(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It would be a hectic two days for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (June 13-14). The flight detour through Oman and Iran too wouldn’t have helped. Then there is this little matter of bilateral talks with at least five heads of states: Xi Jinping (China), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Hassan Rouhani (Iran), Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan) and Sooronbay Jeenbekov (Kyrgyzstan) besides the actual SCO Summit.
Modi’s diplomacy in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) isn’t just about his time. It’s also about the long shadow of United States which would follow his every move and not just with China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran—all in US crosshair for one reason or the other. Modi has the image of a tough leader, engaging the world but never aligned to any particular bloc. Much of it would be tested by Friday.
Modi, of course, can’t overlook the probing audience of a billion and a half people in India and Pakistan. There would be photo-ops with Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan. Every nuance of arched eyebrows, warm or cold smile, firm or limp handshake, would be dissected in reams of papers. A hug though is as good as ruled out.
In many ways SCO would be about optics. Its’ stated goal is to fight against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. But Pakistan would be spared this embarrassment. Our troublesome neighbour is making its debut in SCO since its formal induction in 2017—as is the case with India. This powerful Group of the East has had always China behind the wheels. Modi can enjoy the ride but can’t change the course. China is friends with Pakistan for nothing.
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have chosen to embarrass each other on the eve of the 19th SCO Summit. India first sought a free airspace for Modi’s passage to Bishkek. However once it was granted, wisdom prevailed and Modi opted to decline the offer. Pakistan, or its propped-up separatists in Jammu & Kashmir, then killed 5 CRPF jawans in Anantnag on Wednesday. Be ready for some tough pictures from Bishkek.
It isn’t to say that SCO is without merit for India. US needs India for its Asia strategy and by appearing shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin and Xi, Modi would keep Donald Trump sober when the two meet in a fortnight’s time in Osaka for G20 Summit (June 28-29). Modi’s bilateral with Rouhani in Bishkek would further force Trump’s hands. That the host in Osaka would be Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who is outreaching to Iran later this week, is no little matter.
India also needs to have the right thermostat to keep matters with China from running too hot or too cold. Modi’s recent visit to Maldives must have prodded the wounds of China. Bishkek would be a good place to straighten out the ruffled feathers since the two leaders, Modi and XI, are slated for a summit in October, a la Wuhan style.
There is no gain denying India sees a friend in Russia. It was Russia which facilitated the entry of India into SCO which, to begin with, was primarily a Central Asia lobby that needed an axis after Soviet Union exploded in 1991. Modi and Putin aren’t taking any steps back on S400 missiles or their growing defence cooperation and Bishkek would afford the two leaders a moment to align themselves against the evil eye of US.
SCO is as good a moment as any to keep Afghanistan in India’s good books. The mountainous country could be fuming for having been not invited for Modi’s oath ceremony last month. Kabul is insecure for more than one reason—Taliban, fostered by Pakistan, is gaining international currency; and US is vowing a retreat of its armed forces. India has always been an all-weather friend and Bishkek couldn’t have come at a better time.
India also needs access to information and intelligence from the Tashkent-based RATS (Regional Anti Terror Structure). China’s push for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also can’t be allowed a free goal. India also can’t afford to be hemmed in by Pakistan and China on its two flanks. A global economy can’t be known as only a South Asian behemoth. India needs physical access over and above its northern borders into Eurasia and SCO affords an excellent opportunity. A rising India is critical to all big powers and it must keep all its suitors on tenterhooks. A stronger and more empowered Modi by his people would only help.
Saifuddin Soz is no ordinary Congress leader. Since 1980s, he’s often been in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha either on National Conference or Congress representation. A multiple-time Union minister, the last time under Manmohan Singh’s UPA between 2006-2009, he was one of the front-runners for the post of Vice-President in 2007 and 2012.
Soz draws his heft because of his influence in the Kashmir Valley. He surely has had access to separatist leaders of the state: A US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks claimed he was a go-between contact between the Indian government and secessionist forces. Indeed, the leaked cable of US Ambassador to India David Mulford to US State Department described Soz as a long-standing “contact” of the US Embassy’s political section.
Soz is now in news because of his new book. By claiming that the first choice of Kashmiris is independence, a stance similar to terrorists and secessionists for three decades now, he has put the glare on his party. Congress is also under the lens because the dreaded terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) run by Hafiz Saeed from Pakistan soil, has come out in praise of Congress.
In case the readers need a reminder, LeT has been banned as a terrorist organization by US, UK, European Union, Russia, Australia and of course India. Its stated objective is secession of Kashmir. A traumatized India has accused LeT for its involvement in the 2001 Indian Parliament and 2008 Mumbai attacks. Hafiz Saeed, as its founder in 1987, had received funding from Osama bin Laden.
Congress has further earned the ire of millions of Indians because one of its senior leaders, Ghulab Nabi Azad, once the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has accused Indian army of planning a “massacre” in the Valley. Congress’ dug the knife deeper with its insensitive attempt to defend Azad, As millions see it, Congress is rubbing shoulders with the secessionists and are deep in trenches with them against the Indian army.
Congress may yet take action against Soz or slap the wrist of Azad. But discerners see no sign from them on standing next to the brave and beleaguered Indian army. Their human rights begins and ends on Kathua; there is never a word of praise when our jawans gun down a terrorist; never a drop of tear for their martyrdom or wailing widows.
On June 22, our security forces killed 4 terrorists identified with Islamic State (IS) in Anantnag district. In view of the oncoming Amarnath Yatra, starting this week (June 28), it was a laudatory achievement. The whole nation stood up as one to applaud the action. But how did Congress react???
I looked for reactions on Congress’ official stand on the matter and how its’ leaders have reacted. The Congress’ twitter handle has nothing on Soz or Azad or terrorists tackled: all it has is a retweet of PC Chidambaram and his concern “Will-there-be-a-war-with-Pakistan?” This time-tested tactics is to weaken the resolve of Indian state, peddle appeasement which in turn is an invitation to secessionist forces for the next strike.
Rahul Gandhi’s tweets? No mention. In any case the Congress supreme tweets once in two days. And when he does it is to run down Modi and his government. Shashi Tharoor? Blank.
And what about the partners Congress’ could be in bed with for upcoming elections? That mahagathbandan to “save democracy” in the country? Mamta Bannerjee? Blank. Akhilesh Yadav? Blank. Sitaram Yechury? Blank. Arvind Kejriwal? Blank. None of them have anytime for our forces; the sacrifices they make; the goals they achieve; the threats and cost they pay to themselves and their families. It is no different to the length these forces went to deny the “surgical strike.”
The message that goes across is alarming: that secessionists are acceptable but not our soldiers; that a terrorists’ life is valuable while the ones of soldiers is not; that India-breakers have unconditional support while those for India-Unity can go and jump from the Himalayas.
You may have a like or dislike for Narendra Modi; you may feel elated or cheated on account of his term so far; but you can’t be standing in support of secessionist forces. Those who want to rule India can’t be seen in sync with India-breakers.
(Post-script: While the readers ponder over the piece; it’s worth dropping a line on Tariq Hammed Karra who is a “Pakistan proxy” and “recently joined the Congress in the presence of Smt. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi,” as Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad lashed out in his press conference on Friday.
While you rush to google the man called Karra, keep this in the back of your mind that Lutyens Media more or less blanked out Prasad-on-Karra comments. But more on this, some other day, some other time).