Interacting with a few handpicked editors on Monday Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh expounded on corruption, terrorism and several other subjects. Urged by his party the PM was attempting a PR exercise to restore the battered image of his government. The effort was unnecessary. There is no immediate electoral threat. There is no threat in parliament to his government from a fractured opposition.
|The PM of India is busy expanding business with China despite a largely adverse balance of trade. He ignores all the aggressive postures adopted by the PLA on the border and on Arunachal Pradesh. He overlooks China tampering with the Brahmaputra River that can imperil India. He merrily continues to deepen ties with Beijing regardless of the long term consequences.
The threat comes from possibly more damaging exposures of corruption by his government. It comes from rapidly diminishing foreign investment resulting from the nation’s corrupt image abroad. It could derail India’s economic growth rate which appears to be the sole obsession of the UPA government. What the PM needs to deal with therefore is not image but substance. And in doing that the government is woefully inadequate.
The PM blamed Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for fomenting terrorism. That is old hat. He dared not mention China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which is the ISI’s mentor. He described corruption in India as acts of aberration. He was wrong. Corruption has become the norm. And he seems to be blissfully ignorant about the national security risks created by it. Much of the corruption in India as in the rest of the world is fuelled by foreign subversion exploiting corporate and political greed. Businessmen are greedy for profits so they wink at corruption. The government is greedy for a good rate of economic growth so it winks at risk to national security. Nothing brings this out more clearly than the ongoing 2G Spectrum scam.
The corruption of UPA ministers has not only incurred huge financial loss to the nation. It has made India vulnerable to dangerous subversion by foreign forces known to abet terrorism. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) alleged breach of national security in the 2G spectrum scam. The CBI's probe revealed "suspicious instance of foreign collaboration undertaken by a recipient" of the 2G Spectrum and telecom licences in 2007/8. The recipient was Swan Telecom Limited which became Etisalat DB Telecom Private Limited. The firm had a technical tie-up with Huawei, China’s giant telecom company, under the scanner of security agencies. In America as well as in Australia Huawei has been accused of being linked to the PLA and deemed a security risk. Mr. Ken Hu, Chairman of Huawei in America, described these allegations as false, leveled because the Huawei founder had served in the PLA in 1970s and 80s.
This explanation does not wash. The Afghan Ministry of Mining and Industries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a Chinese economic and technical cooperation delegation in Kabul on 9/11, 2001. The Afghan Taliban Minister for Mining and Industries Mulla Mohammad Ishaqi met the visiting Chinese delegation and signed the MOU for technical and economic cooperation between the Taliban and China. This was on 9/11 itself. As a result China built and developed the telecom system in Afghanistan. That task was performed by Huawei. Therefore Mr. Ken Hu’s disclaimers can be safely ignored. Apart from connection to Huawei the Etisalat Group is also linked to the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited in Pakistan having a subsidiary in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Home Affairs in April 2010 had specifically warned Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) that Shahid Balwa, presently arrested, should not be associated with Etisalat. That too was ignored.
The government could not be ignorant about the antecedents of Huawei. Months after 9/11 in December 2001 former Union Home Minister Mr. LK Advani despite protestations by Huawei ordered 185 of its telecom experts to be deported from Bangalore for having helped develop telecom surveillance equipment for the Taliban. It might be recalled that when Huawei helped the Taliban the foreign policy of the Afghan government was virtually dictated by Osama bin Laden. It did not surprise therefore that while the whole world hailed the killing of Osama, Beijing remained silent.
So what does the PM have to say about all this?
He says nothing. He is busy expanding business with China despite a largely adverse balance of trade. He ignores all the aggressive postures adopted by the PLA on the border and on Arunachal Pradesh. He overlooks China tampering with the Brahmaputra River that can imperil India. He merrily continues to deepen ties with Beijing regardless of the long term consequences. The PM perhaps is impressed by the soft diplomacy of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the fact that China’s middle class is becoming assertive, and that there are faint prospects of China becoming a liberal society. It is not the government’s responsibility to help China become liberal.
Mr. Wen Jiabao’s possible sincerity is irrelevant. In foreign policy governments should not depend on the intentions of foreign heads of state. Governments should focus on what they can deliver. And the delivery from Beijing thus far is ominously inadequate.
The Indian government’s handling of corruption, security and foreign relations is fatally flawed. Therefore the PM should not waste time talking to groups of editors trying to refurbish his government’s image.
India is in crisis. The government does not need just a face lift. It desperately needs better functioning. That is what should engage the Prime Minister’s attention.