Xi-Modi in Afghanistan
Trump may get a ‘kick’ out of happenings in Asia, writes Sushil Kutty
The Japanese tea-drinking routine is by far the more elaborate. It overawes with ceremony. Modi and Xi just stood at a table next to a lake in Wuhan and sipped the brew from tiny China cups. This after Modi poked his nose into ceramic jars, sniffing at the contents. Xi looked on with an indecipherable look on his fleshy face.
Silver carp and bighead carp, freshwater fish that swim the East Lake in Wuhan, must have gaped at the two leaders as they took a short walk with translators in tow. It later came to be known that India and China have resolved to build "an economic project" in Afghanistan where Donald Trump is stuck with the Taliban and the ISIS and Afghan warlords; not to speak of the Haqqani Network. Above all, Pakistan.
The tea that Xi and Modi drank stiffed talk that this was just an informal meeting and that Modi will return home with nothing to show except watered down readouts from tea leaves. Xi and Mo are friends like Don and Mo are pals. But the Xi-Modi friendship has traversed many terrains – from the prickly border to the picturesque lakeside, a calming influence enveloping both countries in a warm embrace. There is a definite difference between a hug and an embrace. And Xi and Modi are not bosom pals. Like one analyst said they stand shoulder-to-shoulder and speak on even terms.
Besides, Trump has not been entirely honest with India. Recent US sanctions have hit India. And if Trump is getting "a kick" out of what's happening in the Korean Peninsula, he doesn't seem to care for what's happening to India and countries like Vietnam and Japan with his China-targeted trade sanctions. Other butts are also getting "kicked". Paraphrasing Trump, it's "you can bank on it."
Maybe somebody in Trump's inner circle will tell Trump of the Wuhan sideshow to the Panmunjom big show and what all Xi and Modi have achieved – in the time Kim and Moon spoke a modicum of denuclearisation – while sipping tea after a boat ride on East Lake. One development that should make Trump's ears stand to attention should be India and China getting together to get 'Afghanistan' out of the woods.
It might force Trump to think beyond his 'America First' policy. Everybody including First Lady Melania Trump knows Donald is a glutton for publicity, narcissism written on his forehead, his tweets evidence of how far down that path he has gone. Trump "getting a kick" out of "things" happening to the rest of the world is not good for the rest of the world, and to the world. For all his Art of the Deal, and Stormy denials, Trump is the sort of guy for whom it is my way or the highway.
Modi and Xi have also stressed on peace at the Indo-China border, the LAC. No more Doklam-like stalemate. But the big takeaway was 'no tolerance on terrorism'. That will leave the Pakistan belching smoke. That's okay. Who cares what Pakistan likes or dislikes? Sure, CPEC is a thorn but that is a thorn which can be pulled out with a pair of Indo-China tweezers. Maybe, the larger game is to first put Pakistan in Chinese-debt and then spring the trap! To date, that is the best way to catch a rat. No blood spilled!
To show they are serious, the Chinese sang RD Burman's Yeh Vaada Raha… The gifted two-timers that the Chinese are, it must have dawned on them that it was about time for them to lose the notoriety. Both Modi and Xi have asked for increased cultural exchanges between the two peoples. China acknowledges that Bollywood is far ahead than the Chinese film industry and Aamir Khan is no longer one of the '3 Idiots' who stalked Leh-Ladakh but a Secret Superstar who made a crazy impression on the inscrutable Chinese.
Who knows, the Shiv Sena might one day soon be seen protesting the invasion of Bollywood by Chinese heroines! Anything can happen now that Trump is talking tough and Xi is speaking soft. Whoever is saying that the Korea détente has left Xi at sea should correct the impression – Xi, if he's willing to mend fences with one neighbour, will not want to make an enemy of the neighbour on its eastern flank unless it is the Japanese, who the Chinese fear and loathe and hate for historical wrongs.
Besides, it will be rank stupidity to think Kim Jong-Un will opt to dump Xi for Trump. Kim Jong-Un will jump into his armoured train and head for Beijing as and when told to. Let's just say these are interesting days to live in and there are far more interesting days to come. Chinese medicine, which claims superiority over Allopathic and Ayurvedic cures, will keep Xi fighting fit till his term on Earth expires. But those of us who will conk off in the next 10 to 15 years will miss all the fun and excitement.
Donald Trump could get another term provided he doesn't get hung by Robert Mueller. Modi maybe will get another and a third term if Shah's wish that BJP-rule lasts another 50 years comes true. By then Tripura CM Biplab Deb, with his experience in the gym, will have built a muscular Vedic Way of Life and Yogi Adityanath, with his love for the cow, might get trampled by an overwhelming vote. For now, Modi and Xi have chosen not to stampede!
(The views expressed are strictly personal)