Shinzo Abe’s very politic schtick in Banaras re: “Clean Ganga” by further messing up the river by pouring milk, etc into it by way of Hindu ritual is, well, understandable — what choice did he have? But Modi and the Indian government’s permanent bee-in-the-bonnet — signing nuclear agreements with every passing state in order to get “advanced” reactor technology, however, is getting to be an intolerable joke. One of the persisting hypocrisies Tokyo indulges in mostly by habit, even as it climbs on to the cusp of obtaining nuclear weapons itself in the face of two things — a rampaging China and a retrenching America that has a hard time looking after its own security, let alone secure the futures of its Asian allies such as Japan. So Tokyo insists on far more stringent conditions for nuclear trade with anybody than almost any other supplier state. Technology-wise, Tokyo has little to offer except perhaps in the area of reactor safety. But its conditionalities — are they not insisting on Delhi signing the additional protocol? — are simply too onerous for India to accept unless Modi is willing to give away the last negotiating card and what remains of the leverage the Congress-Manmohan Singh regime so thoughtlessly surrendered with the useless nuclear deal with the US.
Far from changing gears and reversing direction Modi, among all the other continuities in his foreign policy run by the same persons who had “negotiated” the N-deal, is going full steam down the same road.
Not to be outdone by the predecessor govt’s wrong attitude, the BJP in power has just as wonky priorities. It has signed the deal for the Shinkansen “bullet train” tech to be implemented on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector, beating out the Shinkansen-derived Chinese high-speed railway tech, with a $12 billion loan on low interest. So, what’s wrong with this? Consider the alternative usages this amount could have been put to — for the full electrification of trunk lines. Or to double-track some important rail routes that are still single line and require complicated scheduling schemes which get routinely disrupted resulting in most trains running late/very late. Or, it could have been channeled into modernizing/digitalizing the signalling systems. Or, invested in procuring new radar guidance technology to run trains at speeds even in foggy weather, or in developing the vacuum technology to collect night soil (to be vacuumed out at major stops, as in passenger aircraft), which is splayed all over the tracks through holes in the floors that pass for toilets on Indian railways. Instead, we’ll have a shiny new train making the short 200 mile to-and-fro run as Modi’s gift to his home state and a testament to bad choices the Indian government invariably makes no matter who is in power. This is to say nothing about the sheer diseconomics of this damn-fool venture.
And there’s less than meets the eye on security cooperation, especially with regard to ramping up naval links and to get going on the US-2 Shinmeiwa flying boat project that’s been on the table for over a decade now. We should provide incentives to have India become the economical manufacturing base and source of sales of this aircraft for a world-wide market of littoral states. And there’s no mention anywhere of moves and measures to realize Abe’s trademark concept of the ‘security diamond’ of India, Japan, Australia and the United States as the bulwark of security in the Indo-Pacific.
Not sure, in the end, what was achieved except more ground has been ceded on the nuclear front, at which rate India will be reduced as in much else to an entity of minimal consequence.