The reports suggest that it was apparently the brainwave of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] and its operatives within the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP]‘s foreign policy cell to include in the guest list for the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi the “prime minister” of the Tibetan government-in-exile Lobsang Sangay. If the reports are to be believed, Modi government was caught unawares by the RSS and BJP.
But then, Modi is no ordinary prime minister whom his own clan wouldn’t have the audacity to try to hoodwink on a vital template of his government’s diplomacy. On the other hand, such a thing is entirely plausible in a twilight zone when a new era is struggling to be born, and the worst are full of passionate intensity while the best lack all conviction.
The heart of the matter is that Modi is being already subjected to a bit of hectoring by the RSS on how to conduct his government’s China (and Pakistan) policies. Possibly, RSS wouldn’t mind playing off the Brahminical foreign policy establishment in South Block against the OBC caravan that has dramatically surged into view on the Raisina Hill.
At any rate, the RSS spokesman Ram Madhav’s fulsome praise of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as an experienced diplomat and his patronizing advice to Modi on the ABC of India’s diplomacy toward China needs to be understood with the benefit of hindsight. And all this in an opinion piece in a Delhi newspaper. Hmm, these are early days.
Having said that, some substantive issues also come up here that go beyond the shadow-boxing within the Sangh Parivar. What possibly did the RSS and BJP whiz kids hope to gain out of this undercover operation to smuggle LS into the Rashtrapathi Bhawan forecourt?
To give them the benefit of the doubt, we may think that the RSS and BJP’s foreign-policy experts are country bumpkins who genuinely do not understand a thing about international diplomacy or the contemporary world situation.
But then, it could also be that they are not country bumpkins after all, but are actually being clever by half. Incidentally, LS is also an American, born in Darjeeling but eventually became a distilled product of Harvard University, whose Tibetan bodyguards previously used to be operatives in the US Marines and the SEAL.
It is this latter aspect that becomes worrisome — that some our fellow countrymen could be wittingly or unwittingly creating foul air in India-China diplomatic and political ties and serving the American geopolitical agenda of shepherding India into a US-led anti-China alliance in Asia alongside Japan and Australia at a crucial juncture in the geopolitics of the Asian region.
Indeed, the American lobbyists in India are opening the cork of the champagne bottle and can barely disguise their glee. Thereby hangs a tale. Alas, the foreign-policy discourses in our country have become so very ideological that the country’s space to maneuver in a fluid world situation might get severely restricted.
Now, what could have been the objective of this entire LS drama that was enacted in Rashtrapathi Bhawan? To further the cause of Tibet’s freedom? To put fear into China that India is about to resume subversive activities inside Tibet? To annoy China? Or, to dampen Modi’s enthusiasm for boosting India-China business ties, which is the stuff of legends?
Common sense suggests that it only exposes the sheer naivety of the BJP pundits masquerading as experts in international politics. The bottom line is that China will never allow Tibet to secede — just as India will never let go Jammu & Kashmir.
For sure, China will retaliate if the Indian intelligence attempts to destabilize Tibet. It will inflict pain on India directly and indirectly and it has the wherewithal to do it. Like Kashmir issue being a litmus test of friendship for Delhi, so is the case of Tibet for Beijing’s policymakers.
Why should Modi embroil India in a messy low-intensity war with China when the task is cut out for him and his mandate is about delivering on the economic front? This is the big question at a time when from all accounts Beijing is manifestly making an overture to him that is exceptional by diplomatic norms and in the chronicle of the Sino-Indian relationship.
Of course, the BJP’s foreign-policy experts may have succeeded in annoying China to an extent. But even assuming it to be so, China is not going to lose sleep because of this LS guy popping up on the Rashtrapathi Bhawan forecourt, or take fright and come down on its knees to settle the border dispute on India’s terms.
The bottom line is that if the Modi government has the ghost of a chance to elicit big-time Chinese investments in India’s infrastructure and manufacturing sectors, this is not the way to go about it. China has no dearth of markets to make investments other than Modi’s India. The Maritime Silk Road project includes most of the ASEAN countries plus at least three South Asian economies — Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
In sum, China happens to be a rare donor country in today’s world with a huge mind-boggling investible surplus that can make all the difference to the regeneration of the Indian economy if only the Modi government can offer a level playing field for Chinese businessmen to set up industrial parks that can provide jobs in the thousands.
Equally, the Americans cannot do for India what China can do, given the tortuous run of their own economic recovery. President Barack Obama is primarily interested (rightly so) in boosting the US’ civil and military exports to the Indian market and creating jobs back at home, whereas, at the end of the day in another sixty months, Modi is answerable to the people of this country, especially those whose hopes he has (unwisely) raised to dizzying heights.
Indeed, whipping up Chinaphobia may serve the purpose of creating an opinion in Delhi favoring massive arms purchases from the US. But why can’t we make such arms purchases (presumably, for the modernization of our armed forces) without linking it to derailment of the Sino-Indian cooperation?
Logically, it seems to me that India needs both the US and China as strategic partners. This is not a zero-sum game. If we go about prudently and wisely through a ten-year corridor of time ahead, we have a fighting chance of tackling the problem of poverty in our beloved country. Do not fritter away the opportunity by indulging in the senseless extravaganzas of vainglorious foreign-policy projects of dubious transient gains.
I have written more than once that Modi could be India’s Deng Xiaoping, a historical figure who pulls hundreds of Indians out of the abyss of poverty where they don’t have a hope on earth today. India needs a thoughtful foreign policy that serves the objectives of development.
Finally, America’s lobbyists in India (within or outside the RSS and the BJP) should do some serious soul-searching now that they belong to our ruling class and ask themselves with brutal honesty as to whose interests they are really serving through such shenanigans as parading LS in front of India’s VIP gathering — India’s or the United States’?
If the latter is the case, it is a matter of shame. Some of these lobbyists might have made compromises and might today feel vulnerable to American blackmail. But that is their personal problem and why should they foist their subjective predicament on India’s shoulders because they happen to have access to corridors of power today? India belongs not only to them but also to us, the vast silent majority of 69 percent Indians who did not vote for the BJP.
– June 8, 2014