Action in Myanmar, reaction in Pak: How BJP beat Congress in foreign policy challenge

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The Indian Army's campaign against the militants in Myanmar after 18 soldiers were killed in an ambush on June 4 has given the BJP a major boost not only on the foreign policy front but also in domestic politics. For the action has put opposition Congress on the backfoot as it is now struggling to find a way to take on the Narendra Modi government.

Congress's dilemma after army action against militancy

The Congress has congratulated the army for the operation but did not give any credit to the Modi government. It has also maintained silence on the Modi government's role in tackling the terror threat for it knows opening its mouth at this juncture could prove to be counter-productive.

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Congress's Kargil moment is here again

The Congress leadership had faced a similar dilemma during the Kargil War in 1999 when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was in power at the Centre.

Even though the government couldn't stop the intrusion in Kargil and many Indian soldiers had lost their lives but still the Vajpayee government had the last laugh by driving out the Pakistani intruders. The NDA, which was serving as a caretaker government then, rode the wave of nationalism to return to power in the general election that followed the Kargil War victory.

The Congress had no clue but back the government of the day.

Assertive nationalism has made a difference between Congress and BJP

The Congress and the BJP do not have much of a difference in many areas but assertive nationalism is one factor that makes a big difference between the two.

Congress had two major foreign policy debacles

The Congress had seen serious adversity in its foreign policy exercise when India was annihilated by the Chinese in 1962.

Rajiv Gandhi government's blunder in sending a peace-keeping force to Sri Lanka in the late 1980s was another major loss of face for the Congress in foreign policy. These incidents continue to tarnish the Congress's image among India's forces of assertive nationalism, despite the fact that the same party had seen India defeating arch-rivals Pakistan in three wars in 1947, 1965 and 1971.

Congress's foreign policy success had its limitations

The facts that the Kashmir issue has remained unsettled despite India winning the 1947 war and that Bangladesh did not remain a loyal ally to India after its birth in 1971 following the third India-Pakistan war have marred the Congress's legacy.

How NDA has played the nationalism card more wisely

But the NDA has played the dice of nationalism more wisely. It hasn't really taken a route of confrontation vis-a-vis a powerful foe like China despite describing it as India's main enemy (as George Fernandes had done in the past) and focussed on a competition with the latter and used the army action in Myanmar to flex its muscle vis-a-vis Pakistan even though there is very less possibility that it will repeat the same there.

UPA govt's handling of 26/11 and Kerala fishermen's killing had disappointed many

The BJP has reaped more benefits in terms of assertive nationalism because it has used the media in a better way to highlight its action. Just compare the disappointing performance of some top Congress leaders after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai or how the people of India were dissatisfied with the UPA government's handling of the Kerala fishermen's issue.

Modi scored over Manmohan on Bangladesh

Even the Modi government's success in making the land agreement deal with Bangladesh made it look better in comparison with the previous Manmohan Singh government which was unable to even convince a mercurial Mamata Banerjee to sit on the negotiation table with Dhaka.

The Congress had faced a similar dilemma after the Kargil War in 1999

The Congress now has little option in confronting Modi over foreign policy issues. After the army operation in Myanmar, the Gandhis can't really accuse the ruling alliance of going soft on China and Pakistan over border violations.

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