Till a few years ago, it was quite a fun to “spot the difference” between two almost identical images. The challenge was irresistible with the taunt that the two images differed on at least 10 counts. You scratched your head, forgot the world, and strained your eyes and crowned yourself genius once the task was accomplished.
Reading Indian Express these days is an exercise of a similar order. You have to match the headlines, the text and the photo and then pour over inverted commas and quotes to understand where the mischief has been planted. It’s not an easy order for most such Fake News are spread over two pages and are 1000-plus words, relying on time-tested tactics that readers would give up after headline or a few first paragraphs. It costs me hours but I have worked out a way to get through this maze. My strike rate is 99 out of 100 which is good enough and satiates my “spot-the-difference” urge.
First, of course are the stories on Front Page. Indian Express these days have reserved it to Modi-Centre-BJP bashing. (Now Yogi Adityanath is inching up the charts). Even on Front Page, the bigger decks accorded to a headline, the more reasons to suspect a mischief hiding in the text-matter. Most importantly, I make it a point to read the final two paras. It’s almost guaranteed that the saner, and the essential truth of the story, is in these two paras. After you read it, you go through the story backwards and spot the Fake News It’s a science folks! You got to give the devil his due. (Oh, I am sorry. Leftists don’t believe in Gods or Devils).
There are a few other Fake News spotters in Indian Express. If there is any Front Page news on Dalits, you got to really flush your lens and go through it. Most likely, such stories appear in profusion before an Assembly elections. Many a times these stories are discredited—as you would find in this link of my aggregated stories in NewsBred. Either Indian Express doesn’t carry an apology—like the fake moustache story on Dalits in Gujarat recently—or the Fake-News-buster true account is buried in inside pages.
You could also be sure that the anniversaries of all unfortunate victims of Muslim community, Akhlaq and Pehlu etc, would deserve a Front-Page mega spread, most likely as anchor story. (Never mind, Hindu victims never get such a privilege, some would say not even our soldier martyrs). Now, you must watch out for June 23, 2018 when it would be a year to Junaid Khan’s unfortunate killing in Ballabhgarh. I am second-guessing, you would have an Indian Express anchor on Junaid Khan, come June 23 next year.
I am not even coming to JNU’s Kanhaiyas and Umar Khalids of our world. I am also not mentioning how the coverage of grieving parents and relatives of minority victims—mind you never a Hindu victim–sitting at Jantar Mantar or taking out a demonstration on Capital streets has half-a-page reserved for it. How BHU girls agitation is a news and not that of AMU protesting girl students. For these are subjective matters and is the prerogative of a newspaper. To push the agenda, our mainstream English media-the Lutyens’ Media—let’s its editorial spread of two pages to do the dirty job.
Our attention is Fake News and so we must return to the subject. The second lead of Indian Express today is: “Slowdown concern, need to push growth jobs: PM’s advisors”
Quite a few things in this headline and the positioning of the story got my antennas up. I could smell Fake News in the use of “concern” and “PM’s advisors” in the headline. Would PM’s advisors really go public with their “concern” on the state of the economy? And the use of “PM’s advisors” and not the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) was a giveaway on who is meant to be a fall guy. All the economic ills of the country, by inference, must be put at the door of the Prime Minister. His own advisors are expressing concern at their own authoritarian ruler, that’s the inference.
The fake use of “concern” was easy to spot. The Express quoted part-time member Ashima Goyal that EAC would “work as a sounding board of ideas.” But Express cleverly preceded this quote with an inserted view of their own of “concern.” Read this particular para and make up your own mind:
There is a lot of concern about the economy today and the Council will “work as a sounding board of ideas”, EAC member Ashima Goyal said.
(The Express cleverly held back the full designation of Ashima Goyal. She is a part-time and not full-time EAC member).
That being so, I poured over the rest of the lengthy story. Then I read the same story in Times of India and Hindustan Times. I was intrigued that the Times of India prominently put in a front-page lead box the view of another EAC part-time member Rathin Roy that “IMF’s growth projections are 80% wrong…World Bank’s growth projections are 65% wrong. The government’s estimates are right more than 90% of the time.” However, the front page 1000-plus wordathon of Indian Express has no mention of it at all!
It is such selective and distorted coverage which has made Indian Express lose all its respect in the eyes of the discerning readers. It is morally wrong, agenda-driven, and worse a case of cheating against its paying-consumers. When the readers are seeking true coverage and information, they are getting blighted and manipulated coverage. Indian Express must be having its own compulsion, their hands could be forced but the newspaper would do well to heed this opinion of one of its readers: “I haven’t seen any story which favours a Hindu viewpoint in Indian Express for ages, at least on front page).” The worst thing a newspaper could do to its reputation is to appear biased and agenda-driven.
Facebook has set out 10 tools to check Fake News. A few give-aways are headlines, source, evidence and photos. Indian Express on Thursday’s edition has been found out in peddling a Fake News).
Attempts to burn Narendra Modi at the stake are not new.
Those who call him “Tughlaqi” and “Feku”—such as Congress’ Digvijaya Singh—apparently don’t see the contradiction. You can’t be the two at the same time.
Then there are those who lie freely. Remember when Sagarika Ghose pooh-poohed Narendra Modi’s pro-poor image by pointing out his Louis Vuitton shawl—only to be told by the company that they don’t make such shawls!
Rajdeep Sardesai, in an HT Summit, called Modi on stage a “mass murderer” and “hero of hatred.” (watch this video). He took a call which lawfully is one of investigating agencies and Courts and who, incidentally, have ruled in Modi’s favour.
Rahul Gandhi calls Modi a peddler of lies. He cites the Rs 15 lakh-in-each-bank account lie which has been attributed to Modi ad nauseam. There is this exact video on 15-lakh and viewers can see it for themselves how Modi’s speech has been twisted by the Left-Liberal ecosystem.
(It’s the same which this shameless mafia had spread about Atal Bihari Vajpayee calling Indira Gandhi a “Durga”. View Vajpayee’s denial and judge it for yourself).
Rahul once termed Modi’s dispensation as “khool ki dalali” and which was similar to the spin his mother Sonia Gandhi once used for Modi, namely “Maut Ka Saudagar.”
Sitaram Yechury, CPI (M) general secretary, called Modi no better than a “pick-pocket” of people’s money in January this year. Nobody asked him—nor he was decent enough to apologize—when such “cheated” people brought BJP to power in UP by a historic mandate in a matter of few weeks.
Arvind Kejriwal has no compunction in calling Modi a “coward and a psychopath.” An Imam in this country announces fatwa and a Rs 25 lakh cash award for anyone who could blacken Modi’s face.
It is this same set of people who call Modi anti-farmers. Those in search of truth could easily make up this mind by knowing how transformative this government has been to farms and farmers.
Never ever a public figure has been subjected to so vile lies and propaganda as Modi. The filth by Digvijaya Singh, Manish Tewari and Mrinal Pande is fit for Huns and barbarians.
Lately, there has been a particular surge in branding Modi as a “jumla_Man”. Twitter abounds in hashtags such as Jumla, Feku, Jumlanomics, JumlaMan, Jumla Diwas, Jumla Maharaj, National Pheku Diwas and National Jumla Day. Everyday on WhatsApp you come across an image portraying Modi as a “feku.”
Let’s examine whether this (a) “Jumla_Man” image fits PM Modi; (b) and whether it’s an image which people have come to accept or reject at large.
Jumla_Man: Propaganda and Reality:
Quality Council of India (QCI) over six months carried out a massive survey of rural sanitation—Swacchh Survekshan Gramin research covered 140,000 households across 700 districts. Each household was personally visited. Every household was geo-tagged. The positive results are staggering: Nine out of 10 households now have toilets and they use it—they are not turned into stores as propagandists claim. So are the results of 53 out of 74 cities surveyed. The draining cost on health due to open defecation, faeces in groundwater, encephalitis, diarrhea is being tackled head on.
That’s Swacchh Bharat for you.
Modi government has come a long way in providing a basic safety net to every Indian. Be it food, electricity, housing, toilets, gas-based cooking, insurance coverage, micro-loans, all-weather road or some employment.
The financial inclusion drive through Jan Dhan-Aadhar-Mobile (JAM) trinity has removed leakages, ghost accounts and fake beneficiaries from Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT),
Massive infrastructure build up is being reflected in railways, national highways, rural roads, housing, air connectivity and rural electrification.
National Investment and Infrastructure Fund is providing equity-risk capital with global investors.
Atal Innovation Mission scheme is rarely written about. And same about Mudra Programme and India Aspiration Fund. The success of StartUpIndia could be measured if one visits IIT campuses. The strides in renewable energy, electrical vehicles and financial services are not mentioned.
