Sunday 31 May 2015

IIT ban: This is no longer the India of 1975 (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

Police detains National Students’ Union of India activists during a protest outside the residence of HRD Minister Smriti Irani in New Delhi on Friday. PTI
While the Narendra Modi government has several foes, it most needs to be protected from friends such as the dean of the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai. The Ministry of Human Resources Development (a misnomer, given its unimpressive effect on academic standards in the country) declined to consign to the wastebasket an "anonymous" missive complaining about the views of a group of students who had formed a group named after B.R. Ambedkar and Periyar Ramaswamy Naicker. They had even made remarks critical of the Prime Minister. It is fortunate for Rahul Gandhi that he is not a student of IIT Chennai, else his frequent and uncomplimentary remarks on Narendra Modi would surely have resulted in similarly "anonymous" letters landing up at the MHRD for further action. While its efficiency in other matters may be the subject of debate, it is clear that action on anonymous complaints has a special place in the priorities of the ministry, which, it would seem, promptly forwards such letters to those authorities the ministry regards as needing to act in the matters. Or was it that the letter complaining about Ambedkar-Periyar backers at IIT Chennai was in fact not "anonymous", but written by an identifiable individual who, presumably for lack of courage, declined to expose his identity? Whoever it be, this individual clearly had the heft to prod the MHRD bureaucracy into signalling to the IIT dean that immediate action needed to be taken in what most would regard as an inconsequential matter (in a democracy at least) of some students expressing their views on a multitude of subjects.

Reluctance within the bureaucracy to take decisions is especially the case in these days of hyper-activism by the CAG, the CVC and the CBI, three agencies that together have ensured that corruption is almost absent in India, as evidenced by the infinitesimally small number of senior political and bureaucratic officials who have faced imprisonment over the years. Indeed, over the past 367 days, the only former minister against whom the CBI has apparently moved into action in its usual Keystone Cops style has been Arun Shourie, not ordinarily regarded as being at the bottom of the pack in quality and competence. There are more than a few ministers in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet, who are fabulously wealthy, including those who have had serious charges made against them by credible individuals. However, thus far there seems to have been negligible interest by the CBI in such worthies.

In contrast, by its action in starting the chain reaction which led to the decision of the IIT Chennai authorities to stifle freedom of expression on campus, the babus of the MHRD have done visible harm to the image of a government led by Narendra Modi, who is regarded across the globe as embodying the qualities of the 21st century, prime among which are freedom of speech and transparency in governance. Those bureaucrats still in thrall to the colonial model of governance need to realise that the India of 2015 is not the country it was in 1975, which remained largely spineless when deprived of its constitutional rights for nearly two years, including the right to life, which even to that temple of freedom, the Supreme Court, was not a "fundamental" right. Citizens look to the Supreme Court to defend rather than constrict the freedoms inherent in a 21st century democracy, and fortunately — as witnessed, for example, in its striking down of 66A of the IT Act — the Court has seldom disappointed them.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will need to use his communication skills to convey to a bureaucracy still mired in a colonial mindset that the people of India will not any longer tolerate the stifling of their rights and the snatching away of their autonomy by a state that is a combination of nanny and bully. By its opposition to, for example, the efforts of the Telecom Ministry to legitimise 66A of the IT Act, civil society in India has acquired a confidence and a resolve that bodes well for democracy in the country. The MHRD needs to follow a liberal futuristic trend rather than continue in the Kapil Sibal mode of seeking a choking degree of control over institutions. IIT Chennai has disgraced itself and shamed the nation by stifling freedom of expression in a manner as blatant as that witnessed during 1975-77. In its second year of governance, the NDA needs to vigorously support rather than oppose the freedoms integral to the future trajectory of India as a global superpower, so that those of our ethnicity can get the ambience needed to excel in India the way they do in more liberal societies such as that of the US.

