National Security and Foreign Policy: Congress vs BJP Manifesto

Marisha Dolly Singh
A comparison of what the ruling party has proposed versus the Congress in the areas of national security and foreign policy.

Mumbai, April 9: Now that the Bharatiya Janata Party has released its manifesto, let’s look at what the ruling party has proposed versus the Congress in the areas of national security and foreign policy. Read: BJP Manisfesto For Lok Sabha Elections 2019 Released: Sankalp Patra Unveiled by PM Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah

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National Security:

Congress

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  1. Congress will reverse the trend of declining defence spending under the NDA government, and will ensure that defence spending is increased to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces. We will expedite all modernisation programmes of the armed forces in a transparent manner.
  2. Congress promises to take strategic and hard measures to defend the territorial integrity of India and ensure the safety of our people.
  3. The concept of national security in the 21st century has expanded beyond defence of the territory to include data security, cyber security, financial security, communication security and security of trade routes. Congress promises to evolve suitable policies to address each of these subjects.
  4. Congress will establish the office of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to be the principal adviser to the Government on matters relating to defence.
  5. Congress will provide a statutory basis to the National Security Council (NSC) and the office of National Security Adviser (NSA).
  6. The key to internal security is intelligence, analysis and quick response. Congress had put in place the Multi-Agency Centre and the NSG regional hubs. Congress had also proposed to establish the National Counter-Terrorism Centre and NATGRID. Congress promises that NCTC will be set up within 3 months and NATGRID will be made operational by December 2019.
  7. The most serious threats to internal security emanate from (1) terrorism, (2) infiltration of militants, (3) Maoism or Naxalism and (4) caste or communal violence. Congress believes that each of these threats deserves a separate and distinct response.
  8. Congress promises to immediately withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Bill and to restore the special category status of the seven states in the North East.

BJP

  1. Jammu & Kashmir: BJP reiterates our position since the time of the Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370. We are committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of J&K," the BJP manifesto reads on Article 370 and 35A.
  2. It also promises to make all efforts to ensure safe return of Kashmiri Pandits.
  3. Citizenship Amendment Bill: BJP is committed to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution. All efforts will be made to clarify the issues to the sections of the population from the Northeastern states who have expressed apprehensions regarding the legislation," the BJP manifesto reads. It adds, “There has been a huge change in the cultural and linguistic identity of some areas due to illegal immigration, resulting in an adverse impact on local people’s livelihood and employment. We will expeditiously complete the National Register of Citizens process in these areas on priority. In future we will implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country.”
  4. Surgical Strikes: The BJP manifesto mentions the surgical strikes to say, “We will continue to follow our policy of giving a free hand to our security forces in combating terrorism”.

Foreign policy

Congress

  1. Congress promises to establish a National Council on Foreign Policy which comprise of members of the cabinet committee, national security experts and domain experts -- will be set-up to advice the government on its foreign policy.
  2. Congress says it will re-double the efforts to win a seat for permanent membership for India at the UNSC and the Nuclear Suppliers Group;
  3. It promises to significantly increase the size of the Foreign Service
  4. Congress promises to pass a Law on Asylum in tandem with universal treaties and regulations
  5. Congress says it will “persuade other countries to compel Pakistan to verifiable end its support to terrorist groups that it shelters”. It also promises that it will work towards engaging more with the United Nations to constantly review its terror financing and sanctions list.
  6. Congress said it would work in close coordination with neighbouring countries, including Sri Lanka and Pakistan, to sort out issues of conflict when it came to the arrest of fishermen for moving in the other country’s territorial waters.

BJP

  1. The BJP manifesto says that India should continue to “safeguard ‘global commons’” and “strengthen our role as ‘first responder’ for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance and develop partnerships for disaster resilient infrastructure.”
  2. BJP says it will increase ways to facilitate knowledge exchange and technology transfer internationally.
  3. BJP will push for an International Space Technology Alliance “for better coordination and cooperation on issues related to space technology to ensure that the benefits of space technology reach all, especially the smaller countries.”
  4. BJP says it will identify “concrete steps” at international forums to take action against “countries and organizations supporting terrorism.” Though Pakistan is not directly named, the BJP manifesto states that India will continue to “isolate such countries.”
  5. BJP says its government will work towards “ensuring an open, inclusive, prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific.”

Both parties have put down a long list of promises and many of these promises are not new. Only the results of the Lok Sabha elections 2019 will tell in which direction India’s national security and foreign policy will now move.