Jaishankar at his worst — a universe of difference he can’t see

Modi, Jaishankar know Beijing better than most, & that could help defuse  tension with China
[PM & Jaishankar: Saying what?]

A few hours before being discharged from a Delhi hospital forenoon today — yea, COVID or its variant/mutant put me there for the last nine days, despite my having taken the Astra-Zeneca double shot few weeks previously, so effects of this strain were, mercifully, relatively mild, which hints at just how relentlessly dangerous this virus is, but ‘am back online — I heard our esteemed External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar on CNS-News18. I am not any more surprised by anything the MEA minister says or does. I am beyond that and fully into being simply appalled instead.

With cremation fires lighting up the cityscape, mofussil areas, and the countryside alike, and graveyards everywhere full to bursting and unable to accommodate the dead, a suited-booted Jaishankar, staring into the TV camera, unctuously mouthed inanities. Firstly, he informed the viewers that the covid pandemic was a global thing — shades of Indira Gandhi –or was it Rajiv Gandhi? — defending herself against charges of corrupton by saying corruption was a global affliction, remember that! — the easier it’d appear for the Modi sarkar to disavow any responsibility for the unfolding public health catastrophe. Incidentally some projections show the COVID surge is yet to peak, or that there is another corona tsunami in the offing, in any case, it is something the Modi regime is singularly responsible for. And because it was a global phenomenon India, Jaishankar implied, would be part of a global solution with every country pitching in to help. If that help doesn’t come– and there’s every reason to expect it won’t materialize anytime soon, what will the Modi regime do? Sit on its hands? Make a beggarly nuisance of India?

With every major country scurrying to mobilize its own national resources to meet its covid requirements — the demand for which cannot easily be estimated, depending as it is on the estimated population size and receptivity curve, and thus only able and willing to render mostly symbolic assistance — cryogenic oxygen chambers, O2 concentrators and the like, massive offloading of rawmaterials for vaccine manufacture in India, is unlikely. As I said in the preceding post, it’ll be months before Indian vaccine factories actually begin humming. Meanwhile, the Indian government will have to make do with palliatives, like maxing oxygen industrial scale production and delivering oxygen cylinders to hospitals, etc.– which activity, thanks primarily to the Indian private sector, the country has less to worry about. So, what else does Jaishankar expect the rest of the world to do?

In this respect he mysteriously mentioned the cabal of G-7 and the trio of India, South Korea and South Africa as a special group concerting, he hinted, to resolve covid issues whether specifically in India or in all these other countries as well, he didn’t say. That wasn’t helpful.

Secondly, and this was even more troubling because it indicates just how deep down the dependency complex is now rooted in the thinking of the Indian policy establishment, he equated — and did so, oh, so, smoothly — the pandemic situations in the United States and in Western European countries who had suffered badly from the pandemic and came out of them, with India’s present condition, by saying, by implication, that the governments in these countries know what’s best for India to do in its present circumstances!!!

Has Jaishankar not been watching the TV screen and CNN this past year and not seen there’s a universe of difference between the Covid crises in America and in the West, generally, and the one India is enmeshed in right now? Hasn’t he looked at wailing men, women and children in thousands daily on television, people begging for puffs of life-giving O2, and the macabre scenes being played out all over of dead bodies being lit up wherever they can be — any vacant roadside spot will do — because the shamhshan grounds are piled thick and high and cannot take anymore custom?

Does this self-consciously clever EAM not see the manifest, obvious, absolute chasm in SCALE and DEGREE of the problem India is facing, and the depressing quality of his government’s ameliorative efforts when compared to the problem the US and Europe faced with the spiking pandemic and how they dealt with it? This is a country with 1.3 billion people — nearly a billion more than America, with a public health infrastructure at a small fraction of the US’. What the heck can the Biden Admin advise Delhi to do that it doesn’t already know it should have done, and considering Modi isn’t inclined to do the one thing Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, has suggested he do — order a full lockdown, again, for fear of bringing the stuttering Indian economy to a grating halt, what’s there to listen to?