Friday 29 May 2015

Germany Recognises Modi Phenomenon (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat

Friday, May 29, 2015 - During the period in office of the first BJP-led government (1998-2004), France was the favoured country in Europe. Much of the sheen was caused by the Francophile tendencies of the “Executive PM”, National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra, whose views carried more heft than that of ordinary Cabinet ministers in Vajpayee government. However, goodwill for France was also because of appreciation of independent foreign policy of Jacques Chirac, then President. In particular, Chirac refused to join US President Bill Clinton and his counterparts in Australia and Canada in adopting a tone towards 1998 nuclear tests by India that looked almost racist in their venom. 

Unlike successors such as Nicholas Sarkozy, who seemed eager to morph into Tony Blair-style poodles of the US President of the time, Chirac adopted a foreign policy much closer to that of Charles de Gaulle, who during 1939-45 acted as though France were still a great power rather than a conquered nation. Thanks to Winston Churchill, who loved France almost as much as he did his own country, Paris joined London, Moscow, Washington and (at that time) Nanjing as permanent members of the UN Security Council. Despite its size and the inevitability of its hiving away from the British empire, Churchill blocked Delhi joining the list. Then as always, the “Lion of Britain” adopted the petty, vindictive approach towards India that ensured deaths of nearly six million people in Bihar during 1943-44,because then Prime Minister of the UK refused to sanction grain ships to the province. 

Afterwards, in an act which may charitably by described as daft, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India rejected suggestions from first Washington and later Moscow that India take over the Asian seat in the UNSC occupied by China, a country still to be recognised by much of the world, with India joining the Soviet Union in being first to give international legitimacy to Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party as they took over reins of government in 1949.

Interestingly, the present Prime Minister, David Cameron, has won back a lot of the goodwill and ground lost during the tenure in office of many of his predecessors. Cameron has adopted a strategy towards India that has been helpful to better relations, and has succeeded in a far greater measure than appears on the surface, in part because he has broad-based his diplomacy in contrast to the Labour Party, which for decades has concentrated almost all its attention on the Congress Party , specifically the Nehru family. The present Labour Party leader, Edward Milliband, is perceived as being in the same corner as Harold Wilson (who thought London still mattered in Delhi) or Tony Blair (who followed the US line almost to smallest point), in contrast to Cameron, who is making his Conservative Party a far more attractive option for voters of Indian descent in UK than its competitors.

However, when it comes to influence in India, even Cameron has had to cede ground to Germany, he country which has emerged as the entrepoint of diplomacy towards Europe. It was this country which was the earliest to recognize the Modi phenomenon, with its envoy to India, Michael Steiner, hosting a tea two years ago for the then Chief Minister of Gujarat (which was boycotted by the French envoy but attended by every other EU ambassador resident in Delhi). This was the first crack in the wall that had been built by the EU (following the lead given by the US, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave personal attention to measures against Modi) to discredit a politician who was emerging as the favourite of India’s most potent voting bloc, the middle classes, and which unlike some other groups comprises of citizens across religion, region and lifestyle. 

The worry within the EU is that in less than a decade, China may be able to compete with both Airbus as well as Mercedes-Benz in the quality of products manufactured, an edge that may be challenged through production facilities in India, a country with an abundance of labour. The adoption of German methods may help such workers to ramp up their productivity to get closer to the best international standards, although in this task, Prime Minister Modi will need the cooperation of Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani,a glamorous and feisty former television personality who was entrusted this key portfolio by Modi on May 27,2014.

HRD Minister Smriti Irani faces competition in the glamour field by Germany’s Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, who charmed both the public as well as the government by a very successful visit to India this week. Unlike those voices from the developed countries who regard India as being from a different level in terms of status, von der Leyen avoided any trace of condescension in her interactions with counterparts in the Ministry of Defense in India, thereby boosting the prospect of Germany playing a key role in future supplies of military equipment to India, especially submarines. The plan is to build six submarines in India that would assist the navy in its job of ensuring security in the vast tracts of ocean which surround India. Although an agreement was signed with France several years ago to produce Scorpene submarines, as yet none of these have been delivered, and both timelines as well as cost have ballooned. Together with Germany, the Modi government is also looking to Japan for cooperation in the production of defense equipment, especially for the air force and the navy. During the next few years, it is expected that Berlin and Tokyo will increase interaction with India, not only in the defense field, but more generally across manufacturing industry

