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Silly Point : The cat is out of the bag


AT last, the cat is out of the bag. What was driving diplomats around the world crazy is now making sense.

Look at the unanswered questions first. What did Barack Obama and Narendra Modi discuss in the ‘Chai pe charcha’ on the lawns of the White House and again on the lawns of Hyderabad House, New Delhi? Why did Modi suddenly stop on his way from the washroom to his seat in a conference and hold the Pakistan Prime Minister in a diplomatically unbecoming half-embrace and mumble sweet nothings into his ear for as long as 120 seconds? Why did several heads of state decide to attend the global summit on global warming? Why did the ISIS target Paris? Why did India invite the French President as its guest of honour this Republic Day? Why has the US decided to forget the fact that Osama Bin Laden, the perpetrator of the Twin Tower Tragedy, was found in Abbotabad, holed up in a military township under the obvious protection of the Pakistan Army? Why did the other Latif rush to Washington on an urgent summons from the US establishment? Why did Modi descend from the skies in Lahore in an unprecedented show of courtesy, in which an Indian PM made an unscheduled halt in a Pak istani city just to say “Happy Birthday” to his counterpart? Why has India inked a deal to buy Rafale aircraft from France, when the price has still not been negotiated? Why did Modi induct his two chief head hunters from the little-known Vivekananda Foundation? Why has Modi tried to convert the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy hitherto practised in India into a presidential form when he knows perfectly well that he will not be able to amend the Indian Constitution?

Many perspicacious observers of the scene have started guessing at the truth but the explanations they come up with are so bizarre that no serious strategic analyst would like to stake his lifelong reputation on advancing such a theory. As I have no similar credentials to protect, I am sharing a set of propositions that might provide some measure of explanation of these facts.

When Ajit Doval was inducted by Modi as the National Security Adviser, it was widely interpreted as a signal towards markedly hawkish tendencies in India’s Pakistan policy. He started well with the cancellation of bilateral talks at the level of the foreign secretaries and enunciation of a novel set of red lines to guide future forays into the dialogue process. The next step people expected was an escalation of casualties on the Pak istani side and use of superior firepower by the Indian side. Thus, a bullet would be answered with a bomb, a bomb with a missile and a missile with an ICBM. The Indian Air Force was expected to bomb the terrorist training camps located on the Pakistan side of the international border out of existence. India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) would be refashioned on the model of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and have a string of non-State agencies like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-i-Toiba and so on, to wreak havoc on the civilian population of Pakistan. The separatist lobby in Kashmir would be either jailed for life on grounds of sedition, or be neutralised in fake encounters. There would be no question of involving them in tripartite talks.

The experience of the last few months does not reveal the Dovalian touch. Rather, there seems to be a see-saw battle between the hawks and the doves in the Indian security establishment. The question being asked is: “Why is Modi blowing hot and cold in his Pakistan policy?”

When Ajit Doval was inducted by Modi as the NSA, it was interpreted as a signal towards markedly hawkish tendencies in India’s Pakistan policy. Rather, there seems to be a see-saw battle between the hawks and the doves

Looking at another aspect of the jigsaw puzzle, what has befuddled commentators is Modi’s overwhelming emphasis on building an international reputation for himself. He travels from one country to another as if he is surveying the lay of the land with his eye firmly on the future. His foreign forays follow a predictable trend, as if he is on a public relations exercise. It is said that there is a team of 200 experts who are deputed to the country of his next sojourn two months in advance in order to prepare the ground for his various interactions with different interest groups in that country. The grand finalé is generally a vast concourse of Modi admirers, primarily consisting of the Indian diaspora. There is a definite visible group inside the audience which chants “Modi, Modi” whenever interest seems to flag. It appears as if Modi is targetting a future audience of possible voters. Otherwise, the expenditure of vast sums of money and putting in of so much effort and energy does not make sense.

The third conundrum people find difficult to resolve is Modi’s attempt to convert the Indian polity into the presidential form of government. This tendency is exhibited in a myriad ways. He has reduced the cabinet to a bunch of yesmen. They have no say in the selection of officers for their ministries. He has told the secretaries to take orders from him directly if they differ with their own ministers. All power is concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office. Even a telephone call from a minion of the PMO is treated as His Master’s Voice. No one dare go back to the PM for verification.

