India caught in US-EU-Russia web – European variation

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Editorial in the  Hindu,   JUNE 05, 2017 – UPDATED: JUNE 05, 2017 00:14 IST

With global politics in a flux, India must make a careful choice of coalitions it forges.

James kottoor(Note: In politics there are no permanent friends or foes, only permanent interests, it is said. In the case of a Prime Minister of a Country, the assumption is, his interest should be his country’s interest, but how far and no further? Should it mean: My country right or wrong, I will support it? Some do it; Trump of US may be an example. They are Politicians. But a rare species of PMs don’t do it; they stand up for truth or wriggle out of awkward situations through silence or smart replies. They are statesmen!

In the present prolonged world tour of Modi, he has thrown himself into a motley crowd of top world leaders who are influenced by or caught in  a three fold conflicting world views and ideologies: 1.The EU ideology of globalism and open collaboration possible with all countries; 2. The US-Brexit vision-group driven by one’s own national interest and opposition to foreigners and immigrants; 3. Russia’s Putin-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, seen as a counter-NATO coalition of Russia, China and Central Asian states.

Germany’s Merkel, Russia’s Putin and US’ Trump pull him in three different directions. Modi needs them all. He cannot frown upon any.  In this context how is he going to pull off and establish good working relationships with these leaders while others like US, UK  and China are watching closely? The answer is: through ‘diplomacy’ and what is diplomacy? It is “the art of firing non-stop, even when you are out of all ammunition,” according to a wise crack.

Modi usually resort to “silence” or pretend to be “deaf” at home, when awkward questions are asked and silence is often taken as sign of approval, or as a cover of fear not to express one’s opposition openly. The choices are many. Only when Modi has returned to India and heard from critics and observers how he fared, we can say, if and to what extend Modi has risen as a top politician, diplomat or statesman. james kottoor, editor)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Germany, Spain, Russia and France brings into sharp focus the shared dilemma India and Europe face with America’s shifting policies, and the resultant flux on the world stage.

Mr. Modi’s first stop in Germany came a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s strong comments aimed at President Donald Trump, that Europe could no longer ‘depend’ on traditional partners. Europe’s disappointment with Mr. Trump at the G-7 and NATO summits was three-fold: his refusal to reaffirm NATO’s Article 5 on ‘collective defence’; his warning on the trade deficit with Europe; and his expected decision to pull America out of commitments in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

For the past few months India has faced a similar disappointment as the U.S. has forged closer ties with China, indicating what Mr. Modi called a loosening of the world order, while the U.S. has targeted Indian professionals and businesses to protect American jobs.

Another blow came from Mr. Trump’s comments on the Paris Accord when he blamed India and China for what he called an unfair deal. Mr. Modi’s meetings with Ms. Merkel and subsequently Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and French President Emmanuel Macron saw those issues raised one way or another, as they tried to explore new ways to cooperate on multilateral issues, including terror, trade and climate change.

In particular, Mr. Modi’s assurance in Berlin that the suspended India-EU free trade talks for the Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement would resume soon has raised the hope that progress will be made before the EU-India summit in Delhi this year.

However, while the EU and India have a clear convergence in many areas, a dependable alliance can only come from a concurrent worldview. It cannot be ignored, for example, that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Berlin and Brussels, also last week, saw the EU repose much more faith in Beijing than New Delhi would be comfortable with, given the current Sino-Indian tensions.

European leaders praised President Xi Jinping’s leadership on connectivity and climate change. Europe perceives its single largest threat to be from Moscow, not Beijing. Mr. Modi’s attendance at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to unveil a new India-Russia vision statement for the 21st century along with President Vladimir Putin could cause similar discomfort in European capitals.

This divergent worldview may be further highlighted this week as Mr. Modi travels to Kazakhstan to formalise India’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, seen as a counter-NATO coalition of Russia, China and Central Asian states.

Standing at a crossroads few had expected at this stage, India will have to consider its options carefully as it decides which coalitions to forge as the U.S. overturns traditional ties in favour of transactionalism.

The Centre must undertake a full review of India’s priorities and interests before Mr. Modi heads to Washington for a meeting with Mr. Trump at the end of June.

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