Modi Govt’s PR Disaster

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On June 10, 2015, speaking with NDTV Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore  said, ‘’ “It’s become a habit for these militants to strike at the Indian Army or paramilitary forces or citizens of the nation and then cross over into safe havens being confident of the fact that Indian Armed forces will not pursue them. This message is now very clear for all those who harboured intentions of terror on our country. Unprecedented though, but our Prime Minister has taken a very bold step and given a go ahead for hot pursuit into Myanmar’’. The Minister was making a statement about Indian Army’s recent intrusion inside Myanmar, where it claimed that they had gone inside Myanmar to battle Naga militants and had killed a number of them, without actually disclosing any particular number.

But as the Govt was making statements about its decisive and aggressive policy of dealing with terror threats, and as social media began to go ballistic at this, the Govt has been forced to tone down the rhetoric. The reason has been immediate backlash from Myanmar. It was perhaps furious at the Indian Govt’s attempts to paint this attack as a symbol of its muscle. The Govt of Myanmar on Wednesday denied that Indian Army had crossed its border to carry out this operation. Reacting to this operation, Zaw Htay, Director of Myanmar’s presidential office, wrote, “According to the information sent by Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) battalions on the ground, we have learned that the military operation was performed on the Indian side at India-Myanmar border.” “Myanmar will not accept any foreigner who attacks neighbouring countries in the back and creates problems by using our own territory,” he added. Even the Indian Army in its statement had not mentioned of any border crossing, but its forces had engaged with militants along the Indo- Myanmar border at two locations along the Nagaland and Manipur borders. It was the Minister who dramatised the story, perhaps trying to play to the gallery and score some brownie points for the Modi Govt., little realizing that it could backfire.

Rathore was at the forefront of the PR initiative to paint this operation as an expression of India’s new found muscle and machismo. He further went on to say, “This is a message for all countries, including Pakistan, and groups harboring terror intent towards India. A terrorist is a terrorist and has no other identity. We will strike when we want to.” Rathore’s statement can’t be seen in isolation but a clear attempt by the BJPs political leadership to bolster their image as a strong and decisive Govt. This was a deliberate attempt by the BJP Govt to claim political dividends for the military operation.

But this PR exercise has undone the meticulous diplomatic groundwork done by the Indian officials with Myanmar to make the raid possible. With Myanmar contradicting India’s version of the story, the Modi Govt will definitely feel some egg on its face.  

Tariq A Wani

Srinagar

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