By Sushil Kutty
China once again came in the way of designating JeM terror boss Masood Azhar a global terrorist in the United Nation’s list and political parties in India have reacted. Two tweets from Congress leaders put the country’s main opposition party’s view on the global community’s failure to convince China in perspective. One from party spokesman Randeep Surjewala, which he tweeted within minutes of the news breaking, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China policy has been a “series of diplomatic disasters” and the other from Congress President Rahul Gandhi who said that “Modi is scared of Xi Jinping.”
While Surjewala’s reaction is measured and mostly to the point, Rahul Gandhi’s tweet can be construed as the outburst of a juvenile, gleeful and celebratory. Whoever is managing Rahul Gandhi’s twitter account, punching in the 140 letters, surely cannot tell his boss to hold his horses but there are other top leaders who can and should. As part of political rhetoric at a time of a looming general election, Rahul Gandhi’s reaction is perhaps pat and will be consumed and applauded by the Congress base. Quite a lot of the fence-sitters will also look at it as Modi’s personal failure.
But Rahul Gandhi’s tweet will reverberate across the border, in Pakistan. That is dangerous and not good for the Congress. Pakistan harbours Azhar Masood and Pakistanis are taking an unduly keen interest in the Indian general elections. Pakistanis are rooting for the Congress and would love nothing better to see than Narendra Modi and the BJP sent to the cleaners by the Indian electorate. Under such circumstances, the Congress should not be seen standing with Pakistanis and the Pakistan establishment. An under attack BJP has already pointed this out in its reaction to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet.
The Congress should have left it with Surjewala’s tweet, which squarely put the onus on India’s series of diplomatic failure in taking China head-on on various issues under Modi’s watch, from Doklam to the yawning trade deficit to sourcing material from China for manufacturing bullet-proof jackets for the Indian Army. The Congress should have refrained from reacting like AIMIM leader Asauddin Owaisi, who calls the latest China blockade on Azhar’s dubious designation a failure of Modi’s ‘Jhoola Diplomacy’, referring to Modi and Xi Jinping sharing a swing on the banks of a Gujarat river.
The Congress is already taking a lot of flak on its perceived and alleged sympathies lying with Pakistan on the Balakote strikes. This is another opportunity for BJP and Modi to buttress that impression. “National” and “anti-national” have become an issue in these elections and media supporting Modi have taken distributing “national and anti-national certificates” to citizens and political leaders alike to absurd lengths. The Congress party’s “celebratory” tone and tenor at China blocking India’s move to block Azhar Masood will be seen as “anti-national” at this juncture in time and, unfortunately, the allegation will stick in these times of rabid patriotism.
Pitted against a “hurting BJP”, a “celebratory Congress” is not what the Congress should want at this point in time. Let’s not forget India and China are not friends. If anything, China is seen as the bigger enemy than Pakistan by Indians at large. China has occupied Aksai chin and runs its trucks on the Karakoram “highway”, which India claims title to. And who can forget 1962, the ultimate example of Chinese perfidy and duplicity. It is widely known that India’s nukes are pointed towards Beijing and other Chinese cities and China harbours a certain fixed hatred for India, which is the only country that has refused to join Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative, something which Xi hasn’t forgotten.
Then, of course, there is the CPEC, in which China is hugely invested in, which runs through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and passes by Gilgit-Baltistan, both territories claimed by India. China’s inroads into POK and Pakistan are both for economic and strategic reasons and China, which keeps Chinese Muslims under a tight leash, labelling a big group of them as “terrorists”, is apprehensive that declaring Azhar Masood a global terrorist could result in the JeM targeting the CPEC with terrorist strikes. The Congress, when seen in a “celebratory mood at China’s success” at the expense of India, is taking a risk, which it should not, not if it wants Modi on the mat.
This is the fourth or fifth time, China has put its lot behind Azhar Masood and Pakistan. When it did it in 2009, Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister. Besides, this time, the initiative to designate Masood a global terrorist was taken by France and the United States, a total of 14 countries, so if anybody has “failed”, it’s the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council, France, USA, UK, maybe even Russia. China stood with India on Pulwama and the Balakote strikes but not on Azhar. That is not because Azhar is Xi Jinping’s favourite son but because China’s national interest lies in following that line of diplomacy.
Social media is the common man’s media and tweets are light and fluffy as much as they are positive and negative, poisonous and uplifting. Rahul Gandhi’s “Modi is scared” tweet opens him to the charge of being juvenile and childish, which can be taken advantage of by his rivals. Sometimes leaving the crass and cr*p to “juniors” is far better than jumping into the mud-pit for a slugfest. Shashi Tharoor is far more and nuanced and grown-up when he says that “fingers should be pointed at China for supporting a global terrorist against the sentiments of the entire global community” even while not forgetting that Modi’s “Wuhan Spirit” has all but evaporated. At least on that score Modi is living in delusion and his China policy is a series of disasters, a net failure. (IPA Service)