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Reading Between The Lines: Deciphering India’s Foreign Policy And Popular Mandate

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A look at the past defence policy decisions has inspired a great sense on part of the ruling establishment in New Delhi, profusing a certain degree of enthusiasm and a chance to engage with the core constituents of domestic politics charmed, manoeuvred and manifested in national security and territorial integrity.

Coalesced upon populism, polemics and hype as the finest basis for a Realist paradigm of Machiavellian masculinity underlined in the tenets of exercise of power, authority, order and coercion as the legitimate expression of the sovereign.

Politicking is thus an act of enhancing and enriching physical prowess, hegemony, dominance and strength at par with other states competitive well versed in modern warfare.

Image used for representation purposes only.

The ruler should be mindful, cunning, deceitful and tricky in knowing about the rules of the game and should be in a position to exploit the weaknesses of the enemy state as per the 16th-century political treatise The Prince written by Niccolo Machiavelli. It is in this context that an attempt to decipher the behaviour of the modern nation-states will be made by underlying the strategic significance of their role functions and posturings in regard to our neighbours viz a viz- Pakistan and China.

Why the frequent skirmishes, clashes and brawls at the LAC and LOC do make upping the ante easier in the face of ratcheting of rhetorics finessed in the nuclear and military might of India, Pakistan and China in the region. Settlements, negotiations and deliberations being the buzzwords for if,s and but, conductively depending on the circumstantial situation for any purposeful resolution or for a third party external intervention.

India after the re-election of Modi has seen a different ball game together in dealing with the errant neighbours in consonance with their political currency and capital. The foreign policy being made redundant and subservient to the whims of the political outlook and orientation of the ruling establishment. Thus, dissipating the commanding abilities of the organs of the state to act and grow in a manner of their own choice as the foreign policy will and remain a perenially vexed subject for us the Indians given the unpredictability involved with our neighbours.

What we need is a graded, coherent and comprehensive policy approach in entering into any kind of engagements or disengagements with them but this shouldn’t be seen impacting our social, economic, historic or cultural ties as it has been made now. MFN denotes Most Favoured Nation status accorded by one state to another in international trade.

The trade term means the country which is the recipient of this treatment must nominally receive equal trade advantages as the “most favoured nation” by the country granting such treatment ( trade advantages includes low tariffs or high import quotas). Both India and Pakistan withdrew this status which they had accorded to the other following the incidents at Uri and Pathankot in 2016 followed by surgical strikes in September 2016.

In the wake of brewing hostilities, it became impossible for both the countries to enter into any form of exchanges severely impacting the people to people contact at one level. Similarly, the onslaught by Chinese PLA troops on the Indian patrolling parties claiming twenty Indian lives in the Galwan Valley near LAC has lead to a lot of outburst and outcry in many of Indian towns and cities.

Loud calls being made to boycott Chinese goods, products, services and all by ordinary laities lacking farsightedness of diplomatic foreign policy. Resentment is though natural on part of any individual and person but one should be equally practical looking at the vast trade volumes and pacts we have with China. How can the government completely shun away with it?

Plus, will we be able to locally produce the goods on a large scale keeping our supply and demand chain in focus. The logic of the question should definitely prevail upon us but our due defiance to it makes us act contrary by awarding a chance to the regime in exposing our vulnerabilities. I believe that even though the NDA regime might slow up the pace of some projects and agreements with China it won,t entirely give upon it under any compulsions.

Offering impetus to their claims in domestic politics in winning the mandate as they have been doing since if we were to look at the March 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections held in the backdrop of national security and sovereignty. As I have argued in the very beginning, there have always been assertions, counterclaims with the soft pedigree of Territorial Integrity and National Security associated with the meteoric rise of the BJP and Narendra Modi at the centre owing to our strong fundamentals to hierarchical, autocratic and authoritarian belief and value system.

Thus, democracy becomes disquieting whereby the privileges, pride and prestige of a few become paramount as systematic efforts in undoing the foreign policy aspect from the core domestic constituents should be the priority of our state leaders. There ought to be clarity on the state’s role as a doer in terms of doing welfare by bringing special guarantees for the poor and at the foreign policy level by acting as an arbitrator in resolving the conflicting and competing clams viz the international players.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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