These days, voters look to results, they look to a betterment of their lives as a consequence of policy, and Narendra Modi is very aware of such a reality, coming as he does from India’s most pragmatic state, Gujarat. Its manufacturing and vocational skills and the size of its economy have added to the attraction of Germany for India as a strategic partner. For the first time since a “strategic partnership” between the Indian lion and the German eagle was formalised in 2001,the India visit of Ursula von der Leyen has brought the concept to life and to operational significance, giving her country an edge over its European partners in the world’s most populous democracy.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Modi leaps over Great Wall of Mistrust (Sunday Guardian)

MADHAV NALAPAT  Baijing | 23rd May 2015
n just three days in China, high-level policymakers here claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeded in "leaping over the wall of mistrust and doubt" that had clouded India-China relations since the 1959 move of the Dalai Lama from Lhasa to Dharamsala. This is reminiscent of the personal chemistry that developed between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and China's Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping during the former's 1988 visit to Beijing, and which has continued in the form of contacts between the daughters of both leaders, who continue to exchange messages and gifts (such as books) to each other. Although the Rajiv-Deng rapport was too short-lived (in view of the 1989 Congress defeat) to lead to any lasting changes in the often turbulent texture of relations between the two most populous countries on the globe, a senior policymaker said that the coming years are on track to "ensure a breakthrough even in the border negotiations". At present, China has undefined borders only with India and Bhutan, and — because of the close links between the PLA and the Pakistan army — has shown little urgency to rectify this.
Chinese policymakers pointed out that the "level, time spent and intensity" of meetings and discussions between Prime Minister Modi and his counterparts in the world's other superpower "were even greater than during the visit of President Obama" in November 2014. Not only did President Xi Jinping "break protocol and diplomatic tradition" and greet the Prime Minister of India in the capital of his home province of Shaanxi, but even Premier Li Keqiang "spent an entire day in the company of PM Modi and discussed with him how to move the relationship to a strategic level", this despite a very busy schedule that week. "Relations with India have been de-linked from South Asia and placed in a global context" by President Xi, who has established a degree of control over both the civil and military structures of his government, unprecedented since the passing away of Mao Zedong in 1976. According to Chinese interlocutors, Xi's objectives are to (a) place the relationship with India in a strategic i.e. long-term perspective; (b) ensure a connect between development strategies so that both sides work in a complementary way to ensure mutual prosperity; (c) establish regular communication and understudying between all levels of the two governments and societies; and (d) generate mutual trust so that differences do not graduate into disputes and tensions into crises
Interestingly, in an emphasis on the civilisational links that have bound the two countries across millennia, "the unprecedented welcome ceremony for Prime Minister Modi at Xian was the same as for a visiting monarch in past millennia", with costumes, themes and songs reflecting the ancient traditions of Xian. Since the Hu Jintao period, the Chinese Communist Party has supported a revival of ancient Chinese culture, including its toleration for Buddhism, and the people of China were "very happy to see the respectful way in which (PM Modi) visited ancient Buddhist temples", according to a senior official, whose daughter is herself a Buddhist despite the family being Communist Party members since the 1940s
