Millennium Post

Flogging a dead horse?

Spin, counter-spin, and shaping the news environment are not necessarily the hallmark of excellent diplomatic skills. For State-to-State interactions are based on credibility, understanding, and even if not mutual trust, at least a belief towards achieving common goals. Not much of that was in sight during the recently concluded BRICS summit.

The Indian side had set for itself a bar that was too high; not based on realism. At the outset, New Delhi should have realised that it was not leading the global order like USA, China, or even Russia. And its fundamental goal was indeed limited in scope – all it wanted was to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, an entirely expendable basket case of a country with a thoroughly discredited and a dysfunctional State. Was it even worth it for those who believe in Indian exceptionalism to even try to do that?

In the opinion of this writer, the goal set for itself by India made it seem that it’s flogging a dead horse. So, this utterly trivial bilateral issue should not have been put on the table of a group that represents about 45 percent of the population; about 30 percent of the global GDP; and is growing at about an average rate of 5.5 to 6 percent. In comparison, the US economic growth – the elephant in the room – is increasing at an average rate of a little over two per cent.

What is Pakistan’s growth rate? Abysmal. There was no point quoting it. Its existence in this world depends on the handouts from the US Treasury and Chinese munificence. Why cannot human history acknowledge a “failed state?” In civilizational terms, it does not mean that the people of Pakistan will be wiped off the face of the world. These hard-pressed people share the same genius that any other people have on this globe.

All they need to do – indeed being held back from achieving by the ruling class of a small but supremely decadent bunch of feudals – is to change their course. They need a bourgeois revolution from which they have been kept away by first, the vagaries of the Cold War – a cesspool of often criminal power conflict that had once threatened the very existence of humankind.

Then the people of Pakistan have to decide – after they burn up the molded State structure – which path they will take that can match their creativity. The Chinese can hold their hand. They are better in nation-building than clearly, the Anglo-American combine. For, they have a proven track record with their own.

But it will require much more than $48 billion that Beijing has promised. Also, that money cannot be spent in the way the US dollars were spent – to be squirrelled away by their contractors and their indigenous surrogates. The Chinese will have to help the people of Pakistan to build national institutions that truly serve them. The latter have been beggared by the US dollars more than anything else in their history. Don’t believe me? Look at what Ayesha Siddiqa wrote in Military Inc – worth revisiting the book even if it was written with a US State Department security umbrella thrown upon her.

What does India need to do in the interim? Stop scoring brownie points, for once. We too have a decaying bureaucracy-based model that only functions intermittently. But we have a political system – albeit strained and chafing at the edges – that is flexible, yet robust. As we look inward while looking over our shoulders – for the price of security is eternal vigilance – we need to build our nation. That is the task at hand.

We need China to be involved in Pakistan, for doing a job that we cannot do for obvious reasons. And that is where Indian diplomacy failed at the BRICS level. It underestimated China’s sway over the other members. It overestimated its agenda-setting ability based on an ill-formed, if not malformed “comprehensive national power”, the term that Chinese had coined (zonghé guólì).

This country’s redemption needs for us to define our national interest. Our power elite could not quite identify it until some time ago – for conflicting interests. Shiv Shankar Menon did that recently. He talked about maintaining our “sovereign, secular, socialist democracy” being our national interest. Interestingly, even the BJP cannot but agree – though ideologically they may have some problems with some of those goals.

It is because those words are enshrined in the Preamble of our Constitution. And, it is included in its Basic Structure which cannot be changed – even the Supreme Court had ruled in the Keshavananda Bharati v/s State of Kerala that this task cannot be undertaken by any legislature – Central or states’. This column had once argued that there may be a time approaching for us to have a “Second Republic.” But that time is not here yet.

Now that we know what is in our interest, we need a “National Security Policy” and “plans” that undergirds it by our “Purna Jatiya Shakti.” Meanwhile, the aspiring classes (those who believe in the sarkari poverty figures, let’s say!) need to work hard, harder. The rest will do too, provided the playing field is level. But in this system, there can be no jugaad.

(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
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