Saturday, August 15, 2015

Independence Day 2015 Resolve: Clean India – Swatch Bharat – to Cleanse India of Corruption

Prime Minister Modi spoke about corruption-free India in this year’s Independence Day address. He compared it with termites in our homes that require action at multiple levels. We have to give many injections at many places, he said. He was probably suggesting that besides government people too have to play a role in uprooting corruption in our country.

His address last year from the ramparts of Red Fort became famous for the call given for a clean India – Swatch Bharat. It elicited tremendous response from all cross sections of the society with politicians, filmstars and corporate hunchos hitting streets with brooms in hand joined by common people in large numbers. As Prime Minister pointed out children of the country picked up the message of clean India in a big way thus making it into a movement of the present as well as future.

From Clean India – Swatch Bharat – to Cleanse India of Corruption, the Modi government’s journey of transforming India into a developed nation is continuing. We need to wait and see whether this endeavour to end corruption in the country too would receive similar enthusiastic support from the people as did the clean India campaign.

Prime Minister himself acknowledges that it would be a difficult challenge. He narrated how pressure was mounted on him for relaxing the auction norms for FM Radio services. His lament was that in last six decades corruption has almost become a way of life in our country. That people are frustrated by this was evident from the rousing response to his suggestion of doing away with the interview business for government jobs at lower levels. As he rightly pointed out this interview business has literally become a den of corruption.

Fighting corruption can’t be the responsibility of the government alone. While the governments are expected to eradicate corruption from the top the society is expected to impart values at the bottom. While we should have system in place to punish the corrupt we need also to have systems that create incorruptible people in society. That is when a comprehensive and decisive victory over corruption is possible.

The Prime Minister’s other focus was on uplifting the poor and downtrodden of our country. His government has taken a number of initiatives like Jan Dhan Yojana, pension schemes, insurance schemes and gas subsidy etc aimed at improving the living conditions of the poor.

The Prime Minister has a unique way of doing these things. His way is an inclusive way. Reference to Team India of 1.2 Billion people is not a mere lip service. It is his way of achieving things. He is probably the first Prime Minister who has involved people in a big way in achieving the goals of the government. Decocracies are described as ‘By the people; For the people and Of the people’. PM Modi puts this dictum into practise very ably.

The new initiative of Start Up India and Stand Up India too will follow the same pattern. It is aimed at encouraging enterprenuership of the young. India is endowed with a large pool of talented youngmen and women. There is a need for encouraging them to take up enterprenureal activity. The Prime Minister has announced that more than a lac branches of various banks would act as catalysts to promote enterpreneurship among the youth, especially the SCs, STs and women. He exhorted the bank officials to extend similar support to this initiative as they did for Jan Dhan Yojana.

The Prime Minister surely is following a well-defined course. He invoked Gandhiji’s name in a different context. But Gandhiji had actually set out an agenda for the independent India on the last day of his life by way of a draft resolution. In his last public document drafted on 29 January 1948 and handed over to the Congress officials on 30 Jan, hours before his unfortunate and untimely death, Gandhiji had said: “India has still to attain social, moral and economic independence in terms of its seven hundred thousand villages as distinguished from its cities and towns”.

Thus while we became “politically free” on Independence Day in 1947, securing economic, social and moral independence was still to be achieved according to him. That in his view was the real meaning of independence. In his famous poem “Where the mind is without fear” Rabindronath Tagore too calls essentially for social and moral reform of the country. Tagore described freedom as a heaven where there is no fear; where knowledge and reason drive the people; where narrow domestic walls don’t divide them and where creative thinking and action, not dead habit lead the people.

We are going to celebrate 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji in 2019 followed by 75th anniversary of our independence in 2022. The goal set by Gandhiji for social, moral and economic upliftment of our nation should be the driving force for all of us in the next few years. From the Red Fort’s ramparts the Prime Minister has appealed to the countrymen to share this eloquent vision of our forefathers and turn it into a reality.

