How will Modi Sarkar's likely return to power affect other nations

  • This article explores why select countries would want this Modi government to be re-elected or occupy opposition benches.

When Narendra Damodardas Modi was elected as India’s Prime Minister the world did not know what to expect. By inviting heads of SAARC and the Tibetan Prime Minister in Exile for the government’s swearing in he did indicate that it might not be business as usual. 


With Surgical and Air strikes and yesterday’s A-SAT test he has broken fresh ground.


In such a scenario it would be interesting to indulge in some crystal ball-gazing, country-wise, on whether they want the Modi Sarkar to have another term, if a country can make the government's re-election difficult and, lastly, why some Indians want Modi to occupy the Opposition benches.


Also, there are many within and outside India who believe that the 'Idea of India' (read, Jawaharlal Nehru's vision for India) has been challenged for the first time since 2014.


At the outset I must state that this article is based on evaluation of events and is not meant to cast aspersions on nations or individuals referred to herein. Further, I do not seek to make a case for this government's re-election.


So, let us look at countries who matter to India.

Notwithstanding China’s burgeoning trade surplus it would be happy to see a non-BJP government in Delhi for six reasons.


One, this government’s refusal to be part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has upset the Chinese no end. Since then there have been numerous articles in the Chinese state-run Global Times, considered as the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, on how beneficial BRI would be to India, including Kashmir.


One must admire the Chinese perseverance. A March 27 article in Global Times reads Benefits will eventually bring India into BRI. They believe that Modi’s tough stance against China would help get votes by catering to Indians nationalist sentiment. What the Chinese conveniently forget is that the Wuhan meeting was driven by Modi’s desire to keep the Chinese in good humour, lest they mar his chances of re-election.  


Two, the Chinese did not expect India to stand up during Doklam. The manner in which the country, particularly the Ministry of External Affairs, handled the incursion is worthy of praise and was noticed globally.


Three, India’s stand against Pakistan (China’s “irreplaceable all-weather friend”) significantly hardened post the initial honeymoon period.


IAF aircraft crossed the LoC for the first time since 1971 and the government took the fight inside Pakistan.


An unstable Pakistan and an even more unstable Baluchistan are against Chinese interests.


Therefore, the Chinese might make fresh incursions in Arunachal, Uttarakhand near Char Dham, Siliguri or launch a joint attack with the Pakis to seize Siachen Glacier.


Why Siachen? Simply put occupying Siachen means the Chinese overlook Leh.


Lt Gen Prakash Katoch wrote, “The strategic significance of the Saltoro Ridge particularly with China sitting in our territory in Shaksgam Valley and Aksai Chin and Pakistani and US media indicating Pakistan is leasing out Gilgit-Baltistan region to China for 50 years, plus the fact that withdrawal from Saltoro would open the floodgates of infiltration into Ladakh by Pakistan’s state sponsored non-state actors.” 


If the China-Pak combine succeed in occupying strategic space at Siachen, the Supreme Court may be immediately petitioned that the government be restrained from responding since the model code of conduct is in force.


Four, it was in 2011 that the Vietnamese government first formally sought the Brahmos supersonic anti-ship missile from PM Singh. Reports of this government selling this missile appeared in 2016-2017 but nothing moved.


Brahmos is important because it enables Vietnam and every other offshore State in the South China Sea to power-project its deterrent capability 300 kms away from its furthest ships which would act as an impediment to Chinese hegemony in the region.


The Chinese are aware that Modi Sarkar has the potential to break free from the past, and export Brahmos. After all, how long can Masood Azhar and the Wuhan spirit co-exist!


Five, Mission Shakti can nullify Chinese cyber attacks at times of war. Readers would recall that it was former defence minister George Fernandes who, after the 1998 nuclear tests, said that China is Enemy No 1.


It is this government that has made the Chinese more aware of India’s capabilities and put international pressure on its best friend, indicating a tacit acceptance of what was said in 1998. 


Six, nearly five years later the Chinese still remember that ‘in 2014 Narendra Modi invited Lobsang Sangay, the so-called president of the “Tibetan government-in-exile,” to attend his swearing-in ceremony’. That move really hurt!


Inspite of century old cultural relations between the two nations China dislikes India. I experienced this first hand whilst working with Chinese at the regional headquarters in Hong Kong year 1997. Probably, they are aware of India's contribution to their civilisation which even Indians don't know, or of her hidden potential.  


When Pakistan is in a corner, for e.g. post Sept 11, it seeks to deflect attention to India.


In an article titled ‘Did Godhra save Pakistan? Col Anil Athale wrote, “The brain behind the Godhra incident knew it would trigger riots, which in turn would force such a redeployment. In fact, an entire division (40,000 soldiers) had to be moved, while another division was kept on alert to move into other areas if necessary’.


