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Hunger Taunts Bharat: TRAGEDY OF POVERTY, By Poonam I Kaushish, 22 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 22 October 2019

Hunger Taunts  Bharat

TRAGEDY OF POVERTY

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Q) How much does it cost a poor man to satiate his hunger and keep body and soul together per day?

A) “One can get a meal for Rs 20 in Mumbai, in Delhi the cost is only Rs 15,nonsense, one can fill one stomach on Rs 1 in Tamil Nadu. Really? Are you joking?

Ok, let lose the expletives, curse all you want of how rotten the State of Denmark is. But this sums up the tragic reality of our heartless, callous desi Marie Antoinettes who have made poverty and hunger into a farce. Remember the French Queen’s infamous remark, “If the people have no bread let them have cake!”

Do our leaders know the reality of Asli Bharat? Do they care a damn? More so, after it has been classified with ‘serious’ hunger levels, ranked 102 of 117 countries in 2019’s Global Hunger Index. That too, when poverty has decreased globally. Adding insult neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal fare better with only African countries poorer off .

Worse, India fails on all four indicators: Undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality. It tops in child wasting worldwide 20.8%, under-5 mortality 4.8% and child stunting (height-weight ratio) 37.9%. Only three countries are below it.

Shockingly, 34 out of 1,000 children die in the mother’s womb. Nine lakh children below 5 years before they can read the word hunger and 3,000 children die of malnutrition every day while 19 crores people are compelled to sleep on empty stomachs.

Recently, three girls died in Madhya Pradesh. The post-mortem revealed that their stomachs didn’t have any trace of food as they hadn’t eaten for days and their fat levels crashed to zero! Another died in Jharkhand because her destitute family hadn’t received their quota of subsidised foodgrains for six months. A boy died in Maharashtra begging for a bowl of rice. Heart wrenching tales which crisscross the country

Why are we so bad in feeding our children? True, the Government has implemented the Integrated Child Development Services and the National Health Mission but these have yet to “achieve adequate coverage”, says the report. In fact, according to the Union Health Ministry more than 93 lakh children (21%) are suffering from severe malnutrition.

This is not to detract from the success of the Jan Dhan Yojna, Jan Mudhra Scheme, Ujwala Yojna, Kisan Pension Yojana, Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Jal Shakti Abhiyan etc. Yet, as India spends crores of rupees on schemes to fight poverty, it would be nice if the poor were to get even half the money that is spent in studying the impoverished, what they are eating and whether or not they are receiving State help.

Think. Over 300 million poor are unable to adequately feed themselves and families in rural areas. They are getting 500 fewer calories, 13 grams of less protein, five milligrams of iron, 250 milligrams of calcium and 500 milligrams less vitamin A as compared to 1975-79. Alongside, lack of food and poor access to sanitation, notwithstanding Governmental impetus on Swatchh Bharat translates into children growing up malnourished.

Alas, hunger stalks every State and with rising food prices naturally, more are pushed to poverty. Besides, despite it being mandatory for the Government to provide five kilos of subsidised foodgrains to 75% rural population under the National Food Security Act, the identification of beneficiaries under the law has been imperfect with many poor people not making it to revised PDS lists and Aadhar. And even those listed as beneficiaries are denied rations. Mera Bharat Mahan!

Arguably, expanding poverty seems to raise more questions than answers. According to a Oxford University study, 75.6% of India’s population or 828 million people live below the poverty line. The UN World Food Program reports that nearly 350 million people, roughly 35% is food insecure.

Questionably, is this the reality of the world’s sixth biggest economy? A country where surplus grain is eaten by rats? Should India be spending billions on a mission to the Moon, when poverty stares it in the face? Where 40% of children are malnourished? Wouldn’t the money be better spent on feeding the hungry? Reducing poverty? Fixing female infanticide, manual scavenging, health etc?

When will the Central and State Governments stop their tu-tu-mein-mein and tackle hunger? Why don’t our lawmakers display unity on poignant issues? Which politician will take the lead to ensure that nobody dies of hunger?

Undeniably, our rulers are playing a game of see-saw with the country’s poor to unrealistically harp on Brand India instead of Asli Bharat. Bluntly, the deprived with famished bellies and tattered clothes aam aadmi who wait for hours for their mai-baaps translate into just sterile statistics to keep the vote-bank tillers ringing. 