Interestingly, for the first time since the 1950s, a summit-level visit between China and India took place without any of the usual media reports of troop movements or tensions on the border, clearly showing that "both leaders have the power and the will to ensure that their policy of mutual regard prevails over more sectional interests within each system that may have a vested interest in the perpetuation of mistrust and tension" between Delhi and Beijing. While reports in the media spoke of $10 billion and sometimes $20 billion in deals between the two sides, a senior advisor pointed out that "the 45 government-to-government agreements signed by the two sides themselves account for $32 billion of investment into India". Chinese experts say that Prime Minister Modi had a "very useful" interaction with top Chinese businesspersons in Shanghai, including Alibaba's Jack Ma, and "convinced them that he had both the sincerity and the will to ensure that Chinese investment was given the same treatment as that from countries with which India has long had commercial ties, and that discrimination will be absent". In this context, Prime Minister Modi's announcement that e-visas would be granted to Chinese tourists "had an electric impact, including on Foreign Minister Wang Yi", as "officials from India had previously indicated to their Chinese counterparts that this would not be possible for some time to come". The expectation is that "several billion dollars of investment will be made in India from China over the course of the next two to three years", or well before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
That Prime Minister Modi faces some bureaucratic obstacles in his quest for transforming policy in India became clear when an official in Berlin revealed in private to this correspondent that "days after Prime Minister Modi himself told Chancellor Angela Merkel about Indian interest in the Eurofighter, a senior Indian diplomat called on the (German) National Security Advisor and told him to disregard this comment from the Prime Minister". He added that German officials are now confused about "who exactly to believe in connection with the Eurofighter, Prime Minister Modi or the Indian diplomat". Thus far, Prime Minister Modi has followed the Gujarat model of loading his team with serving and retired bureaucrats, rather than leavening the mix with talent from outside. However, in China, the assessment is that "Prime Minister Modi is very much in charge" and that, "like Xi, he will be able to ensure that the official machinery follows the track decided upon by the two leaders".
Clearly, as with President Obama, the personal chemistry of Narendra Damodardas Modi has had the effect of creating strong links of friendship and personal regard between President Xi Jinping and him. Chinese policymakers pointed out that in the past year, Prime Minister Modi and President Xi "have met an unprecedented four times" (at South Africa, Brazil, India and China) and that both intend to ensure a "level of communication between the two sides which better reflects the importance of the relationship" in global geopolitics. Interestingly, for the first time in nearly six decades, officials in China appear to be optimistic that a settlement of the border dispute could take place "within the terms in office of President Xi and PM Modi", thereby removing a major irritant in relations. In the meantime, several measures are being planned to ensure that border differences do not escalate as they have in the past. Military-to-military contacts are to be accelerated, and there is a high possibility that India will participate in the 3 September march-past in Beijing commemorating 70 years since the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, a war in which more than two million Indian soldiers served with valour, but who were not invited to participate during the 2014 anniversary celebrations of the Normandy landings in France, despite the immense contribution of Indian troops to the war against Germany during 1939-45.
Chinese media too witnessed massive coverage of the Modi visit, vying in space and television time with the earlier Obama visit. Barring a few discordant notes (some linked to the Jiang Zemin faction in Shanghai), coverage was positive, with the focus being on the "transformative Indian leader" and his rapport with President Xi. A notable highlight was the fact that "the younger generation in China has taken to the Prime Minister", as evidenced by the warmth of his reception at Tsinghua and Fudan universities, and the way in which PM Modi interacted with the Chinese people at each stop. Overall, the scope for $300 billion of two-way trade and investment between China and India seems on the verge of operationalisation, largely because of the impressive Modi-Xi chemistry on display last week in China.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Time for Modi 2.01 governance reform (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

