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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

India Willfully Becoming a Pawn in Great Powers’ Competition

I just heard Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi on Indian “NOW Channel Summit, India Action Plan 2020”. Talking to a select elite gathering, he claimed delivery of his promises made before and during his election campaign by saying, “commencement of Ram Mandir (Temple) at demolished Babri mosque done, revoking of article 370 and 35 A done, making Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh integral part of India done, Citizenship amendment done, …and this is just a sample which should convince you that actual action begins from here (translated)”. Modi’s proud announcements to the cheers of a large crowd reminded me of my assessment in an article written and published in March 2020, “More of Modi means less of India.” I had concluded in the said article that the Centre of Gravity for Union state of India was its political system that had carved for itself a constitution that was based on the principles of unity in diversity, secularism and non-alignment concept; violation of the constitutional framework and tinkering with its political system might see disintegration of India in a number of independent states as evidenced by various indigenous insurgencies getting fillip within India. BJP’s rise in politics with Modi as prime minister who had been an ardent soldier of RSS and always attacked on clauses of Indian constitution that ensured special status to Indian occupied Kashmir and its people i.e. article 35 A and article 370, followed up by introduction of National Register of Citizens (NRC) that could use the proposed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to render a large number of Muslims stateless in India is the most damaging development in the last seven decades. It may just be the beginning of the end. If Modi continues to implement extremist RSS agenda unchecked by Indian National Congress and other balanced voices within India, chances are ripe that India will implode sooner than later. The more of Modi and RSS means less of India; a point to ponder for wise and good Indians!

However, a mixed crowd of apparently educated and well dressed people applauding Modi’s haughty assertions in the said event, dashed my hopes attached with politically aware Indian masses and with Indian National Congress Party(opposition) for playing a moderate role in checking extremist RSS/BJP agenda. It gives an impression that not only the Indian majority has been thoroughly misled by RSS Nazi Hindutva; but also the opposition Congress party is in league with BJP for implementation of its killer agenda because if succeeded, it is a win-win for Hindu majority; and if it failed and backfired, Congress would anyway benefit by gaining political mileage.

What is driving Modi on this disastrous course of action is a moot point to consider. One factor is of course the long pursued RSS Maha Bharat or greater Hindustan ideology, which is akin to Hitler’s Nazi-ism with obvious pitfalls though. Second major reason is the greatly changed geo-political global and regional landscape where alliances and allies have been redefined. Under President Donald Trump, the United States’ relations with many of its closest friends have deteriorated drastically. Longtime allies and partners in Asia, Europe, and North America have been reeling from the president’s trade disputes, decisions to withdraw the United States from international treaties, allegations of free-riding, and “America first” approach to the world. Yet some countries have had a very different experience. Governed by leaders who share Trump’s worldview and politics, they have accepted Trump's terms of engagement and strengthened their ties with the United States as a result. The best example of the phenomenon is the Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi, another leader who has resorted to ultra-nationalism, Islamophobia, anti-minority and anti-immigration policies to compensate for his divisive domestic agenda much in common with POTUS Trump. Thriving on the stated commonalities, Modi has successfully managed to establish a closer relationship with Mr. Trump.

At present, India and the USA share a broad view of the challenge that China poses. They also agree on the specifics of what to do about it in the vast expanse of ocean stretching from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of the United States, a region that both now call “the Indo-Pacific.” In 2017, India and the United States, along with Australia and Japan, revived the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad—a dormant forum focused on keeping the Indo-Pacific safe, free, and open. U.S.-Indian relations have also been positively impacted by the U.S' withdrawal from Afghanistan with reduced relevance of Pakistan to the satisfaction of India. The changed strategic security calculus has also greatly improved India-U.S. bilateral defense cooperation; more equipment sales, more joint exercises, and more technological collaboration. Since 2008, U.S. defense exports to India have gone from zero to a cumulative $20 billion, and the United States now accounts for 15 percent of India’s military equipment purchases. During the Trump administration, India has signed the type of defense agreements with the United States that eluded previous Indian governments, arrangements promoting the interoperability of the two countries’ forces and covering everything from logistics to communications. Since 2005, the Indian armed forces have conducted more exercises with the U.S. military than with all other countries’ militaries combined. The annual Malabar naval exercise, which began with India and the United States, now includes Japan and is expected to include Australia after a 13-year lull. The economic relations between both countries are also much improved now. In 2019, the United States overtook China as India’s largest trading partner. While India’s two-way trade with China declined for the second successive year in 2019, to $84 billion, with the United States, the figure grew to $143 billion. India is the United States’ ninth-largest goods trading partner, and U.S. exports to India in goods and services support some 200,000 U.S. jobs.

While Asia-Pacific region is the new main arena for great powers competition with American led capitalism being challenged by Chinese BRI; South China Sea is simmering with potential flare-up on lingering regional disputes duly inflamed by USA. The Middle East region stands divided in two distinct Muslim blocks, ready to fall prey to further entrapment in to pro- America/Israel and anti Iran game plan. However, Modi despite getting humbled by one tactical Chinese move in the disputed Ladakh region along the Line of Actual Control during June 2020 still finds comfort and feels 8 feet tall after being declared new strategic ally of USA in the region to contest and contain rising China; as a willful pawn in the great powers’ contest nevertheless. Modi’s pursuit to build more military muscles at the cost of increasing more poverty in India notwithstanding, the rat race is not going to make India a match to Seven times stronger China in the foreseeable future. However, the fast changing conventional balance of power in the SAARC region is pushing all countries less India in the Chinese camp with Pakistan, Iran already there; and Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics along with Russia showing natural tilt towards China in the framework of SCO and CSTO. Whether the world is all set to see a new round of Cold War with hot battles fought on a different turf and among different pawns; and how would the outcome of American presidential elections and Modi’s extremism impact Hindustan, regional and extra regional peace---keep fingers crossed and prepare for the worst.

3 September 202

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