Noting that his Government has been concerned over high food prices, Prime Minister Modi and Finance Minister Sitharaman cooed, don’t worry and lose sleep, we too are equally concerned over the behaviour of food prices. All practical measures” are being taken to provide relief. Sic.

Really, how? Will ending the financial year with a slipping GDP growth of 6.1% alleviate the misery of the poor crippled by rising prices? Will it end the miseries of 828 million people earning less than Rs 20 a day who satiate their starving bellies by longing looking at neon signs of sumptuous pizzas and burgers? Or for that matter, the 74 million ‘Nowhere Children” who are neither enrolled in schools nor accounted in the labour force or the 44 million children between 5-14 years engaged in economic activities and domestic non-remunerative work?

Sadly, the reality of modern India, is that on paper welfare and food security programmes for the poor are in place, yet people die of hunger as our system of distributing food to them are flawed, inefficient planning leaves most of the grains rotting in Government warehouses rather than reaching the needy and botched Government surveys leave the poor without ration cards.

Clearly, the Government’s economic policies far from addressing the central problems of poverty, hunger, agrarian crisis and rising unemployment are adding new ones for the economy. Disillusionment and discontent among the janata is spiraling. Borne out by rising farmers suicides, despite Government doles, crime and violence.

Truthfully, sound economics adds up to bad politics and deficit populism. Over the years, our netagan have turned this dictum on its head and converted populist politics into economic nonsense. Modi is no different from that of its predecessors.

Our netagan need to concentrate on the big picture. Wherein, their energies are channelized to address poverty on an emergency scale through faster, broad-based growth, supported by well-functioning delivery mechanisms. The effort must be to reduce the number of people in need of handouts. Between giving a man a fish a day and teaching him to fish, there is no disputing which makes more sense --- and is more sustainable long-term. Teach him.

So where does the buck stop? At the neta’s doorstep. The time has come for the Government to stop making a mickey of the people. It is imperative that it works on a war-footing to arrest poverty and draws a lakshman rekha on populist measures.

The writing is on the wall. In the ultimate, if India cannot provide its citizen with adequate resources to meet his basic needs, it will cripple his full participation in the country’s progress. Our leaders must grasp that there is no substitute for poverty alleviation. Else Bharat will continue in the vicious tentacles of poverty! ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

Global Hunger Review:RISE IN US & EU, CUT IN INDIA, by Shivaji Sarkar, 21 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 21 October 2019

Global Hunger Review

RISE IN US & EU, CUT IN INDIA

    By Shivaji Sarkar

 

India bashing, particularly on poverty or hunger, is passion. It earns you eminent awards and simultaneously Global Hunger Index (GHI) can be hyped or misinterpreted, it turns the ancient civilization into a morbid culture and “scholars” own the right to deride it.

 

It’s a wonder why such studies particularly by Amartya Sens or Abhijit Banerjees are not done on the US and European situations. Their own statistics suggest rise in poverty in the US or EU, particularly France, Germany and the UK. The Brexit itself is ascribed as a fall out of large immigration and fall in living standards ushering in high poverty.

 

Another wonder how could they miss the 2018 UN accolade on India. The UNDP heaped praises for India being the first country for which progress over time has been estimated in tackling poverty.

 

Being a critic of the government in India is fine. But overlooking reality for churning out easy theses should not be fashion. Eminent economist Prof AM Khusro, who charted out the planning path for many decades since the Nehruvian era, was concerned about absolute poverty and not mere percentage. India for its sheer rising population remains high on this score despite the number reducing in percentage terms.

 

It is easy to criticise governments but solutions are not that easy. Even the GHI has not been interpreted correctly. The article would discuss it.

 

Critics of India missed the headline in the Washington Post – Extreme Poverty Returns to America on December 21, 2017. This is about a UN report, obviously after the post-Lehman sub-prime crisis. Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, filed it after wrapping up a 15-day tour of the United States.

 

His team visited Alabama, California, Puerto Rico, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The findings documented homelessness, unsafe sanitation and sewage disposal practices, as well as police surveillance, criminalisation and harassment of the poor. The rise in poverty, they found, disproportionately affects people of colour and women, but also large swathes of white Americans. The report concluded that the pervasiveness of poverty and inequality “are shockingly at odds with immense wealth (of the US) and its founding commitment to human rights.”