Bankruptcy Code and an Alternative Assets Industry is now finally in place.
And we haven’t come to talking about Surgical Strikes, Doklam and mass cleansing of terrorists from Jammu & Kashmir!
Jumla_Man Branding: Very few believe it!!!
I looked up at hashtags such as Jumla, Pheku, Jumlanomics, JumlaMan, Jumla Diwas, JumlaMaharaj etc on twitter and was surprised at the low traction it has managed in three years. The #JumlaMaharaj, for example, initiated by Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha has only 85 tweets so far. JumlaJayanti has been there for over two years. The others too don’t have the traction.
Every trick—and more—have been tried in the last three years. From doubting surgical strikes to EVM; to dragging Modi’s mother and wife with fake news; to running down country itself by hobnobbing with the Chinese and in US.
What more proof do you want of this insidious industry as it can’t find even one good thing in the Modi government which is massively backed by people of this country, sweeping one state after another with record margins???
And what do you call them?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of financial aid to pregnant women in his new year’s address has led to suggestions that Muslim women would benefit the most from this scheme as they produce more children than any other religious sect in India.
Muslims today comprise of 184 million people in India or around 14.5 percent of total population (compared to Hindus who have fallen below 80%) as of 2015.
A Pew Research Center report predicts that by 2050, India will overtake Indonesia to have the largest Muslim population in the world. The Muslims are expected to swell to 310 million, or almost 18% of the population while Hindus would hover around 77%. As of now, Indonesia has 209 million, followed by India (176 million) and Pakistan (167 million).
This has led to unseemly concern among Hindus that Muslims are in an overdrive to produce more children so as to skew the demographic profile of India. They put the arguments below in support of their theory:
- That Muslims in India are poorer and less educated which results in high growth rate;
- That Muslim women get married at an early age (16-20 years) which means higher fertility rate;
- That Muslims have younger children (0-6 years) population as compared to Hindus
- That Muslims in India are less interested in adopting family planning measures in India.
However facts and figures fly in different directions.
Muslims have witnessed a sharp fall in growth rate to 24.60 in the 2001-2011 decade compared to 29.52 growth of the previous decade (1991-2001). An average Muslim family is of lesser number (5.15) in 2011 than what it was a decade earlier (5.61). The average members of an Indian family is 4.45 persons. This points out upward mobility of Indian Muslims in terms of education and career growth.
Indeed, across all religious groups in India, there’s been a decline in population growth. Buddhists have shown the sharpest decline due to an ageing population.
As of now, Indian Muslims are in majority in two states: the Union Territory of Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir.
Just three states—Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam comprise of almost 47 per cent of entire Muslim population in India. Rampur is the only district with a Muslim majority in Uttar Pradesh. The Muslim population in West Bengal and Assam has been fuelled by refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh.
So folks, hold your horses. Don’t see the PM’s announcement as a sop to Muslims. It’s an inclusive scheme for all Indians. Welcome it instead of tearing it apart on religious lines.
(As an aside, Muslims are likely to equal Christians by 2050 (around 2.82 billion). Hindus would be around 1.38 billion. The world’s total population is set to rise to 9.3 billion by 2050, a rise of 35%).
For its commercial and political implications, the Chabahar Port deal with Iran marks the finest achievement yet of Narendra Modi’s global engagements.
The commercial implications are obvious—India was hemmed in by Pakistan’s intransigence to refuse direct trade between India and Afghanistan and China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) vision had the potential to clamp manacles on India’s ankles.
In one stroke, India has freed itself from the curfew and it could now entertain visions of trade and infrastructure links with Middle East and Central Asia and still further with Russia and Europe.
Let’s take up the bare details before we look at the wider implications and how Pakistan, China and United States, the other key players in the region, would react to it—Afghanistan, as we know from the history of Hindu Kush in the colonial times, is a prized land. So far it was its geographical location but now is the promise of immense mineral wealth which, according to Geological Survey of United States, could be worth as much as $1 trillion, due to its iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium potential.
Afghanistan, unfortunately, has always attracted predators who couldn’t care less about the welfare of Afghan people; who could go to any length to destabilize it in order to retain a degree of control over the cursed land. United States, on one pretext or another, stays put in the name of eliminating terrorism while, as everybody knows, promoting the same in cohort with Saudi Arabia, and not long ago, Pakistan.