Sure, even otherwise in general terms what the Indian government should have done is known to everyone in the Health Ministry at the centre and in the state governments. Indeed, all those responsible are only too aware of how badly they have fouled up every which way and are left scrambling to make excuses when not, like the UP chief minister, Adityanath, threatening to take people to court for claiming oxygen shortage! The fact is Prime Minister Modi is so thoroughly flustered he has lost his bearings and, of course, his elan. As mentioned in an earlier post, he got complacent too quickly and once the kumbh mela and state elections in particular rolled around, he couldn’t summon the political will to at least call off his campaigning in West Bengal — the real pandemic facilitators, and now finds that the Indian system cannot cope with real adversity when it has come acallin’.

How concerned Modi is with the ravages of the virus on the society, economy, etc and with how badly large masses of the Indian people are being impacted by this unmitigated disaster of his making, is hard to speculate. But there’s little doubt why he wheeled out Jaishankar before the media: It was to try and prevent an already humungous personal public relations calamity for Modi from snowballing into something lot worse — being perceived by the West whose regard and attention he seemingly craves more than anything else, as no more than a run-of-the-mill showy incompetent Third World head of government. Whatever the positive aura he tried to create for himself over the past 6-odd years is now dust, especially abroad.

In the event, Jaishankar sought hard and predictably failed to do what his boss had asked him to do: Somehow cover up for Modi’s covid mismanagement and the sense of desperation it has spawned in the PM by mooting a global solution for a seriously, strictly, Indian problem he cannot avoid taking the blame for.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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18 Responses to Jaishankar at his worst — a universe of difference he can’t see

  1. Amit says:

    Glad to know Sir, that you have recovered and been discharged from hospital. Thought this might have happened.

    The Indian response to Covid has been so disastrous, i feel ashamed to be called Indian. There seems to be absolutely no accountability and our leaders are still talking health security as a new dimension of national security while the country is on its knees!

    It seems like in India, elections are the only form of accountability. No one loses their jobs, or gets prosecuted by the judiciary etc. for thorough incompetence. Even on the election front, the system is rigged. Apparently, only 16% of Lok Sabha seats are urban, while more than 35% of the population is urban. So, political power lies in rural India. So unless rural India gets affected by Covid in the same manner as urban India, it is unlikely that there will be a political cost to pay.

    Additionally, in spite of this disaster, there is no talk of vaccinating over a billion Indians, when that is the only currently known way to control the pandemic (medium to long term). Money is not the problem. The list of litanies goes on. And all we can do is donate money and manage oxygen supply, which will hardly make much of a difference. Even with the scale of the current crisis, there does not seem to be a strategy to bring the pandemic in India under control.

    This shows how much of a leading power India is and can be!

  2. Sankar says:

    I was praying that you are not caught by Covid – greatly relieved that you are back and have been spared. Have you taken the second jab? It is usually after 9n days. Please wait for the second shot with utmost care.. All the best for your recovery.

    • Yes, thank you, took both shots 2 months ago. But was still not spared by the possibly variant/mutant strain of covid.

      • Itanium says:

        Good to know the symptoms were mild. The vaccine might have just saved you lot of complications.

        Could you throw some light on your hospitalization experience? How dire is the situation at hospitals?

      • My wife and I were at one of the better hospitals in South Delhi. My main symptom was my O2 level going down with other covid symptoms appearing but in very mild form. We are lucky we took the Astra-Zeneca shots early. The covid ward was full to the brim with some 450 patients and there were 1,000 patients on the waiting list — one of the the reasons we got out earlier than recommended. Pretty dire situation.

  3. Sankar says:

    “…he couldn’t summon the political will to at least call off his campaigning in West Bengal ” —
    Modi’s bluff has been called by the feisty lady Mamata presenting herself as “Durga”. It remains to be seen the fallout in 2024.

