Modi Dominatus

KAL, the ascerbic cartoonist for the Economist weekly lauded for its perceptive take on current leaders, developments and issues, in a year-ender, created a satirical aviary of political birds (reproduced above). Among the fowls of varied provenance, he identifies, the centrally featured, “Jingo-headed zealot Modi Hindi Dominatus”!

KAL’s take on Narendra Modi — while not flattering — suggests the Indian Prime Minister is registering on the international public consciousness. No small achievement this in an age of instant sensations and celebrities when the premium is on being noticed, even if with alarm, than to be not noticed at all.

Scanning the Indian political horizon, there seems no rival in vaulting distance of Modi, who has taken a firm hold of the people’s imagination in a way that only Jawaharlal Nehru did in the Fifties but for very different reasons. While Nehru effortlessly projected the image of a patrician-aristocrat who had found his calling as a leader of the masses, Modi, just as easily, conveys the message to them that as one of them, he has risen through dint of hard work and with a bit of luck that often attends on political success, to now be at the helm of affairs in the country, with no danger from family and hordes of hangers-on to besmirch his reputation and pull him down. Indeed, the death of PM’s mother living with another son of hers some 700 miles from New Delhi evidenced just how scrupulous Modi has been in distancing his family from his post. It has given him a peerless reputation that no other Indian leader can ever hope to match.

Into his eighth year in office, it is his aura of incorruptibility that, more than any other factor, is his political strength and strongest selling point. It has settled Modi in the hearts of the electorate, winning him and his Bharatiya Janata Party their unstinting support. He provides hope for a people who have for too long experienced the Indian government as a system of spoils where the winner bends the rules for personal gain and his local minions and party bigwigs milk the teats of expenditure on public works, social welfare programmes, and almost all capital acquisition schemes of the government, especially in high value areas of defence, industry, and telecommunications. The severance of service recently of several senior officials in the Telecom Ministry, including a Joint Secretary — which level of officers in all ministries and departments/agencies constitute the executive arm of government, suggests just how deep rooted the rot is.

The scale of corruption reached an apogee during Manmohan Singh’s tenure — a trend the PM would do nothing to stop because as a front for Sonia Gandhi (sporting the halo of one who had renounced the kingly crown when it was first offered her in 2008, but happy to work the remote control) couldn’t, as the “Congressiyas” at all levels, long accustomed to raiding the public till under party and government cover, did just that.

Modi, in this respect, has run an exemplary regime with almost no hint of personal financial malfeasance from any quarter. Because Modi’s PMO rides herd on all large expenditure programmes and contracts in all ministries, it has left little or no scope for the minor and major officials in the procurement loops to make whooppee in the manner they were used to doing. Far from doing away with corruption, however, the officials determined on having the channel of under-table earnings stay intact, have learned to tradeoff the higher risk of exposure and punishment with demands for bigger payoffs. Hence, the paradox of corruption at the Joint Secretary secretary-level on up being down even as the volume of commissions, bribes, and other illegal gratification has increased (or, so say the bribe givers of the foreign and Indian corporate worlds required to do business with the Indian government)! The computerisation and digitalising of government business and other reforms, notwithstanding, the discretionary power of civilian officials/unifomed officers, particularly in the acquisitions loops, has been retained. This means this power, traditionally used for harrassment and weighting choices, remains the preferred means of extorting bribes in money and kind from foreign and in-country vendors, original equipment manufacturers, and anyone seeking government custom. Alas, this is how the machinery of government functions and is kept lubricated even in the Modi era.

Until Modi quite literally tears down the extant apparatus of government and rebuilds it as a much smaller, more effective, version of its previous self minus the impedimenta of laws and rules of business from British times, India will limp along — the system prodding “the best and the brightest” among the youth to seek avenues of self-betterment abroad, even as Asia to the east of us gallops along with China into modernity and a happy future. Such radical makeover of the government is unfortunately not what Modi, a statist and hierarchy-minded leader, has in mind to do. He believes, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that the system as-is will deliver with a bit of exhortaion from him here, a bit of tinkering by him there. It is a delusion, I concluded in my 2018 book — Staggering Forward: Narendra Modi and India’s Global Ambition, the PM will persist with to the country’s detriment. This is a pity because, having captured the people’s heart and mind, he is in a position to do, as only Nehru before him was capable of doing — completely alter the government and the way its works. Instead, he seems content with doing little in that respect.

