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The Right’s Pyrrhic Victory

Friday 22 April 2005, by SRINIVASAN*Rajeev

Unfortunately for India, instead of worrying about the long-term viability of the nation in the wake of disastrous decisions made by the left, the right is busy crowing about an ephemeral victory in Jharkhand.

India’s right-wing is congratulating itself on its famous victory in Jharkhand. But I fear it celebrates in haste: there will likely be a palace coup and defections to the UPA shortly; or Governor’s rule, which is UPA rule. The NDA has accomplished little in Jharkhand.

Similarly, in Bihar, Governor’s rule will be UPA rule, as has been seen elsewhere. In six months, surely the resourceful Lalu Prasad Yadav will attract enough MLAs to form another RJD government. So what exactly has the NDA accomplished in Bihar?

Shenanigans using pliable Governors are a standard item in the Congress armory: remember 1957 when Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru overthrew EMS Nambudiripad’s Communist government in Kerala, mostly because certain Congress reactionaries didn’t like EMS. That started them down the slippery slope of using Article 356 shamelessly. The principle seems to be: grab power by any and all means.

All this juicy political gossip has occupied public attention; and now there is the opiate of cricket with Pakistan. But meanwhile, back at the ranch, much has happened with grave implications for the nation, yet the alleged nationalists of the NDA have been silent spectators:

- The Foreign Minister works hard to drive Nepal into the arms of China and Pakistan, who oblige by sending weapons; this follows the blueprint once executed regarding Tibet by foreign minister V K Krishna Menon and ambassador to China K M Panikkar. Meanwhile Maoists entrench themselves in Nepal, and in large stretches of India.

- The European Union lifts an arms embargo on China; India does not raise a whimper despite the certainty that these weapons will used against India. But when India considers buying the Patriot-2 (and that too old technology) from the US, China screams bloody murder. Incidentally, Japan and the US talk about the defense of Taiwan, and again China gets agitated.

- The Chinese-built port of Gwadar in Pakistan is almost completed; this accomplishes three things: one, keeps Pakistan’s naval assets far away from India; two, gives China a choke-hold over the flow of Persian Gulf oil; three, gives China an outlet from Tibet and Xinjiang via the Karakoram Highway.

- The Foreign Minister goes to Pakistan, and throws overboard, for no quid pro quo, a major strategic option India has long held: LOC as international border. Exactly as we lost leverage with China over Tibet by giving away treaty rights for nothing

- The Pakistani President and ministers saber-rattle, talking about how war is necessary to settle Kashmir; cowed, India invites Musharraf over to watch cricket, while Pakistani terrorists with plans to attack IT companies in Bangalore are arrested in Delhi

- Pakistan tests the long-range Shaheen-II IRBM, capable of hitting Bangalore and Chennai. Granted, this is a screwdriver job on a Chinese-made, North-Korean-supplied missile; nevertheless it is in Pakistan’s hands

- The Petroleum Minister invites Pakistan to have a stranglehold over a proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Exactly as India acceded to one-sided treaties over Indus and Brahmaputra waters.

- The Finance Minister unveils a hard-left new Budget with populist measures, and shockingly, a dramatic cut in the defense budget. India will reduce its defense spending to 2.35% of GDP, as compared to China with over 6% (widely known to be an undercount) and Pakistan with over 4.5% of its GDP

- Bangladesh resorts to firing at Indian army positions, and refuses to hand over wanted ULFA founder Anup Chetia

- The US, on the morrow of Condolleezza Rice’s visit to India and Pakistan (more India-Pak-equal-equal bracketing) withdraws the visa for Narendra Modi, which is a slap in the face of Indian democracy, and indeed sovereignty

- Religious persecution of the venerated Kanchi Acharya Sri Jayendra Saraswati continues unchecked

- A near-civil war erupts in Baluchistan, with a Hindu temple being shelled and Hindus killed

- After twenty years, Canadians acquit the accused bombers of Air India’s Kanishka flight; obvious reason: the dead were merely of Indian origin. In contrast, Libya is being forced to pay $1 million per (mostly white American) passenger on the Pan Am Lockerbie flight

- The US approves the sale of F-16s to Pakistan despite India’s strenuous objections.

Taking these data points together, we see a rudderless country, with a leadership - one must call it that for want of a better word - innocent of the entire idea of long-term strategy. Tactics they do have; strong-arm tactics, that too, but no strategy in the nation’s interests.

Alienating Nepal is the most egregious folly on display. India has learnt from bitter experience (with Myanmar) that it does no good to put on airs about democracy without worrying about national interests. India stood up for Aung San Suu Kyii; China wined and dined the generals. China got the ports; India got nothing and is now reversing course, but it’s too little too late.

Similarly, pushing Nepal into China’s arms - comforted by UK and US noises about democracy - is utter idiocy. We have seen the UK practice ?democracy’ in its colony in Northern Ireland, and the US in its Monroe-Doctrine backyard in Latin America. The UPA pontificates about democracy in Nepal while strangling it in Goa and Jharkhand; and the US while colonizing Iraq and Afghanistan. The US, self-proclaimed human rights champion, is, according to a dramatic report in the UK Guardian ("One huge US jail", March 19), setting up torture centers for detainees all over the world.

UPA flip-flops over Iranian gas would also be entertaining if it wasn’t such black comedy. Why on earth would India want to give Pakistan a) massive transit fees that will be directly converted into AK-47s, b) a choke-hold over its energy supplies? Since Liquefied Natural Gas transported by ship is now considered practical (see the Economist, "The natural gas explosion", February 28), India should build LNG terminals. In particular because LNG may be imported from other, less fraught areas too.

Unfortunately for India, instead of worrying about the long-term viability of the nation in the wake of disastrous decisions made by the left, the right is busy crowing about an ephemeral victory.

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