(Some musings on the Independence Day - 2015)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Japan in India

Japan in India
It was the afternoon of 16 August 1945. A few eminent citizens of Tokyo assembled at a burnt-out building in the city to chalk out the future plans for the revival of their beloved city. One of the experts present, Okita, narrates the situation: “If you looked out of the windows, it looked like a scorched plain. Everybody was starving. But the committee discussing the future worked really hard”.
It was just the day before, 15 August 1945 that the surrender of Japan before the Allied forces had happened. Once a mighty empire Japan was reduced to a fiefdom of US. Militarily it was finished. One third of the country was completely destroyed. More than half of the means of economic production had been reduced to rubble. Many millions had been killed in the Allied air raids. In one case a night-long Allied attacks on Tokyo city witnessed some 3000 sorties by the US Air Force dropping bombs every which way killing more than 100000 in one night. The Second World War had almost finished off the means of survival for Japan.
Yet what couldn’t be destroyed or written off was the spirit of the Japanese. They thought, ‘it’s bad now. But with a big effort, Japan will get back to its feet again’. While the country was being smothered by the Allied forces during the War and the occupational US Army under Douglas McArthur for seven years after the War, the eminent experts of that country were busy putting in place their plans for future revival of the country.
David Pilling calls this characteristic of the Japanese ‘Bending Adversity’. In an inspiring book with the same title he narrates how the Japanese have made it into almost a national obsession to work towards bending adversities into opportunities.
Japan is India’s largest and most important trade partner. We exchange goods and technology. But we need to exchange this spirit also. India is a land of great cultural and civilizational institutions. Our family and social institutions are an example to the entire world. Japan is facing serious stress at the societal level today. Atomized families and materialist lifestyles of the extreme kind are taking their toll on the Japanese society. Country is aging fast with average age shooting above 50. The aged parents in the country have nowhere to turn to. As the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu told one gathering recently toy business is booming in Japan not just because the children love them but also the old people need them to play with. They have nobody else to turn to in the twilight of their lives. Japan will soon join the club of the so-called ‘evening economies’.
While Japan can benefit from our value system we need to imbibe the great work culture – the single-minded obsessive focus of the entire nation on development – from that country. It is a country with a totally out-of-the-box thinking. It used every opportunity – good or bad – to strengthen its economy and industry. As soon as the Second World War ended one of the first decisions that the country took was to join the NATO – the very force that had caused such a vast mayhem. It was a decision thrust on Japan by the occupying forces of McArthur.
But the Japanese turned that humiliating decision also into an opportunity. Joining NATO had released Japan from a number of international obligations that the country would have otherwise been subjected to for its dastardly role in the Second World War. It now was freed from the burden of its own defence too as the US Army was there in Tokyo and elsewhere to take care of that. The Japanese had cleverly used it to throw all their energies in the direction of economic development.
“Some factories went the other way, from pre-war military production to manufacture of civilian goods. An aircraft factory in Osaka started making nails for houses. Makers of radio parts turned their thoughts to light bulbs. In due course, companies such as Nikon, which had ground lenses for gunships, started producing cameras and binoculars”, writes Pilling. To aptly sum up the post-War mood in Japan Kiyoshi Tomizuka’s diary entry in April 1945, a few months before the surrender of Japan, will be the best source. A professor of engineering at Tokyo Imperial University Kiyoshi wrote in that entry: “An army in uniform is not the only sort of army. Scientific technology and fighting spirit under a business suit will be our underground army”.
Our Make in India needs a lot of learning from this culture of Japan. In fact China emulated Japan in some areas like industrial production. It focused on capturing markets first and for that growth, not profit, was made the target. In fact this is another important trait of the Japanese; ‘growth now and profits later’ was the motto for a long time in Japan. Unlike the notion of the western economists for whom economic activity means securing more and more profits for the shareholders the Japanese companies look for growth first and profits later.
We are happy letting our politics block the economic and industrial development of our country. The most important economic reforms like the Fair Compensation and Rehabilitation Act (popularly known as the Land Acquisition Bill), GST etc are held to ransom for petty political gains.some Opposition leaders are scouting around spreading rumours and falsehoods about the government and its programmes. Prime Minister Modi faces the biggest challenge to his developmental dreams in the form of these political roadblocks today.
There is no other way but to accelerate infrastructure boom in the country. Without that the desired economic and industrial development will not kick-start. Unless we achieve that job creation is not possible. India is a country with a massive young workforce constantly in search of jobs. Every year we are adding about 20 million youngsters to the workforce. But sadly we have been able to add only about 2 million new jobs annually. We need to urgently bridge this gap. But without the required reforms like the ones mentioned above none of this is possible.
It is a challenge for Modi and his team. Can they, like Japan, turn this adversity into an opportunity? The Japanese had used the Korean War in the ‘50s to strengthen their manufacturing base for supplying to the US Army. It was bad; but it was an opportunity. India can’t look for wars to strengthen its economy. But does it have experts in its Niti Ayog or the government that can ‘bend’ the present ‘political adversity’ into an opportunity?
That is the big question for which the nation is awaiting answers; not the silly ones raised in the prime time TV shows.

