Any perceptive observer of the Delhi darbar would notice lately that the Indian foreign policy is careering away in a new direction. The captain is steering the ship according to a compass set circa 2005-2006 when the sea was calm, which although had proven to be faulty, happens to be what is readily available. Captains can be capricious human beings.
An escalation of tensions in India’s relations with China and Pakistan is on the cards. It is taking place under a weak leadership. The startling report that a dejected PM Manmohan Singh even contemplated the cancellation of his recent visit to Dhaka but Trinamul nonetheless persisted and called his bluff, tells the startling tale of a government in drift under a diffident leader.
The Bangladesh visit turned out to be a ’setback’ insofar as the ‘image makeover’ that was expected out of the visit didn’t happen. However, since then, a series of media reports have begun appearing in the nature of selective ‘leaks’. It began with alleged reports of Chinese military’s belligerence across the LAC, which played out for a full day in the media — before Gujrat CM Narendra Modi brushed aside all national issues and took over the headlines.
That was followed by the leak about the government’s resolve to take on China in the South China Sea. Now comes the statement by the PM (with reference to the Home Ministry’s ‘leak’ that around 2500 ‘fully-trained’ Kashmiri militants are ready to infiltrate LOC) that Pakistan has “reactivated” the “cross-border camps for terrorists.” This is serious stuff, since the PM virtually suggested that his conciliatory approach to Pakistan has failed. What follows next? Pakistan is bound to take note and a repartee can be expected during the weekend itself.
Even more sensational is the media report — based on a ‘leak’, again — which appeared today alongside PM’s statement — that National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon is uncharacteristically assertive in supporting the intelligence assessment that China is clandestinely extending help to the north-eastern insurgent groups.
And all this within the space of a week since PM returned from Dhaka. The dots are now getting connected — Pakistan and China are attempting to destabilise India. Yes, Sir, no doubt on that score. Once an adversary, always an adversary. But then, what follows next?
The question that logically follows is whether or not the national opinion shouldn’t be uniting behind the PM and the government at such a most critical juncture when national security is under grave threat from two of India’s adversaries simultaneously. Is this a time that the people and the opposition political parties should agitate against price rise or hike in fuel price or inflation and corruption in the government?
Is it the right moment for a patriotic leader like Narendra Modi to raise the political stakes for the government or, equally, for the staunchly nationalistic L.K.Advani to begin another ‘rath yatra’ that may divide the national opinion?
Think coolly — and patriotically. The South Asia spat shows that the government is not lacking in political will and courage to defend the national interests and honour. Nor is our leadership supine. The mild-mannered EAM S.M.Krishna has forcefully made that point from Hanoi by cocking a snook at Beijing right from under China’s nose.
The big question remaining now is whether the White House would change its mind and receive PM in Washington later this month when India seems all ready to do its part of a deal with Washington for the US’s regional strategies — ‘balance of power’ in Asia and the browbeating of Pakistan to surrender its ’strategic assets’ in Afghanistan. An accolade from Barack Obama would be just what the doctor prescribes for our government at this point to regain its lost look of purposiveness.