-I diplomacy took place in 1989 when a kin of the then Union home minister was kidnapped by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) militants, but later gracefully released, as the rebels came under international pressures, particularly from that of the Gulf countries. That, like this was a mix of Track-I and Track-II diplomacy of silent manoeuvres.

The negotiations were carried out with insightful diplomacy by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who during that term of the National Front government was in the opposition as his alliance party, NDA, supported V P Singh’s NF government from outside along with the Left Front. Astute Vajpayee, a veteran parliamentarian himself from Pandit Nehru’s time, knew well how far should his diplomacy stretch the risks at crucial times.  

The second incident of great track-one diplomacy was in 1999 when the historic Lahore Declaration was ratified by both Indian and Pakistani Parliaments, and a new era of positive liberal statecraft diplomacy was largely acknowledged by the world. Though Lahore Declaration was blemished by the discreet Pakistani army’s Kargil escapades, it convinced the world to have enough reasons to look at the Pakistani army with suspicion and distrust. However, by that time Vajpayee’s brilliant historic Track-II diplomacy had already impacted internationally enough to win for India the world’s powerful bodies’ heart. Vajpayee’s Track-II diplomacy also softened the anger of the powerful West and Australia over India’s Pokhran-II showcase. Both these incidents of Track-I diplomacy have created primacy of India in the comity of nations, as India successfully convinced the world how correct is its foreign policy towards its goal to build up a harmonious mutually cooperative South Asia.  

Minister for external affairs Sushma Swaraj’s clarion calls last Thursday to the Gulf nations’ foreign ministers, followed by quality Track-II Diplomacy and governance by the national security advisers this time saved a huge social crisis. It may not be wrong to think that there was indeed some Track-II diplomacy underneath the official campaigns through the decision-makers in the Gulf region. Swaraj’s experience from both of Vajpayee’s governments (16 May 1996 to 1 June 1996, and 1999-2004) might have worked as an excellent tool for quality governance.

The minister’s quick moves on Track-I diplomacy also seem to have convinced saner world of the promise that India would be taking up issues in international relations more effectively in coming months, than what the UPA-II governance could do in the recent times. Quality in governance of state affairs in India has often been a casualty during the last decades between post-Indira Gandhi and pre-Narasimha Rao times, and also in the UPA-II governance due to a malady called vox populi. Decisions were often affected by the thoughts of ifs and buts and populism. India needs to disseminate clear messages to stymie adventurism against it and its people. Apparently, this concept almost puts in place liberal realism in statecraft.

It is because, for India, it indeed has been a very difficult job to handle the fractured societies as in the Persian Gulf, where as per the accepted rule the military might alone gets the primacy and not democracy. The effect of Arab Spring is in its nascent stage, and would likely to take long time to settle down with democratic results. Changes always came very slow in all civilisations in the past, but it came in definite trickles. Track-II diplomacy, therefore, is the hard nut that this government has been able to mix with the Track-I diplomacy, and cleverly so.
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