By S. Sivathasan –
Impending Regime Change and Election
Come May and it is for sure that a new regime with adequate strength for stable governance will be in power. As certain is Modi as Prime Minister. Very seldom has an unfolding future election yielded a clear and precise result so well in advance. Congress, loitering in the seventy seat range is now an orthodoxy among forecasts. Group of eleven putting on a brave Front can’t last till even the day of count. With support surge having their effect on alliances as nominations approach, BJP going beyond 280 and NDA above 300 are the writer’s estimate now. The country needs to deliberate only on the challenges before the new government and India’s direction till 2050.
India and Manifesto 2009
Two great nations of Asia; India and China, proud of their past and conscious of their future mission are among the dominant powers of this century. India has the burden of history and continuity of her cultural traditions to temper her conduct in modern times. For good or ill she is also weighed down by her religious heritage. There are besides democratic norms imposing restraints on her political progress, economic transformation and social reorganization. When all such strands weave a complex fabric, the speed at which the developed countries have advanced and are progressing, places very great challenges on present India. The strain is still greater since rising expectations signify the spur for the future. In this situation the Bharathiya Janatha Party and Narendra Modi are being called upon to deliver, where China has advanced in resolving such issues over a period of six decades and more.
What India sees as incumbent on her part to do domestically, internationally, regionally and with specific reference to Sri Lanka were spelt out in the BJP Manifesto of 2009 – Manifesto 2014 is under preparation. They were:
“A resurgent India must get its rightful place in the comity of nations and international institutions”
“Will strengthen the India US strategic partnership”
“India has a special role to play in the Indian Ocean Region and will pursue this vigorously”
“The political, economic and human rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority community must be protected by the Government in Colombo”
In a matter of three months, the above ideas quite explicit even as they are will begin to take definitive shape, when the nation’s mandate is sought and obtained. Political elements and the established bureaucracy are likely to fuse their programmes. In the current year itself they will cast their shadows long enough to spread across this decade and beyond. Centre-state relationship will see a new dimension with states coming into their own. Charting their course is a responsibility for BJP.
Modi conveyed this conviction in the first among his rallies in Tamil Nadu. He has reiterated it by saying that no longer should there be a rule from Delhi by the Prime Minister and the cabinet, but governance in consultation with the Chief Ministers from the States.
Metternich called Italy of mid nineteenth century a “geographical Expression”. The same was applied by historians to Germany prior to unification. India of twentieth century too was similarly termed. Banishing this impression fully, drowning disparate pulls not through over-centralism, but through recognition of state rights and advancing towards unity by making federal principles real are tomorrow’s compulsions for BJP and for the Prime Minister.
A Place under the Sun
Bertrand Russel wrote some decades ago that in much of German philosophical writings of the nineteenth century can be seen the lament of a great nation denied a place under the sun. When the BJP invokes ideas of a resurgent India getting her rightful place, overtones of the same mindset are strident and clear. In the twentieth century Germany’s political motivations, fueled by economic considerations used war as the means to satisfy a strong emotional impulse. India similarly placed is denied the option of war in a world that has changed profoundly.
Historical parallels cannot be exact. Yet comparisons can be made. The speeches and writings of great Indians of the twentieth century will show that India has had an enviable past and it is the duty of modern India to replicate it for the future, to reach enviable heights. Nehru was able to have a glimpse of her “Majesty of soul”. Any leader of the future will be unwise to overlook it.
Bismarck and England
Bismarck the prodigious German leader, dominated Europe’s politics for three decades. Never a war on two fronts was an overarching consideration of his policy in war and peace. Not antagonizing England during the wars of unification in eighteen sixties and not alarming her subsequently by building a mighty navy were cardinal principles with him. He wouldn’t compromise on it and resigned the office of Prime Minister even after a long tenure with Kaiser William ll. To Hitler too, no war on two fronts and due assessment of England’s concerns ran through his strategies. Disregarding the ‘two front’ constraint in attacking Russia in 1941, spelt disaster for him.