  4. Ranjeet Kumar Singh says:

    Wish you a full and speedy recovery!

  5. Recd by email:
    Shivanand Kanavi , Wed, 5 May at 7:37 pm

    Sir ji you said it as it is.
    EAM is such a let down in front of his distinguished father that he is making even Sushma Swaraj look good. All his cleverness is as a HMV.. As for PM you have already said It. We are ruled by puny men.

    Jaishankar at his worst — a universe of difference he can’t see

    Shivanand Kanavi, Adjunct Faculty, National Institute of Advanced Studies;
    Former VP TCS, Former Executive Editor Business India magazine,

  6. RK Narang says:

    Sir,  Glad to hear that you successfully recovered from Covid attack. Wish you good health and look forward to your incisive commentaries. I would be retiring on 31 May and settling down somewhere in Delhi warm regards Gp Capt R K Narang VM

  7. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Congratulations on your successful fight against the pandemic. Hope you and your people keep doing well in future too.
    Request you to advise if you have lost the sense of smell &/or taste, and if you did, then also (if you remember) the number of days after first symptom when you lost these senses.

  8. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Glad to know that you and Ma”am have recovered from Coronavirus.

    My Parents based in Meerut (very close to Delhi) are struggling with it. Private doctors and clinics are closed. Doctors mostly have stopped picking up their phones, even if they pick up, most of them say that we are not Corona doctors please visit a government authorized Corona testing centre.

    Dad went to one of the so called government authorized centre and was told that they don’t have the required material to conduct a Corona test.

    My father called up Dr. Lal Pathology Lab since, they have an all India network and can come home to collect the samples. He was told that they are not collecting any more samples due to the pressure on them by the U.P government led by that saffron clad hooligan, who is not a Yogi but a Bhogi.

    There aren’t any commercial flights operating between China and India since, last year so, I cannot even come to India to assist my Parents in their hour of need.

    The editor of Freethinker magazine, Barry Duke composed the following article based on a couple of LinkedIn messages, which my U.S based sister posted. I WhatsApped those messages to Barry as well;


  9. Aur says:

    The very first appointment Modi jee made after his massive victory in last election, was that of that Jayshankar whose appointment was hailed as some great victory in Indian English media.

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      The vast majority of IAS, IPS, IFS once they clear UPSC, they start behaving like Kings. Their main purpose is to mint money.

      Public welfare, national interest they aren’t bothered with such terms.


    Dear Mr karnad it is great to know that you have recovered speedily from your ailments related to the coronavirus. Recently MK Bhadrakumar mentioned that India is going to be the frontline state in the upcoming civil war in Myanmar because of the machinations of India’s dependence upon the Western powers.

    Sir do you think India made a correct choice in becoming the frontline state at this critical juncture when we are facing a two-front scenario vis-a-vis Pakistan and China ? Will this further strain our resources when it comes to facing to China in the Indo-Pacific ?

    Looking forward to your views on this situation.

  11. Jagdish Talreja says:

    Bharat: Glad that you and family are well. Ping me when you cross the 7 seas. (When it is allowed again that is :))

  12. Marco A Ciaccia says:

    Sir congratulations for your successful battle against COVID-19!
    Let me add that, being the health situation as it is in India and neighbouring countries, the SAARC dimension of development and trade would be of outmost importance, and any delay is very costly. This is the real difference between India and China. The latter can’t count on a macro-regional basis for developing a soft power platform, while India should just (JUST!) press on with Pakistan to revive SAARC, reduce and streamline military overspending and build a South Asia hub.

    I won’t detail the Western debate in such horrific times, cause it is too depressing to mention. How much money did the Foreign Office of UK put in a ridicolous marketing & image campaign to promote the nominee of 53 (white) women ambassadors (in such troubling places as Paris), and how much did they devote to support vaccine deliveries to the Commonwealth (meaning “common well being”) of the their former colonies in South Asia?

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