But, none of this will harm his political prospects. Not little because the BJP cadre, mostly affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), provides the party with a socio-cultural anchor that resonates with the traditional ways of thinking in the majoritarian Hindu society. It is hard, moreover, not to be impressed by RSS’ norms of high ideals, clean living, and its nationalist ideology, which can be faulted in its details, not in its basic thrust. Even more impressive is the fact that members of the RSS and, by extension, the BJP, actually live by these norms. As a high office-holder in RSS, Modi reflects the discipline of mind and of behaviour the organization inculcates in its followers. There is nevertheless dynasticism in his close circle of advisers and in BJP. But it is kept in tight check. His National Security Adviser Ajit Doval sought parliamentary seats for his sons from Uttarakhand but they were denied party tickets to fight elections. The PM’s confidante and Home Minister Amit Shah, likewise, was dissuaded from getting his son into politics in Gujarat. Jay Shah chose to head the state’s cricket board, a position he parlayed into running the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Historically, corruption has been the hallmark of all governments everywhere. Chanakya devoted many sections of his 3rd Century BC codicil, Arthshastra, to keeping tabs particularly on revenue collectors whom he did not trust to do right by the State. He recommended measures, including active intelligence, to police their activity. Mindful of the native proclivity to bribe giving and taking, and considering it indigenous to native systems of rule (Mughal and previous), the British expressly designed their system of colonial government to minimize it by restricting the role of Indians in government in purchases and service delivery, by installing financial advisers and the like for oversight at every turn. However well or ill it worked pre-1947, in independent India that system of government quickly turned into a bureaucratic nightmare — a viscousy mess of conflicting laws, rules and regulations that can delay decisions and implementation of decisions and ensure that what is implemented is not done well, leave alone wisely, with ambiguous file notings and paper-pushing as the default option for babus to fall back on.

So, the PM in his 2014 campaign talked of “Getting government out of business”, of creating a milieu where punitive rules are dispensed with and Indian entrepreneurs enouraged to be wealth producers and job-givers, to prosper in new tech and to generate, in the bargain, employment for the masses of aspiring youth, even as a helpful government with underway skilling programmes provides the necessary labour to drive industry. Eight years on, the government remains the main obstacle to the country’s rapid advancement in the economic sphere and on the atmnirbharta front in defence. Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman is still talking of investing in youth and in upskilling them, much as Modi did 8 years ago! For all his rousing rhetoric, the PM is surprisingly unwilling to rely on private industry as the vehicle for the country’s economic rise, and has been busy streamlining the dowdy, lossmaking, public sector enterprises rather than privatizing them. If his talk of reducing the footprint of government is just that — talk, where’s progress?

But a slate of unfulfilled promises will apparently not matter all that much when the general elections roll around in 2024. In fact, Modi’s re-election is now almost a certainty. His record of personal probity and upright behaviour is his ticket to victory, and will remain so as long as he contests elections. In comparison, there is Rahul Gandhi — the dynast flagbearer of the Congress party who, in a more congenial setting, would only need to nod his head for him to have the crown placed on it. In one way or another, the Congress party has shrunk into a cabal of fawning and calculating Gandhi family acolytes. So when Rahul G refers to the need for the opposition to come together and to propagate a rival ideology to compete with and defeat Modi, the question to ask is whether he is serious!

Consider how alive he is to the current reality and the social forces Modi has let loose. His “Bharat jodo” yatra may have earned Rahul a modicum of respect he didn’t earlier command. After all a man who “walks” the length of the country, albeit half of it in the airconditioned comfort of his travelling van, deserves some admiration. But then he got two things spectacularly wrong. First, the optics. Over the duration of the yatra, he sprouted a full greying beard and his looks, as a consequence, began acquiring a certain gravitas. He seemed by the time he entered the northern states to look more mature, more seasoned, less a “pappu”, which was good. But then the imagery got spoiled when he had his ex-scrap dealer of a brother-in-law, Robert Vadra, striding alongside him, reminding everybody that voting for Rahul and Congress meant possibly enabling the tainted Gandhis to return to feasting on the economic entrails of the nation. Who wants a return to that past?

