CAN WE AFFORD TO WAIT?

Anadi Naik

In order to take advantage of a given opportunity one has to have the right preparedness. For example, if one misses a connection with any mode of transportation - a bus, a train or a plane - one could miss out on a whole lot of things. This applies not only to the life of an individual but to the life of a nation as well. India is surrounded by neighbors who are not always receptive to its overture. Yet, they do offer opportunities that could be beneficial to India. However, without proper preparedness the nation finds itself in a losing streak. Responsible officials could be working hard. Yet, more often than not, the net result of their cumulative efforts ends in disappointment which hurts the interest of the nation. Several things have come to notice.

In recent developments in Maldives, India has become a spectator, not a participant. It started with a World Bank sponsored development project that India was going to build. Shortly after the contract was signed between the two countries the democratically elected Prime Minister Mr. Gayoom was overthrown. The Government that replaced his, found India’s offer to be exorbitant. India tried to lower the price and build the project. But the new Maldives Government did not want that as it was pro-Pakistan and pro-China. India even sent a former ambassador to the country to negotiate the deal. But it could not influence the internal politics of the Maldives. The project went to the Chinese who were eagerly expanding their presence in the Indian Ocean. Millions of Indians visit this island nation and spend money there. The country has links to India by air and by boat. Yet, it remains at present outside of India’s sphere of influence.

In the upcoming election in Bangladesh, the current Prime Minister Seikh Hassina’s Party may or may not return to power. Her Government has maintained a friendly relationship with India. Yet, should her opponent Khalida Zia come to power, she may act differently. During Seikh Hassina’s period, two of the important issues that are close to the hearts of the Bangladeshi citizens could not be resolved with India. One is the quantity of water from the Padma (Ganges) allotted to Bangladesh. The other is a piece of land created by the river. The State of Bengal has a stake in both issues. In view of the Bengali sentiment in the election of 2014, the Manmohan Singh Government could not take a decisive stand. Besides, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s blessing had to be there as her state is directly affected by the decision. The strange thing is that by not helping Hassina, India has inadvertently helped Khalida. Such inaction in the future may turn out to be expensive and toxic.

Then there is Pakistan. Recently, while in London Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Prime Minister said ” India bashing in Pakistan is an old thing” and that he does not pay attention to that. Such utterance from a Pakistani Prime Minister is heartwarming. It heralds a new line of thinking in Islamabad and it offers new opportunities. India’s political leaders must take advantage of this new form of good will. Yet, the election hysteria of various Party activists keeps depicting Pakistan in a negative way which in turn becomes counterproductive to national interest. Recently, Hakimullah Mehsood and Nassiruddin Haqqani, two of the top Taliban leaders have been killed – one by a drone and the other by assassins. This is a very different development quite unlike Pakistan’s practice of sending Jihadis into Kashmir. Currently, both India and Pakistan share a democratic form of government. For its own smooth sailing each one needs the support from the other. But each side must be ready to take advantage of the situation. From the outset it looks like India is as unprepared as Pakistan to avail the changed situation to its advantage. It is sad.

The foreign policy and domestic policy of a nation – India is no exception - are like two sides of the same coin; one complements the other. Needless to say that after ruling the country for ten years the UPA Government has lost the sharpness of its thinking. Currently it is just coasting. The BJP and its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi seem to be afraid to say anything that would go in favor of the Manmohan Singh Government. The predicament of both creates an impasse and India as a whole becomes a loser. As an Indian politician recently told me “Nothing is going to happen until the election is over”. The question is, can we afford to wait that long?



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