 

The poverty in the US has risen from less than 10 per cent to 14.8 per cent, as per US census report, in 2014. It now claims to have reduced to 12.7 per cent in 2016 and 12.3 per cent in 2017.

Michael Dauderstaadt, former director of the Economic and Social Policy of Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), basing his study on Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, says, “National poverty rates in the EU vary between over 25 per cent in Romania and less than 10 per cent in the Czech Republic. For Germany, the figure is 16.5 per cent (2016). The official Eurostat figure for the EU as a whole is 17.3 per cent, which puts poverty in the EU only slightly higher than the level in Germany. However, if a proper EU-wide poverty threshold is calculated, the figure comes out significantly higher”. Indeed these studies on western poverty cannot win awards from the institutions in the West.

 

India making strides under Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to institute an award, more inclusive and superior than most western ones which have a tendency to deride India. They bash India as they fear if India rises in economy and esteem, the West may start tottering. And they choose poor Indians to glorify or deride Indian poverty. Despite lots of problems, in percentage terms poverty has come down.

 

Through different governments since the 2004, Atal Behari Vajpayee rule, over 270 million people in India moved out of poverty and the poverty rate nearly halved from 55 per cent to 28 per cent in a ten-year period, according to the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of the UNDP. The MPI also mentioned that 1.3 billion, almost 46 per cent, are thought to be living in multi-dimensional poverty the world over.

 

The critics seeking headlines ignored the incongruous comparison between 2014 ranking of 55 among 76 nations and 2017 ranking of 102. The GHI report did not include 44 countries with “low hunger” scores (0-10). If these were included, India’s ranking in 2014 would have been 55+44 = 99. Data sources for calculating 2017 GHI scores are from 2012-17, of which NDA and Congress (UPA) share power for two-and-a-half years each.

 

Even the International Food Policy Research Institute says, “Concluding from this comparison that India slipped 45 places in the GHI ranking is not only erroneous but also a gross misrepresentation of facts”.

 

It is a different issue that a concerned society does not take pride in slippage. As per GHI, India has 14.5 per cent India’s population undernourished, 21 per cent of children are wasted – children with low weight against their height; 38.4 per cent children are stunted and 4.8 per cent die before the age of 5.

 

Everyone knows these are national concern since the First Plan. The UNDP has always expressed satisfaction at India’s progress. On the whole, the 2019 GHI report found that number of hungry people has risen 785 million in 2015 to 822 million. It further states that ‘multiple countries” have higher levels now than in 2010 – subtle way of stating the post-prime meltdown impact, and approximately 45 countries are set to fail to achieve “low” levels of hunger by 2030 UN sustainable development goal target.

 

The UNDP finds 46 per cent of the global population in abject poverty. It is concerned about falling standards in affluent US and Europe. It wonders why the Donald Trump’s US administration is so sensitive to criticism. The truth is the US administration is failing to check the misery of its people and US official Nick Haley saying UN has no right to look into it.

Hunger is a global issue. It increases as corporate globally are controlling governments. The exploitation has increased and the banks the world over are being looted leading to their failures and levying of high irrational charges and reduction of deposit interest rates.

 

India is no exception. Much of the present industrial slowdown is because of irrational incentives to corporate and allowing them to loot people’s bank deposits. Strong course correction is needed. Still the government remains pro-people in India despite occasional faltering. The country, however, need not be jittery by the ilk of Sens and Bannerjees.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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Mandir Or Masjid?:UP ON HIGH SUSPENSE, ALERT, By Insaf, 19 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 19 October 2019 

Mandir Or Masjid?

UP ON HIGH SUSPENSE, ALERT

By Insaf

 

Uttar Pradesh has been put on high alert. The Supreme Court’s upcoming verdict on Ayodhya land title dispute following arguments sealed on Wednesday last has the government getting its act together. It has cancelled leave of all police and administrative officers on the field until end-November ‘except in unavoidable circumstances’. Communal harmony is what it needs to ensure. While the administration claims measures are being taken for the festival season, it is the verdict of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit to be given before CJI Gogoi retires on 17 November, which has it on edge. Security arrangements in and around the area as well as the entire temple town have for starters been tightened for the Deepotsava in Ayodhya since Yogi Adityanath came to power March 2017. He has set a target of lighting 550,000 earthen lamps compared to 300,000 last year, which incidentally earned a spot in Guinness Book of World Records. Will it brighten the mood after all the high drama seen at the last hearing in SC against the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court, which ordered a three-way division of the disputed site in Ayodhya? The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, asserting “the demolished (Babri Masjid) building belonged to us” and “the right to reconstruct it also belongs to us… nobody else has the right” and its counsel even tearing up a map, which a Hindu party said was that of the Ram Janmasthan. All await the verdict with baited breath.   

