Ranjit B Rai
Prime Minister Modi has trained with the secretive Hindu RSS over decades as a communicator, and graduated in distant studies. Very little is known of his private life but he enjoys delivering sermons and knows he is a great orator. Difficult to know where he comes from, as he sold tea and rose ! He works with no holidays and has no family living with him.
PM Modi was in Singapore on a three day visit from 31st May after eking out a maritime base in Sabang in Indonesia from President Joko Widodo and meeting PM Mahatir in Malaysia, all for close maritime co-operation as the net security provider(NSP) in the IOR, which irks China, and Indonesia has reservations.
The are no NSP rules and Navy rejected Sri Lanka’s Code of Conduct (COC) for IOR as China sponsored, though five IOR nations supported COC on the ASEAN Model for co-operation. PM Modi lauded ASEAN in Singapore and asked all to emulate, so why not COC ?
India is lucky to have an Ambassadorial PM who takes NSA along and has been seen in 56 countries and enjoys strutting with confidence with a large yoga chest, trained in India’s NCC. His medium height is his only drawback, as he has unbounded energy, eats veggies frugally, does not drink, abhors golf and treats foreign trips like holidays, traveling overnight in the comfort of VIP planes and very soon in swanky two fitted out Air India Boeing 777s equipped for PM, President and Vice President. May be NSA and RM, will use them as it just needs an Under Office Note(UO Note) from PMO.
No wonder there are no takers for loss making and over employed Air India. IDF feels a favourite of the Government will take it over like ONGC took over loss making oil units in Gujarat. It put ONGC in the red. This is a new way of ‘no corruption’ but reeks of a Presidential Governance to short circuit deals like hopes of military deals offered to Anil Ambani for Dassault and Adani for Gripen.
No wonder many Indians feel institutions are being controlled RSS to also propagate Hindu scriptures and Hindutva whatever it means! But IDF admits India is prospering with the Modi –Shah—RSS Danda. So Modi’s way is working. Service chiefs are now globe trotters, and India’s stock is high, but defence budget is down.
The rich and middle class Indians and politicians have become richer and are on a roll ! India’s poor, farmers and non digital folks need support or will be left behind. That has brought in unrest as elections near every where.
PM Modi is at his histrionic best in Hindi and Gujarati and can deride his opposition and charm crowds with few words of regional language, and delivers English with superb modulation and brilliantly makes speeches, written by speech writers whose names are not public.
It is known India’s High Commissioner in Singapore Jawed Ashraf wrote some brilliant speeches while he was in PMO for PMs, including Modi in his inaugural days. Ashraf’s colleagues from St Stephen’s rate him high and he arranged PM’s land mark visit to Singapore, coinciding with India’s 25th SIMBEX and 15th Shangri La Dialogue. It will go down as a land mark event in the East for Security Politics and maritime race as all nations in the East are buying arms. Pakistan is getting ships subs and planes from China and Turkey. Bangla Desh has ordered 5 MI-17sh and 8 SU-30SME and ships and submarines from China and Russia, and Indonesia is getting SU-35s from Russia and submarines from Korea and Vietnam ships and submarines from Russia.
Singapore military too is strong and PM Modi called it India’s strongest military partner and gave a sermon of how the world should behave at two fora in Singapore, hinting at India’s achievements with praise for ASEAN but hinted at strategic autonomy.
The world knows India has an agile professional Navy and Modi in his time has succeeded in forming a ring at sea to challenge China’s String of Pearls with open OTR ports at Changi in Singapore that Modi recently visited, Duqm in Oman, Sabang in Indonesia and Mauritius. Soon bases are expected to come up on Assumption Island in Seychelles and Na Thrang in Vietnam.
With Diego Garcia and Bahrain, USA needs India to join the QUAD in a NATO type military pact to act jointly, co-operate and tame and contain China, and throttle its economy. It is too late for that IDF feels, and India may be a reluctant partner as PM Modi talked more of the need for India and China to co-operate, whilst acknowledging USA’s role. USA has not ratified UNCLOS but wants Freedom of Navigation (FON), that PM Modi spoke about and emphasized India’s “Act East” policy of stepped-up activity with the ASEAN region, and highlighted India’s work.
USA has abruptly kicked China’s PLA (Navy) out of the large prestigious RIMPAC exercise where Indian Navy has presence, instead of asking China to opt out. No Chinese likes loosing face….Mark these words from IDF.
So it was, that Modi the nattily dressed Indian orator PM who delivered the Key Note Speech at the 15th Shangri La dialogue dinner reception on 1st June in Singapore. He was flanked by IISS’s head John Chipman a famed researcher, PM Brigadier Lee Soon Long who one saw in the Army in Singapore and was a close friend of IDF’s predecessor India’s DA there Koithara, and US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who knows how powerful US military is. Deputy PM Adm Teo Chee Hean who has steered Singapore India military co-operation was not seen.
IDF feels Mattis has still to understand India and it’s ‘Strategic Autonomy’, and how India changes courses with changes in Governments but autonomy continues. Yet USA believes it has ringed India in to the renamed Indo Pacific Command net where Indian military officers will be posted. USA’s Congress has made India its most favoured Strategic Defence Partner.
India for USA, is like a fish in its Jaal (Net) in the East with $ 15 billion of latest US military hardware and some $ 5 bill from Israel which was planned in Foggy Bottom and Pentagon years ago to wean India away from Russian weaponry under the guise of Inter-Operability.
Now India may have to seek exemptions from CAASTA to deal with Iran for oil and to buy S-400 AA Triumf missiles, 226 LUH helicopters, Su-30MKIs and 4 Gregorovich Krivacks and nuclear submarines and spares and nuclear plants from Russia, both nations being under sanctions. IDF analysis is PM Modi knows the challenge ahead and tried to mellow matters at Shagri La.
PM Modi must have noted that Mattis had called China a predator and coercer, without naming it in India’s connection, so PM Modi tailored his speech to speak of India China combine for world peace and talked of co-operation, openness, heritage of India’s links with the East and Samwad…….Dialogue and Shanti …peace. At times it looked like a sermon in the School of Divinity as PM Modi wants a balancing foreign policy, only few understand but all in Government do and follow.
USA is at logger heads with China. The South China Sea islands have been captured and armed by China and India Pakistan are hitting out at each other on India’s borders, despite cease fires. . China is bent on CPEC, BRI, MSR and joining the Security Architecture of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with Pakistan. It was USA’s Robert Gates who trapped PM Manmohan Singh to announce India as Net Security Provider in the IOR and PM Modi is demanding so many in power have thrown in the towel with no discussion.
Mattis chided and challenged China at Shangri La in his 2 nd June address to Defence Ministers and IDF did not see RM Sithraman there. PM may have raised CAASTA with Mattis so India and Indian Navy’s work is cut out to contain China( ??). Navy’s force levels needs boosting.
With trade wars, CAASTA, Kashmir Cease Fires and local unrest in hands of India’s DGMO and Home Ministry with separate commands IDF sees China will try to take advantage of the isolation of Iran and Russia and India will have to think through these troubling waters as elections may or may not take place in Pakistan but will keep PM Modi one man show busy…Shan No Varuna.