India intimidating hypocrites
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the possibility of individuals within the state structure getting friendly with terrorists during a working dinner with global leaders at a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last Thursday, he was obviously hinting at Pakistan. Modi was forthright in his claim that international efforts and methods to counter global terrorism have become outdated, as terrorists now use modern technology and devices to plan attacks.
During his recent visit abroad, Modi did not spare even United Nations and argued that it hasn’t done enough to counter terrorism. While addressing the Indian diaspora in Brussels, he directly attacked the UN and said it was unfortunate that the global body was still unable to define terrorism and act on a resolution. To the uninitiated, a resolution would prescribe action against countries that support or shelter terrorism. He told the gathering that the UN has not performed its duty in this regard. If the UN does not address this problem, the world body will lose its relevance, he added. Some maintain that such strong criticism of the UN should have been avoided. But in my opinion, our Prime Minister has every right to question the UN’s failure to deal with terrorism, in spite of having all means to do so.
Modi could be seen as a Prime Minister who has aggressively expressed his opinion in a fashion that is normally beyond the boundaries of international diplomacy. But let the masters of diplomatic enclaves live in their paradise. I will give Modi the distinction of repeating what the Prime Minister of the erstwhile Congress-led government had said across international forums. While the world is feeling the impact of terrorism only recently, India has been at the receiving end for the past 40 years.
Modi also reminded the international community of how the world was jolted by 9/11. Till then, the global powers had not really understood what India was going through on a regular basis. India has been consistent in its position that terrorism cannot be defeated with mere guns. An environment needs to be created to ensure that the young people are not radicalised, he said. Modi is right in laying emphasis on this fact when he visited Washington and Riyadh this time. After the nuclear summit, Modi had tweeted that his Washington tour was full of fruitful meetings and interactions. Our Prime Minister is very prompt in using social media. But will his meetings with global leaders also bring prompt results?
It will be too early to conclude that Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, will ensure the alienation of Pakistan from its old friend. Within diplomatic circles, it is believed that Mohammad bin Salman could be a potential successor to the throne. It is a good move on Modi's part to visit Saudi Arabia at a time when the Kingdom’s relations with Pakistan have hit a recent low.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been allies for decades due to their shared Sunni Muslim majorities. The Middle Eastern country has also been a source of financial aid for Islamabad, with the Saudis presenting them a "gift" of $1.5 billion in 2014. However, a year later, Pakistan refused to provide ships and troops to the Saudi-led fight in Yemen. Pakistan has also avoided taking sides in Riyadh's dispute with Iran.
The only handicap Modi has in dealing with Saudi Arabia is his political party. It was the first visit by a BJP Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia and the fourth by an Indian Prime Minister after Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1956. Modi’s long meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince, who is also the Defence Minister and the Chief Economic Planner of the Saudi Kingdom, is being observed as an important event in diplomatic circles. When Chinese President Xi Jinping went to Saudi Arabia recently, he too had held a separate meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince.
During his visit to Pakistan, the prince also met with Pakistani Army chief Raheel Sharif. US President Barack Obama, who hosted the prince at Camp David, last year, had found him to be “extremely knowledgeable and very smart”.
If Modi’s Saudi Arabia visit yields expected results in areas of information sharing and military relationship in times to come, it would be a serious achievement. The details of Modi’s personal interaction with Deputy Crown Prince and other members of the royal family are not in the public domain at present. It would also be interesting to understand how Modi dealt with Saudi expectations over India’s position on Iran’s role in the region and Riyadh’s keenness that India joins a Riyadh-led security coalition? Will it ever be possible for India to come out and support Riyadh’s war in Yemen?
India has always told the world not only what we stand for but also what we are against. How can a civilised world ignore the fact that the quantum of sanctioned killing by other countries is greater than the total number of people killed by all weapons of mass destruction in all of history? It is a haunting notion. It is serious. Straightforwardness intimidates hypocrites. Being the soothsayer of the tribe is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
The Indian leadership has never shrugged its responsibility in the international arena, ever since the days of Mahatma Gandhi. Any Prime Minister of India must follow this legacy in the best interest of the nation.
(Author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. The views expressed are strictly personal.)