India needs effective Kashmir policy: Perception management is just not enough

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his 'Brahmastra' against Pakistan by uttering the B-word in his 90-minute long speech on 15 August. Well done India. Now all our problems with Pakistan have been solved!

Alas no! A report from NDTV shows that money worth crores has been pumped from Pakistan into the Kashmir Valley to stoke unrest by dolling out cash to hardliner separatists and stone-pelters in the last one month. And if the only answer that the Indian government has to counter Pakistan's malicious designs in Kashmir Valley is to raise the Balochistan bogey, then clearly we Indians should be a worried lot.

Going back to that NDTV report, it is indeed quite ironic that Pakistani money has been able to achieve what the Indian government's centrally sponsored schemes worth thousands of crores over the last several years couldn't. That should give us some clue, ain't it?

File photo of PM Narendra Modi. Screengrab from YouTube

File photo of PM Narendra Modi. Screengrab from YouTube

As any student of International Relations would tell you that propaganda and perception management — what are called as psy-ops in the intelligence circles — are an essential element of the statecraft and foreign policy. But they are not the only elements — diplomacy, negotiations, sanctions and arm twisting are other elements among many. The success of psy-ops is contingent upon the effective utilisation of these other elements. In the absence of that, propaganda will surely fetch you brownie points — as in this case applauds from the exiled Baloch leaders — but they won't compensate for the lack of action on the issue — as in this case the political outreach to solve Kashmir's current crisis.

It is also evident in the case of India's relations with China. You may take the 'world's most powerful selfie' that can go viral on social media in seconds, but it is not going to bridge the fundamental differences between the Asian neighbours, nor is China going to be kind to you when it comes to the NSG membership.

One hopes that the government is wise enough to understand this because clearly its actions on the ground show a fumbling response. In case of NSG membership, it kept blaming a 'certain country' while failing to understand that not just China, but even smaller countries like Turkey and Mexico and Switzerland opposed India's bid. And in case of Jammu and Kashmir, it has chosen to open the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-Balochistan front, even as it is at a loss for an answer on how to deal with the young kids on the streets pelting stones.

Psy-ops is a sophisticated game and India has to play that game in the most erudite manner. Else it can go awry.

Just as PM Modi was thanking the Baluchis and Kashmiris under Pakistani rule from the ramparts of the Red Fort, an unthinkable from the propaganda point of view happened in Srinagar when the Tricolour which Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was hoisting fell on the ground. Not a very auspicious sign in times like these in the state. Clearly India needs better flag bearers in Kashmir than what its current policy formulation allows.

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Updated Date: Aug 17, 2016 15:58:42 IST

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