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Geopolitics is a strange game that is played on multiple levels by politicians. The less seen and heard part of it is the many interactions our bureaucrats and foreign ministry have with delegates of neighbouring countries. Only they hold the answer to key questions about policy and strategy. The other, deliberately visible level, of course, comes from our PM’s flamboyant visits and invitations. We see this everywhere: the colour photos in newspapers and magazines, on social media in the form of memes and on prime time television. There’s also a public debate/outcry level. Just look at the number of times people have talked of banning products from China, sending people to Pakistan and blaming our inherent demographic chaos to ‘infiltrators’ from Bangladesh.
Anil S., Pune
Apropos of Honour Thy Neighbours, this is exactly what India has not been doing. Almost all nations in the Himalayan region, with a possible exception of Bhutan, have long embraced China, our strongest and most dominating Himalayan neighbour, as a way of offsetting India’s overwhelmingly dominant position and its frequently high-handed attitude. New Delhi’s approach to its neighbours has increasingly been marked by muscularity, evident in India’s earlier attempts to browbeat Nepal into carrying out amendments to its Constitution. During his maiden visit to the smaller neighbour, Prime Minister Narendra Modi effectively laid stress on the region’s shared identity and promised “we would move forward together”. This didn’t happen, unfortunately. The promise has fast eroded with an evident lack of sensibility towards the aspirations of a sovereign, neighbouring nation like Nepal. Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement, that “geography will ensure that countries like Bhutan and Nepal cannot delink themselves from India,” smacks of arrogance. Such lines are urgently avoidable. Nepal needs a friendly India, and not a powerful big brother (Nepal has one already up North—two would be too many!).
Once elected PM in 2014, Modi welcomed high-level Chinese visits to India. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September 2014 turned out to be a bit unusual with China professing friendship and flexing its muscles simultaneously. China’s grand strategy puts a high premium on political and psychological victories rather than pure military triumph. Thus, China’s diplomacy has little difficulty in pursuing peace and hostility at the same time.
Under Modi , India has slowly but surely moved away from its traditional stand of non-alignment to multi-alignment. Modi has given a vigorous push to India’s ‘Look East’ policy which broadly aims at improving India’s ties with its neighbours in Southeast and East Asia. The Chinese have already weaned away Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar and are actively befriending Bhutan at India’s cost. China’s shrewd diplomacy has meant that India constantly stays on the backfoot in South Asia unable to assert itself in the manner in which its size would suggest.
It is time for India to do “smart balancing China”. Let us now create a “civilisation encounter”. It is time to break the grimness of China-watchers and celebrate China…into trade, technology and philosophy, and look at it more holistically—compare notes.
Col (retd) C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
This refers to Yardsticks of Political Hate (Dec 31). Sajjan Kumar’s conviction has sent a strong message to politicians: that the long arm of the law eventually gets the culprit. In fact, the party backing him for so long should not only feel ashamed but also guilty for their actions. Kumar’s actions during the 1984 carnage deserve no mercy. Though there is a provision in law for appeals, the higher court must see that the accused is prosecuted without delay. At least now, the Congress must take a principled stand by dismissing other accused leaders who also played a direct role in the 1984 riots instead of remaining silent and allowing them to occupy coveted positions in the party and government.
Considering the gravity of the crime, the severest punishment should be given to Sajjan Kumar. Hopefully, the punishment is an eye-opener for politicians from the country’s political parties who are linked to riots and have been escaping the law till now. Even politicians supporting or instigating the spate of lynchings in the country for the past few years should be made examples of by the courts, otherwise, violence will continue to be an everyday reality in our society.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Hadaspar, Maharashtra
Here’s hoping we don’t all fall down in the subcontinental game of ring a ring a roses.
Dharmesh Paul, On E-Mail
Aakar Patel, in his review of the book Manto Saheb (Hall of Refracted Truths, Dec 31), remarks that none of Manto’s contemporaries, including the biggest of them all, Munshi Premchand, is read anymore. Now, that is an erroneous idea. His story Godan, for example, is a testimony to the almost feminist courage of Dhania, the infringement of human spirit at the altar of religious rituals and the contrast between rural and urban social structures. A story like Kafan is no less powerful than a Manto story, and Shatranj ke Khiladi inspired no less an artist than Satyajit Ray. Even Premchand’s novel Nirmala was adapted by Doordarshan in the 1980s. In short, someone like Premchand will be relevant forever.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, On E-Mail
It’s true that the #MeToo movement has seen some repercussions, and this will impact all workplaces, especially the Indian newsrooms (Blowback From The Battlefield, Dec 31). Similarly, individuals who had followed the movement would take more care in workplaces to behave in a correct manner. So, certain jokes will have to be curtailed, however funny they were considered before and social media posts will have to be looked over a second time to weed out any inappropriate material. Also, CCTVs have become a must in all offices—an intrusive thing, no doubt, but essential to resolve cases of harassment brought before a committee. However, for all its beneficial effects vis-à-vis safety for women and bringing known crooks under the spotlight, #MeToo has taken something away from the warm, good cheer and an atmosphere of carefree banter most of us have enjoyed for years in workplaces. This is the era of caution.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
My interview published in your issue Reclaiming The Neighbourhood (Dec 31) carries the headline “The big shift is the attention our PM gives to South Asia”. This is incorrect and misleading. I did not make the statement which you put in quotes. I had spoken of the focus given by the PM to building closer relations with the leaders of our neighbouring countries. And I referred to the inaugural invitation to Mauritius, as well as getting the BIMSTEC leaders for the BRICS outreach in Goa, to signify that a broader conception of the neighbourhood is being brought to bear. I had also clarified the origin of the term South Asia. By editing out these points the interview has been unfairly limited and conveys the wrong impression.
This is with reference to your coverage of the death of three militants and seven civilians (Vale of the Grim Reaper, Dec 31). There has been a systematic undermining of democratic polity in the state of J&K through political capitalisation of emotional issues by the government of India and the state’s political parties. The result is in front of the whole world: Kashmir is the most militarised region in the world, and the situation is only going from bad to worse. None other than the Centre has to plan and take the required initiatives in the interests of the people of J&K in particular and the country in general.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi