Thursday 07th February 2019 01:37 EST

Rahul Gandhi, unfit to be PM

Politicising religion may yield immediate, inebriating dividends but it is a recipe for a long-term calamity, neither healthy for politics nor religion. For each it is the poisoned chalice. The Supreme Court of India commented, apropos of a case, that it was increasingly difficult for judges to pronounce justice in a fair and fearless manner because of frequent insinuations of advocates in cases with political overtones. judges displayed a bias one way or another.

In a 75-page judgement, Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran said:: ‘Whenever any political matter comes to court and is decided, either way political insinuations are attributed by unscrupulous persons/advocates. Such acts are nothing but an act of denigrating the judiciary itself and destroys the faith of the common man when he reposes in the judicial system..’

Noting the tendency of some advocates to make a beeline to the media from courtrooms, ‘hunger for cheap publicity is increasing,’ said the bench, terming it an anathema to the standards of a noble profession. Noble profession, it may be, but ignoble are many of its practitioners. The Justices again: ‘Statutory rules prohibit advocates from advertising and catering to press/media,’ adding that it had become common practice to report ‘distorted versions of court proceedings.’
The obvious solution should surely be heavy fines for contempt of court. Media bosses would then feel the pinch, and so would the erring advocates. Such parasites, masquerading as honest citizens, would be exposed for what they are - creatures from darkness living off the fat of the land. Respect for the letter and the spirit of the law is the essence of the rule of law, and hence by extension, democracy itself.

Lawyers and media reporters are not the only ones who have a case to answer. Politicians do so too. They often taint social courtesy for cynical ends. Congress President Rahul Gandhi made a courtesy call on Goa Chief Minister, and former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. As Mr Parrikar for long has had health problems, it seemed a gracious gesture. Alas, the Congress leader, true to type, sought to make political capital from the visit; he claimed that Mr Parrikar had alleged that Prime Minister Modi did not consult him on the Rafale aircraft deal with France. L’affaire Rafale was in the spotlight again. Mr Parrikar was aggrieved at Mr Gandhi’s cynical ploy. He wrote him a letter expressing his displeasure, which reads thus: ‘In the five minutes with me, neither did you mention anything about Rafale to me; nor did we discuss anything related to it.’

Reading this correspondence, many a foreign ambassador in New Delhi might do well to caution his country’s prime minister or president on the perils of talking to Mr Gandhi privately. A courtesy call to someone in ill health for political mileage reflects poorly on the caller. Rahul Gandhi-watchers with doubts about his fitness for high office are likely to move from scepticism to unshakeable belief: Mr Gandhi is not fit for purpose. He should not, therefore, be India’s next prime minister.

India’s myriad international challenges

The turbulence in international relations is intensifying by the day, and hence undermines global order.

Developments in one continent reverberate in another. Regime change, like American football is national sport. Senator Albert J. Beveridge in 1900 orated: ‘The Philippines are ours forever...And just beyond the Philippines are China’s illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either. We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient. ...We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race trustees under God, of the civilization of the world.’ His elderly incarnation Senator John McCain was of similar bent of mind, as are today’s US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Trump administration’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton -Jove’s thunderbolt wreaking vengeance on unbelievers in America’s Manifest Destiny. As the Gallic saying goes, (in translation) the more things change the more they remain the same.

Confronted by this maelstrom, India is faced with the daunting challenge of constructing a policy fit for purpose. The first step in the architectonic frame is to safeguard its territorial integrity against jihadi terrorism aided and abetted from across its western border; the second is to withstand the rise of China and its consequential diplomatic and military outreach into India’s neighbourhood and beyond; the third is to maintain relationships with countries that are shaped by geography and history.

M .K. Narayannan, a former intelligence adviser to the Manmohan Singh government wrote recently in the Hindu newspaper, that Indo-Russian ties required a reset button. Whatever for? Because, he argued, Sino-Russian relations had a strategic content. However, it is the height of folly to perceive diplomacy as a zero sum game. Beijing and Moscow are admittedly conjoined by American hostility, but the degree is markedly different in its intensity to each of these powers. President Trump has had two summits with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and may well be on the road to a third, judging by the jubilation of Chinese diplomats at the progress achieved in the trade talks with the United States. There is none of the hysterical opposition to a Trump-Xi summit that characterises talk of a Trump-Putin meeting. China has maintained contacts with both sides in the Venezuelan imbroglio. A deal could well follow with US candidate for President Juan Gaido, a move that would aid Beijing’s standing in Washington.

Russia and China have their distinct national interests. It would do well to recall that India was a major issue in the breakdown of Sino-Soviet relations in the 1960s, and the same differences are very much in evidence still. That said, Russian and Chinese foreign policies, freed from their former ideological and political constraints are far more fluid. The Russian envoy to India, Nicolay Kudashev, in an interview with an an Indian newspaper, referred to India’s multibillion dollar acquisition of Russia’s prized S-400 missile defence system, saying: ‘This would be a valuable contribution to the security of Indian air space, and this is also proof of the special ties between India and Russia.’ The two sides have developed a bilateral banking system for the gradual transfer of payments in national currencies.

Turning to a question on Indo-US ties, the Russian envoy explained that a country of India’s size, power and influence was bound to develop normal relationships, and that India’s ties with the US would not be at the cost of Russia. ‘Our relationship with India is a privileged strategic partnership. We share with India unique confidence. Our relationship with Pakistan is miniscule. Our ties with Pakistan are similar to yours. – we need a government which ... fights terror,, drugs and crime.’

Geopolitics is integral to Indio-Russian ties. Russia is the heart of Eurasia,. India is its fulcrum.

UK-India in shared future

Former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, on a visit to India spoke of a shared future between the two countries in a public address followed by a discussion in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. India would benefit from Brexit if this were to take place. Leaving the European Union would open the door for new trade and investments partnerships with Britain. India was high on the list of prospective partners. Indo-British arrangements towards this goal would be mutual benefit, playing to the strengths of both sides. He described Brixit as a mistake. That said, he noted that, the UK and the EU have a joint interest in a negotiated partnership.’ The threat to globalisation, the rise of great nations, Islamic terrorism and climate change were challenges that would absorb the best energies of countries great and small. Globalisation, he emphasised, had lifted millions of out of poverty. An aid to such measured optimism would surely be an equally measured approach by India on subjects pertaining to Kashmir. The warning that a discussion by Conservative and Labour Friends of Pakistan in Parliament would interference in India’s internal affairs or posed a threat to Indian security is utterly absurd. The meeting of a caucus in a democracy is normal practice and involves neither government nor legislature. Time to grow up.

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