Saturday 21 September 2019

Houston, Trump and Modi have a solution (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

An all-weather partnership is needed for global balance, stability in 21st century.

It had been expected of Narendra Modi that he would carry a grudge against the US administration into the Prime Minister’s House for revoking his visa in order for the White House to curry favour with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Within days of Modi becoming PM, that misperception was dispelled as he began planning a US visit. In the case of Donald J. Trump, the fact that Prime Minister Modi actually met the New York billionaire only after the latter took charge as President in 2017 and not in 2015 itself made no difference to the warmth with which Trump greeted Modi when they first met in June 2017 and embraced before holding a press conference in the White House Rose Garden. Both Trump and Modi understand that an all-weather partnership between Delhi and Washington is needed for global balance and stability in the 21st century. It helps that efforts by some politicians antagonistic to the English language have not stopped the spread of the global link language in India, giving this country a vital advantage in the Knowledge Economy. Or that the number of Indian-Americans is reaching 4 million, who are the most productive and law-abiding citizens in the US. If a few politicians enamoured of the Wahhabi lobby (such as Senators Bernie Sanders or Lindsey Graham) are discounted, bipartisan backing for close ties with India is overwhelming on Capitol Hill, just as it is on Raisina Hill. The Trump-Modi duet in Houston is an illustration of the manner in which two democracies once estranged are now getting engaged, driven together not only through sentiment but by self-interest. Geopolitically, both India as well as the US have an interest in ensuring that no power dominate the Eurasian landmass, the expanses of space and the waters of the Indo-Pacific whose security interests are not fully aligned with the core interests of Delhi and Washington. These are (1) the preservation of conditions for the access and conditions needed for trade to be fair and seamless, (2) the protection of democracies across the region from malign intervention by authoritarian forces, (3) the elimination of the Archipelago of Terror formed across the globe by extremists with a propensity for violence, and (4) the spreading of a culture and a mindset that respects individual rights and liberty rather than impose a model of governance that places Civil Society under the jackboot of governments obsessed with control of the citizenry.
The Partition of India was above all a tragedy for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Were the Jinnah-Churchill engineered vivisection of India to have failed and Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts at unity succeeded (rather than the Mahatma failing and Jinnah succeeding), the Muslim population of India would have formed the centre of gravity within the entire Muslim population of the globe, and would almost certainly have ensured that Wahhabism remained on the fringes of the faith rather than insert itself into the core since 1979. Perhaps half the Prime Ministers of India would have been Muslim. With grave consequences for India, the saintly Mahatma aligned himself in 1919 (via the quixotic Khilafat agitation) with those within the Muslim community who believed in the Two Nation theory, rather than with those who saw the necessity for both Hindus and Muslims to live as brothers and sisters, being children of the same Almighty. From that time, the Congress leadership acted as though Hindus and Muslims needed to be dealt with separately, despite their overwhelming common interests. It was a colonial-created lack of self-confidence in the leadership elements of a dynamic community that led in 1947 to Partition, and which in 2019 stops some “leaders” within the Muslim community in the Republic of India from seeing the justice in the emotion within broad elements of the Hindu community to recover the three holy sites—and only these three sites—of a faith that now has a billion adherents. Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. Once these sites are peacefully restored to what they were before they were destroyed by conquerors from the west of the country, relations between Hindus and Muslims will be what they ought to have been: defined by brotherhood. Despite the tragedy, indeed the crime, of Partition, the Republic of India with its vibrant and overwhelmingly moderate Muslim population still retains the impulse needed to ensure that the Wahhabi minority within the global Muslim population is prevented from establishing a dominant position. Not just the US but India too has to be involved in securing the wider Muslim world, working together with the US and other allies in ensuring that extreme forces do not overturn existing structures of governance. Pakistan army units are no longer reliable in such a context, suffused as they are with the Wahhabi impulse. They need to be replaced with forces from India, and there is therefore need to embark upon a phased program of substantially increasing the intake of recruits from the moderate majority within the Muslim community into the armed forces, so that they can join with the US and others in protecting moderate governance structures in the Middle East in a manner that personnel from Pakistan cannot any longer be trusted to accomplish. At the same time, India needs to retain its traditional friendship towards the Shia-majority states of Yemen, Iraq and Iran and seek to persuade allies such as the US from its current policy of waging a low-intensity war against the Shia (including in Iran) that can only be to the benefit of the Wahhabis. Alongside, India needs to provide moral, diplomatic and material support for the battle being waged by the Pashtuns, Sindhis, Shia, Baloch and others against the domination of the Wahhabi Punjabi Pakistan army, while preparing for the recovery of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir with the concentration and effort that is the trademark of Narendra Modi.
An India-US defence and security alliance that includes the transfer of select weapons production platforms to India will serve the interests of US corporations as well, by making the items much more competitive in price than they are at present. The transfer through lease of naval weapons platforms from the US to the Indian side would assist in our country playing its natural role in keeping the Indo-Pacific safe and stable. Importantly, an India-US alliance would assist peace-loving groups within the Chinese establishment to prevail over those seeking war, thereby taking away the risk of a military clash with China. Prime Minister Modi and President Trump together lead 1.7 billion people, all living within a democratic framework.
Howdy, Houston. Our two countries would like to report not a problem, but a solution. A solution that is exemplified by the joint appearance at the NRG Stadium in Houston of two of the four most consequential world leaders, apart from Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. The latter two form part of the alternative 21st century alliance system to that led by the US and India.

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