Neutrality is a Misnomer

In a virtual address to his party workers on the occasion of 42nd foundation day of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he had made India strong enough to withstand western pressure and look after its own interests. Modi’s self-congratulatory speech came against the backdrop of Russia-Ukraine war and India’s ‘neutral’ stance in the UN in the context of America’s attempt to isolate Russia globally. He was talking of his government’s stand as a sign of the country’s rising stature and strength and suggested that a new global order emerging from the war in Europe would bring new opportunities to India. For all practical purposes India has very little to gain from the war but it has many things to lose. India is losing in global diplomacy despite Modi’s empty boast. India’s non-alignment is in reality aligned with someone--it is Russia. The so-called non-aligned movement initiated by Nehru is dead. Also, the days of bi-polar world are over--major powers are repositioning them in a multi-polar world with China increasingly becoming a deciding factor in this new arrangement. In the yester years, India’s non-alignment was aimed in a limited way at strengthening relations with the Soviet Union without really antagonising Washington ---a delicate balancing act. And today it is so dependent on Russia for defence purchases and oil import that it is next to impossible for New Delhi to go against Moscow even when there is allegation of genocide against Russia’s armed forces. For one thing 85 percent of India’s defence equipment is of Russian origin. India remains the world’s biggest weapons importer, with more than $15 billion in purchases between 2017 and 2021, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute---SIPRI. All the tall talk of energising domestic defence production is simply populism having no basis--it is much like Prime Minister’s promise of a $5 trillion economy. It sells in vote market. True, India has not followed the western policy of condemning Russia but it has equally failed to expose the American and NATO conspiracy to encircle Russia which actually provoked the Kremlin to launch special military operations against Ukraine. The Pentagon is doing everything possible at its disposal to prolong the war with a view to helping the American military-industrial complex to do roaring business in arms sales. Also, the war has opened new avenues for some European countries to dump their old and obsolete military hardware to Ukraine. Even some ex-Soviet Union republics are in the fray, they want to dispose their Soviet era aircrafts and missiles, and the Ukraine war has opened a desperately needed market to sell the old junks. In the end Ukrainians suffer.

Modi’s claim of success in orienting India’s foreign policy is too clever by half. India’s neighbours are against India. All of them see in New Delhi’s over-lording approach a threat to their sovereignty. So the much talked about regional co-operation in the form of SAARC is a failure--- unlike other regional clubs it is the weakest regional grouping having no future in improving multi-lateral trade relations and free movement of people.

Modi’s much hyped lecture to his foot soldiers comes at a time the savagely rising prices of fuel and other essential commodities have left ordinary people reeling. Modi’s crisis managers have blamed the on-going conflict between Russia and Ukraine as the principal reason for the spike in prices but they have developed a habit of imposing higher taxes on crude even when international prices remain low. Unemployment has reached alarming proportions and he has no idea as to how to address the problem.

In that virtual meeting he was more eloquent about dynastic politics to motivate his cadres without really locating the roots for the steady decline of the economy during his tenure. Dynasty or no dynasty opposition parties are totally bankrupt. They are fractured and divided, failing to organise a common united platform to fight Modi’s anti-people policies. They remain busy round the year to formulate permutations and combinations in electoral business, allowing the Modis to laugh the last laugh.

 Regional parties are more interested in protecting their local fiefdoms while the Congress, having no popular agenda of its own, just reacts to spontaneity. After winning four out of five state assemblies in the recently held elections the Modis think they could ignore the burning issues of price rise and unemployment. The saffron brigade, including the subservient media, is now doubly encouraged to project Modi as a tall leader, after his meeting with Biden, hopefully with an eye to parliamentary polls in 2024.


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Vol 54, No. 43, April 24 - 30, 2022