India Against Corruption



Wuhan and after

By PREM CHANDRAN IF ANYTHING, Wuhan this past week signified the arrival of a great leader on the Asian state; .....

: Oct 2012
: Adur, Kerala, India
: 65
: 92 | 0.04 Per Day
Thumbs up Wuhan and after --Or, Modi and XI


IF ANYTHING, Wuhan this past week signified the arrival of a great leader on the Asian state; and that leader is not Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but China's President for Life, Xi Jinping. At the height of unassailable power and glory, the temptation on the part of Xi was to climb a step or two down if it helped promote his nation?s interests. Needless to say, Narendra Modi played along with remarkable ease, energy and a great sense of diplomacy.

Together, India and China showed the world that good neighbourly relations matter the most to Asia's two emerging giants on world stage. In the new era of openness in diplomacy, where a Donald Trump seemed to be achieving the unthinkable by turning a new leaf in America's engagement with the rogue nation North Korea, and when the two Koreas are sitting together and thrashing out issues, the message is that anything is possible, given the right attitude and approach on the part of leaders and nations.

Wuhan possibly would not have happened the way it did if the Indian Prime Minister had not taken a remarkable, unconventional step of courting Xi Jinping within months after he headed the Indian government in New Delhi. Modi as PM did the unthinkable; and he keeps springing surprises and surprises. The first was his invitation to the heads of state from SAARC countries for the inaugural of his government. The dignitaries present included, notably, Pakistan's then PM Nawaz Sharif; something that Indians took in the right spirit, but not the fanatics in Pakistan; and least of all the masterminds of the terror networks there, the plane hijackers, the notorious military intelligence the ISI, and even Sharif's political rivals. They saw red in Sharif and Modi shaking hands; and they saw red in India and Pakistan edging closer; it meant their business enterprise of India-bashing for their own survival will be at stake. No one in India had expected of Modi to be nice to Pakistan; for, he's a former RSS pracharak; and he's the PM of a government led by the BJP. However, it showed that Modi as PM is not RSS's plaything; and that he has the grit and determination to grow beyond the loose Hinduvta grind.

Modi's first US visit as PM was another immediate step that brought home the realisation that he was not the usual PM stuff that we have come across, not just in India but elsewhere too. Suited and coated, these men (and women) hardly ever showed a tendency during foreign jaunts to take a look at the periphery of their official itinerary. The Madison Moment meant Modi was made of a different stuff. The Modi who rode bicycles through Indian villages to reach out to people as an RSS pracharak and sat in roadside tea-stalls, sipped tea and chatted with rustic men around, was an altogether different proposition; a far cry from the blue-blooded PMs presented to India by the Nehru family; he was different even from the likes of socialist Chandrashekhar, foolish IK Gujral and sleepy Deve Gowda. Here was someone who came up from humble beginnings, sold tea on railway platforms, ran a canteen at a bus stand after functioning as an RSS pracharak, took active interest in BJP and won people's mandate to run Gujarat as CM first and India as its PM next.

Or see how, on a flight from Afghanistan, Modi asked the pilot to take a detour and land in Lahore, and then rode up to PM Sharif's ancestral home where the Pakistani leader's birthday party was in progress. Doesn't matter that this gesture did not help much; the military brass conspired to stall a rapprochement between India and Pakistan, and within days it happened: terrorists crossed the border and landed up at Pathankot airbase, engaging Indian security forces for two days even as, in the end. they fell to Indian bullets.

Now, as we know, this is the stuff that Narendra Modi is made of. And, what of XI? His first few years as Chinese President saw him acting with abundant caution. He gave enough leeway to the Communist Party bosses to have their way in governance process; and the party-inspired Chinese land force, the PLA, repeatedly embarrassed Xi with their tantrums. They hurt Xi even when he was taking a walk along the Sabarmati Ashram's lawns in Gujarat by staging an intrusion into the Ladakh area of India, sending the signal that Xi was not the last word when it came to Chinese power and diplomacy. Xi barely extricated himself from that embarrassment. Upon his return, it would look like he gently told the PLA to behave.

