1. Sikkim standoff: Narendra Modi as PM of India, needs to put national interest ahead of BJP’s interests

Sikkim standoff: Narendra Modi as PM of India, needs to put national interest ahead of BJP’s interests

The depressing drumbeat of bad news from Jammu and Kashmir and Bhutan's Doklam plateau may or may not be a consequence of the policies or actions of Narendra Modi's government.

By: | Published: July 27, 2017 2:55 PM
Doklam, Sikkim, Sikkim issue, Sikkim standoff, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, national interest, BJP's interests, Jammu and Kashmir, Bhutan's Doklam plateau, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bhutan territory Yet it should serve as a wake-up call for the governing BJP, which seems blithely oblivious to India’s external and internal security vulnerabilities. (Credit: Google Map)

The depressing drumbeat of bad news from Jammu and Kashmir and Bhutan’s Doklam plateau may or may not be a consequence of the policies or actions of Narendra Modi’s government. Yet it should serve as a wake-up call for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which seems blithely oblivious to India’s external and internal security vulnerabilities as it single-mindedly pursues its implicit goal of Hindu nationalist domination of the political landscape. Take the standoff in Doklam. On the face of it, the Chinese decision to build a road through the disputed Bhutan territory — the “routine affair of a sovereign nation”, according to Beijing — is a challenge India could not have planned for. While flare-ups along the northeastern border are nothing new, the primary lesson of the 1962 war for India has been to avoid giving China any pretext to inflict yet another defeat.

It is also an indisputable fact that there was no serious Indian provocation in the run-up to the Doklam stand-off, unless its refusal to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative or attend the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May could be considered one. The question thus arises as to whether renewed religious and political tensions in India emboldened China to size up its rival on the picturesque meadows of the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction area.

With the level of violence confronting the army and paramilitary forces rising in Jammu and Kashmir, both along the Line of Control and in the Valley, the temptation for China to stir things up must have been strong, well before Indian troops crossed into Doklam on June 16 and physically blocked Chinese road-construction activity there. What possibly added to the temptation was the spectre of ferment conjured up by the rash of attacks on Muslims by cow-protection vigilantes and mobs, events that have projected a picture of instability and lawlessness which in turn has been magnified by social media and the international media.

The alarming news headlines would hardly have gone unnoticed in the corridors of power in Beijing, ever watchful of opportunities to pursue the “recovery” of territories it believes China lost to Western or Japanese imperialism. The government of Xi Jinping is, of course, scarcely a paragon of peaceful accommodation with China’s Muslim and Buddhist minorities, respectively, in Xinjiang and Tibet. Even so, the perception that the Modi government is inimical to minority rights serves the interests of China (and ally Pakistan) by virtue of its potential for exacerbating India’s religious and societal cleavages.

Against this background, Bhutan, which acts as a buffer between China and India’s Siliguri Corridor, may have provided the perfect location for a major power to wage a phony war on a rising but weaker rival without actually starting a confrontation. Whether or not this was the strategic calculation of the People’s Liberation Army is hard to ascertain, but what is clear is that the conditions for a little military experiment were conducive, to say the least.

To its credit, the Modi government has of late taken a number of administrative and legislative steps that are likely to prove economically beneficial in the long term. It is also courting foreign investors and technology companies, encouraging import substitution in the defence sector and promoting skill development and entrepreneurship to tackle youth unemployment. Where the government is falling short is in its understanding of the possible strategic repercussions of its narrow Hindu nationalist agenda and its attempts to control the message.

With everyone from regional politicians and police officers to army chiefs and TV news anchors trying to jump onto the bandwagon of hypernationalism, sound judgement and constructive criticism are being drowned out by the din of competitive patriotism on critical issues ranging from Kashmiri youths’ alienation to mob lynchings. Public discourse in India may be inexorably on an insular and inward-looking trajectory but, alas, in the age of Twitter, social videos and Facebook, what happens inside the country does not stay inside the country.

Furthermore, South Asia continues to be a rough neighbourhood where both state and non-state actors are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to stir up trouble. Going forward, India’s political parties, be they ruling or opposition, need to be disabused of the notion that they enjoy unfettered rights but no responsibilities in their pursuit of domestic popularity and power.

For his part, Modi, as the Prime Minister, needs to put — in words, deeds and tweets — the national interest ahead of the BJP’s interests, regardless of the exigencies of electoral politics. If the Doklam crisis ultimately succeeds in firing a warning shot across the bows of India’s armchair Hindu nationalist warriors, then it will have been a salutary lesson for them: Identity politics and polarising rhetoric may make them feel stronger, but they leave the nation weaker and vulnerable.

