Bringing up Modi, diplomatically CONSIDER the past and you shall know the future

  0 comments   |     by Latha Jishnu

The writer is a journalist based in New Delhi.

CONSIDER the past and you shall know the future, says a Chinese proverb. That is something the Narendra Modi government did not keep in mind when it The architect of the salvage mission is new foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, a seasoned China hand, who appears to be well regarded by the authorities in Beijing. Last month, Gokhale’s meetings with top Chinese officials resulted in a decision by the two sides to initiate a sustained level of dialogue which will include a visit to China by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who has been kept in the shadows by a prime minister determined to play the sole starring role on foreign policy. It is hoped that by the time Modi meets Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in June in Qingdao, relations between the two countries would have been set on a firmer footing.

The question is how willing Modi supporters and the BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, are willing to accept the new reality. Convinced of their latent superiority, the saffron brigade of Hindu supremacists believes China is a competitor that needs to be contained and that India and the US are natural allies in such a project. To concede that China is more powerful and far too rich to be considered in the same league as India is anathema to it. Besides, there is the deep-rooted yearning to avenge the defeat of 1962. MEA, naturally, is taking a more pragmatic view of geopolitical realities. The official release on Gokhale’s talks in Beijing notes the “need to build on the convergences between India and China and address differences on the basis of mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns, interests and aspirations”. That explains why MEA was able to persuade the government to issue a circular asking senior officials not to attend functions marking the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile in India — an unexpectedly dramatic shift for a regime that couldn’t have enough of the Dalai Lama in the past three years. With ties to all its neighbours in tatters — the latest to thumb its nose at India is Maldives — and allies turning hostile, Modi, who often appears dazzled by his proximity to world leaders, is staring at a largely blank balance sheet. Disillusionment with Trump is ineluctable as the US pushes an aggressive ‘America first’ policy and warns of trade war against India (and China). Modi supporters who offered ritual prayers for Trump’s victory in the presidential election are now at a loss to understand why Trump not only mocks Modi publicly but also threatens sanctions against India.

The reset in relations with China is likely to have an impact on Delhi’s dealings with Islamabad, too. The more remarkable development has been the unexpectedly public criticism by the army brass of New Delhi’s policies and of their chief’s hawkish stance on neighbours. Gen Rawat’s claim last June that


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