According to media speculation Jairam Ramesh has earned a reprieve. Reportedly Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected his offer to resign and contented himself by publicly reprimanding Ramesh. All this is irrelevant. Jairam Ramesh was not the problem. He is the symptom of a problem. The problem relates to India’s China policy. It is instructive to analyze what precisely irked the government and Congress leaders regarding Ramesh’s performance.
The government objected to Ramesh criticizing a cabinet colleague and official policies while in China. But did the government really differ in approach rather than in manner to what Ramesh said? Subsequently the government took pains to prove that it was not discriminating against China by giving figures that revealed India’s adverse balance of trade with Beijing. It leaned backward by entertaining pleas from Chinese telecom firms seeking concessions. It re-affirmed its growing links with China. It seemed to tell the Chinese that reprimanding Ramesh had nothing to do with India’s relations with China. It appeared defensive and apologetic for having reprimanded Ramesh. Why?
The answer rests on three imperatives.
•First, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is sycophantic to the US abroad and to Sonia Gandhi at home. His main concern appears to be to boost India’s economic growth, please the US regarding policy towards China and Pakistan, and never mind the rest. Indian foreign policy and security concerns are not on his radar.
•Secondly, Jairam Ramesh has the blessing of President Obama abroad and of Sonia Gandhi at home. Ramesh himself described graphically how obliged to India President Obama was at Copenhagen for making common cause with China. The world’s highest emitter is China at 23 percent while India emits only 5 percent. India teaming up with China enabled President Obama to soften US domestic criticism against China. As a huge debtor to China the US has its constraints. Ramesh opined loftily that by India’s seemingly ill-served teaming up with China in Copenhagen “strategic” gains were acquired elsewhere. By that he meant presumably that America had approved India’s tacit endorsement of Chinese emissions. He was thrilled by the fact that the US President addressed the Indian PM as a Guru. Wow!
•Thirdly, Sonia Gandhi is the Indian leader most blessed by China. It is noteworthy that neither the Indian President nor the Prime Minister represented India at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Neither was invited. Beijing reserved that honour for Sonia Gandhi. Not surprisingly Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadhra have been regularly visiting China for holidays organized by the Chinese government. If that isn’t symptomatic, what is? If a slight digression may be allowed it is laughable that the Chinese minions of the CPI (M) continue to rant against the US which is in such close partnership with their mentors in Beijing!
What India needs is not some cosmetic reprimand of a junior minister but a clear enunciation by the Government of its China policy. The government’s Pakistan and China policies are linked. Both appear to be influenced more by US concerns than by India ’s national interest. Pakistan’s intransigence can be traced to the support and encouragement rendered to it by China. That is why Islamabad can repeatedly snub China’s biggest debtor nation, America. That is why the Pakistan Army and ISI have become virtual clones of China’s People’s Liberation Army. If India’s national interest is to be served the government must bluntly ask the Chinese to address India’s legitimate concerns if Beijing genuinely seeks friendship with New Delhi.
Those concerns relate to China arming Indian neighbours against India; China giving arms and providing training and sanctuary to insurgent groups attempting to balkanize India; China continuing to spread nuclear proliferation by violating its commitments given to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group; China continuing to arm Pakistan with missiles that can be directed only against India; China brazenly violating its written commitment not to disturb settled populations in the border areas by claiming Arunachal Pradesh; and China trying to defame India by pasting ‘Made in India’ labels on spurious drugs manufactured by it for sale to foreign countries. These are just some of India’s legitimate concerns.
It may be argued that these Chinese policies belong to the past. China has now changed. There is no evidence on the ground to justify this assertion. There is not a single step taken by China to reverse these trends on the ground. China appears cooperative only for enhancing trade in which it enjoys a huge advantage.
If the government is to act in the national interest it must suspend exports from China unless Beijing genuinely alters its approach to India. As this scribe pointed out earlier, China unlike India is heavily dependent on exports which if reduced could destabilize its society. But the government will not exercise its leverage with US, China or Pakistan because it is not an independent player. Instead New Delhi persists with policies that in the long run will prove suicidal.
Right now it is all agog over the prospect of President Pratibha Patil’s visit to Shanghai on May 31st to further boost India-China trade.
Truly, it is incredible India !