1. Transactive 2. Unpredictable high-stakes 3. Proactive diplomatic engagement 4. Actions over moral stances 5. No negotiations over hostages https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/5-ways-indias-foreign-policy-has-changed-post-balakot/?amp 5 ways India’s foreign policy has changed post-Balakot GAUTAM CHIKERMANE As the international community restarts its no-war broken record, it needs to keep one date in mind that has irreversibly changed India’s stance – 14 February 2019. Pakistan may be the trigger that set it off, but it will now impact India’s foreign policy and strategic affairs. It says, India has dusted off its past strategic inertia on terror and self-preservation. It will hear the world’s counsel, it will take the world into confidence, it will remain within the confines of international rules of law. But above all, it will do what is in the best interest of India. Politically and economically, the world has engaged with several shades of India already. Now, it needs to intersect and negotiate with a post-2019 India through five windows. First, India’s stance to international negotiations is shifting towards a transactional trajectory from one that has been exclusively based on principles. Principles will continue to guide actions. But India is no longer ready to take principles as a cage. Post-Pulwama, the doors have suddenly broken open. Flying fighter aircraft into Pakistan – not Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, but Pakistan – is one small but visible example. This is as much due to political compulsions and posturing as strategic needs. But it has raised the bar for India-Pakistan terror-military relations forever. It says: if you send terrorists, we will send our military. Second, India is ready to push the stakes to edge-of-the-cliff levels. And do so unpredictably. By sending 12 Mirage 2000 jets of the Indian Air Force across the Line of Control and bomb “JeM’s (Jaish-e-Mohammed) biggest training camp” at Balakot, inside Pakistan, India has shown a never-seen-before resolve to do what it takes. While politics wrangling has begun on what was done and what not, the fact remains that the terms of engagement have changed, the risks raised and the fear of hard retaliation visible. Strategic restrain is a phraseology of a pre-Balakot India; going forward, restrain will be difficult if not impossible. Third, a more proactive and detailed engagement with the rest of the world. Two days after the Pulwama terror attack on 14 February 2019, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) briefed the envoys of 25 major countries, including the P5 (US, China, Russia, UK and France) as well as Japan, Germany, South Korea and Australia, and convinced them about Pakistan’s hand in the attack. A demarche to Pakistan preceded this meeting. On 27 February 2019, after India launched its “premptive air strike” on Balakot in Pakistan, the MEA again briefed envoys of 12 nations, including US, China, Singapore, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and updated them on the airstrike. Getting out of administrative silos, military action has been strengthened by diplomatic outreach. Fourth, the age of taking moral stands – peace over war – on terror with loose, ineffective statements that lack credibility because of subsequent inaction, such as “we condemn” or “we warn”, are behind India. The words used this time were more aggressive: “they [Pakistan] have made a big mistake”, “will have to pay a heavy price”, and above all “Free hand has been given to security forces to act.” The last part on “free hand” has created a new meaning for itself that implies the forces are free to act what they deem best, there will be no political barriers placed in their way and they will not be held back, as they were during the Kargil War in 1999. Fifth, despite not having a law as the US does on not negotiating hostage situations, India has told the world that it effectively will not negotiate, period. When Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistan, despite its Prime Minister Imran Khan, himself a political beneficiary of terrorist organisations in the country, offered to negotiate his return, Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only refused to take his calls, but India flatly refused to negotiate. This is a very big change, given India’s past actions, when India buckled before terrorists to release Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Syed’s daughter Rubiya Syed in December 1989 and then again at Kandahar in December 1999 to release 178 passengers and 11 crew. These five are actions will rewrite India’s new foreign policy narrative. And it will impact the world, and reshape global conversations. A new will is rising in India, the people are ready to back the government, and despite political noises, even the Opposition is lending support. Any country negotiating with India from 14 February 2019 onwards must understand these five changes in India’s foreign policy stance.