THIS situation is replicated manifold at election time. The BJP won the Lok Sabha poll on Modi’s image, and not so much on the party agenda. This gave rise to the opinion that Modi’s name sells. When the BJP fought the state elections in Delhi, at first it did not field any chief ministerial candidate. In the middle of the campaign, it dawned on the organisers that people were asking inconvenient questions. The choice the voter was being offered was between Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi. Modi was not going to be the chief minister. The voters wanted to know who would rule them in case they voted the BJP to power. At the last moment, the redoubtable Kiran Bedi, a rank outsider, was foisted on the electorate. The invincible Modi thought that his imprimatur was enough. Anyone could win.

When Bihar happened, the BJP’s strategy was still the same despite the drubbing it got in Delhi. All the posters showed huge pictures of Modi and Amit Shah. There was no mention of Sushil Modi, who was probably the chosen one. Again, the electoral battle reduced itself to Modi versus Nitish Kumar.

So, why is Modi slow in learning the right lesson from his negative experiments with taking India towards a presidential form of government? Is he preparing himself for a larger role?

Now, let us look briefly at the international scenario. Samuel Huntington, in his seminal book, The Clash of Civilizations, has concluded that the Third World War will be between Islam and the Rest. He bases his conclusion on the fact that all the major areas of conflict around the world are between Islam on one side and some other ideology like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, communism on the other. Since the time of Huntington, two major events have exacerbated the situation: one, the twin tower tragedy which was the equivalent of the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbour, and, second, the rise of ISIS. This has placed the Western world, which is mainly Christian, in direct opposition to Islam.

THE other major factor affecting international peace is the rise of China, which is the last bastion of communist ideology. Although China has implemented its own version of perestroika and become the manufacturing hub of the world, it still holds fast to its variety of glasnost. China has always been expansionist and is concentrating on building its military prowess. So, China poses the second major challenge to the ‘free’ world.

More and more countries are now looking at India to provide a counterweight to both Islam and China. India has demonstrated its ideological resilience with reference to the repeated invasions by Islamic marauders. We had Islamic rulers also for several centuries and they tried their best to convert India to Islam. But whether it was the sheer size and complexity of the Indian subcontinent or the super logical fanaticism of the Brahmins, their attempts were thwarted.

Even the US, which patronised Pakistan during the heydays of the Cold War, has changed its stance towards India. Pakistan’s mesmeric influence on American policymakers was broken when bin Laden was discovered in the military township of Abbotabad. The US realised the critical role India could play in countering China’s growing influence in Asia and the world. The ‘chai pe charcha’ sessions in Washington and New Delhi helped the two leaders discover their humble origins and cement a personal relationship that cleared the decks for declaring June 21 World Yoga Day and strengthened India’s case for a seat in the UN Security Council.

Why is Modi slow in learning the right lesson from his negative experiments with taking India towards a presidential form of government? Is he preparing himself for a larger role?

Obama attended the Global Climate Summit not because of his concern for the environment but primarily, to bring Modi and Sharif together. It was a pep talk by Obama that galvanised Modi into going and sitting by Sharif’s side in a ‘jhapiyan and papiyan’ session and later making an unscheduled halt at Lahore. Obama was trying to bring the leadership of India and Pakistan on the same page in order to be a bulwark against the rising wave of Chinese hegemony.

Now the clincher!
Francoise Gautier, the eminent French journalist, has reproduced in his blog the prediction made by Nostradamus, the celebrated astrologer of the 16th century, that the BJP would come to power at the beginning of the 21st century. It would be led by the Iron Man, Narinderus Damodarus Modi, who would bring in a Hindu resurgence and accelerate India’s economic progress manifold. India under his leadership would become a super power. Modi himself would be catapulted to the presidentship of a world confederation and would shift his headquarters to Paris.

Now, if you believe in astrology and take the above prophecy literally, you would do what Modi is doing. You would familiarise yourself with as many countries as possible. You would try to create a pro-Modi constituency in every capital of the world. You would build special relations with France by inviting its President as your chief guest for Republic Day. You would invite the French soldiers to march in the parade on Rajpath. You would finalise the Rafale deal without even negotiating the price.

Don’t tell me you don’t think that people act on astrological predictions. Why did ISIS bomb civilians in Paris? Were they not targetting the future seat of power in the world?

MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India. (The views expressed are those of the columnist.)

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