Thanks to social media as well as increasing globalization of the Indian economy and more integration of the Indian society from within and with the outside world, India's foreign policy is now more of a subject to the scrutiny of at least the teeming millions of India's educated youth and professionals than ever before.
From mundane to pragmatic....from local to global perspective
For long the average educated Indian was only concerned about a few issues and his connection, affinity or detest for a particular ruling party depended on how much the concerned Government raised the income tax exemption limits or reduced the price of petrol and cooking gas. His sphere of interest centered around most of those that directly impacted his mundane life and none beyond. But things are changing.
What one can witness today is the increasing interest of the India's large population of young and middle aged people taking keen interest in global affairs and India's place and response to global incidents.
It is not unexpected given the fact that it is the same generation of Indians who broke the barriers of secure job and dared to hurl themselves in the risky proposition of starting their own independent ventures, most of which have a global connect in some way or the other. This, in addition to greater access to news at the click of the button has made discussions in global affairs a favorite discourse in social media sites.
Social Media's reaction on recent foreign policy issues- appreciative and critical, both at the same time
Thus while the social media was gung-ho on the issue of massive success of Narendra Modi in playing a stellar role in fructifying the BRICS Bank, it hailed the decisive and prompt action of the Modi Government in bringing back thousands of Indians stuck in the Iraqi conflict in addition to securing release of Indians languishing in Saudi jails.
The social media also witnessed the youth strongly praising the Modi Government in showing steely resolve by stalling the proposal of opposition parties to have a resolution in the parliament against Israel for its operations against Hamas in Gaza.
However, the same social media imbued with teeming millions of young educated vibrant Indians were miffed by the surprise decision of India to vote against Israel at UN and did not hesitate to write about their displeasure. From the perspective of a vibrant democracy, such active and prompt participation of youth is an interesting feature but what is impressive is the interest of today's youth in international affairs.
The young and discerning India....
In today's era, where around a 100 million (and ever increasing) Indians are connected to social media sites, one does not depend on the government spokespersons to enlighten the mass on what is right and wrong. The educated and aspiring youth, who have enough access and reference to global inputs and material in the web world develop their own qualified opinion and are not scared to express it.
Thus incidents of ISIS and its mayhem in Syria and Iraq is no more a distant or isolated affair. Incident of downing of the Malaysian Airlines plane in East Ukraine is no more a distant affair in a remote location or the issue of conflict of Israel and Hamas too is not an alien incident. And each case, the discerning Indian youth and middle class is keenly watching how the Indian Government reacts and navigates its foreign policy through the lanes of messy affairs. Wherever they would find any kind of wavering on the part of the government, they would react.
In fact the passionate exchange of ideas and news of the conflict in Gaza among the social media users throw an interesting image of a young India who would no more blindly accept the rhetoric of India's support for Palestine without giving a benefit of doubt and ample ear to the Israeli version of stories.
The massive shift in perspective
Two decades back, it hardly mattered to the common man as to what happened there and whom Government of India voted for or against at UN. But two decades of relentless terrorism in India, realization of how terror organizations have become adept in making propaganda work to their favor, firing of 2200 rockets inside Israel by Hamas or the issue of Hamas using human shield or deliberately firing rockets from civilian areas thereby provoking retaliation which would result in civilian casualties, are no more going unnoticed.
What also has not gone unnoticed is how much Israel has helped India to fight terrorism in India as well as the tacit silence of most of the Arab countries on the issue of Gaza conflict or Egypt's abhorrence for Hamas and its reluctance to open border with Raffah. Today's information hungry young India would not necessarily disagree with Government but would not hesitate to seek clarifications and answers from the Government.
An information hungry, opinionated and reactive youth may not be willing to accept if the Government attempts to play safe in matters of geopolitics. They would want their government to be hawkish and decisive on foreign policy affairs as well. At times this might be a challenge for the government to deal with.
For young India --- it is no more just about economic development but global standing of India
Thus a government may work tirelessly on issues of economic development and improving facilities of education, healthcare and infrastructure but might still find it not enough to make the discerning and teeming mass of young Indians happy. It would perhaps henceforth be equally scrutinized for its foreign policy affairs as it has been for economic policy for long. Economic development alone may not satisfy the youth.
A knowledge hungry young India's passion for information and increasing interest in global affairs is thus taking foreign policy matters out of the corridors of think tanks and political science department and making it a common subject of discussion among the aspiring mass of emerging India who now realize the critical importance of foreign policy as an extension of economic and national security and is essentially concerned about it. This perhaps is a permanent change one can witness and India's governments would have to live with it.