Can there be a genesis of a ‘Modi doctrine’?
When India’s prime minister was seen telling his <g data-gr-id="53">mann</g> ki <g data-gr-id="54">baat</g> to US President Barack Obama last January, the television image which captured the two conversing, did not capture in sufficient detail as to how much of a arriviste Modi looked. And it was not just about the Rs 10 lakh bespoke suit stitched by Saville Row tailors. For the hard-headed foreign policy analysts and intelligence agencies in the USA, the visit was about gauging Modi’s capacities. The verdict was to come later.
The judgment has now been delivered. It says that India will not have an opportunity to sit at the high table of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), yet. India was seeking American support on a resolution that would have led the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to call for “immediate reforms”, which really is short-hand for India’s inclusion in the UNSC with the same status as the P-5 (Permanent-5).
The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, along with the ambassadors of Russia and China have recently written letters to the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reforms that for the first time put on record the US, Russian and Chinese positions on UN reforms. In her missive, Powers has made it amply clear that the US will support a small expansion in the number of permanent members, but without ‘veto’ powers.
This certainly was a blemish on the face of a rather rosy picture that Indian authorities were painting about how the Indo-US relationship has suddenly ‘blossomed’ under the Modi’s watch. And Modi’s showmanship and theatrics had only magnified the image of contradictions in the relations. In other words, the trajectory of the Indo-US relations that Modi sought to guide ran counter to the concept of ‘strategic autonomy’ that India has been advocating for itself.
That this does not necessarily fool the international experts of major countries is evident not just from the US bombshell but also how Modi’s China visit went, despite all the bonhomie he sought to create with President Xi Jinping, a visit that was high on atmospherics and less about substance.
Leaving these points aside for a while, there have been two incidents in the last fortnight that could turn around to an extent the adverse situation New Delhi is confronting at the moment on the foreign and security policies front, into a rare opportunity. The first incident is the declaration of Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death. The second is the demise of retired Lt General Hamid Gul, the inveterate India-hater in Pakistan and an important conduit of the ‘Terror Inc’ that ISI had created, with his guidance as its director general in the late 1980s and his continuous involvement despite his retirement.
As long as Gul was alive, he spewed pure venom against India on Pakistan’s television channels or in public meetings of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – which has now been rechristened Jamaat-ud-Dawa after the US State Department listed the LeT as a ‘terrorist’ organisation. It was in these meetings where he shared a dais with the likes of Hafiz Sayeed. With him gone, some of these entities would lose the sense of legitimacy they garnered each time he appeared on their rostrums. He represented that large section of the Pakistan’s elite that survived on <g data-gr-id="69">heaping</g> as much ignominy on India as was possible just to justify their social and political existence.
But that alone is not what motivates them. There is always the money that comes in from countries like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations. Naturally, as public procurators of these funds, if they skimmed from the top, who would know, for these are all unaccounted, laundered money after all.
This is Modi’s opportunity to shine. His sudden visit to the Emirates has been turned into a platform on which he could build a bulwark against the Taliban and their ‘jihadi’ cohorts in Pakistan. On top of that, a slightly more proactive role for India on the Afghanistan front, irrespective of the concurrence of the USA, will go a long way in shoring up the severe dent the previously mentioned causes have made on him.
Thus in a strategic sense it is a classic example, where there needs to be a confluence of ends, ways and means. This need to upend the best-laid plans of the controllers of Taliban and LeT ‘jihad’ must become a priority. An abandonment by the USA of vital strategic space in the West Asia and North African region gives India an opportunity to partially fill the void.
Even though India does not possess expeditionary forces yet (the way the US marines are), the strengthening sea legs of its navy can thankfully reach the waters of the Persian Gulf. Moreover, if Iran so wishes, the Indian Navy can even move through the Strait of Hormuz, where it could choke the passages of the contraband oil and drugs that makes for payment of war materiel with which ‘jihad’ is spread in South Asia and its neighbourhood in the further east.
If India can stop the spread of ISIS to South Asia – much of what is supposed to be present close-by overland is nothing but rebranding of the terror networks existing in the region – Modi could remove some of the darkness that appears to have engulfed his year-old regime. There can then be the genesis of a ‘Modi doctrine’.
(The author is an independent journalist. The views expressed are personal.)