PM Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi powered the BJP to its Lok Sabha majority by convincing voters that he would be an entirely different Prime Minister from what Manmohan Singh was. The promise was believed because of his performance in Gujarat, where he delivered government services to the population in a relatively efficient manner. That was "Modi 1.01", but now that he has been given responsibility for the entire country, what is needed is "Modi 2.0", an operating system geared towards effective all-India governance, with 21st century characteristics such as freedom of information and involvement of civil society in decision-making, in particular by drawing upon a much greater pool of talent than is found within the IAS, members of which transit from Archaeology to Fisheries before moving on to Agriculture and thence to Defence. That caste is still flourishing in India becomes clear from the hierarchical gradation into IAS, IFS, IPS, Other Central Services, State Services and still lower echelons of the bureaucracy. This is a system marked by very little permeability from a "lower" service to the "higher", in a country of the young where upward mobility ought to be the norm.
It is a system based on official mistrust of the citizen and of each other, and which therefore creates multiple layers which succeed in preventing an officer from taking the timely decisions needed if the country is to achieve results close to its potential. The CAGs and the CVCs have staff which know that finding out even minor or imaginary errors of procedure is key to their career prospects. Each government agency has a Vigilance Officer, usually drawn from that most incorruptible of services, the IPS, which frequently gets used to punish tiresome but straightforward officials by launching enquiries against them, while protecting the dishonest. It is a system where decision-making powers get concentrated at the top. In the MEA, for example, rather than the Joint Secretaries (who ought to have the final responsibility for most decisions), several matters reach the Foreign Secretary and even the External Affairs Minister, when not referred to the Prime Minister, with the National Security Advisor close at hand for a second opinion. Throughout the administration, a rule of thumb needs to get enforced that at least 50% of the files will stop at the Deputy or Under-Secretary level, while 75% of the remainder will not go beyond the Joint Secretary. This would leave the Secretary and Additional Secretary-rank officials the leisure they need to look at issues in a broader context, rather than constantly be asked to put out fires which could have been extinguished at much lower levels, had discretion been given, and which indeed are inherent in the processes followed by the system.
Battling corruption is essential, but a distinction needs to get made between major acts of misfeasance and minor ones, just as the common cold is different in its side effects from typhoid. By lumping each such action together, the focus which ought to be there on major misdemeanours, gets shifted to myriad smaller examples, with a consequent weakening of oversight and therefore accountability. The central vigilance agencies — including the CBI — ought to get involved only in cases where the level of illicit reward in a year is at least Rs 10 crore, and these should be pursued ruthlessly rather than the way Ranjit Sinha operated. State-level agencies ought to get involved only in cases where in a year, above Rs 1 crore of bribe has been suspected of being collected, rather than chase after smaller depredators, who can be left to the police to handle rather than to specialised agencies.
Despite the evident success of having experts at the top of ministries such as Space and Atomic Energy, such an experiment has yet to be carried out in other departments, where generalists reign, for whom process is all-important and product insignificant. Within even specialised services such as the IFS, officers move from East Asia to the Passport Office, or to South America from the Gulf countries, while as yet there is no systematic effort to ensure that a cadre of business development officials gets created. Neither is there any cross-pollination between the world outside government and that inside, whereas movement into and out of the two ought to be encouraged, with those leaving for stints outside having their prospects on return brightened rather than dimmed or (as is now the case) eliminated. CM Narendra Modi ran Gujarat through the Civil Service, but as PM, will need to harness Civil Society alongside the Services to administer the whole of India with the efficiency he showed in his former job. Now that a year is almost over since his taking over as Pradhan Sevak, it is time for Modi 2.01, so that his years as PM witness the transformation of our 19th century legal and administrative system into a recognisably 21st century construct.