More importantly, what is the ideology Rahul G hopes will upset Modi’s apple cart, come 2024? He hasn’t articulated any. But it is unlikely to be other than a return to the patronage socialism pushed by a strong central government — Indira Gandhi’s oeuvre. A revisiting of that economic disaster has to be avoided at all cost, because it will mean a return to having the public sector as the engine of economic recovery and rise, and we know how that went the last time. It realized, what became known derisively the world over as, “the Hindu rate of growth” of 2%-3% annually. Should Rahul skip to Manmohanomics the prospects would not be much better, because that’d involve tethering the Indian economy to that of the US. This’d be a recipe for India’s formally accepting a secondary power status tied to a receding power. Rahul’s and the Congress party’s vilification of the private sector leads to precisely these endpoints if their rule materializes. This is, in one sense, an ironic development because the Congress party boasts of more genuinely fecund intellects — Shashi Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh, to name two, than the BJP. Were they to be instructed by the party to rethink the Indian system of government and the role of the private sector in national life, they’d no doubt come up with a host of good ideas. But because Congress is wedded to some strain of socialism or the other, and Rahul has no bright ideas of his own to suggest as guideline, Messrs Jairam, Tharoor and Co. wallow in dated economic notions they believe will resonate with the Gandhi Family’s interests.

There’s, however, a Modi weakness that the opposition is in no position to exploit — his partiality to “crony capitalism”. Modi’s vulnerability is obvious, but Rahul’s line of political attack — “suited booted sarkar” won’t work, as the 2018 elections proved. That is because the masses too, it turns out, want to be suited and booted as Modi is in his “rags to riches” avatar as Prime Minister. It is an aspiration Modi long ago worked into the message he pitched to the public when subliminally shaping its expectations of his government in Gujarat and later at the Centre, namely, that there won’t be doles/freebies or “revadi” but there will be government assistance for people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It is another matter that despite his trying, the government hasn’t become more amenable to servicing people’s aspirations. So, when Govind Adani, with a straight face, claimed in a recent TV interview to India Today, that his proximity to Modi had nothing whatsoever to do with his rocketing rise from smalltime trader to multibillionaire tycoon, but implied that the Gujarati identity he shared with the PM may have led some people to reach that conclusion, it highlighted his implicit belief that whatever part proximity to Modi may have played, his success owes more to his own ambition, business acumen, and propensity to take risks that have fetched him big rewards. And who can dispute such a reading?

Modi is set to dominate the Indian and South Asian scene and, perhaps, to feature prominently in international politics in the years to come because an honest politician — however ruthlessly he may practise politics on home turf, is a rarity as most leading politicians and heads of government in the world at-large (barring the Scandinavian countries and, perhaps, Japan) are variants of Donald Trump in their venality.

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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34 Responses to Modi Dominatus

  1. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    A man who deserts his wife without divorcing. A man who possess a degree whom no one in the world has heard of. A man whom till now no one has claimed to be a classmate of either at school or college level. A man who was so obsessed with a young girl about his daughter’s age (if he had any) that he snooped on her through the state’s police department 24*7.

    If this man is considered honest then people referring to him as honest need a psychiatric examination of their heads.

    • Ashok says:

      Gaurav Tyagi@ — Rejoinder.
      So called Educational Degrees and credentials does not matter in the long run.
      A politician however is much better (than a bureaucrat) as most of them are humane to common man .

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @Ashok- If they don’t matter in the long run then what’s the point/relevance of lying about one’s educational qualification?

  2. Amit says:

    Professor,

    Really good assessment of the state of affairs of the political class in India. When I used to talk to the cab drivers in Ahmedabad about Modi’s rule there, they said that it took six years before his policies had an impact. And his style was to leverage bureacracy rather than change it. That’s his experience and background. I don’t think he can change that.

    Another point is the quality of state leadership. While high level corruption maybe under check under Modi, there is rampant corruption at the state level. We need more state leaders who are not corrupt. The only party I see that can do that is AAP.

    Regarding your comment about privatisation though, I had read an article in the Print that the Modi Govt. Has actually privatised the most. However, you are absolutely right in the sense that given the kind of support he has, he can change things more. But I would say that there is a socialist mindset in India, with a disdain for businessmen amongst bureaucrats (the idea that being administrators that they are somehow in a superior social class than businessmen). These are hard obstacles for anyone to overcome.

    But Modi has got his ten years and his chance to transform India. It’s likely he will get another term like you mention, but I hope he chooses his successor well and transitions after his time is up.

  3. ss108 says:

    A good article but leaves out critical discussion on Modi’s disastrous effects on GDP and how the BJP (Modi) altered the way GDP is calculated in an attempt to boost their number performance and downgrade the prior regime.
    Essentially , India has traded corruption for incompetence

  4. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    ‘His National Security Adviser Ajit Doval sought parliamentary seats for his sons from Himachal Pradesh’

    Professor Karnad, are you sure it’s Himachal not Uttarakhand?

