The shaping of events over the last couple of years give one the sense that the country isfinallyshedding its tag of being a weak state. A more confident India appears no longer willing to be a convenient punching bag for various actors, both within the country and outside it, which gives one the assurance that the country is ready to address issues based on merit,rather than on being tied down to a tired narrative of appeasement of one and all, to preserve peace within the country and in the neighbourhood. A series of welcome policy interventions have changed some of the earlier effete narratives, which have had a visible impact on the conduct of foreign policy,
handling of internal security concerns and on the social construct within the country.

The word secular, by definition, implies a person not connected with religious or spiritual matters, but in the Indian context, the definition has been transformed to mean equal respect for all religions. Over the years, however, Indian secularism got weighted towards the perceived sensibilities of the minority religions at the expense of the majority, largely due to unscrupulous vote bank politics. This led to certain communities and religious groups being treated as more equal than others in policy interventions, which over time, led to an ingrained sense of entitlement in these groups. The inevitable backlash that followed, ipso facto led to a religious divide within the country. Tragically, while such policies gave a section of people among the minorities a sense of power, far beyond their intrinsic worth, the bulk of the minorities remained in the vice like grip of their religious mentors, who dictated policy for the community which was detrimental to their interests, but which helped their leaders amass wealth and power to an unimaginable extent. The minorities suffered, the religious divide grew and internal problems got magnified. Thankfully, this is now changing. The state cannot be seen as partial to either the minority or the majority, merely to buy peace. Such actions inevitably lead to fragmentation of society. While much work still remains in this sphere, a good beginning has been made to treat all as equal under the Constitution.

The policy on Kashmir too has seen a shift, with a renewed focus by the security forces on eliminating the gun culture. The number of terrorists killed in the state since the beginning of August has already crossed the number eliminated in the whole of 2016. With infiltration being squeezed through increased vigil across the Line of Control, the terrorist groups in the Valley are finding it difficult to make up their losses, which is a positive sign. More importantly, the government of the day has finally cracked the whip on the Hurriyat leadership for their links with terrorist organisations — a much needed step to curb terrorism and one which hopefully, will continue to be pursued.

Finally, on the foreign policy front, the government has shown firmness in dealing with Chinese bullying tactics, by standing up for Bhutan and preventing Chinese encroachment into Bhutanese territory near the tri junction at Doka La. This is a vital security concern for India as Chinese attempts to build a road on to the Jampheri Ridge in Bhutan would seriously compromise India’s defence and increase the vulnerability of the strategic Siliguri corridor. China has resorted to high decibel psychological warfare, threatening India with war over the issue, through statements emanating from Xinhua, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China, as well as from Global Times—a state owned paper. Belligerent statements have also been made by Chinese diplomats as well as by their foreign minister. India has shown a remarkable firmness in sticking to its stand, while not getting provoked by Chinese tactics. While India would like a peaceful settlement to the issue, it must be ready to take on the Chinese militarily, should the Chinese resort to the use of force to press their claims. While war with China would suit neither India nor China, succumbing to Chinese blackmail is not an option. India must work for peace, but keep its powder dry. In the long run, the best antidote to war is the will to fight for what is right.

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