The birth of modern terrorism occurred in the wake of Soviet Union’s departure from Afghanistan as United States planted mujahideens, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia providing men, resources and ground support. The country was soon in chaos, split between war lords of one camp or other, and the lure of illicit heroin trade, which by a conservative estimate is second only to oil and gas in volume, has kept them involved. They aren’t going to leave the country in our lifetimes.
Afghanistan thus has every reason to distrust Pakistan—after all its bête noire Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar were traced there—and by inference United States. It sure receives significant infrastructural aid from China but so tied are the fortunes of the Middle Kingdom with Pakistan that Kabul can’t ignore the political implications.
India has diligently nurtured its ties with Afghanistan. Since 2001, it has provided Afghanistan with $2 billion development assistance. In December last year, Modi inaugurated Afghan parliament built on India’s aid of 90 million dollars. It has contributed $300 million on Salma dam and hydroelectric power plant at Herat which Modi is expected to inaugurate next month. In 2009, India had built a 217-km highway costing $100 million that links Zaranj with Delaram, located on Afghanistan-Iran border. From there, the local road connects to Chabahar.
India has always worried over its energy supply, most of which emanates from the Middle East. It receives 57 percent of its crude oil from the Middle East which would only increase manifolds in the coming years. Saudi Arabia is its biggest supplier but knowing the close equation between the Arab kingdom and Pakistan, India has always been keen to get Iran on its side. The latter, for this very reason—after all the Middle East conundrum is largely a tussle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran for dominance in Muslim world—seeks a natural affinity with India. Both nations have close cultural and historical ties. Persian was the official language of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century.
Chabahar is located on the Gulf of Oman, just 80km away from Gwadar which is the cornerstone of China’s pivot to Pakistan. Chabahar is just 299km east of world’s most critical passageway for oil tankers, the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran urgently wants this port to work as 85 percent of its seaborne traffic is managed by its Bandar Abbas port in the Strait of Hormuz. However, this port can only handle 100,000-metric ton ships. Large ships first offload at the Jebel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates en route to Iran. In contrast, Chabhar is a deep-water port and could process large ships. Chabahar would also allow both India and Iran to access large parts of Africa, Asia, Arabia and Australasia.
India has so far committed $500 million on the Chabahar project. It’s also assisting the 500-km rail link between Chabahar-Zahedan-Zaranj. The free trade zone of Chabahar could also encourage investment by its industries in urea, smelter and aluminium etc. In 2012, India had already used the port to transport a 100,000 metric ton shipment of wheat to Afghanistan.
According to the JV plans, India will develop two berths in Chabahar, one to handle container traffic and the other a multi-purpose cargo terminal. The MoU includes the sea-land access route to Afghanistan. India has plans to build a road-railroad network from Chabahar to Milak in Iran which in turn would link up the Indian-built 223-km Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan.
India has also allayed worries on Iran’s part over its pending $6.5 billion payment. It has begun the process of payment in Euros, as requested by Turkey’s Halkbank. A cash-strapped Iran urgently needs investment and repayment of dues.
It’s a win-win all situation for all three nations. Both India and Iran are surrounded by hostile powers; both need avenues to grow. Afghanistan would finally be able to access the Indian Ocean.
Don’t expect United States to sit and watch this alignment of India-Afghanistan-Iran to take shape. Already we hear of encroachment of Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan. US could again find a reason to impose sanctions on Iran. India too remains handicapped by its financial and regulatory hurdles.
But such is the opportunity in front of India, Afghanistan and Iran that one expects Chabahar Port to be a reality soon enough. There sure would be hurdles and interventions, but the three must stand together for their own good.
The Indo-US agreement on sharing military logistics to counter China’s assertiveness in Indian Ocean could have wider ramifications. The two can use each other’s land, air and naval bases for supplies and repair. A piece on the essentials of this conflict:
India and China have been engaged in a Cold War since the beginning of 2015.
New Delhi feels a certain hegemony over Indian Ocean. China, which views it as vital to its survival as a trade route, won’t let it happen. The trade deficit between the two doesn’t help the cause. Both are wary of each other. It’s a real bad news for the future of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)—much to the delight of western powers.
