LEAVING NO STONE UNTURNED
What should Prime Minister Modi hope to achieve during his upcoming visit to the US?
'No frills.' 'No thrills.' 'No Mar-a-Lago'. These seem to be the ruling themes of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to the United States. One may search for a plausible reason about why Modi needs to meet a man is under investigation for his alleged role in obstructing the course of justice. Trump is being investigated by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, US House Intelligence Committee, and a Special Counsel. Never in the history of United States has a president been put under the microscope as quickly after his inauguration. On the other hand, on the third anniversary of his attaining office of the Prime Minister, Modi need not have added respectability to the hotelier turned politician.
The Indian prime minister himself got roasted by the media during his campaign for the 2014 General Elections. But, amidst daily reports that he is an authoritarian figure, Modi hasn't made too many false steps to add grist to those mills. An intelligent navigator of both politics and public opinion his biggest bugbear remains the absence of new jobs for the rising demographic of the country. If that is the reason – getting to increase the issuance of H1B visas - the primary cause for his visit to Washington this month, it is laughable. For it is not the job of a prime minister to work just for one sector of the economy that for most of its revenue earnings does 'body shopping'.
The New York Times a fortnight ago had carried an anchor piece on its front page –a rarity indeed - how the Indian IT companies did not change their business plans to keep up with the rapid change of technology in the sector. One recalls how the Birlas would not modify the mould of the 1955 Austin bought from the British to make Ambassador cars here, despite, when Detroit was being overwhelmed by the zippy Japanese cars with new fuel efficient technology. So when Suzuki tied up with Maruti and brought the car onto the Indian roads, the Birlas did not even perceive the death-knell of their automobile company. They continued on their merry way thinking money is, 'easy come, easy go'.
The world over, no corporation can decide to remain in stasis when the gurus of capital, Dr Klaus Schwab and Christine Lagarde, are hyperventilating about the Fourth Industrial Revolution that would supposedly fill up the empty pockets of the global capitalists who lost their shirts in 2008.
Prime Minister Modi's agenda in Washington is still not so well known except for the fact that he would be meeting Trump on June 26. He will also supposedly address a diasporic gathering, as has become his signature event worldwide. But the unfortunate story remains that all those diasporic Indians who create so much hoopla about Modi, don't reach for their wallets when Modi demands that they invest in their motherland.
The only geostrategic element of the Modi visit needs to be carved out of the rubble that is West Asia. Barack Obama, who was vastly better educated, better trained, and better philosophically oriented than Trump had rightly 'pivoted' away from that messy real estate of the world to where economic largesse of tomorrow actually existed i.e. Western Pacific, Indo-Pacific and the ASEAN. Yes, China is in the crosshairs of the US strategists, but that was not the only element which caused them to advise the US President thus.
Trump, faithful to his primary constituency of blue collar, white, insular population of middle-America, who usually throng the gun shops to arm themselves against imaginary enemies, and uphold the membership of the US National Rifles Association, has pivoted back to the desert sands of West Asia. These nations on those territories of the Arabian Peninsula were born because of lines drawn on the sands by the Anglo-American oilmen.
He also wants 5000 more US boots on the ground in that graveyard of empires called Afghanistan. For us outliers, this move has a poetic edge to it: the adage being 'you broke it, you fix it'. Not that Trump can fix anything as is evident from the Russian scandal –for want of a better term –as it threatens to engulf all his close associates.
But canny Modi should find an advantage in the retrenchment of American power in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific and what is fashionably called Indo-Pacific. Strategically if India can shed its Sinophobia and replace and replenish local East and South-east Asian national powers; India's commercial, economic, and political footprint will rise enormously in the immediate future. Can Modi do it? Let's see.
(Views expressed are strictly personal.)