Is the world power alignment on the cusp of another tectonic shift? Does the recent reception accorded to the American President, Barak Obama, by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, any indication of a new world order in the offing? The enthusiasm that lit the face of the Indian Prime Minister is obvious, and he almost seemed too eager to fraternise with the US President, that at some point the meeting between the two leaders of the two most powerful democracies in the world somewhat lost the official, no nonsense business atmosphere. As American newspapers, notably Wall Street Journal, noted with the air of an amused spectators, Modi held on to Obama`™s hand after their first handshake for an extended period, making it awkward for Obama. Yet again as they were standing together, Modi again grabbed Obama`™s hand casually and dripped it for an extended period, and the commentator, as somebody who claims to have plenty of close friends in India, explained to his American readers in an empathetic tone, this is how Indians expressed their warmth. Was it instant chemistry? Did Obama reciprocate in equal zest, or was he just playing along to please his host? All this will become clear soon.
The two leaders also are supposed to have made breakthroughs in the Indo-American relationship. Though the substantive components of the talks between the two are still not clear, what has indeed been publicly claimed is a ground breaking peaceful nuclear deal. Critics are however quick to point out this was a deal the previous Congress led government under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh initiated, and while in the Opposition, the BJP had vehemently opposed this as a sell out. But this is what Parliamentary politics is about, and the Opposition is supposed to oppose any policy initiative by the Ruling party. This is supposed to be good for democracy but nonetheless, it does get a little too cynical at times though. But let us be patient and not judge the book by the cover yet. Maybe there is something good about to happen for India and the world.
One thing is certain, India it seems is ready to abandon the Nehruvian policy of non-alignment with any of the power blocs of the world. Otherwise, starting from the end of the World War II, when the Cold War began to have its chilling grip on the world, America was desperately wooing India as its natural partner. This was a time when the Communists under the leadership of the USSR were making great inroads into Asia, having already taken China after Mao`™s Red Army began delivering crushing defeat after defeat on Chiang Kai-shek`™s pro-West regime. The Americans first under President Truman and then more desperately under President Eisenhower began looking to India to be its anchor in its battle for Asia. When Nehru consistently refused to be America`™s proxy, though he was not for the Communist, America began tilting towards Pakistan. It will be recalled, this new American policy orientation was solidified under President Nixon and his secretary of state, Kissinger in the 1970s. Is this equation about to change? Maybe, but it is unlikely this will be to the extent Modi desires. It is difficult to imagine America suddenly abandoning Pakistan which has virtually been its unsinkable aircraft carrier in its War of Terror. Would Modi be ready to compromise on his government`™s rather bellicose stand on the Pakistan and Kashmir issue? Unlikely, but what is more than likely is America will ask for such a compromise so it can have the both Pakistan and India as its allies, and history since the Cold War has been evidence to this. Even when Nehru caved in his resistance to ally with any power bloc and was pathetically willing to abandon the non-alignment policy after India`™s humiliating defeat by China in 1962, and asked for American help, America threw in this same spanner, breaking Nehru`™s heart. Again, though America now obviously wants to contain China, would it be willing to forsake its partnership with this economic powerhouse completely? These are difficult questions but as they say, let us hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam