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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 33, August 9, 2014

Light and Dark

Friday 8 August 2014, by SC


On August 1, US Secretary of State John Kerry called on PM Narendra Modi in the Capital and pointed out that the failure to clinch the trade facilitation deal at WTO “undermines” the NDA Government’s pro-business image. In reply the PM underlined that his first responsibility was to the “poorest of the country”. Thereafter he elaborated:

I am more concerned about the small Indian farmer... The needs of those living on the margins of society not just in India but elsewhere too, have to be addressed.

This clearly signified that the US pressure on the TFA had not worked on Modi, at least till date. To underestimate the importance of such a firm stand on the subject by the present NDA regime and that too despite US pressure would be akin to surrendering to subjectivism. What Modi sought to tell Kerry straightaway was that the interests of the poor in India were non-negotiable.

The Modi Government’s approach to our neigh-bours—Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal—has been equally commendable. On the question of Bangladeshi immigrants the then PM-designate’s statements during the election campaign raised justified concern no doubt, as those gave rise to fears of the immigrants, especially the Muslims, being pushed back as had happened in the past. But since he assumed office Modi has not tried to translate those statements into reality. On the contrary, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Dhaka and her talks there were immensely rewarding. Modi’s trip to Thimphu too was a success as a new vista of Indo-Bhutan cooperation was unveiled.

The PM’s latest visit to Kathmandu was an unqualified success as well. This was reflected in what Maoist leader and an old critic of India Prachanda told Modi when the two met in the capital of the Himalayan state: “Aap na kewal Nepaliyon ka man ko chhua hai, balki unka dilon ko bhi jeeta hia (You did not just strike a chord with the people of Nepal but also won their hearts).” There were apprehensions that given the BJP’s historical links with the Hindu King of Nepal, Modi might not be unequivocal in extending support to the ongoing process of democratisation in the country and his utterances could be exploited by the pro-monarchy elements there. As a matter of fact New Delhi had at one stage sought to bolster the King as it feared the alternative which, it thought, would be the Maoists. Modi dispelled all Nepalese reservations about India’s intentions by his exceptionally warm speech in the country’s Parliament. As The Indian Express has explained while summing up the visit,

By emphasising the absolute sovereignty of Kathmandu and affirming that Delhi will not interfere in its internal affairs, Modi tried to address one of the main concerns that animates Nepal’s elites—the deep fear of India. While not uncommon among small countries that live next to a large nation, Delhi had found it hard all these decades to overcome the entrenched suspicion of India in Kathmandu. Modi confronted this central problem head-on by offering to revise the 1950 Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty—to many in Kathmandu the very symbol of an unequal relationship. Modi complemented the new political emphasis on sovereign equality with a persuasive vision for shared economic prosperity through the development of transborder connectivity, agriculture, tourism and hydroelectric power. He also offered a concessional line of credit of $ 1 billion that Kathmandu will be free to spend on its own priority projects. Modi’s spell in Kathmandu marks a historic break from an uncomfortable past.

Only those shorn of any trace of objectivity will fail to appreciate the above analysis of Modi’s sojourn to Nepal.

While these steps on the part of the NDA Government, and Narendra Modi in particular, in the realm of external relations merit unreserved acclaim, the situation on the communal front within the country continues to be a source of anxiety. Police records in UP show that there were over 600 ‘communal incidents’ in the State since the Lok Sabha election results, 60 per cent of which were were near the 12 constituencies where bypolls are scheduled in the next few months. Police records, discloses The Indian Express, point to provocation from all sides—‘aggressive BJP, desperate SP, shrinking BSP’. These are definitely a matter of grave concern. While law and order is a State subject and the SP Government cannot absolve itself of its responsibility in maintaining those and ensuring peace and harmony, what cannot possibly be glossed over is the role of the BJP, now run by Modi-protege Amit Shah, in fomenting communal disturbances in the State in order to further consolidate Hindu votes in its favour through communal polarisation. This is a highly dangerous politics that the BJP is playing in the State It is to denounce such politics that Rahul Gandhi today rushed to the well of the Lok Sabha in the true spirit of a secular democrat.

At the same time the BJP dispensation under Modi has decided to move the Insurance (Amendment) Bill in Parliament, something that the entire Opposition, including the Congress, is opposing. The basic idea is to increase the FDI cap in insurance to 49 per cent which the Opposition, especially the Left, feels would jeopardise the savings and interests of the people

The Modi Government needs to realise that regressive policies on vital issues within the country cannot sustain for long the progressive steps taken in the global and regional spheres.

August 6 S.C.

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