Saturday, August 05, 2017
Sushma Swaraj pours cold water on BJP’s war-mongers in and outside the party
The Minister for External Affairs in her reply in the Rajya Sabha rules out military engagement
Can External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s sober and considered view that war is not an option and that dialogue is to be preferred to deal with China on the Doklam standoff with China in her reply to the short duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday evening silence the right-wing war-mongers among the BJP’s cheer-leaders among the belligerent television news anchors and other China-baiters in the strategic community in the country?
Ms Swaraj would have certainly been hawkish if she had spoken on the issue from the opposition benches. But as minister she would not, which is as it should be. It does show that the BJP despite its nationalist rhetoric when it is not in power accepts the responsibilities and limitation that come with being in office, and it unhesitatingly accepts the self-restraint that one has to necessarily display. As a matter of fact, the opposition parties did not pose much of a challenge to Swaraj and the Narendra Modi government. They did not goad the government to respond militarily. As a matter of fact, Communist Party of India’s D Raja and Swaraj almost spoke in the same language with regard to China, emphasising the growing trade relations between the two Asian giants.
Swaraj read out a written statement on the position of the government on Doklam, and made it clear that the Chinese government had quoted ‘selectively’ from Jawaharlal Nehru’s 1959 letter.
The important underlying theme of Swaraj was that she ruled out military engagement of any kind with China. She reminded that it would be necessary to get back to talks even after a war because war by itself does not offer a solution, and that it is better to engage in talks before hostilities instead of after hostilities. With regard to war preparedness, she said standing armies are a clear indication that every country is always prepared to fight a war, and that it is not necessary to reiterate the issue of preparedness.
The prime spokesman of foreign policy of Modi government has almost spoken like a pacifist, and this should be certainly troubling for the hawks the BJP gallery. But it is clear that Prime Minister Modi and Swaraj are not willing to play to the gallery in this matter, whatever else they may or may not do.
Swaraj has also effectively silenced the government’s critics from the political left on Modi visiting Israel to mark 25 years of India-Israel diplomatic relations early in July. She said that Palestinians welcomed close relations between India and Israel, and pointed out to the irony that it is the Indian supporters of Palestine who are apprehensive about it. To prove her point, she disclosed that when she met Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, he had told her that India should use its good offices in getting the Israel-Palestine talks going. She also pointed out that even in the joint statement issued by Prime Minister Modi and his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, there was a clear indication that the two-state solution and talks are the way forward.
She reiterated in unambiguous language: “We will never let down the Palestinian cause.” This is quite an embarrassment to the pro-Israeli camp in the BJP which in its zeal to counter Islamic terrorism believes that the Zionist state is the best bet, which is daft to say the least. But Swaraj refused to oblige the ignoramuses in the party.
She acknowledged that there were apprehensions when BJP came to power that India would lose out on support in the Arab, Muslim world. She did not take care to explain why this was so, but she proffered evidence to show that this was not the case. She said when more than 4000 Indians were struck in Yemen when hostilities broke out between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, she went to the Prime Minister and asked him to talk to the Saudi Arabian ruler. The Saudi ruler assured Modi that there would be no bombing for two hours every day, and it is for India to talk to the Yemeni authorities to use the window of two hours of lull. Swaraj said that the Yemeni authorities obliged in evacuating Indians in the two-hour daily ceasefire and that Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. V.K.Singh, had personally overseen the evacuation process. Swaraj drove home the point that India had in the process evacuated others belonging to 48 countries. She said this was ample proof that India’s relations with the Arab countries were at their best.
At the start of her reply, she made a smart observation that Jwaharlal Nehru won respect in the world at a personal level, but when Modi is respected it is India that the world is acknowledging. It is a subtle statement which undercuts the personal charisma of Modi while giving full marks to Nehru.
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