India has made a few moves in recent past which shows its anxiety. Modi visited Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka in March last year but ignored China-friendly Maldives as an apparent snub. Also a conference of “Indian Ocean: Renewing the Maritime Trade and Civilisational Linkages” was held in Bhubaneswar. India wants its own Cotton Route to challenge China’s New Silk Road. The Grand Prize of East Africa doesn’t lessen their friction.
China has its own “String of Pearls” strategy. The Gwadar port in Pakistan; naval bases in Myanmar, intelligence facility in Bay of Bengal, a canal-in-construct across the Kra Isthmus in Thailand, a military tie-up with Cambodia and building military bases in the South China Sea. The “String of Pearls” is meant to secure the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea for its energy and security concerns.
With the Strait of Malacca enabling almost 80 percent of passage to China’s energy needs, it has looked to build its naval power at choke points along the sea routes from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea.
A look at the two Asian powers’ position vis-à-vis critical nations/islands strewn across the Indian Ocean:
This Southeast Asian state was close to China for two decades. But in 2012, it began a “pro-democratization” process—most likely under US pressure—and is now seen close to India. The two together plan to extend Myanmar-Thailand Highway into a trilateral deal.
India’s “Cotton Road” strategy is meant to counter China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plan. India wishes to integrate with its ASEAN counterparts and block china from dominating these states.
In a surprise result last year, the pro-China leadership in Sri Lanka, under Rajapksa was ousted and pro-India Sirisena came to power. The first thing Sirisena did was to suspend China’s $1.4 billion investment in port infrastructure.
With Sri Lanka back under India’s influence, for the moment, the link between Maldives and Myanmar for China has been “cut,” so to speak.
Pakistan has decisively moved into China’s arms and there’s no going back on it. The $46 billion Pakistan-China Economic Corridor is well and truly underway. From an Indian perspective, it’s a bad news.
In order to counter China-Pakistan alliance, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi went to Bangladesh and paved way for resolving the 40-year old border disagreement. It can also have a vital impact on India’s control of its northeast region. India can also now directly use Bangladesh’s ports, instead of relying on vulnerable Siliguri Corridor. Till Modi visited Bangladesh, the latter had been cuddling up to China.
Nepal has been a clear loss to India. New Delhi reacted badly to Nepal’s new federative constitution, as did the pro-India Madhesi ethnic group that occupies the Terai border. Subsequent riots and Indian trucks refusing to cross the border into Nepal worsened the situation. Kathmandu sees the hand of New Delhi in this unrest.
China moved in swiftly, providing 1.3 million litres of petrol and signing a deal to fill in Nepal’s demand in the face of India’s monopoly. In one swift action, Nepal has pivoted itself on China’s axis. China surely eyes the control of strategic Karnali and Koshi rivers that sustains 200 million Indians who live at the southern border.
The ouster of former head Nauseed and his Maldivian Democratic Party is a big blow to India’s plans for this little island nation. The current president Yameen is well-disposed towards China which gives it a proxy control on this island chain. There have been multiple attempts on Yameen’s life and India has found itself drawn into the scandal.
This is a reprint from Newsbred.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s unscheduled stopover for his counterpart Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan is not symbolic alone. It has a domestic and international substance which would only annoy those who don’t want peace between two combustible nuclear-ed neighbours.
And who don’t want peace? We now know of forces who would like Middle East to be terrorist-infested; that in its second phase could export terror on to north, east and south of Eurasia. Russia, which has grappled with terrorism in Caucasus longer than any other nation; and China which is struggling with Uyghur Muslim in its Xinjiang region; fear such a flood of separatist trouble if Middle East is completely submerged with terrorists.
Pakistan, which has had a hand in creating the first lot of terrorists through its Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) in the 80s to drive out Soviets from Afghanistan (it’s all documented), is now in a historical correction mode. It’s more China than US-centric and has no interest in being the shoulder from which Washington fires its guns. The US drone warfare in Pakistan has lasted for almost a decade now. The tutelage of US for decades has yielded Pakistan nothing but mass killings on its streets and schools and the epitaph of a near-failed state.
Modi, like leader of any sovereign nation, has two compelling narratives: to ensure peace at its borders and to economically grow the country. There is no sense to remain mired in China-Pakistan vs India narrative (which of course is what imperialist forces of divide-and-rule would like) and miss out on all the infrastructural, gas and communications highways presently underway in Eurasia for its integration.