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

 

Manipur’s Anxiety

Manipur has reached out to Centre to lend a hand it easing tension brewing over a memorial stone. At an emergency Cabinet meeting, the Biren Singh government urged North Block to take stern action against militant outfits violating ground rules under Suspension of Operation (SoO). This follows a confrontation between Kuki and Naga civil bodies over a memorial stone commemorating the culmination of a 3-year observation of the centenary of ‘Anglo-Kuki War’ (1917-1919) at C. Aisan Village, Kangpokpi district. Apparently, the commemoration committee had asked every Kuki village to erect stone with the inscription “In defense of our ancestral land and freedom,” as a tribute to those who fought British colonialists. But Naga bodies objected claiming no such war took place and that the stones with the “provocative” inscription cannot be erected in Naga ancestral land. With Kuki bodies agreeing to insert instead “in defence of dignity and freedom” on the stones, tension eased. But 24 hours later at an unveiling ceremony the old inscription was back and a video of it going viral on social media. A Kuki outfit under SoO had not kept its word. Hard-earned peace will not be frittered away, says government and will leave no stone unturned to safeguard it. 

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

 

Chhattisgarh Rethink

Chhattisgarh is turning a new leaf? A committee, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, is all set to start reviewing ‘cases against ST and other residents of the Naxal region in the State” this month-end. Cases of over 23,000 tribals will be looked into including 16,457 tribals accused by police in different cases and another 6,743 being held as undertrials, mainly in Bastar, Sukma and Bijapur -- the naxal belt. The committee will consider cases which either merit a relook or withdrawal of proceedings, where it ‘doesn’t find material to continue matters against the accused.’ The review will also include of 1,977 tribals, lodged in seven jails, who haven’t appealed against their detention, either due to poverty, ignorance or simply lack of legal support.  The evaluation idea came up with the Congress being voted to power last December, and all eyes will be set on what is the end-result. And while the committee may recommend withdrawal of prosecution, dropping of cases, or recommend plea bargaining, the final decision rests with the Bhupesh Baghel government. Will it be compassionate and undo a wrong committed? 

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

 

Kashmir ‘Connection’

Kashmiris can sigh a short breath of relief! Mobile phones are back in the troubled Valley. For 18-20 lakhs of Kashmiris their cell phones ringing after over two months of dead silence following the unprecedented lockdown on August 5 was a sound cherished. However, a half-hearted measure by the J&K administration as it restored phone services for post-paid connections only, forcing those with pre-paid connections clamouring to change their plan. Plus, within hours the sms facility was blocked on Monday itself following militants killing a truck driver from Rajasthan transporting apples in Shopian. With a trader from Punjab and a labourer being gunned down in the next 48 hours, the woes of the administration are far from over to showcase normalcy is returning. The militants have ‘outsiders’ on their radar. Given the targeted killings, the administration has planned ‘safe houses’ in Pulwama and Shopian for the ‘non-Kashmiris’ -- the migrant labourers, truck drivers and fruit traders. The big question is will this work?

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

 

Innovative States

It’s not just a North-South rather West-South and North-East divide across the country, as per Niti Aayog’s first ever innovation index. While Karnataka, TN and Maharashtra were ranked the top three major States, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand were at the bottom. The overall innovation environment was taken for four groups -- major States, the North East, hill States and UTs. Among the N-E and hill States, Himachal, Sikkim and Uttarakhand were toppers, whereas Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya at the bottom. Delhi is elated as it tops among UTs followed by Chandigarh and Goa. A South-West skew is also revealed. Karnataka tops performance parameters and is among the best in infrastructure, knowledge workers, knowledge output and business environment; Maharashtra has the best enabling environment for innovation; TN and Kerala are toppers for human capital and Haryana has the best safety and legal environment. While three of the top five major States are from southern India, Delhi and Haryana are an exception to this rule and doing well. It is hoped the index will help create a conducive ecosystem for innovation to flourish across the country. 

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

 

Vibrant’ Goa?

Goa too is eyeing investors. At its 3-day first Vibrant Goa business summit, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant assured potential investors that his government was all set to be on the fast track. Approval would be granted within 30 days of submitting a proposal, was a commitment made.  Hospitality, IT services, tourism, or agro-based sectors, would improve performance, he stated on Thursday last. Thus, it proposes to do away with red tapism wherein a proposal is first received by Goa’s investment promotion board, after approval the investor needs to seek approvals from other government departments and only then is it given the go ahead. “Once the board approves a proposal, they will be able to start actual construction of a project within 15 days to one month.” At the same time, he promised that by 2020 Goa would have state-of-the-art infrastructure --a new airport, road and port connectivity and an environment “where one can work during the day and party in the evening.” It remains to be seen how successful will the 270-odd Goan entrepreneurs be to secure deals with prospective clients and those seeking to invest in Goa. Claims will not do.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Population Explosion:GOVT MUST SPELL OUT STRATEGY, By Dr Oishee Mukherjee, 18 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Spotlight

New Delhi, 18 October 2019

Population Explosion

GOVT MUST SPELL OUT STRATEGY

By Dr Oishee Mukherjee

 

India should worry. The country will overtake China as the most populous country by 2027. Not only did the United Nations 26th revision of World Population Prospects forecast it but the need for curbing population growth has been aired by demographers and social scientists for the past few decades. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too expressed concern over population explosion and it remains to be seen how the Government proposes to handle it.   

 

India is expected to add nearly 273 million people between 2019 and 2050. The biggest challenge for the country is its unpreparedness to accommodate such huge population from all angles. This appears quite bleak considering the high density of population in most States, poor economic growth in backward States, lack of proper social engineering etc. 

 

Delving into statistics, India’s population increased by more than 5 times in the last 110 years from 238 million in 1901 to 1211 million in 2011. Most of the increase (87%) happened in the post independence era. The highest population growth was 24.8 % during 1961-71 after which the growth rate started declining, going down to 17 per cent during 2001-11. A report of the National Institute for Health and Family Welfare titled ‘The Story of India’s Population’ (2014) confirmed that “India has witnessed steady decline in the population growth rate over the last four decades (1971-2011)”. However, with a huge population, even decreasing growth rate means additions to the total population size.

 

Moreover, the lack of social infrastructure, specially the critical situation in education and health sectors, poses a big problem to further increase of population. There is need for more and better secondary schools and adequately equipped health care centres with doctors and nurses in the backward regions of the country. This apart, drinking water crisis, sewage accumulation, increased level of pollution will be the additional problem areas for an expanding population. There is already a crisis and with population rising every day, the situation may turn for the worse.  

 

There is no denying that we need to adopt stringent population control policies. History tells us that unless the Indian state can and chooses to act with the ruthlessness of China, the government has few weapons in its arsenal. Almost all weapons that can be used in a democratic nation have already been deployed. These include restriction of maternity leave and other maternity benefits for first two births only and disqualification from panchayat elections for people with more than two children in some States along with minor incentives for sterilisation.

 

Demographers have stated that people have children, not birth rates and few incentives or disincentives are powerful enough to overcome the desire for children. Ground-level research by former Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Nirmala Buch found that individuals who wanted larger families either circumvented the restrictions or went ahead regardless of the consequences. As one of her informants noted, “The sarpanch’s post is not going to support me during my old age, but my son will. It does not really matter if I lose the post of sarpanch.”

 

Moreover, if punitive actions won’t work, we must encourage people to have smaller families voluntarily and this can only be possible by aggressive campaigning about the benefits of family planning. Concepts like one-child or two child policy as also propagating child spacing, contraceptive methods and persuading voluntary sterilisation have to be ensured at the grass-root levels. Provision of safe and easily accessible contraceptive services has to be made available at the village level. It has been found that there are sharp differences in fertility among different socio-economic groups. Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for the poorest women was 3.2 compared to only 1.5 for the richest quintile in 2015-16. To get to TFR of 1.5, a substantial proportion of the population among the top 40 per cent must stop at one child.