Xi acted with restraint, but achieved his aim: to be on the same pedestal as Mao Zedong when it came to authority. With the Chinese Communist Party giving him unbridled powers to take decisions and raising him to the exalted level of President for Life, Xi's word today is the last word, the law, in China until he's alive (physically and mentally active) to lead the nation. No one can anymore raise a finger at him, like what the Indian communists are used to in running their party or challenging the government from a level of virtual zero strength at mass level. Instead, it is from this position of extreme strength that Xi decided to take a step or two down (as we perceive of it) and sit around Indian leader Modi to, as we perceive of it, -- to quietly prepare the ground to sort out matters. Xi had two ways open to him. Either act in positive ways or face India squarely and call its bluff in Doklam, that's, or elsewhere along the 3,500km border through, partly, the Himalayas, or in the seas where there is already a Chinese encirclement; or in the air, where China has superior air power. Estimates are that China today has five times India's military strengths; something that remained almost equal till the turn of the century. The past nearly two decades were a period for China to build not just its economic muscle but also a matching military muscle.

India, with its Sonia Gandhis, Manmohan Singhs and an indecisive AK Antony, stands almost where it was 20 years ago in terms of military muscle. Worse, what it got from Russia -- submarines et al -- are proving to be of little use. These worthies thought India faced no external threat as long as Pakistanis are kept in good spirits, if at all it meant large-scale intrusions by terrorists into Kashmir or even Punjab. Now, the time of reckoning was close at hand.

Face to face, India cannot win a war against China; and for China, it has Pakistan to its side as well to take on India in a parallel strike. If India remains weak, a day might come when even Bangladesh would play along with China, not India. Maldives has proven a point. The Indian leadership's lack of competence and lethargy == two outstanding qualities of political leadership in this country; where anyone with a Nehru cap can become leader of nation and prime minister; or, note the height of stupidity with which we the people put India's destiny into the hands of a home-alone Sonia Gandhi, a la Rabri Devi in Bihar! Even granted that the Brahminical power brokers that surround the Nehru family in Delhi worked from behind, look at the way the era of loot progressed a la the 2G Scam, the CWG Scam, the Coal Blocks scam, the Bofors of the past....It was virtually a rudderless India.

Narendra Modi as PM has a life of only one more year; he might stand a chance to return to power in the 2019 general elections, granted that he remains as the tallest leader in the country. Politics is such a turf that anything is possible a year hence. Chances are that Modi will outwit those who are dreaming to usurp power the next time around; chances are also that others might outwit Modi. But, Xi apparently saw an opportunity to confabulate with Modi in the larger interests of his own nation. It had the right backdrop vis-a-vis confidence-building. The two, it would turn out, had displayed the right chemistry in personal relation in Gujarat, during the red leader?s 2014 India visit. And, Xi waited for the right opportunity to return the compliment. He did so within a month after he was made the supreme leader of China, President for Life. Wuhan has had the same settings, with exotic twists matching the peculiarities of Gandhi?s Sabarmati Ashram, and with striking similarities. Wuhan was the favourite retreat for Mao whenever he required rest and relaxation; just as Gandhi accorded great importance to his Sabarmati Ashram.

A personal touch marked the two days Modi spent there with Xi. What they discussed in specific, no one knows. But, what was important for the two was something else: to build further on the personal chemistry the two built in Guajarat, where Modi flew down to receive and host Xi, far from the imperious settings of New Delhi. Cities are not the right place to build personal relations; there are one too many distractions. Both Modi and Xi apparently understand this truth.

Without doubt, a personal equation by itself will not help solve ticklish issues. China holds large swathes of Indian land past the 1962 aggression ? the only war the two nations waged in their centuries-long existence as neighbours. It?s our right to get back that land, rather than act like a weakling and say it was all barren land. Such explanations showed how weak and irresponsible India?s leaderships were. We have the Doklam before us as the latest irritant. Chinese PLA was building a road there with bulldozers etc, even as it had no final right to the land, which is part of Bhutan. China laid claim to that area, but then China lays claims to Arunachal Pradesh as well. It has a habit of laying claim to whatever it comes across in both land and sea. This rather is a strategy: to hold the rival side on the defensive; by being on the offensive all the time in ways small and substantial and even big. India wakes up to act when it takes a hit. Which is why, all the time Pakistan, a weakling, keeps hitting India; and India then making an attempt to hit it back; be it the LoC or elsewhere. India, out of the incompetence of its leaders, opts to preach peace to the outside world. Truth be told, this is no mark of strength; this is not even a mark of one?s dignity.

Why has Xi taken a step or two to mend fences with India? Facts are facts. Because of China?s actions in recent times, and because of geopolitical compulsions, and because India of today has no special commitment to the weakening socialist bloc, New Delhi is increasingly engaging Washington, and vice versa. With India as America?s friend in the region, the US can take on China with a new vehemence. US and India together will be a formidable combination against China. So, why tie up with a creep like Pakistan and keep giving pin-pricks to India? Instead, why not discuss contentious matters straight, edge closer to India, a nation that has by far the world?s largest market for consumer goods ? which is what China is mass-producing and which is what gives the Chinese economy its essential strength? If India closes its markets to China, it is virtually losing a market of 1.50billion people; one fifth of the entire world market in terms of population size.

India is standing in the way of China?s and Xi?s most ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) project that cuts through the Pakistani side of Kashmir to reach up to the markets in West Asia the Gulf, Europe and up close to the African ports. China understands why India is standing in its way. China itself is obstructionist in its approaches; standing in the way of India in respect of New Delhi?s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers? Group(NSG); and thwarting Indian bid to name a Pakistani terror outfit leader who camouflages his evil intent by charities, Masood Azhar, as a UN-designated terror mastermind. Now, as supreme leader with no one to question him, Xi can effect a change in China?s foreign policy. If he so desires, Xi can go slow on Pakistan and engage India in more positive ways. If he so desires, that?s. One cannot keep running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

If Xi has become most powerful, look at the Indian scene. An Indian PM cannot even take a decision on his own in, say, appointing a peon in government service; powerful and yet so powerless, as Indira Gandhi had once cited. But, at the same time, cliques are having all the resources to fill the bureaucracy with their kith and kin. That's the way this funny democracy works. What it works best is to help promote the vested interests, including the new army of NGOs who fish in troubled waters, take up public causes and make money for themselves. Pitted against China, freedom is India's worst enemy. It gives freedom for indulgences of the worst kind. By contrast, lack of freedom is China's great strength. So many people at so many levels are taking India for a sweet ride in the name of freedom; this prominently includes the Indian Communists, a set of foot-in-the-mouth soldiers for lost causes and defeated ideologies.

Even Narendra Modi as PM makes no difference to this nation; for, he doesn't have the stamina to take on India's reigning army of vested interests. He is functioning in the system of democracy where fools call most of the shots, as learned ex-judge, Modi-baiter par excellence, and one who lost his voice of late, Justice Markandeya Katju, once said. What Katju failed to see was that, alongside the fools are the large army of self-seekers and vested interests who quote scriptures from the pulpit and loot the nation with a stamp of innocence fixed to their faces. Modi is presiding over all these, and he's unruffled!

Good if Modi has learned a lesson or two from Xi. He needs to, because Xi has shown the grit and determination to take matters forward in his country, put his detractors in the silent mode; and above all, he means business; and he means better times for his nation even by taking a few steps backward, as he did at Wuhan, to extend a hand of friendship to someone who stopped him in his tracks in Doklam.

In Doklam, India intervened at the right time, and boldly too. But, fact of the matter as soldiers posted in the area say, is also that the Chinese PLA has not taken a step backward. They are standing where they were when Indian troops stepped in. PLA has thereafter not move an inch forward either. The deadlock continues. No side has won, no side has lost, but India has proven a point. This far and no further! India did so not just to stand on the side of Bhutan and hold a brief for it, but also to ensure that the Chinese did not gain an upper hand in a region that's highly sensitive to India, close to the Chicken's Neck, the narrow strip that links India's mainland with the North-East states. It is the same area where the Naxalites had first struck with inspiration from Mao and possibly China, their idea being to cut the north-east away from India.

Be that as may, PM Modi has proven to be the right match to the Chinese leadership in more ways than one, even as Xi stands head and shoulders above him. He's China's leader, and Modi is India's. Wuhan has proven it yet again.

--The writer is a media consultant, former Editor and an activist of India Against Corruption. ?IHN-NN

Last edited by Premchandran; 05-04-2018 at 12:20 AM : para change
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