Hostile borders is what allows terrorism to flourish and which is a common fear of Russia, China, India and dare I say, Pakistan. A move to protect Eurasia’s security is what prompted the creation of Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO) in 2001. The Asian powers clearly saw the game of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to spread to Asia and wreck the region (e.g Iraq, Libya, Syria etc) so as it never gets integrated and challenge the dominance of West.
Interestingly, both India and Pakistan are to be formally inducted as members of the SCO in 2016. Their cooperation is sought by SCO founders China and Russia who exert a considerable influence on Pakistan and India. Modi’s impromptu visit to Pakistan must be seen in this light. The parley of last few weeks in Paris, Bangkok and Islamabad has been a build-up for this Lahore bonhomie.
That all this has overtaken the preceding acrimony has been most pleasant. Pakistan had submitted three dossiers in the United Nations comprising alleged role of India in subversive activities in Karachi and Balochistan. India had cried foul when China didn’t allow 26/11 perpetrators to be listed as terrorists in UN books. The border skirmishes and killings had scaled up. All this has been too recent.
Economically, India wants its roads to lead deeper into Eurasia rather than be hemmed in by Pakistan and China. The recent signing of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline was a sign of changing winds in the Indian subcontinent. Don’t be surprised if decks are also cleared in long-delayed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in 2016.
Modi would reap the most from this peace harvest. He has realized that domestic opposition would’ve only one stick to beat him up with: to show him as communal and promoter of “intolerance.” This clearly orchestrated Modi-demonizing method flares up before any state elections and is the handiwork of Marxist-Congress-Media-CIA “gang of four” in this country.
Modi’s overture to Pakistan has taken the sting out of poison-tipped arrows of opposition. It would be difficult to portray him as anti-Muslim after such a breezy outreach. They haven’t been able to pin him down on corruption—“intolerance” is the only hammer at their command. These destabilizing forces would now have to come up with something new.
It’s also time not to judge India-Pakistan relations on Kashmir alone. Kashmir would remain insoluble in near future. But Kashmir shouldn’t deny low-hanging fruits to the two neighbours.
The only solution to Kashmir would be to declare it a non-militarized zone just as it exists between North and South Korea. All conflicts would then go to the UN table and both India and Pakistan would be denied an arbitrary stance.
After Modi’s visit to Pakistan, the usual peace-bashers would be up to their tricks. You could hear of clashes at the border, terrorist attacks and compromised NGOs hogging the headlines. Mark them out and the newspapers which promote them. There are the enemies which lie within.
This is a reprint from Newsbred.
In the first part of this series, we looked at Japan and India raising hackles against China in East and South China Sea. In this second and concluding part, we look at reasons for India’s militaristic posturing and its’ likely fallout.
One and a half years into his premiership, Modi seems swamped by issues which certainly are not of his making but would need at least 10 years of his helmsman-ship.
In an impatient country, rogue opposition parties stall him at every step and scoundrels in media bay for his blood every morning. Modi knows immediate issues could sail or nail him, given how they turn out.
Modi’s most pressing concerns—which probably are true of any other country—is improving jobs, infrastructure and Human Development Index (HDI) to go with a secure neighbourhood.
Creating jobs is a millstone around his neck. India needs 12 million jobs for its youth every year—that is more than the population of a Greece or Hungary. The infrastructure “deficit” is estimated to be over $750 billion—that’s more than twice the size of Singapore’s economy. The HDI ratings are 135 out of 187 nations, conveying a yawning shortfall in areas such as education, health or gender inequality. Agriculture and rural-urban divide is monstrous. Intended legal or economic reforms are hacked by butchers occupying opposition benches in the parliament.
Modi’s best hope in this has been to seek a huge foreign investment. He chiefly has sought out US, Japan and China in this quest. United States has been quick on the cue. There is now a five-fold increase in India-US trade. US supports India’s bid for a United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC) seat. Joint production of weapons and weapon systems has been agreed upon.
US’ interests are evident. It wants India as a frontline state in its bid for strategic naval dominance in Pacific and Indian Ocean. Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz pulled no punches when he declared in September that “America is preparing India to reduce the influence of China in the region.” Japan, as we’ve found out, has been quick to do the bidding on US’ behalf for India.
