These are the seven lessons in management Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonstrated since the reaction to the Pulwama terror attack up to the return of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan
New Delhi: Political and foreign affairs pundits will dissect India’s response to the massacre of 44 CRPF jawans in Pulwama. But for management students, how PM Narendra Modi responded to the worst attack on our forces in Kashmir holds several gems in leadership, crisis management and the general running of an organisation.
Here are seven of those, some of which may not feature in your B-school curriculum.
1. Create opportunity from worst crisis
Modi is a master of creating opportunity in crisis. He turned 2002 riots as an exposé of skewed secular politics and inherent bias in our media. Demonitisation, widely panned by his opponents and some economic pundits, helped formalise and digitise the economy besides politically bringing the poor into BJP’s fold.
This time, Modi made Pulwama a rallying point to unite Indian public opinion against Pakistan, which allowed him to then take unprecedented steps to punish the enemy and change India’s image as a soft state.
Today, the nation stands solidly behind him, making the opposing worry that he may sweep the forthcoming elections. It is also making many rivals do or utter self-destructive stuff.
2. Hire smart people, let them tell you what to do
The PM has fortified himself with the most competent talent. His national security adviser, Ajit Doval, is among the finest spymasters and strategic minds in the world right now. He has chosen service chiefs with deep operational experience, knowing fully well his style of leadership would necessitate Balakot or Doklam-like missions.
3. Wait, wait, wait for the right time to strike
This is a tell-tale Modi quality. He waited patiently, without hitting back, for 12 years as his opponents and media kept targeted him for Gujarat riots. He stepped into the BJP PM candidate’s role only when he thought the time was ripe.
After Pulwama, he did not do anything knee-jerk. He waited 12 agonising days in the midst of a nation’s call for revenge. His diplomats built global consensus for action against Pakistan, his security team lulled Pakistan into thinking nothing audacious would happen. Then India struck Jaish camps in Balakot with an air raid, deep inside Pakistan.
4. Don’t do a deal under duress or blackmail
In a rather hardline policy shift, India made it clear that there will be no deal or negotiation with Pakistan simply because it has captured our pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman. India told Pakistan to return him safely and immediately without expecting de-escalation of tension. Pakistan blinked. Its PM Imran Khan tried to save face by presenting it as a statesmanlike gesture, whereas in reality, India’s diplomatic missions made sure there was unbearable pressure from the US, Saudi and others.
5. Keep your enemy’s friends close to you
Pakistan stands globally isolated today. Under Modi, India has relentlessly worked at improving relations with every nation, including some of Pakistan’s closest allies.
As a result, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Muslim nations have exerted pressure on Pakistan to behave, embraced India to the point Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stayed away from an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation conference where his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj spoke.
Even China’s response at worst has been ambiguous. It even made a statement on how international cooperation was needed to end terrorism, possibly keeping in mind the Islamist terror threat it faces in its own Xinjiang province.
When you get close to your enemy’s friends, it greatly squeezes the room for your enemy to manoeuvre.
6. Work on Plan A, B, C, D simultaneously
India has not taken a single-way, linear approach to respond to Pakistan’s sliminess and aggression. Airstrike was one of more dramatic choices. But simultaneously, India has been carrying out determined diplomacy, gritty public opinion-building and internally preparing a plan to dilute or demolish Articles 370 and 35A which give Kashmir special status and are a fountainhead of the state’s problems.
India is also mulling other military options. Its trade embargo and taking away of Most Favoured Nation status has financially hit Pakistan.
So, it’s a multi-pronged strategy at work towards one ultimate goal: Crippling the opponent.
7. Be unpredictable, keep element of surprise
PM Modi regales in being unpredictable. Coupled with his sense of timing, unpredictability is perhaps the most potent weapon in his arsenal. He makes sure his opponents keep guessing.
Just as with the demonetisation announcement or his often surprise choice of CMs for states, the airstrikes and subsequent dealing with Pakistan has been peppered with unpredictability.
But creative, calculated unpredictability requires boundless innovation, which again the PM has not shied from.
In all, the last few days and the unfolding situation is a goldmine of a case study for B-schoolers.
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Last Updated Mar 2, 2019, 11:48 AM IST