25 May 2014

Modi as gonibilla and maverick’s plaything

Narendra Modi is not just India’s new Prime Minister.  He’s also the latest gonibilla conjured by Indophiles, Eelamists, federalists and other fellow-travelers.  The ‘Specter of Modi’ is a good topic to write on, notwithstanding the fact that gonibilla-conjurers, given their secularist posturing would, if they could, have voted for the Congress or any other party apart from the BJP any day.  They have to make the best out of a bad deal, one must understand.

Let’s leave the reduced-circumstanced Sri Lankan commentariat aside and check what Col. R Hariharan, a frequent writer on Sri Lankan politics and Indo-Lanka relations has to say.  He believes that Modi’s success has put Colombo ‘in a tizzy’.  Hariharan contends that Modi being a ‘strong, assertive leader’ Sri Lanka cannot take him for granted. He thinks that Sri Lanka fears that the BJP’s Hindu nationalist ideology would make Modi favor Tamil Hindus over Sinhala Buddhists.  Since Vaiko of the MDMK and Ramadoss of the PMK are the BJP’s major allies in Tamil Nadu and since both are strong Eelamists, Hariharan says that Modi would ‘take a more strident posture’ on Sri Lanka, especially since the state was won by someone else, Jayalalithaa, also an Eelamist. 

Hariharan tempers these positions by factoring in Modi’s version of Hindutva which ‘contains’ the Buddha and therefore dismissing as simplistic the previous contention about Tamil Hindus and Sinhala Buddhists.  He adds Modi’s aversion to extremism (Jihadist, Maoist etc) as indicative of a ‘no’ to separatism.  He contends nevertheless that Modi would be more insistent than his predecessor about implementing the 13th amendment to the full as a first step, referring to a promise made by Mahinda Rajapaksa to Manmohan Singh.  Then he says ‘Modi is a man of his own mind’.

When you take all this together, Hariharan is basically saying nothing at all except, ‘Modi is tough, he has a mind of his own’.  Hariharan can’t claim he is privy to Modi’s mind, one observes. But Hariharan knows his own mind.  And this is what that mind spewed out in July 2012, commenting on the failed Indo-Lanka Accord: ‘‘The devolution of powers to the Tamil minority promised in the Accord remains unfulfilled despite the 13th Amendment. But the Accord retains the potential as an instrument of Indian influence in the region.’ (read my take on this here)

So, for all the shop-talk about ‘redressing Tamil grievances’ the Accord (and also the 13th Amendment) was about ‘Indian influence in the region’.  And that’s what Modi is mandated to do: retain and enhance influence in the region, among other things’.  So all the stuff about the Tamil Nadu factor, the religious factors and such are just eyewash, useful to justify this or that but hardly relevant in policy making. 

What’s even more pernicious about Hariharan’s ‘analysis’ is that he ignores totally the Indian part of the ‘failure’ he talks about.  India just did not deliver on promises made and inked.  India, then, cannot allude to the 13th Amendment or promises made by President Rajapaksa who, in the final analysis, is just another politician, tiding over tough times with a nice word here and a pledge that’s impossible to keep there.  Hariharan’s all-of-a-sudden ‘principled’ allusion is therefore little better than toilet wash, with the only mitigating factor being acknowledgment that strategic goals override all else.  

There’s more to the man.  He is a retired Indian military intelligence man who served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) a Head of Intelligence no less.  It is now clearly apparent that the IPKF didn’t have a clue about the LTTE and that is a clear result of Hariharan’s incompetence.  So we have an incompetent military man masquerading as a political commentator, providing quotable quotes by gonibilla-conjurers here in Sri Lanka.  How much more funnier can it get, one wonders.

Since we began with allusion to Tamil Nadu, let’s get back there for a moment.  If a Tamil Nadu so strong that there was even talk of a Jayalalithaa premiership could not sway a weak leader like Manmohan Singh, how can a Tamil Nadu that the BJP doesn’t have to worry about at this point make Narendra Modi’s knees go wobbly?  Doesn’t make sense.  But regardless of all that, what’s more important is that Modi, like his predecessors, will think ‘India’ first and Tamil Nadu, if at all, later.  In the end, with respect to policy on Sri Lanka, Modi’s position vis-à-vis the West and China is probably what will frame involvement, intervention or (mis)adventure in Sri Lanka as the case may be. Hariharan’s fantasies, at any rate, are largely that. Fantasies. 

For now, in his victory-moment, let’s wish the man all the very best.  India needs all the luck it can get at this point.  Let’s not begrudge even an iota to the newly elected Prime Minister.  Good luck Mr Modi!  


chamath said...

then, there's the small matter of one country claiming a right to frame the constitution of another, sovereign nation