 

One may mention here that China, having instituted a one-child policy in 1979, its female population in peak reproductive ages (between 15 and 39 years) is estimated at 235 million (2019) compared to 253 million for India. Thus, even if India could institute a policy that reduces its fertility rate to the Chinese level, India will overtake China as the most populous country by the year 2027, as per UN projections.  

 

In western societies, low fertility is associated with the conflict that working women face between work and child rearing and the individual’s desire to enjoy a child-free life. Not so for Indian couples. In India, couples with one child do not consume more nor are women in these families more likely to work. Among the educated, specially in metros and big cities, it is a desire to invest in their children’s education and future prospects that seems to drive people to stop at one child. Richer individuals see greater potential for ensuring admission to good colleges and better jobs for their children, inspiring them to limit their family size. Thus, improving education and ensuring that access to good jobs is open to all may also spur even poorer households into having fewer children and investing their hopes in the success of their only daughter or son.

 

There is speculation that an interventionist policy may not be far off. This is very much needed specially in the northern States, where population growth is quite high and education levels low. In the southern States the picture is different due to relatively high education levels. In fact, between the 1971 and 2011 Censuses, the population of Kerala grew by 56 per cent compared to around 140 per cent growth for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. However, the move to use the 2011 Census for funds allocation will favour the north-central States compared to Kerala and Tamil Nadu and this has raised resentment amongst the latter.

 

In this context, it is indeed distressing to note that the government has stopped funding the literacy programme for people above 18 years. Had that not been the case, it would have helped them understand the nuances of having a small family. It is a well-known fact that higher the education levels, the urge for smaller families is manifest and the southern States are a case in point.

 

At this juncture, there is need for mass scale awareness programme in the rural areas, specially in the backward districts of the country to further reduce the growth of population. The involvement of the panchayats as also of the civil society organizations at the grass-root level is necessary to spread this message of having a small family who can be properly looked after. Also in order to maximize the demographic dividend, we must invest in the education and health of the workforce, particularly in States whose demographic window of opportunity is still more than a decade away.

 

Staying fixated on the notion that revising State allocation of Central resources based on current population rather than population from 1971 punishes States with successful population policies is short-sighted. This is because current laggards will be the greatest contributors of the future for everyone, particularly for ageing populations of early achievers. A detailed strategy is critical. Sooner the better as time is running out. ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Ducking The Dragon: DELHI SENDING WRONG SIGNALS, By Dr D.K. Giri, 17 Oct 2019 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 17 October 2019

Ducking The Dragon

DELHI SENDING WRONG SIGNALS

By Dr D.K. Giri

(Prof. International Politics, JMI)

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India last week did not generate adequate debate it should have, on the purpose and outcome. Many Modi admirers are trying desperately to discern some sagacity and strategy in South Block in hosting the Chinese premier in the wake of his critical reactions vis-a-vis the developments in Kashmir. Some of us thought it was a self-goal as it may have sent wrong signals to both our friends and critics in the international community.

 

There are two schools of thought on our dealing with China. One would think it is a zero-sum-game, yet we have to deal with China as it is our biggest neighbour. The second school suggests that, given Chinese military and economic might, we have to manage China and minimise its animosity towards India. The third school of thought, which is sadly absent, is to confront and contain Chinese hegemonic ambitions. I, for one, argue for this line and show how it would help India’s international image.

 

According to the first school, even though we may not expect much goodwill from Beijing, we need to continue the dialogue, so that bonhomie can dilute the brinkmanship, and China would do less harm to India. That is why even though, we do not have a concrete agenda to talk, the informal summits can help rebuild confidence and make-up the trust deficit etc. Some analysts would optimistically suggest that such summits hint at bigger things through symbolism, backed by pomp and pageantry. It is for the diplomats, bureaucrats and strategy analysts to fathom deep into the moods and minds of the leaders, unpack their postures and perspectives and translate them into action.

 

This was the spirit of Wuhan, the outcome of Modi’s meeting Xi at Sanghai in 2017 in terms of ‘Asthana consensus’ and the atmosphere at Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu. They would refer to the helpful pronouncement in Wuhan, “to solve bilateral problems through dialogue and cooperation”, and in Mamallapuram “to deepen economic corporation, to achieve enhanced trade and commercial relations, to better balance bilateral trade and to encourage mutual investments etc.” In such summits, the apologists argue the gains are incremental and optical.