Friday, September 26, 2014

PM Modi in US

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to set foot on US at around 2 PM today. Hours before his arrival in the US, excitement is palpable everywhere. PM Modi is not the first Indian Prime Minister to visit this country, nor is he going to be the last. Yet his visit, maiden one after becoming the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, has generated tremendous interest and interest among not only the Indian American community but also among the US Law-makers, administration and the government.

Shri Narendra Modi is visiting US after a stupendous victory three months ago in the world’s largest democracy where an electorate bigger than the population of USA and Europe has used its democratic right of franchise to elect him as their leader. He pulled off a sort of revolution by securing majority to the BJP on its own thus forming a coalition government that is absolutely stable and strong. PM Modi’s support base includes all sections of Indian society, most importantly the youth. He represents the aspirational young population of India.

Naturally the expectations are that through this visit PM Modi will rejuvenate Indo-US ties that have slowed down in the last few years due to various domestic and international factors. During his visit to India in 2010 President Obama had called for making Indo-Us relationship “the defining partnership in the 21st Century”. The US administration certainly looks up to PM Modi’s visit for such a major leap forward.

For PM Modi this is not a bilateral visit alone. He is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday. The world leaders are keenly looking forward to his address to the UNGA and his position on various international issues. Pakistan Prime Minister’s speech, scheduled for a day early, is likely to touch upon a raw nerve or two too. Besides, PM Modi has bilateral meetings lined up with a few important heads of nations. However the bilateral part of the visit that takes place on 29-30 September is what the people in India and the US are eagerly looking forward to.

Prime Minister’s engagements include meetings with business leaders, investor companies and Indian American community. He is also scheduled to meet President Obama for a Summit Meeting followed by meetings with Vice President, Speaker etc. Thus his visit includes G2B – Government to Business and G2P – Government to People agenda besides of course G2G – Government to Government agenda.

PM Modi’s USP is his single-minded focus on India’s economic development. He has set his eyes on the goal of making every Indian rich in a few years from now. Towards that end his government is pursuing a number of economic policies that have the power of propelling inclusive economic development. As part of his drive to strengthen India’s economic basics he is also scouting for investments to flow into India.

He did it in Japan and with China; and he is expected to do the same here in the US. For sometime now India’s economic climate has been vitiated so much by wrong policies that the investor is scared to look at an otherwise goldmine-like market in india. PM Modi’s biggest challenge is to bring back investor confidence in India. He has to reassure the global investor that there won’t be any sudden taxation regime changes.

There is considerable enthusiasm in the business community in US over his visit. They had seen him as Chief Minister of Gujarat successfully pursuing development-oriented economic policies that have benefitted his people greatly. They expect him to do the same at the national level as Prime Minister. This forms his G2B engagement in US.

His G2G engagement is also crucial. As two world’s important and big democracies, India and US have many shared objectives and concerns. Besides economics India and US share a major common concern in the form of terrorism. Terrorism is an enemy of democracies. It is a global menace now. Both our countries have been working together on issues of terrorism and homeland security. Furthering this cooperation in fight against global terror is an important issue for both the governments.

There is a need for the US to review its policy with regard to addressing this global terror network. We have the epicentre of global terror in India’s neighbourhood. The US must keep in mind that a stable and strong government in Afghanistan is critical to addressing the menace of terrorism.

India and US have been cooperating in defence related sectors too. India is committed to strengthen its defence establishment in view of the regional environment it is forced to live in. There is no clash of interests for both our countries in this regard. However the US shouldn’t see India merely as an export destination for defence equipment. PM Modi is keen on making India a manufacturer not only of consumer goods but also defence equipment. His Make in India campaign includes both high-tech and low-tech industry. The US can use technology transfer route to boost India’s defence industry.

The most important factor in Indo-US relations is the more than 4 million Indians living in this country. They are greatly excited over the visit of PM Modi. He is going to address them on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. It is a basket ball stadium and the biggest available one in New York with a seating capacity of about 20,000. The stadium is already overbooked for PM Modi’s event being hosted by Indian American Community Foundation. The fact that no other world leader has ever attempted such a big event in New York goes to show the popularity of PM Modi and the enthusiasm of the Indian American community to meet and greet him. A large number of Congressmen are also expected to turn up at the event to greet Modi.

Prime Minister Modi today represents a new India of 1.2 billion self-confident Indians. The US administration and the world leaders will see a leader who is himself confidence personified. And they will learn to deal with a new India - youthful, energetic and eager to grow and progress. India’s rise is a good news for all those who care for peace, stability and prosperity in the world.

And Prime Minister Modi is the leader destined to script that growth story for India.

Friday, August 15, 2014


He arrived in style.. the turban he wore reminding the countrymen of a Swami Vivekanand who went to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago some 121 years ago wearing the same. He invoked Swami Vivekanand a couple of time in his speech to proclaim that ‘India will once again rise to become Vishwa Guru’. And what he spoke was the essence of what Rishi Aurobindo and Swami Vivekanand – the two scholar-saints had wished India to be.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address was a visionary exhortation to inspire patriotic action among a billion plus Indians – be it the senior government officials or the ordinary village folks. Gone are the days of reader-Prime Ministers, who blabber extremely uninspiring insipid paragraphs from the notes prepared by some pen-pusher bureaucrat in South or North Block or the ubiquitous PMO. He did not hide behind the bullet-proof chamber, the very sight of which used to send chill in the spines of ordinary Indians reminding them of how insecure their own Prime Minister was and they themselves ought to be.

From the open podium on the ramparts of the historic Lal Khila – the Red Fort, with the triumphantly fluttering Tricolour behind him Prime Minister Modi declared that his course was going to be different. From the very first sentence itself he sent out a clear message to the countrymen that here is a leader who is different; who calls himself not the Prime Minister of the country but the Prime Servant – Pradhan Sevak. Through the entire 65-minute extempore address which forced many to introspect and also look for their kerchiefs he didn’t speak to the mammoth 20,000-strong audience in front of him alone, nor to the officials – civilian and military on both sides of his podium; he was speaking to the billion plus Indians; he was actually speaking on behalf of them.

The Prime Minister had a vision, and most importantly an action plan too. That is brand Modi. Those who are familiar with Gujarat know that Modi is a visionary-doer; not just one of them. For a vision to manifest in action one should know the path. Modi knows the path. That is why he repeatedly exhorted that he wanted the support of every political party, the industrialists, the Indians abroad, the youths of our country, the women, the parents… practically his agenda involved every Indian. It is participatory governance rather than representative governance. He wants to make every Indian a stake-holder in India’s progress and he thinks that it is possible.

He is a modernist when it comes to the tools of his vision. He talked about e-governance proclaiming it as effective, efficient and economical governance. He envisioned a digital India that empowers the last man. He attempted to stir up the latent patriotism of overseas Indians by calling upon them to ‘Make in India’.

