Posted on October 12, 2013 by IS
“Modi would pursue his own policies with vigour. There would be strong emphasis on the economy alongside a robust military-led foreign policy. ‘You will see that Chinese incursions and Pakistani border raids will automatically stop as soon as Modi assumes power,’ remarked a Western diplomat. ‘You need not do anything. If the enemy can read the situation in the air, its behavior will change, otherwise its survival will be at stake. This is history.’” – A.B. MahapatraRonald Reagan. Deng Xiaoping. Vladimir Putin. Barack Obama. Mohammed Mahathir. These are the names that Narendra Modi is being associated with by resident foreign diplomats since the Gujarat strongman’s spectacular rise over the past year. They proclaim that he will make India a different order of power from anything seen since the country’s independence in 1947, and that his leadership would propel it to the centre stage of Asian and global politics sooner than conceived or expected. On the day he is elected prime minister, China and Pakistan will cease their provocations, and over the long-term, the United States would be compelled to pursue serious and sustained strategic friendship with Modi’s India due to the uncertainties in Afghanistan and the perfidies of Pakistan. Such is the considered foreign diplomatic assessment of the country’s most popular leader today.
Following Modi’s massively successful public rally in North West Delhi on Sunday, 29 September, most of the foreign missions called in their translation staff early to work on Monday. Modi’s speech was translated in real-time and its contents examined with forensic intensity, analyzed and transmitted to the world capitals with record promptitude. The crowds at the rally numbering in excess of 1.5 lac with a majority in the age group of 18-28 with who the Gujarat chief minister magically connects outrightly bedazzled the diplomatic corps. Being a city of dalals and power-brokers where time is money and overcrowded roads and large distances are a great deterrence, gathering such a mass of people in Delhi on an entirely and scrupulously voluntary basis is a feat achieved by no political party or individual in recent times, and Modi proved that exception.
Indeed, the deputy chief of mission of an ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) state compared Modi to Anna Hazare in the sterling capacity of the Gujarat chief minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime minister candidate to pull capacity crowds to his gatherings. “I wanted to see the man so that in future I would be able to introduce him to my leaders if at all such a scenario arises but I could only make my way to the (rally) ground after 40 minutes of jostling,” the awed diplomat remarked. “I had seen only a big gathering during the Anna Hazare movement. Now, it is the turn of Modi who has surpassed all previous counts. I still cannot get over my surprise about the success of the Sunday rally and the strength of Modi.”
A raised placard at the rally read, “Modi is India,” which would not in normal course impress a diplomat. Diplomats, by virtue of their training and wide exposure in different lands, are a cynical and hard-boiled class of professionals. They are rarely satisfied with what they see unless it is converted into graspable reality in the manner of an immutable mathematical formula. It is these sceptical professionals who are engaged in a competitive reassessment of Modi, and give him, on the whole, flying marks.
All the same, some big questions remain. Chief of them is if Modi can change India. They know everything about the administrative wonders he has wrought in Gujarat. If the man has as much success with India as with Gujarat and with mesmerizing mammoth crowds, but especially the young, then the country would race towards becoming a big power ahead of the predicted end-of-the-century timeline. And it would a big power distinguished from the Western behemoths by its all-pervasive humanity and peaceable intent.
But perplexities remain about Narendra Modi’s worldview, and the diplomatic community is also in two minds whether to work with him now or await the 2014 election results, and it is not an easy choice. The danger with the second option is pointedly expressed by a Scandinavian envoy, who says, “If I wait till that period (the poll outcome), then I may lose my status as a top-ranking diplomat. Because in my country, a diplomat is often expected to tell untold things and to present unheard-of leads to the leadership to prepare them to face the world better.”
On the other hand, there is considerable diplomatic unanimity that Modi has a firm and definite vision for India whose contours are slowly presenting themselves in the full light of day. But there is also deeper anxiety and understanding that the United Progressive Alliance has left the country in tawdry disrepair, and that it would take a minimum of two years merely to remove the garbage and build anew. As it is, to foreign observers, India is a difficult country. But they concede at the same time that the Gujarat chief minister is decisive, clear-thinking, and distinctive from the rest, and that he would restore order at the fastest possible pace.
Narendra Modi’s rise, they therefore posit and project, would place India squarely in the center-stage of Asian and global politics. Some diplomats even compare him to Deng Xiaoping and the Malaysian leader, Mohammad Mahathir. A Russian envoy thought Modi to be in the likeness of Vladimir Putin, the rising star of world politics, who has upstaged Barack Obama on the Syria crisis and beyond. Like the Russian strongman, Modi possesses a canvas of vast and varied understanding. He is a fluent speaker on economics, agriculture, women’s issues and social development, and can also hold forth on history, defence, foreign policy and nation-building.
Other diplomats compare him to Ronald Reagan, since Modi would find the situation on becoming prime minister to be rather similar to when the (former) American president entered office in 1980. The morale of the United States then had touched rock-bottom. Reagan adopted a two-front policy of correcting the economy and enhancing the American military, and Modi may resort to the same course sooner or later. Nevertheless, Modi also carries traits of Obama, who defeated his own party’s redoubtable candidates before entering into combat with the opposition to claim the presidency.
For all these affinities, though, Narendra Modi remains an anathema to the United States, and that makes him even more determined to deal with America on an equal footing. The denied American visa is still an issue with some diplomats although the Gujarat chief minister has moved on. Yet, Modi will soon have an opportunity to bend America to his will. The United States will be out of Afghanistan next year, around the same time that Modi will assume power, if voted. America can only trust India in the region and would be compelled to seek cooperation from him since it can never fully abandon Afghanistan or keep faith in and get close to Pakistan.
To access Indian military assets and strategic influence in Afghanistan, the United States will need Modi more than Modi will require them. Thus, denying a visa to Modi will harm American interests in the region, along which lines some Republicans have already started pressurizing the Obama administration for a rethink. Being a merchant nation, one can reasonably be certain that the United States will dump its fraudulent moral high ground in supreme national interest before long.
So far, the United Kingdom and China had taken the lead to come to terms with Modi, but the rest scarcely wish to be seen as laggards any the more. In their reckoning, Modi would pursue his own policies with vigour. There would be strong emphasis on the economy alongside a robust military-led foreign policy. “You will see that Chinese incursions and Pakistani border raids will automatically stop as soon as Modi assumes power,” remarked a Western diplomat. “You need not do anything. If the enemy can read the situation in the air, its behavior will change, otherwise its survival will be at stake. This is history.”
If Chinese or Pakistani actions persist, then one can be assured that India would deliver a decisive response, no matter that both states are nuclear powers. The diplomatic understanding is that this might open a two-front scenario but India will gain the upper hand regardless. All in all, Modi will transform India into a sort of great power unimaginable at or since independence. – NewsInsight, 2 October 2013
» A.B. Mahapatra heads the premier Stratcore Group that specializes in information, research, consultancy and advocacy for the Afro-Asian region.