People's Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti became the first woman chief minister to take oath of the state of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday (April 4). She also became the second Muslim woman after Assam's Syed Anwara Taimur who became the chief minister of Assam to become the chief minister of a state.
With the swearing-in of Mufti, India has now four woman chief ministers in four of its corners. While Mufti now leads the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir, Anandiben Patel is the chief minister of the westernmost state of Gujarat, J Jayalalithaa is the CM of the southernmost state of Tamil Nadu and Mamata Banerjee is in charge of the easternmost state of West Bengal (excepting the northeast).
We may have a fifth border-state woman CM next year in Mayawati
We may have another woman captaining another border state next year if Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati goes on to become the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh next year.
Do these women leaders impact our neighbourhood policy?
Now, do these women leaders have a say on India's neighbourhood policies, given the fact that they lead a number of border states?
Will Mufti's 'soft terrorist' approach benefit or harm India's Pak policy?
Mufti, for instance, has been known to pursue a 'soft separatist' approach, something which nationalist parties like the BJP did not like. One of Mufti's big ways of reaching out to the people was by making frequent visits to homes of slain militants.
After beginning to reorganising her party a few months ago, Mufti's public speeches focussed mainly on seeing a larger resolution of the Kashmir problem and also pursuing confidence-building measures to improve relations with Pakistan. For ultra-nationalist supporters of the BJP, this is something they will not readily like but Mufti, on her part, has every opportunity to get history by her side.
Leaders like Mamata & Jaya have lost relevance in external affairs now, thanks to a majority government at the Centre
For leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa, the issue of making an impact on India's relations with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, respectivelt, have been more determined by political calculations. Banerjee had taken a strong stand on the Teesta water-sharing issue and successfully ruined former prime minister Manmohan Singh's dream of buying a permanent peace with Dhaka.
Jayalalithaa, too, had exerted similar pressure on the UPA II government on the questions of Sri Lankan Tamils. But the two women were benefited by the coalition instability that New Delhi faced till 2014.
After Narendra Modi won power with a single majority, both the unpredictable TMC and AIADMK supremos lost their relevance in deciding the government's survivality and when one adds Modi's proactive foreign policy initiatives to it, India's relations with both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka improved significantly.
For Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel, domestic challenge is much bigger ahead of 2017 polls
For Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, she is still under the long shadow of Modi, who left Gandhinagar for New Delhi in May 2014. Pakistan is not a term as frequently heard in Gujarat politics as it is in case of Jammu Kashmir or Punjab and it is more about pro-development governance that people of that state speak.
Anandiben, who recently assured the people of her state after reports about 10 terrorists entering the state broke by saying there was nothing to worry, will face the litmus test of the Assembly elections next year. The post-Modi Gujarat has thrown up challenges for the ruling BJP, both from within (party rift) and outside (Hardik Patel phenomenon) that Patel will be busy to deal with more than any question related to the Pakistan border.
However, in 2014 end, Patel had said that school and college students living in the districts of Gujarat bordering Pakistan would be given military training to deal with security issues and the state government had drawn up plans for that. But that is about it as far as her initiatives in foreign policy are concerned.
Vasundhara Raje, the woman CM who had direct dealt with foreign policy once
Vasundhara Raje is perhaps the only CM among these women who have had a direct involvement in foreign policy. She had served as the Union Minister for External Affairs in 1998-99 and her high point came after India conducted its nuclear tests under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. She had played a key role in articulating India's stand and interests in front of the international community.
Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of late PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, became the first woman CM of Jammu and Kashmir on April 4. Known for her 'soft terrorist' approach, can Mufti ensure that her party's alliance with the BJP survives the test of time? Or will her approach make an impact on India's Pakistan policy?
J Jayalalithaa - AIADMK
Jayalalithaa will face another test on May 16 when Tamil Nadu will go to the polls. The AIADMK supremo has been seen taking strong stand against Sri Lanka in the past but after a single-party majority was obtained in the 2014 general elections, her relevance in New Delhi's Colombo policy has been reduced.
Mamata Banerjee - Trinamool Congress
Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, another border state, played a decisive role in India's Bangladesh policy in 2012 by refusing to soften stand on the Teesta water-sharing. But she lost much clout after Narendra Modi became the PM of a non-coalition government at the Centre. Banerjee has also been accused of turning a blind eye to the illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Has she really helped India's foreign policy?
Anandiben Patel - BJP
For Anandiben Patel, domestic politics has been a bigger challenge compared to foreign policy issues even though Gujarat borders Pakistan, India's biggest external affairs concern. With a year to go before the next Gujarat Assembly polls, Patel will be more occupied with tackling the feud in the BJP and rise of the Patel community.
Mayawati - BSP
Mayawati is not a CM now but has every chance to become next year when UP goes to polls. However, Mayawati is not known to be a leader who likes to cash in on external affairs even though UP has a border with Nepal. The BSP supremo has spoken on external affairs a few times --- like seeking Nepal's help to tackle floods in 2009 when she was the CM and criticising the current NDA government's Pakistan policy.
Vasundhara Raje - BJP
Vasundahara Raje had a direct involvement with India's foreign policy between 1998 and 1999 when she served as the Union Minister of State for External Affairs in the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Her high point in foreign policy came after India carried out the nuclear tests in 1998 and the international community had imposed sanctions on India. She became the voice of India's foreign policy then, articulating the country's stand and interests before the international community. As the chief minister of Rajasthan, however, Raje is engaged more in dealing with the nuances of administration.