Friday 22 May 2015

Rise of Women Power (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat

Friday, May 22, 2015 - Kerala, a relatively small state in the south of India, has a “quality of life” index as high as that in many parts of Europe, despite being significantly poorer. Life expectancy is past the mid-70s,while infant mortality rates are low and overall nutrition standards adequate, unlike for other parts of a country where nearly three hundred million citizens are desperately poor. At the core of such success is the education of women. During the period when much of the state was ruled by princely families, stress was given to educating women and enabling them to participate in the workforce, besides play a decisive role within civil society.

The consequence of such gender neutrality was a better family, with children better fed and educated, besides gaining the skills needed to get by in a competitive world. Because of the dominating role of the state in the economy - owing to the adoption of the Soviet model by Jawaharlal Nehru and followed by his predecessors till 1992 - jobs were scare within India, hence several million Malayalis (or Keralites, as the people of the state are termed) migrated to other shores, mostly to the GCC countries. Because of the eighteen hundred years of contact between the Arab countries and the Malabar coast, Keralites find working in the GCC countries to be less severe a transition than those from other states. As for the local populations within the sheikhdoms, they differentiate between people from Kerala (who are termed “Malabaris”) and expatriates from other parts of India, who they call “Hindis”. 

Almost a year ago, even the feared ISIS released 39 female nurses from Kerala who were in their captivity, while refusing to do likewise with an equal number of prisoners from other parts of India, the fate of whom is uncertain. While the central government claimed credit for the rescue, the reality was that it was the “Kerala net” within the region that got to work, mediating with ISIS commanders and finally securing the release of the nurses. The role of the central government was merely to provide logistical support. Had it been government which secured the release of the 39 nurses, the other Indian citizens in ISIS captivity would have been freed as well, rather than just the Malayalis. The suppression of the female in Asia has been a contributory cause of the decline of the continent. In China, females had to bind their feet and ensure they were tiny, so that they could not even walk properly but had to move in slow, painful steps on baby feet even when they became very old. In most parts of Asia, women were treated as property,to be abused and discarded rather than protected. This noxious legacy survives in several parts of the continent, where girls are given less education than boys, when they are given any education at all. However,in those countries where women have been liberated - if not entirely, then to a considerable extent - from notions of inferiority, social indicators have looked up. In present-day China, women play an important role, although as yet they have not been adequately represented in the higher reaches of the CCP, which since the 1990s has been transformed into a collection of middle-aged men in dark suits. Of course, since the new leader, Xi Jinping, took charge, he has sought to give a more informal image, even joining other diners at unpretentious restaurants in an effort to show that the gap between leaders and led in China is not large This columnist has spent the past few days in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, although by the time this column appears, he is scheduled to be in Beijing, the capital of the world’s other superpower, China. In the first weeks of next year, the Presidential elections will take place, as they do every four years. 

The last time,the only factor which resulted in a victory for incumbent Head of State Ma Ying-jeou was the fact that his opponent, Tsai Ing-wen, was female. Several tens of thousands of male voters in Taiwan, although they were not happy with President Ma or with his party (the KMT, or Kuomintang), voted for him in 2012 nevertheless because they did not want to see a female as Head of State. This despite the fact that Tsai Ing-wen has an outstanding ecord of both public administration and public service (in a context where the first is seldom congruent with the second) and has a spotless record in public life, as indeed does Ma Ying-jeou, who if anything is a bit too much of a stickler for rules. However, more than three years later, the mood in Taiwan has changed, and those who are hardened “male supremacists” are shrinking in number. 

A majority of male Taiwanese do not differentiate on the grounds of gender between candidates, and this is likely to ensure that Tsai Ing-wen becomes the first President of Taiwan from the fair sex,beating her rival, who is likely to be from what this columnist’s high school teacher often referred to as the “Unfair Sex”, despite being from this group himself Taiwan has come a very long way since the island was a dictatorship ruled by KMT supremo Chiang Kai-shek and a group of generals who had come by sea after their defeat at the hands of the Peoples Liberation Army. 

Corruption and nepotism, crony capitalism and promotion of favourites throughout the system of governance,corroded the regime led by Chiang Kai-shek. Just as it was the German armies who ensured the coming to power of the Bolshevik Party in Russia in 1917, it was the damage inflicted by Japanese forces which so weakened the KMT that it was defeated by Mao Zedong’s forces within four years of the surrender of Japanese forces to Allied armies led by the United States. Fortunately for the Taiwanese,Chiang’s son Chiang Ching-kuo,took over from him and supervised a transition to democracy,ensuring free elections in which a native Taiwanese (rather than a settler from China) got elected, changing the chemistry of Taiwan in the process. There are some who say that democracy has “cost Taiwan growth”. What has cost Taiwan increased GDP is not democracy but a fixation with China and its markets that has led Taiwanese businesses to focus too much on that country to the exclusion of others such as India. Another is the neglect of English, which was discarded by Chiang Kai-shek because of his weak knowledge of the language. 

However, President Ma has sought to spread knowledge of the international link language within the younger generation, and it is clear that Taiwan will be on track to join (along with Singapore and Hong Kong) a 21st century Anglosphere - cultural, of course, not political - before much time. The rise of DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen in what has been a paternalistic society is testimony to the distance the people of Taiwan have travelled in becoming gender neutral, and in appreciating the fact that there cannot be significant societal and even economic progress unless there be gender equality.

