Soft power as coined by Joseph Nye, in the late 1980s, refers to the capability of a country to ‘manufacture consent’ for policies in its favour without the use of aggressive tactics; for instance, factors such as culture, diaspora, religion, and even minute factors such as food, films, songs etc. can also play a huge role.
In the case of India, take account of its Bollywood influence in Nepal, Myanmar, Gulf nations, and on the Indian diaspora in the USA and UK. Also, the far-stretched reaches of religions originating from the Indian Subcontinent, such as Sikhism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, which, in my opinion, influence foreign policy of the nation. Because, when struck with situations of international concern, these factors play might play a role in attracting international opinion in the country’s favour.
After the NDA won in 2014 and Narendra Modi took charge, we saw an incredible rise in the pace of foreign visits by the Prime Minister. As of April 2019, the Prime Minister had made 92 foreign trips, visiting 57 countries.
The Prime Minister invited a lot of criticism along the way from opposing parties but was also able to bring in a lot of foreign support. Keeping the numbers aside, what the Prime Minister allegedly wanted, was to advertise India as a strong economic, political and social region and to project a positive image of India in foreign minds.
Still, the failing policy of “Make In India” raises questions on what the Prime Minister was able to achieve through all these visits. However, according to me, what the Prime Minister was clearly able to achieve was a large consent of the Indian diaspora.
The NDA government is seen to have a keen interest in the diaspora as an important factor in its foreign policy. Also, the Prime Minister’s inclination towards topics of international terrorism, environmental issues and his various tactics of self-imaging have made him a popular figure on the international stage.
All these factors have resulted in India having positive relations with many nations such as Israel, Japan, and Russia; they have even brought a reversal to USA policy on India. This also helped India to direct international attention towards Pakistan funded terrorism, which has reduced Pakistan’s legitimacy on the international arena.
Earlier this month, with the movement of approximately 30,000 military troops into the Kashmir region, request to tourists from the J&K region to return, and the stopping of Amarnath Yatra, many critics were able to ascertain what the government was up to.
Several factors aided the government in scrapping Article 370: their election manifesto promise to remove article 370, raising public support in favour of the NDA, having a majority in both houses of the Parliament, and Presidential rule in J&K. These tactics allowed them to move forward with little opposition.
On an international platform, India has seen no hard oppositions on its decision by the UN, as the UN states this is an issue of bilateral agenda under the “Shimla Agreement”.
Also, in line with this, the UN President’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said that this is a bilateral issue and the UN won’t mediate. Similar to this, after the closed UNSC meeting mediated by China, both the countries were asked to exercise ‘restraint’ and solve the issue bilaterally, but no hard-line decision in favour of Pakistan was seen.
The MEA addressed the P5 nations on its step. Russia has backed India’s step by stating that it was India’s ‘internal’ issue and also asked both the countries to maintain order in the region. Also, EU nations describe it as a bilateral issue and did not want to internationalise it. Even for China, the abrogation of Article 370 deems a problem in the area of Aksai Chin, which among other parts of Doklam, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, have been issues of disputed territories of China.
UK has shown a branched response, with Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman stating this is ‘strictly’ a ‘bilateral issue’ and also a group of British Muslim MPs from the Opposition Labour Party asking Johnson to ‘strongly condemn’ India’s decision. But seeing the internal turmoil in the UK regarding ‘Brexit’ issue, it is hard to judge if the UK wants to make this issue international. And as for USA, the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs of the US State Department tweeted that India had not discussed on abrogation of article 370 with them, and also statements by the External Affairs Ministry after Trump’s call for peace ‘mediation’ gives a hint that the USA wants no part in the issue.
Pakistan has been frequently trying to gain international support for its cause but has been unsuccessful. And seeing the current flow of the situation, it seems that it would be impossible for Pakistan to achieve so, and an important factor for that is India’s soft power. The international support India was able to churn up for its decision shows how important a country’s image plays out in such scenarios. And as the biggest economy in South Asia, with substantial growth in Soft Power politics by India, it is not hard to imagine why India has been able to do so.