On August 25 Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries were scheduled to meet to carry forward the peace process. Their meeting was cancelled. The effort for regional peace and consolidation that began with SAARC leaders attending Mr. Modi’s swearing-in as Prime Minister is shattered. This follows a pattern. When Prime Minister Vajpayee made his path breaking visit to Pakistan there was the Kargil attack followed by a coup in Pakistan. When the historic Agra Summit was on the verge of a breakthrough it was sabotaged through elements within the government. When the Musharraf formula for Kashmir settlement indicated a breakthrough Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained paralyzed and Musharraf was overthrown. Now Prime Minister Modi’s initiative for South Asian consolidation is in tatters.
Never mind why this happened. Never mind whether it was due to sabotage or ineptitude. Never mind if it was engineered by Islamabad or New Delhi or by both. The bottom line is that Prime Minister Mr. Modi’s declared vision of South Asian peace and unity now seems a distant dream. Who loses and who wins by this development? Certainly both India and Pakistan are the losers. The SAARC region as an area of peace that might have attracted huge foreign investment from the west will not be there. The SAARC region as a community with a common purpose that might balance China for Asian security will not be there. There is in fact only one clear winner. The winner is China.
Was it anticipation of this development that led President Xi Jinping to insist on visiting Gujarat during his forthcoming trip to India in September? Mr. Xi’s Gujarat trip will serve as a sharp reminder to Mr. Modi of how Beijing had nurtured his rise to power for over a decade interspersed with his frequent trips to China amidst continuing Chinese investment in Gujarat. Meanwhile the west was shunning the Gujarat Chief Minister. Now Beijing is promising to invest heavily across India by setting up industrial parks and build its infrastructure. Beijing wants to replicate the Gujarat model throughout India. Let the west stay home. China will be there for India.
Most Indians will gush over the Chinese offer. They will not question why Beijing arms Pakistan with nuclear weapons and missiles. They will not question why China colluded with Pakistan to illegally occupy part of Kashmir for gaining access to Gwadar for in Baluchistan. They will not ask why Beijing claims Arunachal Pradesh despite its written pledge to not disturb settled populations for resolving the boundary dispute. They will see America and Pakistan as enemies and China as the only friend. They will not mind that China encircles India by arming all its neighbours. They will not mind becoming China’s camp follower to help achieve its global ambitions. Indians have cheerfully accepted rule by foreigners for centuries. Why should they change now? Mr. Modi acted as China’s favourite for a decade. Will he change now?