By Vijay Sanghvi
Beijing is charged up to receive the Indian PM. The Chinese government is pushing for a visit by Narendra Modi in the first half of February. This follows a formal request by the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang when he met Modi for the first time in Myanmar on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit. Li ranks second in the Communist Party of China (CPC) after President Xi Jinping who visited India in September.
This would be Modi’s first visit to China as PM. In the past he visited Beijing as the chief minister of Gujarat. Modi’s visit to Beijing is expected to be preceded by special representative talks on the 3,500-km boundary issue.
National security adviser Ajit Doval, a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will lead the Indian negotiations with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi to reach a settlement on border dispute that has defied a solution even after 17 rounds of high level talks over the last decade. Beijing reportedly refers to Arunachal Pradesh as south Tibet.
It seems like yesterday when Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India and president of China Xi Jinping, met in New Delhi to lay the foundations of a lasting friendship. Their gestures and body language seemed to convey that they had known each other for ages and now would want their people also to know each other more closely.
A relatively unknown aspect of the one-to-one meeting between Modi and president Xi at sabarmati Ashram, is a candid dialogue between Na Mo and the Chinese president. President Xi was taken aback when Modi asked him a simple question, why did tensions on borders escalate when leaders of either country visited each other’s country?
Before answering the question President Ji confessed that he had never been asked such a direct question weaving a diplomatic web around it. But then went on to explain that this was part of high drama and perpetual factional politics in both the countries. What he possibly wished to convey is that these were just pinpricks that India should not try to read deeper. NaMo who holds fond memories of this meeting was quite satisfied with the reply and cited the episode to officials in a private discussion on national security issues long after the Chinese President had gone back.
Many old timers saw similarities between this and efforts made by the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Chinese premier Chou en Lai two generations ago. However there is a basic difference between the two due to transformation of the world. Then Nehru and the Chinese premier were under the influence of idealism and values. People now live in the world where commerce and prices prevail. The era two generations ago at the beginning of the second half of the last century had seen liberation of many settlements under the domination ofWestern powers. Hence they valued ideals more.
Sixty years later, commerce and strong economy are guiding principles. India is certified to be number three economy of the world today with the largest number of consumers with money power. China is placed at number one position with the largest capacity for production but without capacity for consumption at home. China has to be on a look out for new markets and India offers the opportunity. It entails necessarily that they move closer. To show personal charm for each other is their compulsion in hope of building bridges.
China may be looking for market for its products but Narendra Modi is also on look out for export of India’s huge man power if he can turn them into skilled hands. It would escape notice of no one that China became old before it became rich. Hence China is laden with huge lot of old men and women who cannot work but needs tending by the state as their single child, away from home, on work cannot look after them. China would soon need skilled hands to retain its number one position and India is one that can supply it with its needs. There is no country in the world that can feed to need of skilled hands. NaMo did mention the potential when he replied to the debate over the Presidential address in parliament in June this year. He repeated similar view in his interaction with school children on Teachers Day. It would indicate that NaMo has definite plans of seeking a long duration objective.
NaMo does not generally reveal his plans but he is capable of long term schemes in his mind. He has proved his ability by playing every correct step in last five years to materialize his ambition of becoming prime minister with definite ideas. He has proved everyone wrong with inherent skills in use of modern methods of communication with people. He mesmerized not only Indians but also the people around the world.
United States which once denied permission to him to enter USA for twelve years, for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots did not wait even for him to be sworn in to the office before extending an invitation to visit USA. The European nations had already surrendered long before he was named for the top post by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
NaMo has proved beyond question that he has capacity and resilience to adapt successfully and use effectively the modern means of communications. Many criticized his move to engage school children for two hours in direct interaction through satellite routes. He was face to face with millions of students in 1.8 million schools across the country. Many of them would be voters in the next election as similar numbers would move in upward age bracket five years later. NaMo laid foundations of his relations with potential voters five years hence. This would indicate how long term plans formulate in his every action.
He refused to comment or even stop the Sangh Parivar from compelling the secondary ranks using the old communal agenda during the bye-elections to 33 seats in five states. The campaign was discordant with the ideal that he adopted for his rule of inclusion of all. He specified his need by claiming even a single nut bolt malfunction in the whole machine was bring the machine to a halt. He would not leave anyone outside while the campaigners in Uttar Pradesh spewed venom. They lost eight seats they had won at difficult times. NaMo has proved not only to others but also Sangh Parivar to realize that old ideals would not work anymore because young generation has different aspirations.
NaMo is a different from all previous prime ministers. A man in step with need of the era in which he lives, his vision is to take India to the top of the world. He knows this can be achieved only if people are inspired and not goaded. In a way he follows the method adopted by Mahatma Gandhi who had put the imagination of the masses with inspiring them to seek their freedom and be ready to make sacrifices for it. NaMo has spelt out his strategy on several occasions that he would like to empower young and not raise them on charity of the state. Others sought to deliver welfare to poor. NaMo wants them the ideal of fighting out of abyss of poverty so they retain dignity of life. Living on charity always demeans and degrades humans.
Xi Jinping is also aware of potential India holds not only for consumption of its production but also for providing skilled hands. Both NaMo and Xi are aware of stakes involved in building bridge while media and politicians in India are howling over the border tensions provoked by the Chinese armed forces. These tensions would cease to have any meaning if India is able to draw China towards larger stakes in terms of investments in building the production capacity in India. For sixty years, Chinese had no stakes in Indian Territory but their investments would create a situation where they would need to protect it by not provoking India to any drastic actions. It is a long term game of exploiting commerce and trade.
In a changing world, overall values are changing and political considerations too need to change. Any transformation is always a painful process for tradition bound minds. Times have changed now. Men and women also have to change to be in step with new times. Or else they would always remain in abyss of political and international back waters. NaMo is trying to remain ahead of the rest. That is why he is different and so successful.