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INDIA SQUEEZED BETWEEN CHINA, PAKISTAN
By Amulya Ganguli
Narendra Modi’s dealings with Pakistan and China have underlined the veracity of the Peter principle which refers to the fallacy of choosing a person for a post on the basis of his/her performance in the current job. In Modi’s case, it has become obvious that a successful chief minister need not be an effective prime minister. Having had no experience in foreign affairs, especially with two of India’s most bitter enemies – Pakistan and China – Modi’s blunders are there for all to see.
His gaffes would have made India a laughing stock of the world if the international community was unaware of Pakistan’s and China’s duplicitous record. In contrast with these two patently untrustworthy and crassly cynical countries, Modi has stood out as someone who is ready to go the extra mile for the sake of peace. As much has been evident from his impromptu visit to Islamabad on his way home from Kabul and his decision to invite a Pakistani team to investigate the terror attack on the Pathankot air base.
With regard to China, Modi went out of his way to be rude to the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan pontiff was hustled out of his residence late at night and ushered in to the prime minister’s presence in 7, Race Course Road, New Delhi, to be given a one-sided lecture on the relations between India, China and Tibet’s government-in-exile at Dharamshala. The Tibetan spiritual leader was reportedly “shaken” by the encounter because Indian leaders have never treated him so discourteously in the past.
But Modi’s harsh treatment of the “splittist” and a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, to use two of the Chinese invectives against its bête noire, doesn’t seem to have mollified Beijing in any way. It continues to rub India the wrong way where Pakistan is concerned.
Like China, Pakistan, too, has responded with crude cynicism to Modi’s goodwill gestures such going to Islamabad at a moment’s notice while travelling from Kabul to New Delhi by deputing Pakistan’s high commissioner in the Indian capital to suspend the India-Pakistan dialogue for a time. The talks have again got under way, but Pakistan – rather its viscerally anti-India army chief, Raheel Sharif – has ensured that the signs of hope seen at Ufa and again when Modi visited Islamabad have been extinguished.
If Modi has been naïve with regard to Pakistan, his government has been guilty of acting without forethought with China. Moreover, it has chosen to play a tit-for-tat game without looking at the big picture. Irritated by Beijing’s blocking of India’s move to have the Pakistani jehadi, Azhar Masood, declared as a terrorist by the UN, New Delhi decided to hold a conference of Chinese dissidents in Dharamshala.
But in a classic case of taking one bold step forward and two pusillanimous steps back, India cancelled the visas of Uyghur separatist Dolkin Isa and two others after China frowned. The ostensible reason for the retreat included the Interpol’s red corner notice to Isa, which has been ignored by most European countries including Germany where the “freedom fighter” stays, and alleged discrepancies in the visa applications of the others. Even if these difficulties are true, India should have taken them into account before issuing the invitations. Now it is obvious that the putative strong man with his 56-inch chest is not as strong as his admirers claim.
If the egregious rudeness towards the Dalai Lama is set aside for the moment, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with Modi’s initiatives towards Pakistan except that he chose to turn a blind eye to the ground realities in Pakistan where the army chief is the primus inter pares and not prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Both in Ufa and during Modi’s Islamabad stopover, the latter went out on a limb and was rebuffed by the Pakistan army chief who is riding high with China’s backing.
Modi’s over-enthusiasm also put Nawaz Sharif in a false position by revealing that his wishes for better India-Pakistan relations do not have the army’s support. As a result, it’s back to the old face-off between the two countries with China relishing India’s discomfiture. Evidently, the world is different from the way it looked to Ajit Doval, the national security adviser who has been called Modi’s 007, when he headed the pro-BJP think tank, Vivekananda International Foundation.
China, on its part, must be pleased that Modi is pragmatic enough to dump his religious baggage of Hindutva to be the first Indian leader to show disrespect to the Dalai Lama when all his “secular” predecessors had treated the Nobel laureate with unfailing courtesy. However, the genuflection is unlikely to make the Middle Kingdom any more receptive than before towards India’s sensitivities, as on the Masood Azhar issue.
Jawaharlal Nehru, too, had misread China, believing that the two neighbours will be a beacon for world peace. But he was honest enough to admit his mistake, saying that “we were getting out of touch with reality in the modern world and we were living in an artificial atmosphere of our own creation”. Modi, however, with all his hubris is unlikely to admit his gullibility with regard to Pakistan and lack of foresight with regard to China, not to mention his insulting behaviour towards the Dalai Lama. (IPA Service)