Aggression, Self-Reliance And At Times Defensiveness: Pointers For Foreign Policy From Dangal

Jayraj Panda

Jan 10, 2017, 03:06 PM | Updated 03:06 PM IST

 A scene from the film
A scene from the film Dangal
  • Just like in wrestling, where aggression is not myopically viewed as harming or injuring the fellow wrestler, foreign policy is not about browbeating your fellow nations.
  • As I walked out after watching Dangal on an evening last week, I realised that beyond the explicit theme of the film - the journey of an athlete fighting against all odds and making a mark in the world of wrestling, there was yet another concomitant message which accompanied the film.

    This message was regarding the attitude which a coach intends to instill in his student. While sitting in the audience during the second bout of the first-round match in Delhi in Commonwealth Games 2010, as shown in the film, wrestler Geeta Phogat’s father and first coach Mahavir Phogat, shouts from the audience - “Harna nahi hai Geeta”.

    Beyond the obvious optics, this dialogue and its linkages with the attitudinal differences between Phogat (her father and first coach) and P R Kadam (the national coach) in the film provide invaluable lessons for India’s foreign policy.

    Aggression is the most pertinent feature in wrestling. Phogat saw this virtue of aggression in his daughters Geeta and Babita when he saw his young daughters beat two boys who swore at them. It was this attitude of aggression which takes Geeta to the National Sports Academy in Patiala, and it was this return to her original instinctive style of play, which ensured that she would attain the glory of the gold.

    In the context of foreign policy, every country has a right to possess an aggressive attitude. As in wrestling, where aggression is not myopically viewed as harming or injuring the fellow wrestler, even in the domain of foreign policy, it is not about browbeating your fellow nations. Aggression is about possessing a positive and assertive attitude to forward India’s national interests. As Shri Ram Madhav, national general secretary of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), aptly remarked a few days ago, “There is no place for romanticism in diplomacy. It has to be cold-blooded and utterly pragmatic.”

    Aggression is about possessing the right kind of an attitude to win. With one of the few remaining bright spots in the global economic landscape in the increasingly inward-looking world, India stands to make tremendous gains in the sphere of foreign policy. With its demographic dividend ripe for fruition, healthy GDP growth rates and ardent efforts to dismantle the bureaucratic entanglements, the Narendra Modi-led NDA government is on the cusp of turning India into an unstoppable global force.

    The NDA government, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Modi, has made unprecedented efforts to awaken the nation from a diplomatic slumber. It shall need a calibrated effort from the entire spectrum of government, right-minded think-tanks and diplomatic machinery to gain fruitful deliverables for the country with the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues following up on the foreign visits made during the last two and a half years.

     Modi with leaders from various nations at India-Pacific Islands Cooperation, August 2015.
    Modi with leaders from various nations at India-Pacific Islands Cooperation, August 2015.

    Aggression is also about ensuring that terror-emanating beehives are exposed and isolated on global platforms. No stone must be left unturned to make the world aware of the misdeeds of the nation which has harboured factories of mass-destruction; which have inadvertently now turned into weapons of self-destruction for their own citizens.

    However, just like the semi-final match during the Delhi CWG as showed in the film, there is also a need to identify the opponents against whom one needs to be defensive. Equally necessary is to gauge the amount of time and platforms when such a garb of defensiveness needs to be worn. This does not imply that defensiveness should be inculcated as a habit. It refers to the significance of waiting for the golden chance to accelerate and ensure that India’s interests win in the end. It is about learning the best practices from the art of war and utilising its lessons at the opportune time.

    The last and the most important lesson of foreign policy which the movie teaches is the inevitability of being self-reliant. Lord Palmerston, 19th century UK prime minister and foreign secretary, had rightly put it, “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” There may arise a situation when even the closest of our allies with the noblest of intentions may happen to desert us. Rather than being dejected or feel desolated, a nation should ensure that it stands up to the occasion and faces the challenge with all its might.


A bird’s eye view of Rajpath, New Delhi on International Yoga Day, 2015
    A bird’s eye view of Rajpath, New Delhi on International Yoga Day, 2015

    A strong-minded leader with a visionary approach intends to create a robust foreign policy for the country. The need of the hour is to ensure that his actions get the adequate support to help India attain its rightful place in the world as the title track of the film suitable puts it: Re bhed ki hahakaar ke badle, Sher ki ek dahaad hai pyaare.

    Jayraj Pandya works at Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India. 

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