At the same time his motivation is very Indian. He didn’t attempt to quote from some unknown author of a failed western country to sound big and intellectual. In stead he dived deep into traditional Indian wisdom and invoked the age-old Hindu dictum ‘Sangachaddhwam Samvadaddhwam Samvomanamsi janatam’. This Rigvedic hymn calls upon the people to ‘walk together, speak in one voice and think collectively’. This should be the mantra of national unity according to him. ‘Vayam Rashtre Jaguyama Sarve’ – another Vedic hymn quoted by him contains the message of patriotism and oneness. ‘Let us all wake up into a nation’ the hymn proclaims.

Through these very native ideas the Prime Minister wanted the countrymen to be inspired and motivated. Prime Ministers have traditionally been using the Red Fort occasion to deliver populist speeches with hoards of announcements of freebies etc. Announcements are important and Prime Minister Modi did announce a scheme or two. But he also made it clear that he was not going to indulge in any deceptive and un-fulfillable promises. Even in the schemes that he announced he wanted public participation in a big way. The cleanliness campaign and building toilets in schools is one such example of how he wanted India to progress on a model of participatory governance.

When Swami Vivekananda spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago about the greatness of India and Hinduism the world was stunned into silence. But later somebody asked Vivekananda an important question - ‘If your country is great and your culture is great why are your people so poor and backward and in slavery?’. Vivekananda’s reply was: ‘My country and culture are great. But my people have become lethargic and self-centred’. That was why after his return to India he launched a movement in the name of Shri Ramakrishna Mission to reform Indian society.

Wearing the turban the Vivekananda style was not merely a political stunt for Prime Minister Modi. He decided to literally walk in the footsteps of great humans like Buddha, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi and Sardar – all of whom he invoked in his address. Reform is anything but populist. To tell the government officials that he was ashamed to see news items glorifying their coming to offices on time; to tell the parents that rapes happen because they don’t discipline their sons as much as they control their daughters; to tell the doctors that female foetecide is a sin and families that boys and girls should be treated equally; to call for a 10-year moratorium on caste and communal politics; to call upon the MPs and MLAs to build ideal villages; to ask corporates to build toilets in schools – all this and more is not easy for a populist ruler in democracy.

But Prime Minister Modi is different. He calls himself and his entire government machinery the ‘servants’. He has the courage to call a spade a spade. But he also has the confidence to achieve his goals and accomplish his vision. He has deadlines for everything precisely for that reason. ‘We have to wage a war on poverty and defeat it’, he declared concluding ‘we can do it’.

Is this not called ’56-inch ka… ‘.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Going Beyond Panchsheel

India and China must go beyond Panchsheel and develop a new framework
(On the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Panchsheel)

The biggest problem in Sino-Indian relations is the utter lack of ingenuity and innovativeness. Six decades after the formal engagement through Panchsheel and five decades after the bloody disengagement due to the war of 1962 the leaders of both the countries still struggle to come up with new and out of the box answers to the problems plaguing their relationship.

When there are no new ideas one would resort to symbolism and rituals. These rituals and symbolic actions are projected as the great new ideas to kick-start a new relationship. However there is nothing great nor new about these actions. They are the very same worn out and tried-tested-and-failed actions in the last several decades.

Panchsheel itself is one such ritual that successive Indian governments have unfailingly performed in the last five or more decades. Vice President Hamid Ansari will be visiting Beijing on 28 June to uphold India’s commitment to the ritual. The occasion is completion of six decades of the signing of the Panchsheel Agreement.

It was exactly six decades ago, on 28 June 1954, roughly two months after the formal signing of Panchsheel, that the Chinese Premier Chow En-lai visited India. He and Prime Minister Nehru had issued a historic statement on that day reaffirming their commitment to the five principles that were enshrined in the Panchsheel that “would lessen the tensions that exist in the world today and help in creating a climate of peace”.

What Exactly Was Panchsheel?

Contrary to public perception, or propaganda Panchsheel was actually an agreement between ‘Tibetan region of China and India’ on ‘Trade and intercourse’. It did include five principles like mutual respect, mutual non-aggression, mutual benefit, peaceful coexistence etc, but the very title of the Agreement itself was a big defeat to India.

