Unlike ever before in India’s history, domestic political calculations and audience costs dictate the shaping of the country’s foreign and security policy.
Under the Bharatiya Janata Party government, key foreign and security policy pursuits are often not undertaken for their own sake, but to cater to domestic electoral outcomes and spin convenient political narratives. The events that followed the 2019 Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir showed how the BJP-led government adopted an aggressive posture towards Pakistan in tandem with a carefully choreographed domestic political narrative to suit its forthcoming election campaign. However, the recent Sino-Indian military standoff on the LAC tells a completely different story. The BJP-led government refused to acknowledge the extent of incursions made by the Chinese army on the Sino-Indian border given how such an acknowledgement would have been politically costly for the ruling party. The talk will highlight how the party leveraged populism, social media, post-truth politics and narratives on nationalism and patriotism in order to legitimise its use of foreign policy outcomes for domestic political gains. The talk will also discuss how the BJP has managed to avoid domestic audience costs while making risky foreign policy decisions.