The following article has been published in an edited format in
On 22 December, India’s Home Minister P Chidambaram offered a Christmas bonanza for the Maoist insurgents. He uttered: “If you abjure violence, we are ready to talk. We are not asking them to lay down arms. They will not do it now.” That too in an ambience when the Maoist politburo member Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji declared that they would agree to a ceasefire provided the authorities suspended their operations.
The aforementioned gesture had an exclamatory aroma. This is so because barely a couple of months ago, Chidambaram was reluctant to talk to the indigenous Leftist rebels unless they laid down their arms; though he announced the proposition for talks with the separatist groups in Kashmir without imposing similar conditions.
Furthermore, on 17 December, India decided to pull out around 30,000 troops from Kashmir in a bid to ease tension in the valley. This was done on the premise that the security situation was improving. Paradoxically though, ceasefire violations took place a number of times from the other side of the border.
Chidambaram has termed his way of tackling insurgency as “Quiet Diplomacy”. The term should not be construed as his invention. But definitely his “praxis” is an essay with the Indian peculiarities in the background.
Even European Union’s (EU) new Foreign Secretary Catherine Ashton upholds the same term when she writes in Times online: “I believe that a lot can be achieved with Quiet Diplomacy. We need people who can listen as well as talk, and who can work behind the scenes as well as in the glare of the spotlight. What we also need is concerted action to achieve our goals.”
According to the parlance of Political Science, ‘Diplomacy’ is the management of International Relations and politics through negotiations. But it can get vociferous at times, with coercion being applied by one state actor over another. On the other hand, “Quiet Diplomacy” rests on the tenets of ‘rapproachement’, ‘providing space’ and ‘ethics and morality’; shunning “Realpolitik” (politics based on realism).
Quiet Diplomacy (QD) is distinctly different from “gun-boat diplomacy” (through force) or “public diplomacy” (through propaganda). In fact, QD is that form of diplomacy which may be interpreted as a subset of “Preventive Diplomacy”. The latter is defined in Article 33 of the UN Charter and encompasses all possible modes of conflict resolution; viz. negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement or other peaceful means of choice adopted by the parties to the dispute.
It is assumed that when the state is following QD, it should not stick to publicity against the other party; which is yet to be witnessed in case of the Maoists because the government has unceasingly indulged in a hate-campaign against them. The target of QD is to create atmosphere for talks, alleviating the milieu of hatred.
In that regard, both Kishenji and Chidambaram are justified in their own domains since both want the other party to stop their actions first and then come to the discussion table.
Now, the question of the hour is why did the Home Ministry turn to QD, first in case of Kashmir and thereafter the Maoists? It seems that the overabundance of criticism by the civil society against the authorities is probably telling its tale. It can also be possible that the Ministry has understood the futility of pursuing an ostentatious policy regarding domestic security.
India’s liberal outlook pertaining to International problems, age-old culture of peace and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s ‘mitigative influence’ might have softened the stance of the Home Ministry. Still, the change in policy can be merely a ‘pragmatic stance’, without any ethical fabric. The Ministry has of late probably understood that ‘trust deficit’ was widening between the rebels/insurgents and the executive.
Strategy regarding the Maoists can be comprehensible, but troop pullout from Kashmir may be seen in the light of impending Muharram (Muslim Festival). It can also be perceived from the point of Pakistan’s stance in filing First Information Report (FIR) against Hafeez Saeed, the terrorist who allegedly masterminded the 26/11 Mumbai carnage.
As such, not much should be read into the present troop decrement in Kashmir as this Government did something similar in 2004 too, though numerically speaking, the figures then were about 20,000 combatants.
Exchange Policy with Pakistan or for that matter any neighbour is fine; but only till it suits national interests. Any kowtowing under external browbeating would be intolerable. QD needs to be a coherent policy, which this author had pleaded in an earlier article in this forum itself. Applicability of QD should focus on principles, and not on parties. Inconsistency is completely uncalled for in this context. The Union Home Ministry must keep in mind one more thing while devising policies that it should have a proper coordination with the provincial governments as “Law and Order” remains a provincial subject as per the Constitutional provisions.
‘Banal Empiricism’ in framing domestic security policies would be balderdash.