 

The second group talks about a practical approach of dealing with the Chinese mighty economy and to an extent the military. They tell us that the biggest take-away from this meeting is the High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue. Modi got Xi to pay “sincere” attention to the growing trade deficit for India which stands at $53 billion. China has agreed to 2+1 formulae for projects, meaning India and China together doing projects in the third countries. The example touted for such cooperation is the joint training offered by Beijing- New Delhi to Afghan diplomats. Xi Jinping also offered India cooperation in defence sector, allowed Indian pharma companies to invest in China.

 

Both the leaders carefully avoided the ‘touchy issues’ like Kashmir, BRI, Regional Commercial and Economic Cooperation led by China and so on. India offered 5 year visa to Chinese nationals with multiple entries etc. These again are symbolic gestures.

 

The third way is to confront and contain China for which New Delhi is evading or unwilling. When the Dragon hisses, the elephant does not even wag its tale, forget its roaring. In fact, this has been the dilemma of New Delhi’s policy towards China, starting from the off. Our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was inexplicably enamoured or sympathetic to Chinese who were struggling to shake off dictatorship. He allowed himself to be charmed by the Chinese lulling him to complacency that resulted in the war of 1962. He gave up the Security Council membership offered by both USA and USSR in favour of China. Tibet, a buffer zone, created by the British between India & China was given away without reciprocal gains. We are still paying for such costly mistakes.

 

The Modi regime is doing no better vis-a-vis China. Modi admirers would say New Delhi is demanding reciprocity from Beijing. That is a tall and unverifiable claim. Modi administration is unable to read the Chinese mind, for instance, the Chinese strategy for endless negotiations and the tactics to tire the enemy out by protracted parleys, in the line of ‘Art of War’ by Tsun Sui. Modi still thinks he can charm his way to Xi Jinping, so he still believes in “swing and stroll’ diplomacy, which they began in Wuhan. In Mamallapuram, they strolled around for hours in the beaches of Tamil Nadu, and had two-and-half-hour long dinner. What was the result? Tangibly little!

 

Well, Modi was perhaps wanting to build and manage perceptions about Beijing-New Delhi relations. Evaluating the ‘perception diplomacy’, one can decode again two kinds of impact. One, New Delhi is attempting to tell the world that India can stand on par with China despite having 5 times less GDP, and 2 times less or so in military. The other could be that New Delhi is simply ducking the Dragon, avoiding a direct confrontation. To my mind, the latter is more probable as the actions of India’s allies and partners show.

 

Given the overt antagonism by Beijing, for New Delhi not to react at all and host the Chinese premier with much pomp and show, amounted to a self-goal. Beijing was the first and only country in the world to take Kashmir to the UN. Later Turkey and Malaysia followed. It was Beijing that blocked for 10 years the declaration of Masood Azhar as the international terrorist. It is Beijing that is blocking India’s membership of the Security Council and nuclear supplier group. China is making territorial claims on Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and other parts.

 

Leaving only hours before for India, Xi Jinping said, “he was watching Kashmir” and days before, he had hosted the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pak Army General Bajwa. New Delhi refuses to talk to Pakistan as it funds terror and attempts to destabilise India. Why does India engage with China which openly supports Pakistan and its terrorists? Is it simply because China is a bigger power? When Beijing says, “We are watching Kashmir”, why not New Delhi says, “we are watching Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang”. Such strategy of ‘no retaliation’ which can be perceived as ducking can be used as an alibi for countries like Nepal to jump into Chinese bandwagon.

 

That is what exactly happened. Nepal signed about 20 agreements with China. Kathmandu could turn around and say, if you spread the red carpet for your rival China, shall we not welcome them as we are a lesser power. New Delhi must realise, China secured independence through a violent arms struggle unlike our pacifist movement for independence.

 

China understands the language of ‘power’. Agreed, New Delhi cannot match one-to-one China in economy or military terms, not now or in near future. But there is a thing called ‘derived power’. New Delhi could draw power from its strategic alliances like ‘Quad’. It can construct a ‘virtuous circle’, to make up its capacity gap’ with China which suffers heavily from political deficit. New Delhi is sending wrong signals by ducking the dragon.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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