The British had, at least from the Shimla Agreement of 1912 onwards till they left India, never conceded that Tibet was a part of China. Unfortunately one of the first foreign policy deviations of the Nehru Government was the signing of Panchsheel wherein India had formally called Tibetan region as ‘of China’.

Thus Panchsheel was signed as a treaty of peaceful coexistence over the obituary of Tibetan independence. That was why eminent parliamentarian Acharya Kripalani called the agreement as ‘born in sin’.

Rituals Continue

Panchsheel met its watery grave in just three months after its signing when the Chinese were found violating Indian borders in Ladakh area in late 1954. A formal death note was written by Mao a few months before the war of 1962 when he told Chow En-lai in a mischievous tone that what India and China should practise is not ‘peaceful coexistence’ but ‘armed coexistence’.

The war followed and ended in a huge humiliation and loss of territory to India. It left behind a massive border dispute which continues to haunt both the countries.

However all this didn’t seem to deter the Indian and to some extent the Chinese leadership in continuing with the deception of Panchsheel. History of Sino-Indian relations in the last five decades is replete with instances of violations of sovereignty, mutual animosity, attempts to upstage each other and general ill-will. Mostly the Chinese were on the wrong side of the so-called Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

Yet the ritual continued through the decades and changing governments in India. Nehru to Narasimha Rao to Vajpayee continued this ritual of paying lip sympathy to Panchsheel during the bilateral visits.

“Only with coexistence can there be any existence” declared Indira Gandhi in 1983. Her son and the next Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi expressed confidence in 1988 that “the five principles of peaceful coexistence provide the best way to handle relations between nations”.  Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister declared in 1993 that “these principles remain as valid today as they were when they were drafted”.

While Vajpayee too was forced to continue this ritual, he made a significant difference by refusing to falsely credit China for following Panchsheel. He put extra emphasis on ‘mutual sensitivity to the concerns of each other’ and ‘respect for equality’.

New Framework

At a time when Beijing is celebrating the six decades of Panchsheel it is important to look at a new framework for Sino-Indian relations beyond Panchsheel. Vajpayee has laid some foundation for a renewed outlook by emphasising on sensitivity and equality. That can form the basis for the new framework.
The Chinese have a clever way of promoting their superiority and exclusivism. Sinologists describe it as Middle Kingdom syndrome. While Nehru wanted to take credit for Panchsheel, Chow En-lai told Nixon in 1973 that “actually the Five Principles were put forward by us, and Nehru agreed. But later on he didn’t implement them”.

The Chinese side also brought in Myanmar – Burma at that time – and entered into a similar agreement with that country also on the same principles in 1954. Thus they made sure that Panchsheel doesn’t have any exclusivity in terms of their relationship with India.

For the Beijing event the Chinese Government has invited President of India as well as President of Myanmar. Gen. Thein Sein, the Myanmar President is going to be present along with the Vice President of India Hamid Ansari who is leading the Indian delegation.

Without any malice towards Vice President Ansari one would notice the downgrading of India’s participation in the Beijing event. Beijing was keen on having the President or Prime Minister at the event. But for once the South Block mandarins seemed to have done good homework in advising the Indian Government against sending either of them. The Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj too decided to skip the event and chose to visit Dhaka around the same time sending a rather strong signal.

If Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping, who is expected to visit India in September decide to depart from the Panchsheel framework and embark on a new relationship both countries would greatly benefit. Both leaders have that ability as both of them come from backgrounds that are markedly different from Nehruvian and Maoist ones. Both enjoy trust and confidence of the people of respective countries. Most importantly both are seen as out of the box leaders.

India and China can cooperate with each other on the principles of sovereign equality and mutual sensitivity. China has emerged today as an economic super power but it is exposed to serious internal and external threats. It is facing problems with almost all of its 13 neighbours. The fact that China spends more money on internal security than on external security speaks volumes about its internal vulnerability. That way while India is not that big an economic power as China is, its security apparatus is certainly better placed than China’s.

