In a republic, it is important to understand the public debates on issues like foreign policy. “Ye jo public hai sab jaanti hai” is a popular song of Bollywood movie called ‘Roti’. Does public know everything if yes, then why the public is not vocal on the issues of foreign policy? Is it because foreign policy is not in the discourse of public? However, one needs to understand public. The public can be distinguished from the mob. Mobs generally react more aggressive in order to disturb the public space. In a democracy, public space must be respected. The public should question the authority. Moreover, now it said that public understand foreign policy issues.That is the silver lining for foreign policy maker in India. However,the individual who has right to think free and expresses themselves may become a threat to the ruling party so the ruler tries to curb the public space, where questions are rose against the government. In the case of foreign policy, public debates are focused on India’s nationalism, Pakistan issues, China and the USA. However, the aim of this paper is to understand the way, views are shaped and what lead the people to discuss about foreign policy.
The individuals who were not vocal on the foreign policy especially during UPA I and II regime, now take interest in the debates and discussions. The reason behind the debate within public on issues related to foreign policy is a matter of discussion. Who is behind this change?The reason may be PM Modi, as he invited all the head of the government from the South Asian countries, in his oath taking ceremony including Pakistan. It is necessary to mention Pakistan here as PM had spoken against this country in his election campaign. However, PM has articulated his interest with this move. Thereafter, he began his first foreign tour with Bhutan followed by Nepal. Thereafter, he became the one of the PM who frequently visited the foreign land with the project called “Make in India”. Make in India became popular all over the world, which help motherland to attract investment from foreign countries. Now the world is looking India with a hope. PM has tried to reform the India’s neighbourhood diplomacy and renamed the policy ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East Policy’. Meanwhile, he was known for his famous ‘selfie diplomacy’ as well as developing the chemistry with his counterparts. All of his foreign visits were covered by Indian media. A number of foreign leaders from different parts of the world visited India. Most of the media channel presented the positive side of Modi’s visit. These became the part of the discussion among each generation of people. So the citizen of India began the discussion, about foreign policies more than before. It is also considered by the public that ‘India is rising’.Another reason was the discussion of foreign policy was ‘surgical strike’. India and Pakistan share territory. Indian government accused Pakistan of providing the ‘safe-haven for terrorists’. Pakistan often denied this allegation and criticised India on Kashmir issue and tried to internationalise the encounter of Burhan Wani. Meanwhile, the politicisation of Burhan Wani encounter, as a hero of Kashmir independence by PM of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, open another debate in India on the relevant of AFSPA in the valley. However, the questions on army were raised against Kashmir but Indian PM made a counter allegation to Pakistan and mentioned about the human rights violation and freedom of Baluchistan in particular and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in general. His speech diverted the debates on Kashmir and the presence of AFSPA in public domain. This incident further followed by the Uri attack which took place in India. So, in response to that Indian army went for the surgical strike. Hence, BJP leaders put the poster of the success of surgical strike in Uttar Pradesh where the election is going to take place. The opposition saw this move as a part of electoral politics. So,the Kashmir issue has been diverted in the electoral politics. Opposition questioned the politicisation of surgical strike. NDA portrays that opposition is questioned the nationalism of India. The public had a different opinion on the issue. People in general accepted that one should neither question the dedication of an army not politicise the armies activity. Another opinion was that army is not beyond question. The criticism arose within public that it is not right to question a surgical strike, but some of the groups of intellectuals, media debated this topic. Meanwhile, China with other countries has questioned India membership in the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). As India has not signed Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) she is not eligible for NSG. The issue of NSG has been covered by media so was in public debates for long. PM visited a number of countries to confirm India’s membership in NSG. India’s failure in receiving membership in NSG was blamed to China. Hence, a member of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, along with part-time nationalist protested against Chinese goods in the background of Diwali. This time rise of nationalism was against Chinese goods. But India itself could not continue it for the long and PM Modi announced about the demonetisation of high-value currencies of 500 and 1000 rupee notes. This order of demonetisation affected the Indian market as the currency contained about 85 percent of Indian economy. The move was taken in eliminating black money. Almost whole India came to a standstill as the country has only 15 percent cash with some exemption. The Chinese company (Alibaba group) of e-commerce has earned from demonetisation as it has a stake in Paytm. PM Modi announced for the cashless economy and then went to Japan and signed an agreement on anuclear deal. The success of India’s diplomacy was not in public forum as people were engaged in exchanging money. The public questioned the black money which is outside the country. For example, Swiss bank account, the name came out in ‘Panama paper’ and another kind of corruption. Why has diplomacy not succeeded in bringing black money from outside country?
From the oath taking ceremony (2014) of PM Narendra Modi to India-Japan nuclear deal, the government has taken credit of one after another. When the government failed to receive membership in NSG, she blamed China and Chinese goods were banned in India. Media covered the PM visit and public debate what media broadcast. In most of the cases, it is electronic media who has shaped the discussion in public. Some of the popular media instead of questioning the foreign policy they justify India’s foreign policy. One should question; Do these debates and discussions are part of ruling party propaganda of nationalism? Do the policymakers go through the debates and discussion within the country? Or, are these just to hide the failure of internal policies? One should ask the level of debates and discussions occur, within academia, media and public. Or what ought to take place and what kind of discussion were taken place? It is a welcome step that people are aware of the issue of the country in their busy schedule but what should be done is that the issues whatsoever be discussed and debated in amore constructive way, rather than trolling the people on social media and other public space for not having a similar view. Right to dissent is missing in the Indian democracy.