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  1. S
    Jul 27, 2017 at 5:36 pm
    Hindu Nationalism will continue and reach pinnacle. If you have a problem, you may shift your paper to China.
    1. S
      Jul 27, 2017 at 5:22 pm
      How much was paid?
      1. Bhaskar Datta
        Jul 27, 2017 at 5:10 pm
        The writer's perception about stray incidents concerning cow vigilante groups is wrong. Some stray incidents have taken place. These stray incidents don't represent the mood of the country. Also, there is nothing wrong in being patriotic. No country can progress without patriotic fervour. The author is absolutely confused. Modi government is trying it's level best to get rid of all the ills plaguing this country. No one should his intentions. On the contrary, we should get rid of Quislings like Rahul Gandhi and his folks.
        1. H
          Jul 27, 2017 at 5:08 pm
          1. a
            Jul 27, 2017 at 4:52 pm
            1. K
              Kunal Dutta
              Jul 27, 2017 at 4:48 pm
              Article writer doesn't seem to have the courage to put his/her name behind the article. Yet for making a comment, I need to share my email, facebook, or googleplus ids!
              1. Kumar S
                Jul 27, 2017 at 4:47 pm
                On further thought, I would say, FE should delete this article and ensure greater watch on what it publishes.
                1. R
                  Jul 27, 2017 at 4:44 pm
                  The writer is biased against India, indian Interest and Hindus. Such types of writers and newspapers should not be allowed to work at all. In the name of free speech, treason being committed. One more thing why don't you publish the name of writer, everyone must know who this biased person is.
                  1. Kumar S
                    Jul 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm
                    What a pusillanimous -- and pointless -- article is this. Just what was it trying to argue ? Don't fight with a bigger power ? I did think at the outset, seeing the map upfront, that the writer had some sonud logic to state, possibly in regard to the map, the positioning of Doklam, the relevance or irrelevance of Doklam, etc. But nothing of that sort. It's all about step back, step back, keep national interest as priority. This is completely purposeless -- unless it was paid for in yuan. At a time like this editors need to be very careful about what they publish. A contrarian piece, questioning the government's stance is certainly welcome, if backed by sound logic and facts. This piece is zero on that.
                    1. G
                      George Augustine
                      Jul 27, 2017 at 4:17 pm
                      What the kind of article is this? Have our sold out media stooped to this low a level? Pathetic!
                      1. S
                        Jul 27, 2017 at 4:16 pm
                        I wished our media attacked the chinese as much their state media does on us.
                        1. G
                          Jul 27, 2017 at 4:14 pm
                          Who ISCN? fattu fat gayi kya teri? Dont you see that China is creating menace every neighbors. Its geographicaly encircling India. Pakistan Sri Lanka nepal Bangladesh Malaysia dying under debts and china is taking taking over them and you are advocating joining OBOR? . FE dont provide space for such ediate authors
                          1. Sai Ram
                            Jul 27, 2017 at 4:13 pm
                            meaningless article. Why do you drag BJP into a national issue? Don't politicize everything and divide the nation
                            1. A
                              Ashok Agrawal
                              Jul 27, 2017 at 4:09 pm
                              National interest sa uards hinge crucially on promoting true brotherhood amongst different communities as against seudo secularism.It also calls for tirelessly strengthening country's military economic prowess. Above all,leadership need to articulate a clear policy on border areas that can never be alienated at any cost.
                              1. X
                                Jul 27, 2017 at 4:06 pm
                                who is the author of this article and what are the ulterior motives behind this?
                                1. Pradip Khajanchi
                                  Jul 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm
                                  It is responsibility of China to satisfy of it's dream projects Nuclear treath free world is demand not only India but most of the world, do more on North Korea, then treatend smaller nation Like India???
                                  1. D
                                    Jul 27, 2017 at 4:00 pm
                                    Congratulations to the author..you have just received a prearranged cheque from the Chinese government. Please check your account.
                                    1. S
                                      S. Pandiaraj
                                      Jul 27, 2017 at 3:57 pm
                                      Very well said that BJP should concentrate more on national interests rather than BJP's interests. Also, no one can fail to appreciate the phrase that iden y politics and polarising rhetoric could leave the nation weaker and vulnerable.
                                      1. tiger singh
                                        Jul 27, 2017 at 3:56 pm
                                        Utter nonsense. "What possibly added to the temptation was the spectre of ferment conjured up by the rash of attacks..." A Chinese misadventure can only divert attention from internal drama. This is too much "original thinking" by the writer. Please don't just write for the sake of defaming your own government. Show some logical and intelligent thinking behind the writeup.
                                        1. T
                                          Jul 27, 2017 at 3:50 pm
                                          Is this the most stupid article I have read off late? Basically the writers want India to submit to China.Utterly stupid, and no links or proofs whatsoever to the so called hindutva agenda, but they just want to insert these keywords everywhere for the sake of it.
                                          1. A
                                            Jul 27, 2017 at 3:45 pm
                                            foolish article
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