This time round the Pakistanis might use its sleeper cells to plant bombs at crowded places or election rallies, most likely in BJP ruled states, or even hijack planes.


After all, was not the timing of Pulwama an attempt to tell Indians that Modi is a paper tiger who has failed to rein in Pakistan?


For China and Pakistan, Modi’s nationalist positioning has to be dented.


Notwithstanding the U.S. President tweets on India’s unfavourable trade policies and protests by the church, Trump would want Modi to be re-elected. Here are some reasons. 


One, India purchased crude for the first time in 2017.


Two, the government signed defence contracts for e.g. “$ 3 USD 3 billion deals for 15 Chinook utility helicopters, 22 Apache helicopter gunships and Rs 5,000 crores for 145 M-777 howitzers, Rs 700-crore contract to supply 72,000 assault rifles and are in talks for US MH-60R Naval Utility Helicopters and Sea Guardian armed drones, all worth USD 4 billion.” 1


Three, a strong leader would keep the pressure on Pakistan’s eastern border and raise the ante on Baluchistan forcing it to be reasonable as the U.S. seeks to exit Afghanistan. 


Four, Trump empathizes with Modi in some way because like Modi, he too is fighting the equivalent of Lutyens Delhi in Washington, DC.


Russia has joined hands with China to take on the U.S. It is working with like-minded countries to have a favourable regime in Afghanistan, for which it needs Pakistan. This and the China factor have made it soften its stand on Pakistan. Conversely, it has a long standing friendship with India.


The Russians will remember that this government signed the $ 5.4 billion S-400 deal. To this, add an estimated $ 2 billion contract to build 200 Kamov 226T light helicopters.


Senior India Today journalist Sandeep Unnithan wrote, ‘Lease, worth over $3 billion for the Chakra-3 submarine. Last October, India and Russia inked a USD 1.5 billion deal to buy two Krivak class frigates. In January, India approached Russia to purchase 18 additional Sukhoi Su30MKI aircraft worth approximately Rs 5,000 crores. Last month, the MoD opened talks with Russia for a USD 800 million purchase of 21 mothballed MiG29 airframes.’1


Russia needs Indian orders to keep its factory lines buzzing. So notwithstanding the U.S. being its primary adversary currently, it is not lost on the Russians that these orders are flowing inspite of the threat of U.S. sanctions.


Russia might also appreciate this government’s ability to make friends with countries that oppose each other for e.g. Russia vs. U.S., Saudi vs. Iran and Israel vs. Palestine. Putin might be happy dealing with a known leader for whom national interest is paramount.


Noted conservative strategist Bharat Karnad says, “The Russian government is indifferent about Modi returning as PM because it is convinced that India has nowhere else to go for frontline military hardware and strategic technology - the central pillars of Indo-Russian relations, and that its alliance with Washington is a ploy to gain political manoeuvring space against China, which is not at Moscow's expense.” 


“Further”, adds Dr Karnad, “that to contain China - and Putin believes Beijing needs containing - may require separate and conjoined efforts of India, Russia and US. Whether it is Modi again or someone else in his place, this basic reality won't change.”


Going by current trends the Saudis might, notwithstanding Modi being an unapologetic Hindu, be happy to see return of MS. That would keep Pakistan under pressure, dependant on the Saudis and amenable to Saudi demands.


The prime minister’s personal equation with Gulf rulers could make India a balancer in Saudi Sunni vs. Iran Shia differences. 


Some groups in the Middle East might play the Pan-Islamic card and say Islam khatre mein hai though.


Prof. Harsh V. Pant, professor of international relations, department of defence studies, King's College London says that, “My sense is that both Putin and Saudis would be much happier with a weak government in Delhi...a strong PM puts them in a difficult position as then they will have to be explicit in making choices”.


“The British government is in too much of a turmoil to think of Modi but most Europeans would prefer Modi given his tendency to work towards specific outcomes,” Pant adds. 


The Indo-French relationship has two significant milestones. It was Modi and former French President Francois Hollande who unveiled the International Solar Alliance in 2015. To this add the Rs 59,000 cr Rafale order.  


Both countries also share geopolitical interests of dealing with China’s rise and its moves in the Indian Ocean etc. It is a relationship with huge potential.


Therefore, the attitude of global powers towards re-election is Modi Sarkar is determined by their national interest.


The moot point is, who can protect India’s national interest better? Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi or a Mahagathbandhan.


Part 2 - Why select groups would want Modi to occupy the opposition benches?



1 To Russia with love

2 The China Pakistan axis of evil

3 A quite but decisive shift in India’s foreign policy


Author is an Independent Columnist, founder and a Chartered Accountant.


 Article was first published in with title ‘The 'foreign hand' in India's election 2019

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