    Anyways, both of Doval’s sons are milking their Dad’s position of power to the maximum. One is heading the most prominent think tank in the town and another one is holding a British passport, based in Singapore and is running a hedge fund business in Cayman Islands with a Pakistani as well as a Saudi Royal as business partners.

    For the uninitiated, Cayman Islands is among the world’s foremost centre of money laundering.

    ‘The PM’s confidante and Home Minister Amit Shah, likewise, was dissuaded from getting his son into politics’

    Jay Shah is the Secretary but everyone knows that he is the one calling the shots in BCCI. The richest cricket body in the world.

    The revenue of BCCI is far more than the combined budget and revenue of every other sport in the country. An office bearer of BCCI is more powerful than most of the central government ministers.

    My question to all of those who call Modi as honest is;

    What has changed since 2014? Is there any single state/central government office in the country where one can get even the most basic work done without paying bribes.

    A false illusion has been created around Modi. The man is an old school follower of RSS philosophy of Muslim bashing.

    China has revealed to the world the weaknesses and frailties of this self proclaimed Vishvguru only someone with their head buried in the sand would call Modi a strong leader.

  5. Sankar says:

    It remains to be seen what happens in the 2024 election, whether there would be a Congress revival. One cannot underestimate the grand old party in its political acumen.

    Rahul has, in my understanding, already dented the Modi-BJP image by his Yatra. And to take cover, Modi has started now crying “Covid 19-Wolf” to the detriment of the general public as rightly has been objected by a section of the medics. The scandals of Bofors, Vadra and others are fizzling out in the books of right thinking citizens since nothing has been proven as the case against them can linger on for ever.
    The loud beating of drums of Bofors in the pre-Modi era have gone silent.

    In all fairness to MMS, in my memory he was instrumental in initiating the border infrastructure in Arunachal as well as other border areas so that the Army could make a stand. What military buildup one sees today started under his program. Even the long bridge Modi opened in Arunachal some time ago under great fanfare was began construction under MMS’s program to upgrade the military potential. Modi is basking in the sun here only because of MMS’s previous planning. Rahul has correctly pointed out that the second Mountain Corps planned by MMS has been deleted by Modi. Modi has created a mess in Army recruitment, not to mention OROP.

    I do not agree with the assessment of the Indian public service presented here. For a healthy democracy functioning there must be checks and balances. One needs to live and work in Europe to realize if India is overloaded with the public service more or nations like France, Germany … in central Europe. The Ukraine war is going to decide whether private military industry in the US will deliver superior weapons or the state owned factories in Russia.

    Finally, I am afraid that the “Hindi-cult” raising its ugly head lately under BJP now could alienate the rest of non-Hindi speaking Indians in the long run in their zest to impose “Hindi” as the national language in India. One should not forget the lesson of Pakistan in history. Even in Europe French and English are widely used as the language of communication among the general mass – no one can impose a so-called national language of Europe..

    • Amit says:

      @Sankar, you seem to be a Congress fan and seem to be overstating Pappu G’s and unki behen G’s political prowess. The fact is that the Gandhis ruled India for a long time – they did quite poorly overall. Especially the current generation.

      Now for a healthy democracy you need good competition. However, it’s not going to come from the Gandhis, but from elsewhere. AAP is the best bet currently. There is no one else on the horizon. Till such time, the BJP is likely to rule.

      The G siblings have had 15+ years to show their capabilities- while Pappu G is right that his mother was called a Goongi Gudiya, it’s also true that she did not take 15+ years to prove her critics wrong. The pan India pada yatra maybe a show of physical prowess, but the Indian voter is not a fool to fall for such political gimmicks.

  6. Amit says:

    Professor,

    Looks like the balkanization of Pakistan may happen from its western front rather than pressure from India. The TTP has declared a parallel Govt there…

    https://www.aninews.in/news/world/others/ttp-forms-new-cabinet-in-a-challenge-to-pakistan-govt20230101145704/

    The lallu panjus across the border are issuing no nuclear threats this time!

    It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds.

  7. Vivek says:

    US a declining power?? How? They still have control over all major silicon chips, even those developed by china uses 7nm process manufactured using American technology. All computers or phones in world uses operating system of American companies. US govt has virtual access to listen or see everyone (who is using these devices). And dollar is still 80% used worldwide

    • US declining, not so much in its physical wherewithal, but because of its manifest isolationist impulses and hence its lack of will to exercise its power.

      • Amit says:

        From whatever I’m reading and watching the US has not shown signs of isolationism. They are merrily meddling in Ukraine, and NATO and EU, engaged in Iran, actively rolling back on China, trying to form AUKUS, active in ASEAN and so on and so forth. Where is the evidence for isolationism? Even Trump who did not want to be too engaged was massively going after China and Russia. It’s just a false assessment.

      • Isolationism in terms of no military intervention — a crucial metric of great power.

      • Amit says:

        No evidence of that too Professor. $858B defence budget to account for ‘inflation’, new 6th Gen aircraft, hypersonic weapons development, complete overhaul of military systems to be AI based, new war doctrine to fight China, significant effort to build military and non military alliances/partnerships, apart from economic jihad on China. It’s like calling black, white.

      • No mil intervention — that’s the point!

  8. Ayush says:

    I fully agree with Dr karnad’s assessment regarding the US.The spectacularly humiliating end to all their middle eastern wars(Afghan collaborators literally clinging on to moving airplanes) has greatly reduced(not eliminated) their appetite for war.Besides, these people(pentagon) know all to well that if they got kicked in the nose by taliban terrorists, what would happen if they went in against china or Russia.They are so weak at moment that they have literally depleted the entire US army stocks in arming a proxy(Ukraine) waging a very limited war against Russia(secondary enemy).They have been already deterred from intervening in Ukraine and even forced to limit military aid.They are scared out of their wits when the question over the transfer of ATACMS(a 1980’s era missile) is brought out.They want to avoid a direct war with Russia at any cost.Russian Tu-160M,Tu-95MS bombers flying over the arctic can unleash hundreds of kh-101 missiles completely shattering the US MIC factories in one salvo.There is no way these people will be able to fight against Russia for more than 60-90 days(without nukes).Besides, Putin has shown the world including his ideological disciple Xi that nukes deterrence works for real.It’s no wonder the PLA is tripling down on their N-buildup.It’s not like they need them anyway.PLARF conventional MRBM strikes along with anti-ship BM’s can easily send the handful of US CBGs which are operational at any point of time to the bottom of the pacific.US bases in the two island chains will be nothing more than smoking rubble after the first 24 hours of the war.China’s N-arsenal will serve as insurance policy and prevent usage of US tacnukes against their air/naval bases in the SCS.The tv shows on B21 raider won’t matter!

  9. Ram says:

    @Prof Karnad,

    You are setting wrong expectations from the current rulers. While Modi himself may have a “clean” image, the rest of the clan isn’t here for charity. They haven’t waited for 70 odd years to live a saintly life. While RSS is determined to go about a revolution to rewrite the constitution for a “Hindu Rashtra” and do away with the existing structures altogether – i.e state governments, district administration, village panchayat, the BJP foot soldiers also come from the same pool of voters desperate to be appointed as Chairman of State/Municipal bodies or on the board of PSU undertakings. The last thing they would want to hear is to give up even this aspiration given that with Modi at the helm, they really don’t matter in decision making.

    Every babu who joins the service knows the top leaders for at least 20 years from the days he joined the Civil Services as DM. They know a lot more evil deeds about the then young party leader than what is readily available in the public domain. Modi and his team can get away only as long as the Babus are kept in good humour and necessarily buy unwanted defence items from abroad. That also helps their lucky wards cut through the green card queue.

    The moment he plans a Agnipath sort of scheme for Civil Services or lets go their control beyond a certain tipping point, the entire cabinet may find itself in Tihar. His hey days in Gujarat could once again make it to the news for the wrong reasons, this time with sufficient proof leading to prosecution. It will be worse off in state governments where most of the MLAs are turncoats purchased by operation Lotus.

    To manage all of the above, it is necessary to have the Government in business more than ever before to retain control over adhoc, arbitary, discretionary decision making powers. He had to let go Air India not because of change of heart but because it was always in the news for the wrong reasons and they wanted to get the monkey off their back. The defence PSUs and other such organizations, are generally not in public limelight (exceptions being your blogs) and the Babus can continue their reign as before.

    If Modi wins again, it would be the most inopportune time to be in power in this part of the world. With Xi at the helm for the foreseeable future, frosty relations with the West due to the war in Ukraine, the communal agenda and his centralized style of governance driving away even existing investments (except for the two cronies close to him) resulting in record unemployment , stubborn high inflation due to wrong taxation policies, he would now (in his third term) be expected to truly fix these with no more excuses. That’s a big ask, given the track record of the past eight years.

    If things continue the same way post 2024, rest assured, even a stone thrown across the LAC will suffice to rattle the powers in Delhi and create global headlines – let alone intrusion by PLA soldiers.

  10. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    Very interesting and absolutely relevant observations made by you dear dr karnad. However two questions that hover around now.

    1. Who after Modi ?? There are 2 heavyweight names that are associated with Modi who look after the party and the government for him. One of them is Ajit Doval and another one is Amit Shah and both of them can be accused of the same crime ie using their positions to benefit their progeny , the same crime that you accuse the Congress of. So the question is who is the next Modi on the horizon ??

    2. I personally believe that most of the blames that you accuse the Congress are appropriate and just. However I believe there are some structural issues present with the basic imagination of the state of India itself. We need to accept that there was never any ethnic race called the Indian, It was the British who connected these disjointed ethnicities of the South Asia together and called these people, Indians. These structural issues are going to aggravate in future with the growing socio-economic divergence between the cow belt and the coastal states. I wonder whether the post-Modi polity will be able to handle these serious structural issues.

  11. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    @Amit

    Well here is the former US navy undersecretary saying that the US navy is grossly under-prepared and need at least a decade to prepare for the Chinese navy in order to defend Taiwan.
    https://asiatimes.com/2023/01/a-looming-threat-and-a-hollow-force/

    Well here is another write-up that says the new head of the Republican majority in the US congress is toning down the rhetoric when it comes to China.

    https://asiatimes.com/2023/01/will-us-speaker-mccarthy-go-to-taiwan/

    Add to this the fact that the pro-independent DPP lost recent local body elections in Taiwan to pro-China Kuomintang party and Kuomintang party now controls most of the major cities in Taiwan. Even the Kuomintang seems to have done a Amit Shah style break-up of the main pro-independence voting public by engendering a split in the DPP.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Taiwanese_local_elections

    As I mentioned before the Chinese are looking for a peaceful reunification with the Taiwanese like they did with the Hong Kong. So far the US and their pro-independent allies in Taiwan seems to have held out against the mainstream Taiwanese opinion of a continuous peaceful reunification. However one factor can change everything and that is the re-militarization of the Japanese. This one factor can bring both US and China (alongside Russia) to accept the peaceful Taiwanese reunification with the Chinese.

    I would love your views on the same.

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Debanjan- I don’t get this. A re-militarized Japan doesn’t pose any threat to US. Intact it’s to US advantage to keep the tensions simmering in Asia.

      China on the other hand is definitely worried about it.

      Hongkong was handed to the Chinese by the British towards the end of last century. Hongkong therefore was never an independent entity.

      Taiwan has never been a part of mainland China. Taiwanese will never join the Chinese mainland. It’s too late for it now.

      Chinese could have maybe reclaimed it thirty years back, not now or in the future.

    • Amit says:

      @Debanjan,

      The challenger to US hegemony in east Asia is China not Japan. China can never take over Taiwan without dominating or defeating the US. As losing Taiwan to China would constitute a US retreat/defeat from/in Asia. So there is no question of US and China collaborating over Taiwan. Makes no sense.

  12. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Eight retired Indian Navy personnel who were arrested by Qatari authorities in August, will mark 127 days in imprisonment in Doha on Saturday (January 14). Each has been kept in solitary confinement for the whole period of four and a half months.

    In response to a question on the efforts the government was making for their release, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told Parliament that their imprisonment was a “sensitive matter”. He said “their interests are foremost in our minds. Ambassadors and senior officials are in constant touch with the Qatar government. We assure, they are our priority”.

    More than a month has passed since that statement on December 8. Earlier this month, a court in Doha extended their confinement by another month, as it has done at the beginning of every month since their arrest on August 30.

    The long custody of the veterans for reasons not yet in the public domain is a test for Indian diplomacy, its engagement with the Indian diaspora.

    Excerpts from the following;

    https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/india-qatar-ties-indian-navy-officers-detention-significance-explained-8381244/

    Professor Karnad, Indian media isn’t highlighting the aforementioned matter adequately enough to protect the image of self proclaimed ‘Vishvguru’

    Any idea why these folks are locked up in Qatar?

  13. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Last year, China and Bhutan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a Three-Step Roadmap to help speed up boundary talks.

    The MoU is of historic significance and is the result of years of joint efforts and sincere cooperation between the two sides.

    Excerpts from the link below;

    https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202301/1283793.shtml?id=12

    Bhutan has decided to end its dependence on India and negotiate directly with China thereby making this so called ‘Modi Dominatus’ as nothing but a joke.

  14. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    @Gaurav

    I feel even Mr Modi understands what you have been saying. However projecting the image of Modi dominatus actually helps the West to do several things in one go.

    1. Tap into Mr Modi’s vanity as there have been very few Indian rulers who do not want to be projected as “dominatus”.

    2. Increase more sells of obsolete military hardware to the Indian military therefore bloating the already high-running coffers of the US arms manufacturers.

    3. Integrating India further into the Western military architectures like QUAD and IUIU etc.

    4. Further distancing India from the Russian and Iranian connections. Everyone now argues that the Indians now purchase oil and military hardware from Russia simply as a transactional beneficiary relationship. Russia is already complaining to India about due payments in the YUAN mode.

    https://thewire.in/diplomacy/moscow-raises-pending-payments-for-defence-supplies-with-new-delhi-report

  15. Sankar says:

    @Professor Karnad:

    Here is a bit of a latest news which could be of concern:

    https://www.indiatoday.in/india-today-insight/story/how-the-indian-army-is-responding-to-the-chinese-troop-build-up-in-the-eastern-sector-2321897-2023-01-15
    “… Indian Army chief General Manoj Pande has indirectly indicated that China has initiated a “slight increase” in troop deployment along the eastern borders (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) … . It is believed that troops of China’s PLA (People’s Liberation Army) had recently come for training in an area under the Indian Army’s Eastern Command but did not retreat. ”

    Is there any similarity with Ladakh (2020-22) and imply again a salami slice gobbled up? Of course there is a new Army Chief in command now.

  16. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Catch small fishes while letting the bigger ones operate freely. Caught spying for the Chinese;

    https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/mof-staffer-held-for-leaking-classified-information-8390631/

  17. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    @Gaurav

    what could be the interest of China when it comes to Bhutan ? What would they want from this engagement with Bhutan ?

  18. Kunal Singh says:

    Indians see US as biggest threat after China, survey shows.
    Do u think Indians r becoming more realistic?

  19. Sankar says:

    @Amit,
    “… you seem to be a Congress fan …” –

    No, you are misreading me. Modi is an astute politician in my assessment, and his great win was very urgent for India’s future political destiny. He has with his dogged determination turned the table on Pakistan by making Art 370 defunct for Kashmir. This was a masterstroke possible because of the huge majority of BJP win in the last election and Modi did not vacillate to rise up to the occasion. Modi and Shah rightly picked on Art370’s core that ‘temporary and transient’ is stamped on it and Art370 came into existence first in 1953 and hence had nothing to do with Kashmir’s accession to the Indian Union. I have watched the long parliamentary proceedings on this. Shah very emphatically pointed out how could one apply the provisions in Art370 after 70 years when it was formulated as temporary in the first place? Again, splitting Leh from J&K for Ladakh was a great insight in India’s statecraft.

    In my book Congress’s days are long over. Whatever Congress achieved for India was under Indira Gandhi and surely that was a great achievement – but those days are gone. My concern is that Congress may win again due to the slips Modi &Co are making now. There are glaring flaws in his China policy and he does not know how to handle that side of foreign interaction. He goes by whatever he is advised by Doval and Jaishankar. I have a poor opinion of Doval.

    Fundamentally, Modi Raj has restored the essence of India’s statehood – there can be no secularism at the cost of Hindus as it was going on since 1947. Congress’s policy was Islamization of India by stealth. Modi has superbly outmanoeuvred Godhara coming squeaky clean, not to mention Teesta Seetalvard. No wonder right now BBC under the prompting of the US masters is trying again to stoke the fire of Godhara hitting a stumbling block with Modi on the Ukraine war.

  20. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    Dr Karnad

    I believe this Biden admin. is the biggest example of “cutting own nose to spite own face” By putting sanctions on Russia, US cannot directly purchase much needed high-quality low-cost petroleum from Russia itself and instead is forced to purchase it directly from Indiam refineries. It seems the US is hell-bent upon destroying its own empire. What do you think on this one ?

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