Modi and Jinping can chart a new course in Sino-Indians relations if they are prepared to unshackle themselves from ritualism and symbolism. Both have the ability to do that and the much needed support from the people. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


 (Published in Indian Express dt 07-06-14)

Prime Minister Modi’s foreign relations innings began with a bang through the invitation to the heads of the SAARC countries for his swearing in. The resounding success of that initiative can be gauged from the fact that all but one head of state turned up for the event making it an international relations coup of sorts.
Through this deft move Prime Minister Modi proved that he understands the external affairs department well enough. He is not all that new to other countries and their leaders. As Chief Minister and even earlier as a Party leader he had visited several countries including China, Japan and USA. His home state became a destination for countless world leaders during his stewardship and he regularly rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty from more than a hundred countries during his Vibrant Gujarat Summit and other events.
His Cabinet colleague and Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj too is no novice to the subject. As Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha she had had the opportunity to interact with a number of senior world leaders including President Obama. Her recent visits to Singapore and Sri Lanka as the leader of BJP showed her grip on foreign affairs. Leaders of those countries fondly remember their association with her even to this day. Swaraj’s acumen can be appreciated from the fact that Hillary Clinton was greatly impressed by her use of the word ‘Act East’ as a substitute to India’s two-decade-old Look East policy. Borrowing it from Swaraj, Clinton in fact started using it in her subsequent speeches on Asia.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s participation in the swearing in has raised big hopes in the diplomatic circles in both the countries. India and Pakistan have had chequered relations from day one. Moreover the BJP is seen as a hardline party when it comes to relations with Pakistan. Given that scenario it is natural that a lot of discussion took place on whether Modi and Sharif would kick-start a new era in the vexed bilateral ties.
This feverish enthusiasm is understandable. Many Indians have, for several decades, been obsessed with Pakistan. For them the benchmark of success of our international relations is our relationship with Pakistan. They fail to appreciate that India is miles ahead of its failed western neighbour. They also fail to realise that Sharif is not the right man to deliver anything. As Ayaz Amir pointed out in his latest article in The News, while Manmohan Singh took ten years to fail Sharif may need just two years to collapse. Already the all-powerful Pakistan Army and the mercenaries of the ISI are baying for his blood. As President Karzai pointed out the attack on the Indian Consulate in Afghanistan by the ISI cronies on the very day of Modi’s swearing in was more a warning to Sharif than to India.
However Modi government should realise that the real foreign policy challenge comes not from Pakistan but from China. India and China have been uneasy neighbours for longer years than India and Pakistan. Unlike Pakistan China is a big and successful country. On the eve of the visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi Indian government should revisit its China policy. Indian leadership should understand one basic truth. It hardly matters in China’s context as to how many times our leaders have visited China or vice versa. The notion that diplomacy is all about proximity doesn’t hold any water in China’s context. Nehru to Nixon had good experience of it.
What plagues our foreign policy with regard to China is the utter lack of knowledge about the Himalayan neighbour in our country. With Pakistan our obsession is security whereas with China we are overawed by the talk of development there. Commoners and Ministers alike look at China only from the prism of its development and fail to appreciate the complex civilizational traits of that country.
All neighbours are not alike. China is certainly not like any other neighbour. China is not just a country or a government; it is a civilisation. To understand China our leader should better understand their civilizational behaviour… we should know Sun Tzu’s Art of War; we should study Confucius. China’s policy behaviour is largely shaped by their civilizational experience. Diplomacy, for them, is an art of deception.
In 1954, India and China proclaimed Panchsheel as the basis of our relations. Successive Indian leaders, including Vajpayee, never missed the opportunity to refer to Panchsheel and ‘peaceful co-existence’ as enshrined in it in the bilateral talks with the Chinese counterparts. No wonder if the present leadership is also forced to continue the ritual by the MEA mandarins. But we forget that the obituary of Panchsheel was written by Mao in 1962 itself when he told Chow Enlai that India and China should practise not ‘peaceful co-existence’ but ‘armed co-existence’.
Another important aspect of China to be borne in is that like in Pakistan military plays an important role in China too. The Central Military Commission, the all-powerful body that controls the Chinese Military reports to the CPC more than to the Government of China. While we deal with the government leadership on various bilateral issues we can’t overlook the fact that the view of the military on various cross-border issues is also significant.  
Indian government enjoys one advantage in India-China relations, that of the ignorance of the masses in India about the complexities in it. In case of Pakistan people of India are very aware forcing government’s options to a limited few. Whereas in case of China no such constraint in the form of popular backlash is going to happen. The very fact that while there were animated debates over whether Nawaz Sharif should have been invited or not continue to this day there is no such commotion with regard to the phone call or proposed visit of the Premier of China in the next few months prove this point.
But the government must understand that this popular approval borne out of lack of knowledge can become a danger if it decides to take things easy with China.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Because India Comes First

(Published in Indian Express on 17-05-14)
A historic election has come to an end. The BJP started its journey three decades ago with the slogan of “United India-Strong India”. The challenge came from not just the divisive politics of caste and religion but also a formidable section of the intelligentsia. It is the journey of that idea of India that culminated in the historic victory yesterday, in the process decimating the politics of caste, religion and vote banks. That idea has become pan-Indian, encompassing all regions and sections of society. That is the central message of this election, and therein lies the future of India.
Starting with just two seats in 1984, the BJP rose quickly to become the ruling party by 1996. There was no looking back after that. Thirty years after its first election, the party has registered a thumping victory in 2014. Undoubtedly, the credit goes to Narendra Modi. He turned this election into a quasi-presidential one. He travelled to every nook and corner of the country, addressed thousands of meetings and occupied many hours of airtime. In the process, he set a new benchmark in politics that might be difficult for any future leader to meet.
In Modi and the BJP, the people of this country have seen not only an alternative government to the disastrous one headed by the Congress, but an alternative vision, too. It is that vision that sets Modi apart. He has an economic vision that cares for the last man — the proverbial chaiwala. It is this vision that has brought millions of India’s poor to him, deserting their traditional caste-based parties.
He has a much-discussed social vision. He views India as one, above the differences of caste, religion and region. “Justice for all and appeasement of none” — the traditional conviction of the BJP marks Modi’s social vision, which seems to have attracted large sections of the minorities. Above all, Modi’s clean and efficient governance model, as against the dynastic, corrupt and inefficient one provided by the Congress, appears to be the game-changer.
Modi is driven by the passion to make India strong. India needs a strong economy that caters to the last man by invoking the mantra of development and growth. It should strengthen the hands of the poor by facilitating more employment. It shouldn’t turn them into perpetual beggars, surviving at the mercy of the government-offered doles. For that, our infrastructure has to improve quickly. India’s security, both external and internal, needs greater attention. We have to pay special attention to strengthening our border infrastructure.
Most importantly, we need to address the serious problem of corruption and mal-governance. Corruption is eating into the vitals of our nation, killing our efficiency; it is leading to severe social unrest, violence and breeding insurgencies. There is also a need to strengthen our social fabric. We need a government that treats all people as equals and doesn’t discriminate on the basis of their religion or region. It should be benevolent to all and tyrannical to none. No one, minority or majority, should feel discrimination or apprehension.
This is a tall order. It requires great leadership qualities, like clarity of vision, courage of conviction, will power, selflessness and team spirit. In Modi, the people of India have perhaps seen all those qualities. With great hope and anticipation, they have voted him to power.
The RSS cadres have worked tirelessly with two specific mandates; one, to reach out to the people and inform them of the challenges the country is facing today and the need for a change in government to overcome them; and two, to encourage more people to use their franchise. It gives us immense satisfaction that there has been remarkable success on both counts. People have voted for good government and in the process, polling percentages too have gone up in different parts of the country.
With a sense of contentment we return to our core activity outside the political arena, of character-building and social service. We have complete trust and faith in the present leadership to take appropriate decisions in matters like the formation of the cabinet, setting the agenda for the new government, etc. The RSS doesn’t interfere in those matters.