Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lately been on his many foreign missions. He paid an official visit to the USA and had discussions with Obama. Then, he flew to Moscow where he met both the President and Prime Minister Mr.Putin. In the Russian scheme of things, it is perceived that Mr.Putin is more powerful and popular than the self-effacing President. As Mr.Putin is also now thinking of contesting for the President once again, after 8 years in the same office, it is what Mr.Putin thinks is important as to what India can expect to get from Russia.
Now, the PM’s US visit has been commented upon by various people by various ways. One such commentator is Prof.Jagdish Bhagwati, from Colombia University.
For those who might not know, Dr.Bhagwati is an old friend of Dr.Singh when both were Ph.D scholars at Nuffield College, Oxford during the late Fifties of the last century. Incidentally, I was also there (as an undergraduate) and I used to have a tutor (for monetary economics) at the same College and I used to see them both at the College premises or at the nearby cafes!
What the current readers might not know is the fact that while these Indian economists, including Prof.Amartya Sen, were to become later famous, Dr.Singh becoming the PM is the surprise of all surprises!
Only in India we seem to accord such a high respect for the professional economists who, while they might all be brilliant, they in practice, have either tended to remain academics or while in government they remain very obedient to the powers that be and as a consequence, even when Dr.Singh became Prime Minister, the much-praised achievements are all often a media build-up and in actual terms their achievements are far from spectacular.
So, when Dr.Bhagwati writes, he did in a popular Indian news weekly about Dr.Singh’s visit he pays his usual compliments but he is also saying that “while the PM was able to impress Obama that India’s economic growth is based on better economic and political path (read: democratic path) the PM, says Bhagwati “the PM needs to articulate it better” and also the PM “needs to learn from the US President’s eloquence what India needs to do in economic policy.”The PM needs to have a bold vision to be put before the country”.
This is criticism, mild though; Prof.Sen would have been more populistic, as Sen openly claims to be on the Left!
The point here is that the PM has learned to be more diplomatic on many contentious issues.
Lately, the PM’s overseas visit are not producing any visible impact, both on the host countries or n the Indian people back at home.
The recently concluded six agreements with Russia are very important, though their relevance or timing remain to be explained.
This explaining is not done either by the Pm or by his advisers. May the Congress party also doesn’t mind either!
So, we are left with so many agonising questions and when the time comes for particular issues we remain clueless.
Take the recent China’s behaviour, over Dala Lama visiting Arunachal Pradesh, or the PM visiting the same region or the many antics China has put out, over border roads building by India, China road building in Pak-occupied Kashmir etc.
Now, India as one senior diplomat puts it, USA under Obama, for various reasons had helped China to fan its own ambitions and egos, Obama is deferential, he refused to receive Dalai Lama before his departure to China obviously to placate China which is seen by Obama himself as emerging as a powerful economy and even a military power.
So, Chia is now given to jingoistic behaviour, it would only raise its heat on India and would go for many unanticipated things.
So, what is the future policy, future long term approach to the unstoppable China, it seems?
There are so many holes in India’s future vision, if there is one at all!
China would only use its undiplomatic and even unpeaceful methods; it would display its nuclear and missile proliferation methods with Pakistan, our neighbour whose own fate is highly complex.
China won’t help Pakistan to become a more stable region. Nor China would really help Pakistan to restrain its nuclear ambitions nor would it provide economic aid to strengthen its economy.
Certainly not to promote democracy in Pakistan either.
The critical point here is that China is not a democracy nor has it any pretensions to become one, now or in the far future.
This is the critical differentiating, underlying feature about China.
While China is feared and even respected by its own neighbours, namely, Japan or the other Asian neighbours, with maritime and land boundaries, not only with Japan, but with such countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia (the third large democracy) and of course with India.
Among these countries, if we include India’s own immediate neighbours, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Mynamar and in the West, even Afghanistan (with that country our relations are more closer and friendly) and in the down South Maldives, Sri Lanka, we have a long list and a longer list of common interests.
Major religions, Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic populations of these Asian nations again make it a strong contender for the world attention to what we initiate today.
My suggestion for the Indian leaders is to think of a new Union, an Asian Democratic Union, or an Asian Union, simply to concentrate on strengthening the democratic institutions and democratic practices.
This union of nations, big and small, are timely also fit the simple reason these nations are also undergoing some radical changes.
To list a few issues:
The Commonwealth seems to have lost its relevance, not many countries take the institution seriously, not the UK which is also weakening day by day.UK lives on its nostalgic past, and the empire memories are caught with its own sense of decline in a changed world.
India is becoming a strong economic power and our political power, soft or otherwise, is enormously growing. This the USA recognises, though under Obama it is not as clear and explicit as we want it to be. But this doesn’t matter or should bother us much.
India has a great opportunity to emerge as a great force for good, force for change for the better.
Now, Indian democracy itself is undergoing change and Dr.Singh, being the first non-elected Prime Minister for the second term too, is setting a new precedent. Neither is he elected to the Lok Sabha. Nor is he elected properly to the Rajya Sabha. Leaving aside these “minor” falws, there are other issues of great impact. Indian elections are becoming more and more corrupt, driven by money power, more corruption scandals erupt and they go unnoticed for the most part. Nor the Congress party, be 125 year old party, very much like the older parties of Europe, has a long tradition of evolving new ideologies, both economic and political. So too other Asian neighbours like Sri Lanka which only next to India is the typical Westminster model democracy! It is also undergoing change. After the elimination of the LTTE, there is a military general to context civil political office. This is not a happy trend either.
There are severe ethnic conflicts within Sri Lanka and these needs to be tackled on very careful, sensitive lines.
In Pakistan we have a real problem, complex and too complicated for the time being.
I remember as a student of Parliamentary and Constitutional history, it was the late Sir Ivor Jennings who wrote the Constitution of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka retained the Jennings model, in Pakistan we got the Constitution distorted many times.
Now, under President Zardari we thought we have an elected government there. But now comes the Pakistan Supreme Court examining the National Reconciliation Ordinance of 2007.Now,to re-open the trial would only open the Pandora’s Box!
So, it is not a happy turn of events.
So, we need, India and countries and friends like USA and UK must think and come out with a plan to effect a new national reconciliation so that we don’t rock the boat there. Pakistan is fighting for its very existence. There is Taliban, Al Queda and the Afghan war or Afpak war and peace is perhaps the most dangerous test for Obama’s make or break administration as on date.
So, with all the challenges, we cant take a very routine duty of running our government or even tackling the 26/11 terrorist attacks.
The challenges are real for us, for our generation, in India as well as in other Asian countries and small nations with their own internal dynamisms.
So, it is worth pondering over the many issues Asian nations face. With China not having such a humane and humanitarian concerns and, as of now, only interested in settling its scores with Dalai Lama and Indian border issues, it is time India thinks big and does things with a greater vision and a sense of commitment to peace. Peace not only in Asia but in the whole world.
To think of millennium issues calls for great minds and it is the task of great nations as well.
So, I appeal to all Indians and even those in those Asian nations as I have narrated and also even from outside Asia, from the West we can invite new inputs to promote peace and understanding based on certain eternal values of democracy, secularism, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communities.