Friday, November 21, 2014

Modi's Diplomatic Coup and thereafter

The media is already calling it the BIGGEST diplomatic coup by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The US President Barack Obama will be the first US President to grace the next year's Republic Day parade in New Delhi as the chief guest.
The importance is not so much with the date of his arrival and attending the grand annual ceremony, but it lies in the timing that Obama will be in India within 8 months Modi took over the reins.
True to the hope of Obama-Modi parleys; the US administration tweeted:
"President Obama will meet @narendramodi and Indian officials to strengthen and expand the U.S.- strategic partnership".

This coup would work well against the detractors of Narendra Modi who saw little virtue in his popularity both in the United States and more recently in Australia. A Congress spokesman and that too a former Foreign Minister, Salman Khurshid had surpassed all illogical sense when he suggested that Modi must have taken over 20,000 odd supporters from India to work as cheer leaders during his visit to that country.

Actually, the bigger problem lies in the failure of a group of Indians to admit the reality that yes, Modi is the Prime Minister of India. That his flambuoyant style of functioning works almost as a magical spell both on commoners and the world leaders. 

Actually there is a historical reason to underestimate Modi's variety of foreign policy framework as under the Congress regime both in last decade and before that, the Indian foreign policy largely had remained as intangible as it has been always. Typical of its characteristic New Delhi’s policy approach often gave mixed signals. It took a step forward and two steps backwards. 
The Indian foreign policy generally showed tendency to go back to non-aligned spirit – something abandoned by the world community long ago. And who mastered that art: none other than Pt Jawaharlal Nehru. Most of his successors and even BJP's own Atal Behari Vajpayee simply followed that.
There have been therefore, a series of tales on flip-flop vis-à-vis Indian policy with regard to crucial fronts like China, Pakistan and also the US.

In the process, it remained a near negligible player globally.
New Delhi thus struggled for 'peace' without victors or vanquished concept -- something unimaginable in the 21st century. Like the Congress netas often did in domestic politics, in larger platform of global interaction also New Delhi generally played please all. 

So the brinkmanship and the faulty one at that lay in pursuing policies those were non-committal, passive and mostly guided by short term and emotive agendas – and those lacked tactical visions. 
But here is a different man in Modi trying to shake up the moribund security and foreign policy establishments.

The good old saying, the beginning does not know our end seems to work in perfect harmony with politics. Diplomacy like politics is also an art that cannot be predicted always.

Thus, the political journey of country’s 15th Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and his Diplomatic Mission exemplifies some aspects of these definitions. 

Whatever may be the reasons, the 
catchword for his government would be more than mere performance – probably it’s called miracle. 

People of India, now given a new phraseology ‘aspirational India’ needs answers to job shortage, electricity crisis, high food prices, corrupt babus and cops and basic amenities in villages. 

These could be tough order as only recently Mckinsey Global Institute report said that nearly 56 per cent of Indians – that is about 680 million people cannot afford basic needs like food, water, housing and sanitation and health care.

So it needs to be debated whether Modi's diplomatic cards could be related to the basic problems of jobs and food, drinking water and shelter in the backyards.

But having said that; it goes without saying that the Nehruvian foreign policy had actually guided Indian foreign policy irrespective of whichever governments came to power.

The central challenge for Modi regime in the 21st century now -- when the world has changed completely from Nehru's time - staring at India’s foreign policy engine room, principally the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under any Prime Minister would be how to shake up that stagnancy. A coup like getting Obama for a Republic Day colourful ceremony is only a small step. 
Modi with Ausie PM, Tony Abbot

No doubt I have criticised Vajpayee regime too for continuing with some stagnancy of the past. But creditably for Vajpayee's far-sighted vision, Within weeks of his assuming power, Vajpayee cleared a neo-assertive step and conducted multiple nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1998. Perhaps the history of Indian foreign policy changed permanently with one stroke.

Post the nuke tests on May 11, 1998, Indian government was, from the outset, disinclined to compromise. The subsequent engagement between Vajpayee’s interlocutor Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbott gave the Indians a chance to resist the Americans’ pressure face to face. 

It sent a strong message across the globe and India’s strong resilience against the economic sanctions despite the gloomy showed painted by the prophets of doom. 
In that sense, even Talbott later said, “the dialogue could be its own reward, as both a means and an end”. The nuclear tests and the subsequent engagement with the U.S was a turning point not only in the US_India relations, but also for India’s global image. 
Narendra Modi should make a forward leap from this vantage point. (ends) 

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