Saturday 16 May 2015

For India, it’s not either US or China, but both (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

Henry Kissinger was given the credit for the 1970s thaw between the United States and China by the simple method of ensuring that the history of that relationship post-1971 got written either by himself or by those dependent on him for information about the process. Neither National Security Adviser Ajit Doval or Foreign Secretary Subramanian Jaishankar, who have accompanied the Prime Minister to China, are likely to pen post-retirement tomes giving themselves, rather than Modi, the credit for what is on track to being a comprehensive re-engineering of the Sino-Indian relationship. Although for the record, the relationship between the two countries was warm during 1953-57, in reality this was because of Jawaharlal Nehru's surrender of crucial security and other interests during that period, an error Modi is not expected to repeat. Nor is he likely to make unilateral Vajpayee-style concessions to President Xi Jinping or to Premier Li Keqiang.
The relationship has become transactional, and to get, there must be "give". The interaction between Modi and Xi gives promise of eliminating from a relationship spanning a third of the globe's population several of the barriers created through an often wilful mutual incomprehension of motives by the bureaucracy on both sides, with consequent mistrust and stasis in policy. Early into his dozen years in office as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi understood the immensity of the China opportunity, which policymakers in Delhi had been ignoring out of a concentration on the China "threat". Certainly there are weighty matters on which there are disagreements between the two neighbours, but there exist as well several ways in which a harmonious relationship will be of benefit to both sides. Such paths have remained unexplored thus far because of the veto exercised by our security agencies, who have been trained by Washington, London and Paris to suspect anything Chinese even as these capitals fight each other to attract PRC investment and tourists.
In several ways a harmonious relationship will be of benefit to both sides. Such paths have remained unexplored due to the veto exercised by our security agencies, trained by Washington, London and Paris to suspect anything Chinese.
For India's many Sinophobes, it is the robust manner in which Beijing has boosted Islamabad's missile and space programme that causes irritation, a negativism they fail to transmit when talking about the US, which has over the years been even more generous to Pakistan than China has been, and which continues to lavish treasure on that military-dominated state. And so, co-existing with wails from the Ministry of Commerce about the monstrous trade deficit this country has with China, the Ministry of Home Affairs has to date ensured that all but a trickle of Chinese tourists are kept out of India, in a world where around a hundred million citizens of the People's Republic of China (PRC) ventured beyond the boundaries of their country last year. Had China-specific tourist trails been allowed to be developed and visitors to that country welcomed with the same alacrity shown by the US, the UK and France, our trade deficit could have been reduced by at least a few billion euros. And if Chinese investment in infrastructure and manufacturing were permitted rather than — in effect — banned, it would have been Indian rather than Chinese nationals working in Chinese factories located in India and the Indian state which got the taxes levied on such units.
However, economic logic plays an insignificant part in the thinking of our security agencies, which continue to use Nehruvian cosmology to define and describe a world that has changed in a manner incomprehensible to them.
There are apologists for China who warn against closer ties with the US, seeking a return to what passed off as "non-alignment", but which was, in practice, Moscow-centric. Those wedded to US strategic interests rail against any accommodation with Beijing, unmindful of the fact that it is the "China card" which has been a primary motivator of Washington's slight tilt towards Delhi. The reality is that the Indian national interest mandates a robust — and cordial — relationship with both superpowers. India and the US need to work together, including in Asia, to ensure that the continent escapes domination by China, a country which from economic irrelevance has become the primary engine of growth in Asia.
In like fashion, China and India need to concert in certain situations in order to protect Asia from overlordship by NATO. That military alliance has inserted itself in the western and southern reaches of the continent, and wherever it has been active, chaos and suffering have been the most visible outcomes. NATO is straining to gain traction in Asia, and it is in the common interest of Beijing and Delhi to prevent this. India needs to act in a manner which enhances the autonomy of countries smaller than itself, China and the US, the way to achieve such a result would be to tango with both of them, rather than with one against the other.