It is not India that will be assailed by two front anxieties, but her not so large immediate neighbours. In their liaisons with other large powers, they have to be mindful of India’s concerns. Sri Lanka on account of her strategic location and dalliance with China with overtones of antagonism towards her neighbor, might have already appeared on India’s radar. Modi’s accession will definitely call for a new relationship.
Indian Ocean Region and India
To England the English Channel was England’s Channel. To India and to Indira, Indian Ocean is India’s Ocean. How much importance does she attach to this concept? In Nehru’s perception, India’s seaborne trade was at the mercy of whichever power that controlled the Indian Ocean. By extension “Her independence itself rested on it”. To KM Panikkar the reputed historian, “India’s lifelines are concentrated in the Indian Ocean, where she has a coast of 10,000 km”. It was with much reason that Nehru picked him as the first Ambassador to China who literally saw the fall of KMT China and the rise of the Communist one. Perhaps it was for him to read China’s mind in the Indian Ocean.
Much earlier he wrote forcefully “No industrial development, no commercial growth, no stable political structure unless India’s shores are protected”. What appears in the BJP Manifesto is very striking. “India has a special role in the Indian Ocean Region”, runs a strident statement. This needs to be read with “Strengthening strategic partnership with US”.
No Sino Indian confrontation is likely to be feared in the next few decades. China as an ever rising economic power with escalating global influence will certainly be factored into the discernments of India and US. In foreign relations, China and India have followed a course not dissimilar to America’s trajectory in the nineteenth century. Hibernation, consolidation, growth and international foray at Versailles in 1918.
Pacific Rim of Asia apart, Indian Ocean Region, South Asia along with India and Sri Lanka will draw attention as among the principal theatres of action.
India and US
Immediately after the India China war of 1962, Rajaji made a serious remark though with a touch of humour. When China attacked India, half of Nehru’s foreign policy was blasted. When he accepted American aid, the other half was also destroyed. Man Mohan Singh’s parting shot in his recent retirement speech was that his iconic achievement in his ten year term as PM was the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. A remarkable statement since he rates it higher than his great contribution of modernization through economic liberalization in 1991. Obviously he was alluding to the portents of the Deal and how adroitly he steered it through.
Taking off from where Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh left, will mark Modi’s efforts at making India a major power of notable consequence. National integration in domestic affairs and “Conduct of foreign relations out of courage, with elan” as Jashwant Sinha said in a recent Lok Sabha speech, will be the flavor of his principal initiatives. When aggressively pursued they will make a difference to India. In this context should be seen BJP’s stance of a “Strategic Partnership” with US. Alongside comes a thawing of coldness with Modi and cultivating a nearness to him, with initiative from US.
Though no state has separated since independence, the number of states has increased from 14 in 1956 to 29 in 2014. If non-proliferation is ensured in future, it will be an index of due attention being paid to economic imperatives and nationalistic sentiments of the states. Balancing simultaneously the pull of States to move away from the centre while evolving the push for unity, will be the immediate and paramount concern. In short, political consolidation with all its implications including the evolution of a strong party securing the allegiance of more than half the nation and two-thirds of the intelligentsia. No mean challenge to the governing party, its leader, organs of state and popular institutions.
Among nations as with individuals, making wealth is primary. Three Tamil (Indian) poets said: This world is not for those without wealth. Those who are indigent are scoffed at by everybody. The first duty of the poverty stricken is to acquire riches. Holding with Plato, before practicing virtue, India has to make wealth. It was Nehru’s lament that Churchill couldn’t have made that remark about Gandhi if India’s status had been different.
With appropriateness Modi has mobilized at the beginning of this year itself a team of economists of renown to map out strategies and development plans. He himself participated at a discussion for 9 hours at a single stretch. Signals are clear down the line. UNCTAD forecasts that by 2050, India will be 3rd in the world in GDP. This is poor comfort when her per capita is a modest $5,060 in PPP terms by that year when China will reach $17,759 while Singapore will touch $84,405. When India’s per capita ranks low how much would a population of 1.6 billion permit to be used on armaments or defence? Modi has perforce to set India’s sights higher, for a rightful place in the comity of nations and in international relations.
Laying the foundation for higher expendable surplus and containment of the population at around 1.3 billion seem mandatory Himalayan tasks before Modi.
To be continued …