Captain Spock, the commanding officer of USS Enterprise commanding, was spot on when he said that “the purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis”. How else can one explain the recent travel advisories against India by the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, just ahead of the festival season? While the wordings of the advisories may be different, the gist is the same: beware, India is a dangerous country and your life could be at risk. Understandably, New Delhi, egged on by the travel industry, is annoyed and is trying to press foreign governments to take back these warnings.
The warning at this time of the year, when foreign tourist inflow picks up, is obviously bad for business. In fact, 2011 is proving to be more of a good one than 2010: foreign exchange earnings from tourist arrivals in September are already up 19% vis a vis September 2010. Moreover, 2010 September figures were up 29.3% from the same period in 2009.
Even the most ardent India supporter would agree that the country is unsafe. But in this terror-hit world, which country isn’t? So to single out one country and call it unsafe is nothing but employing a carrot-and-stick policy that is linked to some other bilateral issue. Surprisingly, Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd is reported to have said that the advisory is ‘routine’ advice and they “do not have any information of any specific threat to share with India.” If that is so, then why issue such an advisory? Such ‘routine’ warnings only devalue and diminish the effect of such advisories. New Zealand’s foreign minister Murray McCully’s explanation was much more amusing.
He told his Indian counterpart SM Krishna, who is in Australia for meetings related to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), that the advisory was meant to make his citizens aware of demonstrations and avoid them. By that logic, no one should head towards Madrid, Athens or New York these days since those places are now hotbeds of anti-government protest rallies. So are these warnings, especially those coming from Australia, a reaction to the fact that India did not send its head of State to the CHOGM meet and instead sent vice-president Hamid Ansari? And could it have a bit to do with the ruckus created (rightly so) when Pakistan quietly tried to slip in PoK president for the meet? Or is it the issue of setting up a human rights watchdog, which New Delhi opposes?
India must learn to weather this turbulent world of diplomacy and it has to proactively counter these negative orders. The surefire way is to ensure that tourists get their monies worth when they come to India and take back good memories and spread the good word. That would be enough to counter the biased claims of some governments.