The immediacy with which the government of India reacted to the earthquake in Nepal with Narendra Modi in the lead and the first Indian relief men and materials in Kathmandu within almost an hour of the PM declaring the assistance as “Operation Maitri” speaks much of the difference the prime ministerial leadership has made to our government in the last 10 months of the NDA regime.
Recalling that “Maitri” followed within three days of another quick and efficient evacuation of several thousand Indians and others struck in conflict-ridden Yemen under an alien bombing shower reveals these are not just flashes in the pan. The government of India now has an administration led from the front.
There are no more bureaucratic quarrels over the turf. No more everyone getting caught in a game of shifting responsibility to others. Remember that both in Yemen and Nepal New Delhi was dealing with foreign governments sensitive to any hint of unilateral action or not getting consent beforehand.
Also April marks the end of the prime minister’s whirlwind visits to foreign capitals to shore up India’s image that had begun to sag under the previous regime. Except for the visit to China and Russia that will soon follow, Modi has been to all significant capitals. And everywhere the host governments and the NRI communities have demonstrated their appreciation of the policy initiatives of the NDA government.
The jealousy and concern this has raised in Pakistan, which finds the global community looking at India as one that should and must be at the international head table, was evident when China’s president Xi Jinping rushed to Islamabad and firmed up the Xinziang-Gwadar road and a Chinese investment of $45 billion in Pakistan.
That road is seen by many strategic analysts as not only China’s way of seeking direct access to the Arabian Sea very near the Indian coast but also a warning to India. In case of an armed conflict, the road, when completed, would enable China to move supplies and troops quickly by sea to its north-western border and also attack Indian positions in the north Kashmir area where it has occupied chunks of Indian territory.
China has also converted the road into an industrial corridor that comes as a boon to a shattered economy in Pakistan. No Western country, including long-term Pakistan ally the US, is willing to commit any investment in that internal conflict-ridden Muslim nation where Islamic factions and terror groups, some sponsored by the state strategy of cutting into the vein of India, have come home to roost.
The road and industrial corridor financed and built by China in Pakistani territory runs through at the southern end of Balochistan where a secessionist militant group has got a good section of Pakistani army trapped in years of operations to secure that it was Islamabad’s writ that runs. That does not mean the rest of the corridor would allow free passage to the vital sinews of the economy.
The entire stretch passes through territories where Sunnis and Shias are raining bombs on each other and Islamic orthodoxy is in alliance with groups like al-Qaeda that resist with terror the country turning modern. At any given moment mobs led by the Holy Book holding maulvis are dictating what the law should be.
Recall how demonstrations are leading to live burning of minority Christians on flimsy rumours. How can anyone conscious of the value of his money invest in such a country? But the Chinese have a strategic consideration of shoring up Pakistan as a possible thrust against India even while cooing softly to Indian opportunities in trade and huge infrastructural investments.
Beijing has been broadcasting to the world that it is looking forward to Modi’s visit even as it is keeping the pot boiling on issues like its claim over the Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh and building dams over the Brahmaputra on its course in Tibet that is bound to affect water flow into Assam and disturb ecological conditions here.
The restructuring in the government in New Delhi over the last 10 months that has enabled it to take quick decisions and implement them with unprecedented speed has been demonstrated not only with the evacuation of trapped Indians in Yemen and ongoing response to Nepal’s needs, but also in the settlement with France over the acquisition of the most modern fighter aircraft, Rafale.
This acquisition had been hanging fire for almost a decade. Under the UPA, the government wanted France to commit itself to manufacture planes in India but it failed to demonstrate the necessary political will to compromise with the reality of no country willing to part with defence technologies wholesale.
Besides, committing India to a model of a plane for two decades in the future with fighter aircraft technologies changing by the year would carry its own risks. The government was caught in the vortex of its own vaunted policies even as the IAF was getting hard-pressed with an ageing fleet of fighter aircraft.
It is this nexus that the Modi government has succeeded in breaking; the same self-assurance borne out of a leadership that knows where to go and how was visible in closing the Rafale deal with least bitterness on either side.
That British PM James Cameron is renewing the offer of the Eurofighter as a “better aircraft” for the IAF so soon after Modi closed the Rafale-modified deal with his French counterpart is significant recognition that Western nations have awakened to the Indian opportunity, renewed with the Modi government’s relentless and all-consuming drive.
The Indian response to Nepal’s tragedy with such remarkable speed and an open ended flow of trained men and materials could have other unforeseen consequences. Nepal’s fractious political class has not been able to draft a new constitution even after going through a fresh general election. With the relief and rehabilitation of the devastated countryside as its topmost priority, the task of constitution-making would be further delayed. However, the government in Kathmandu can count on its most important neighbour to lend it a helping hand without evoking the anti-India feeling that was the stock-in-trade of a few political parties in that country.
The goodwill Modi was able to build up in Nepal at the grass roots after tragedy struck the country could on the one hand provide a ballast for the country’s coalition government never at peace with its partners even as the administration takes months and even years to restore reasonable living conditions and communications. The Modi government has broken through layers of past misunderstanding and propaganda by anti-Indian elements in Nepal and in the hour of tragedy laid a foundation for “Maitri” that is laid in the hearts of the Nepalese people.
The author is national vice president, BJP. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org