Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again proved that on matters of national and strategic import there is no stopping him till the goals set by him would be totally achieved. The ‘Howdy Modi’ extravaganza at Houston so meticulously planned and scripted became an effective platform from where India’s foreign, domestic and economic policies would be defined and reaffirmed by the Prime Minister for the benefit of the entire world and an assertion made of India’s arrival as a global player.
Sharing the stage with President Donald Trump at the high octane event that was essentially a showing of the US-based Indian community, Modi gave a call upfront for Trump’s victory in the upcoming Presidential election in US – the extraordinary declaration from him of ‘Abkibar Trump Sarkar’ marking a completeness of alliance between the two countries as equal partners in all spheres in the future. It became clear that this irreversible friendship is now the foundation of the Indian strategy of dealing with the global issues. Prime Minister Modi as a leader gets the credit for the remarkable success he has achieved in a short span of time in ending all ambiguities about our approach to domestic and international problems of the day.
There are some important takeaways from the Houston event. It established that the Indian diaspora in US – acknowledged by the American leadership as a powerful instrument of growth there – is as patriotic to the country of its adoption as it is committed to bringing India and US together as the two biggest democracies of the world with large mutual interests. Secondly, there is – after the Houston interaction between Modi and Trump – every likelihood of trade issues being settled amicably between US and India judging from the enthusiastic appeal made to American investors by the Indian Prime Minister to come and avail of the opportunities that India offered to them and a specific mention that Modi made of the ‘wealth of data’ India had for the new 5G regime unfolding here. There was an implicit message that India shared the US skepticism about Huawei, the world’s largest telecom company owned by China, that was keen to bring 5G to the Indian market.
And lastly, Prime Minister Modi has ensured that President Trump with his barely concealed aversion to Islamic extremism stood firmly behind India on Kashmir after the abrogation of Art 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. With a telling effect the Prime Minister drew a parallel between 9/11 and 26/11 blaming it all on Pakistan, the breeding ground of terrorism, Islamic radicalisation and faith-based militancy and brought out how this was affecting peace in the entire neighbourhood.
In one go, Modi has reiterated India’s Pak policy, isolated the critics of India’s new steps in Kashmir and convinced the international community that his first priority was to work for the development of all Indians and incessantly fight against the new global terror. The 2019 victory of Modi with a majority much bigger than what he got in 2014 has impacted the world – President Donald Trump specifically mentioned that at Houston – and there is every reason to believe that India will now be able to hasten up with whatever remained to be done in the spheres of both economic development and national security.
On the whole, Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are set to push the agenda of governance forward – the BJP is expected to retain an advantage in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand going to polls soon. Drive against corruption must be run on a strong pitch in the meanwhile and serious note taken of failures of law and order in the states notwithstanding the fact that police is a state subject. Centre must find ways and means of tracking the performance of senior officials of IAS and IPS who were accountable for providing the right oversight to the law and order machinery. Crime on the street is on the rise in many parts of the country and this has to be curbed urgently. A dim impression about law and order effects the image of the nation abroad.
At the Houston rally Prime Minister Modi rightly put terrorism of Islamic radicals on top of the security agenda of the world. He has clearly taken the case of Kashmir out of the hands of those who were trying to support Pakistan’s narrative of human rights violation there after India put the state under prohibitory orders on August 5 simultaneously with the abrogation of Art 370 and Art 35A. There has been a calibrated lifting of curbs on landline communication and restoration of public services. For good reasons, leaders of the Valley-based political parties are not being permitted to address gatherings yet – their pro-separatist and disruptive politics being the reason why the state suffered destabilisation in the first place.
The Centre has to show a steady improvement in the Valley and for this the state administration must become a visible instrument of development, delivery of public services and control on law and order. The message of normalcy coming from the state would look credible when it is established that the state was being governed from Srinagar and not Delhi. A competent experienced Lieutenant-Governor with Intelligence background and a thorough knowledge of what ails Kashmir should be able to bring this about. The counter-terror drive of the armed forces should go on at a brisk pace and even made more intense considering the Intelligence warnings of a desperate bid of Pakistan to heat up the LOC in an attempt to draw international attention to that troublesome divider. Army operations are always Intelligence-based and this helps to keep the collateral damage to a minimum. It is reassuring to find that our Army is adequately ready to punish any Pak misadventure on our borders with an aggressive response.
After long years of weak-kneed governance in India that encouraged our hostile neighbours to give us all kinds of provocation and even meddle into our domestic politics – absence of any response to 26/11 and unnecessary vote bank politics at home that created absurd policy statements like ‘minorities had the first right on the country’s resources’ come to mind as illustrations from a direction-less regime – the arrival of Narendra Modi on the national scene as Prime Minister has put India on a firm pedestal as a democracy that took charge of domestic governance and registered its voice on the world forums. Sorting out the constitutional mess created around Kashmir, establishing a doctrine governing foreign policy particularly in relation to Pakistan and making India-US friendship a core of our strategy to deal with the global threats and economic challenges, are among the major initiatives put out by the Modi regime to build India as a major power in a relatively short span of time. The Houston event has just pushed India ahead in a marked way on that course.
(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal)