'Moditva': Hard work pays, more so in war-time diplomacy

Moditva


[In this image taken from video footage run by China's CCTV on Wednesday, March 30 2022, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi waves as he pose for photos next to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at left and Taliban-appointed Afghanistan foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi at right during a meeting held in Tunxi district in eastern China's Anhui province. China's ambitions to have a major hand in Afghanistan's stability and development under the Taliban, while boosting its own stature, will be on display at a pair of multinational meetings it is hosting starting Wednesday. /PTI] By Nirendra Dev New Delhi, March 30 : India is the only country among the Quad which has not condemned Russia. But the geo-political standing is such that none can easily condemn India in media or in public. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says - "all countries have different levels of engagement with Russia, other countries in our own region, and so I am respectful of that". The US has called India 'shaky' but soon it tried a damage control and described India as an 'essential partner'. US State Department spokesman Ned Price has said: "....we have invested in that relationship (with India) in terms of our defence and security. So historical relationships notwithstanding, we are a partner of choice for India now, as are many of our partners and allies around the world". Is this New India? Till date, Narendra Modi was known as a shrewd politician, who knew how to handle facts, campaigning and elections. But one month of war at the global stage after Russian invasion of Ukraine, there may be many admirers of his who would hail Narendra Damodardas Modi's skills as a smart and crafty diplomatic operative. Needless to say, he has been well advised by suave External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, a former career diplomat, and NSA Ajit Doval, a former intelligence wing chief and a spy. Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla is a dutiful lieutenant who was even deputed for a crucial engagement at the UNSC. History is rightly described as the most accommodating affair. Its pages are full of mortal men and women anointed with immortality. These spaces are not always given as accolades. Our good old journalism describes these characters better - newsmakers. Modi was a 'newsmaker' in 2002, he became a 'newsmaker' in 2014 and even in 2022 - perhaps he is a 'newsmaker'. Well, he is at least among the best of newsmakers. To be Prime Minister of India - that is the ship captain of the foreign policy engine room during a war between US and Russia - is no joke. Rather it is a thankless job. But even the worst critic of Modi and his government would admit privately perhaps that much to its credit India has attained a 'unique and quite an unprecedented diplomatic platform' for itself. The usual Modi-bashing even in relation to surgical strikes etc against Pakistan is missing. The obsession of a section of stakeholders to find fault with Narendra Modi and his government for everything has stopped. In the process, both Russia and the US and its allies appreciate India's balancing tightrope walk. All these have been achieved so far without really displeasing either side. Ukraine may be complaining, but a tiny nation which was almost turned into a pawn can always wait for another day to get sympathy. Between them, Prime Minister Modi and his handpicked diplomat-turned-EAM Jaishankar, they have shared at least 25 high profile international tele calls with global leaders and astute foreign ministers like mercurial Sergei Lavrov from Russia or even occasional "trouble-maker" Wang Yi. In fact, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi made an unscheduled visit to Delhi within 48 hours of his statement on Kashmir at an 'Islamic stage' in Islamabad. Dr Jaishankar has had half a dozen meetings with counterparts visiting New Delhi and Prime Minister Modi has had at least two major meetings with world leaders, including the Quad, besides numerous tele calls. If all these were not enough, top ministers and leaders from the UK, Nepal, Germany, European Union and some eastern European countries would be visiting New Delhi sooner than later. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will visit Delhi on March 31. So far a tendency has been pushed and promoted that the US and its western allies will decide for the world, what is right. Modi has stalled that theory. The west pushed the line that they are for 'Globalisation' that unites people and economic interests together. Nationalism on the other hand was rustic and backward. It connotes religious fanaticism and ethnic chauvinism. The Americans even pursued their holier than thou policy that from attack on Iraq, Afghanistan and NATO expansion, it was all unilateral. In the process, western nations and analysts preferred to explain world's most complex issue onto a binary choice. China thus could be a friend or a foe. India has to decide between guns from Russia or 'friendship' with the US and something else. India's neo-neutral and equi distance stance vis-a-vis Russia-Ukraine conflict has irked the US and as much it has exposed the hollowness in 'western smartness'. It may not be wrong to suggest that during the last one month, India has made the world realise that in the contemporary setting, simple binary choices of 'black and white' actually fail to come to grips with realities that are more complex. Dr Jaishankar and his team have made it possible to appreciate globally that despite not approving NATO expansion, Delhi did not back the Russian line that Moscow faces existential threats. India abstained from UNSC and UNGA voting and made it clear that Kremlin's concerns ought to be understood and addressed. It has made a big difference globally and many global players hitherto underestimating New Delhi's position has started showing a 'new variety of respect'. Referring to the six principles on which India's position on the situation in Ukraine is based, Dr Jaishankar said in Rajya Sabha that these include "immediate cessation of violence and end to hostilities", "a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy" and the global order being anchored on international law. He said the UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states are also vital. Dr Jaishankar said these principles further included the call for humanitarian access in a complex situation, and being in touch with the leadership of both Russia and Ukraine. PM Modi has spoken to Ukraine President Vlodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin thrice since the war began. The RIC axis is making sense to Putin also and between China and India, of course Americans have more faith in democratic India - paradoxically today denoted by someone whom Washington denied visa in 2005. Well, if they got shocked, the US policies and Americans' superiority complex too are responsible. It is time Americans understand that it is not only Modi's foreign policy that has changed the game for New Delhi. For some reasons it has always come as a surprise to Americans - according to Paul Bracken -that people who prefer Kentucky Fried Chicken and love MTV would not share American perception of war and perhaps even the 'western values' on a different plane. (Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist and author of 'The Talking Guns: North East India' and 'Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth'. The views are personal) /IANS




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