China, on the other hand, has an indifference bordering on contempt. Chinese President Xi Jinping came with much fanfare to India last year but offered only 20 billion dollars of Chinese investment over five years—that too was a quantum jump on existing Chinese investment of only $500 million in India. It’ ‘investment even in Myanmar totals $14.2 billion. Before Xi could even settle down in Beijing on return, China’s incursions in India’s northeast borders had left a bitter taste in its hosts’ mouth.
In June this year, India was stunned when China vetoed an Indian attempt to pressure Pakistan into keep the alleged 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), into jail. This wasn’t the first time though. China had thrice before blocked efforts to designate Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD) as a terrorist organization. It was LeT which had attacked the Indian consulate in Herat, Afghanistan last year on the eve of Modi’s inauguration. It’s also worth remembering that China was critical in arming Pakistan with nuclear weapons’ knowhow.
China’s support to Pakistan indeed has been extraordinary. It’s commitment to invest $46 billion in the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), to connect Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea, is staggering. It’s the largest investment project ever in one country, bigger than even the US Marshall Plan after World War II.
If it bears to fruition, the CPEC with its power projects, fibre optic links, roads and energy supplies will transform Pakistan’s economy. Pakistan has even created a special division of 10,000 in its army for the defence of the project as it runs through the troublesome Balochistan province. A part of this project runs through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), much to India’s annoyance.
Sure, Pakistan is important to China. It doesn’t want the terrorist trouble to spill into its Tibet and Xinjiang province. Pakistan also is its staunch ally in the Islamic world. Above all, Pakistan sits at the intersection of South Asia, Central Asia and Middle East.
Thus India, on its own part, feels encircled. China has extended its reach in the Indian Ocean through Sri Lanka and Maldives. Gwadar is said to be a pearl in its crown though there is a misnomer here which must be spelt out in full.
Pakistan purchased the small town of Gwadar from Oman in 1958. However, work on its port began only in 2002. Its need arose as repeatedly Pakistan found its naval and strategic options limited in conflicts with Indian Navy who were quick to blockade Karachi. Gwadar happens to be less than 500 km from Karachi and thus an ideal alternative. At Pakistan’s request, China provided US $198 million for the first phase which was completed in 2006. Thereafter, China took little initiative in completing its remaining two phases.
Gwadar’s importance clearly is being overplayed by the analysts. First, for it to be an effective port, China would need to built thousands of kilometers of roads in Pakistan. So is true of thousands of kilometers of gas and oil pipelines; and railway tracks to justify the investment in Gwadar.
Besides Gwadar isn’t the only option for China in Indian Ocean. It has Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and a container port in Chittagong in Bangaldesh. China has built roads, dams and pipelines in Myanmar, not to say developed port in Kyaukpyu. China’s oil ships from the Middle East and Africa will cross the Bay of Bengal and unload at these ports.
Still, India has sulked at China’s indifference. In China’s latest white paper on defense, India doesn’t figure at all. India’s insecurity has been further heightened by China’s astonishing military build-up.
Border is another issue. India wants to clarify the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India’s navy has counted 22 “encounters” with Chinese submarines in Indian Ocean in a span of 12 months. China’s defense budget has shown a three and a half fold increase in just last decade. Its’ air force is twice the size of India.
According to a news report, Beijing needs only two days to mobilize on the Chinese-Indian border while New Delhi, hampered by its crippling transport infrastructure would need at least a week to do so. China, if it wants, could place 450,000 troops in a jiffy at the border, three times to what India could manage.
Chinese navy warships have been spotted on long deployments just off India’s coasts. India’s present chief of navy staff, Admiral Robin Dhowan couldn’t help but publicly say that India is “minutely monitoring” Chinese maritime movements.
Sure, India has caused distrust of its own. It hosts Dalai Lama which is a sensitive subject for China. If India wants to stir up things for China in Tibet, the latter wouldn’t mind using Pakistan for the same end. India also views China as a major opponent in seeking oil and other resources from Africa. Last month Modi hosted a summit of African government leaders in India’s capital.
Given India’s needs, it certainly doesn’t want to be leashed in its own region by China’s tactics. It’s association with Japan would certainly make China a little more sensitive to its anxiety. In the real-politic sense too, India has been clever to make the most of differences between Japan and China.
The only concern, and it’s a real one, is if US or Japan go too far in needling China in East or South China Sea. If gloves are off, India would be required to fulfill its obligation or the promised investments would go up in smoke. Modi’s best bet is it won’t happen in next three years and by that time he would have secured his re-election.