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From ‘Restraint’ to ‘Right to Self-Defense’: How the Language of Diplomacy Has Changed in Favour of India

right to self-defense

The Pulwama massacre has completely shocked and outraged not only the country but international community as well. It’s not that this is the first time that the country has faced such horrifying attacks. The 2008 Mumbai attacks is one of those that comes to mind instantly apart from many others that have rocked this country in the past.

What is different this time is that unlike earlier when foreign responses were limited to words of condemnation and outrage, the unqualified international support that the Indian government has received from all sections of the global community even backing India for a ‘military response’ signifies greater appreciation of India’s concerns recognizing the country’s rising weight in the comity of nations.

The Shifting Stance Through Words by the US

In earlier reactions, the words of sympathies were followed with urgings of restraint to India and Pakistan. For instance in 2008, although the US had expressed sympathies and solidarity, it had also urged both sides to refrain from raising tensions.


Earlier, they were inclined to directly dictate India’s course of action as this report suggests.

Moreover, asking for dossiers and evidence against Pakistan’s involvement even for the horrible Mumbai attack has stopped now. The world is no longer waiting for India to produce a set of evidences before it could think about any action as it had happened with the Mumbai attack:

However today, there is a clear absence of words of restraint and dialogue etc affirming even full support to a possible retaliation of the physical kind by the government. The choice of words by US this time indicates that the world powers are no longer dictating India to decide its retaliatory measures. And Prime Minister Modi has unambiguously given a free hand to the army to deal with the issue.

This is what US National Security Advisor John Bolton told the press about his telephonic conversation with India’s NSA Ajit Doval:

“I told Ajit Doval today that we support India’s right to self-defense. I have spoken to him twice, including this morning… and expressed the US’ condolences over the terrorist attack.”

Shifting Stance of Russia

The same above pattern can be seen in the case of Russia as well. It did condemn the previous terror attacks as well, but this time the choice of words tells you all the difference.

In the instance of Mumbai attack, this was how Russia had reacted.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had said: “The monstrous crimes of terrorists in Mumbai arouse our wrath, indignation and unconditional condemnation… I would like to pass my deepest condolences to relatives and friends of those killed and wish the swiftest possible recovery to those injured.”

The call for ‘restraint’ was very much part of Russia’s communication to India.

Cut to this day, let’s see how Russia has framed its response urging India to act more assertively.

In a message to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Putin said, “…We strongly condemn this brutal crime. The perpetrators and the sponsors of this attack, undoubtedly, should be duly punished.” Then the statement from the Russian embassy has been equally emphatic even stressing the need to shed double standards on terror, “We denounce terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reiterate the need to combat these inhuman acts with decisive and collective response without any double standards.”

France: Then & Now

Then: French President Nicolas Sarkozy had said: “I strongly condemn the indiscriminate violence that hit your country through this series of ugly and odious terrorist acts… and express my sympathy and my wish to the injured for rapid recovery.”

Now: French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian too has named the Jaish-e-Mohammed directly while also referring to the cross-border terror operations. In a statement denouncing the attack, he has in no uncertain terms said that all countries should work jointly to combat terrorist and their funding channels and “to prevent the cross-border movement of terrorist groups such as JeM.”

Saudi Arabia

A country which had been relatively muted during the Mumbai attacks in 2008, has now affirmed that it stood with India’s fight against terrorism and extremism and denounced as “cowardly” the suicide attack.

Thus, this time, the response of the global community has been more than mere words of condemnation and condolences. As the instances above indicate, there is an unqualified tilt towards a more muscular response to the terrorists and their patrons.