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Mainstream, VOL LV No 29 New Delhi July 8, 2017

Modi in Israel, China’s Muscle-flexing in Doko La

Tuesday 11 July 2017


India’s traditional foreign policy is getting distorted beyond recognition under Narendra Modi who has become the de facto Foreign Minister, relegating Sushma Swaraj, the actual incumbent of that office, to an obscure background. Modi’s recent visit to Israel and signing billions of dollars of contracts for supply of military hardware while making it a point not to visit Palestine is a deliberate snub to the Arab world which has stood by India all through.

From the days of Jawaharlal Nehru right up to the time of Atal Behari Vajpayeee, India has been unwavering in its support to the Palestinian people. In fact Vajpayee, speaking at the United Nations, had emphatically declared that the Palestinian people “have an inalienable right to self-deter-mination and to a nation-state of their own”. Even as recently as May this year when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited India on an official invitation of the Modi Government, he was addressed as the ‘President of Palestine’, not as head of the ‘Palestinian Authority’. What has happened in the last two months for Modi to take a 160 degree turn on Palestine? Is it a common dislike for the people whose religion is Islam?

Of course, there were significant straws in the wind earlier. In November last year, India under Modi abstained on two resolutions against Israel —one at the UN Human Rights Commission dealing with Israeli Violation of International Humanitarian Law in the Occupied Territories, and then again in the UN General Assembly against Israel’s military action in Palestine.

Modi’s new-found friendship with Israel will antagonise the entire Arab world which has on many occasions stood by India when Pakistan tried to internationalise the Kashmir issue. It is the Arab countries which supply the bulk of the crude oil imported by India. India, on her part, has also stood by the Arab countries. When the United States imposed an economic sanction on Iran because of its nuclear programme, it became difficult for India to import crude from Iran. Even then, India continued to buy Iranian crude though the imports were drastically slashed. Incidentally, Iran is the third largest supplier of crude to India after Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Modi is driving India inexorably into the camp of the US and its close allies like Israel. India is losing the respect it commanded all along in the Afro-Asian world that looked up to it as a crusader against imperialism and colonialism. India is already committed to letting the US use her airports and sea-ports under LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) if a conflict situation arises.

The US and Israel are now becoming the largest weapons suppliers to India, supplanting the old and trusted friend, Russia. The cost involved has to be calculated not only in terms of dollars that we will be spending but more than that in terms of the friendship of the Afro-Asian countries and the respect that India had earned through the last seven decades for its fiercely independent foreign policy. Even after a humiliating military defeat at the hands of China in 1962, India under Jawaharlal Nehru refused to take shelter under an ‘American umbrella’. Times are, indeed, a-changing.

Today there is no gainsaying that India under Modi is being converted into a client state of the US. The ‘strategic partnership’ with Isreal, that our PM forged during his trip to Jerusalem, the first by a head of our government in 70 years, totally forgetting our Palestinian and Arab friends, is a matter of grave concern for all patriotic, anti-imperialist Indians. The Modi-Netanyahu bonhomie, in full display during our PM’s visit to Isreal, brings this out in bold relief.

Meanwhile, for the last four to five weeks the military threat to India’s North-East from China has grown substantially. The trouble began on June 1 when personnel of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were spotted constructing a road in the Doko La or Dokolam area near Sikkim. This area falls within the Bhutanese territory, something fully accepted by India; however, lately China is claiming it to be theirs.

Doko La is located at the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction in the Chumbi Valley. The construction of the road in the area carries ominous portents in the sense that the road can help the Chinese to reach the Siliguri corridor or the Chicken’s Neck, as it is commonly called, that connects mainland India with the Seven Sisters of the North-East. This face-off in the Chumbi Valley has come at a time when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has revived its militant movement for a separate Gorkhaland and the Darjeeling hills are burning, Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling has supported the separate Gorkhaland demand and there are reports that Chinese arms are clandestinely flowing into Darjeeling through Nepal.

Reports had appeared earlier that the tension in the region would be sought to be defused by a prospective meeting between Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the G-20 meeting shortly to be held in Hamburg. But China has flatly denied any such meeting with India and the latter has also stated that it had not urged for any discussion between the two leaders on the issue. However, both sides know that only negotiations can help resolve the differences. But there is no denying that the temperature has been raised by the Chinese media’s systematic anti-India campaign in the last few days (lately the time-worn propaganda that Sikkim was not a part of India has also been once again raked up). All these compel one to suspect Beijing’s intentions behind the stand-off.

Modi’s visit to Isreal and China’s muscle-flexing in Doko La are both a source of legitimate anxiety.

July 6 B.D.G.

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