Mr. Modi is so comfortably in power that he can ride out the storm ineffectually put up by the opposition and intellectual class over the deplorable remarks of one of his ministers. His comfort levels derive from the three legs to his stool. The first is the one from which springs the minister in question, the Sangh. The second is corporate India and the third is the ‘international community’. Even so, Mr. Modi can be upset, and given the prohibitive prospective cost of this, requires timely warning against.
Over the short term, the corporate India and its middle class is the more critical leg of Mr. Modi’s stool. Mr. Modi is its hatchet man and has played his part thus far admirably. He has rolled back environmental legislation, gone global with his ‘make in India’ campaign, marginalised autarchists, firmed up his fences and in doing so given a boost to the defence sector.
Corporate India awaits Mr. Modi’s bolder roll out of second generation economic reforms that are perhaps wisely pended by him to the next budget. This gives him time enough to firm-in in saddle so that he can then proceed with confidence. This will enable the corporate to get back the investment they have made in him over the past decade, culminating in the rupee imparted ballast to his election campaign. Mr. Modi needs to deliver on their demands in order to be able to fulfil his ideological inclinations.
Arguably, over the longer term it is the ideological agenda of the right wing that carries greater significance for Mr. Modi. For the present, rightist oddballs that embarrass have to be managed. They lent their legs to his campaign as well as generated the polarisation to make of the Hindu vote a bankable vote bank for Mr. Modi. They will have their pound of flesh and therefore the politician in Mr. Modi is unlikely to mess with them. This explains his reticence in the case of the eminently sackable minister in question.
It is the cultural nationalist agenda to which Mr. Modi will turn once his economic agenda is on course. This will not merely keep the Sangh placated but will help keep Mr. Modi in power well into his dotage; besides ensuring his place in history as the one who rolled back a ‘millennium of humiliation’. And well in time for the birth centenary of the RSS that conveniently for his project coincides with 500 years of Babur’s invasion and a 1000 years of Ghazni’s ravaging of Somnath.
Mr. Modi’s stability is enhanced by India being the cynosure of the international community due to its strategic and economic significance. His economic agenda will be supported by global capital and India’s diaspora that has helped him to power for precisely this purpose. The strategic scene is also Modi friendly. Obama is enroute to India since India is important for the containment and balancing of a rising China.
It is also useful to cover the US’ flank as it moves out of the region. Obama would not like another Iraq style return to square one when he pulls out of Afghanistan. Whereas India would have been significant, with or without Mr. Modi, Mr. Modi’s attributes are useful, particularly for the US. Mr. Modi’s Pakistan policy suggests as much. He has put Pakistan on notice and that helps the US cover its tracks as it bails out of Afghanistan. Mr. Modi’s attributes are useful for the US. It is not unhappy in the temporary turn to majoritarian politics in India and its corollary of incipient authoritarian rule. History repeatedly reminds that being a friend of the US is a worse than being its enemy. For China and Russia, India assumes importance owing to his importance to the US. Both want to keep India out of the US firmament.
Since Mr. Modi strides the internal domain unchecked, the seeds of possible upsetting of Mr. Modi’s applecart are in the external domain. His aggressive regional policy has potential to cause unravelling of his two-step strategy: economy followed by socio-cultural engineering. Developments on the Pakistan front are somewhat unsettling, with Pakistan’s national security adviser pronouncing that normalisation is ruled out so long as Mr. Modi is in the chair.
On the China front, India’s proximity to the US is such that it may get the message that India has been unresponsive to its premier’s visit. China could prop up Pakistan, as it has all along, to keep India tied down, just as the US is propping up India to keep China tied down. Given military preparations, including nuclear developments, and a strategic scene set to get ‘interesting’ in the Chinese sense of the word in AfPak and India’s increasing footprint in Afghanistan, there is scope for instability.
The favoured scenario of a mega terror attack being followed up by an Indian Cold Start attack, leading to tactical nuclear use by Pakistan is by now trite. However, India’s aggressive posture, perhaps intended for deterrence, under Mr. Modi, may lead up to its inevitable unfolding in case terrorists wanting to set India back try him. In effect, India’s aggressiveness makes this more likely, even if India’s posture is intended to achieve the opposite.
While Mr. Modi can be expected to outlast this decade on the chair, he needs being warned against relying overly on Pakistan’s good sense, for most part of that state’s life marked by absence.
By Firdaus Ahmed