News You Really Need To See: “Across the Himalayas”

“Across the Himalayas”

The Economist, June 14-20, 2014, p.38

“Gloomy foreign-policy analysts in Beijing look at Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, and see a subcontinental version of his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe.  Two right-wing nationalists, elected on platforms of restoring economic growth and national pride, both need to act tough in their countries’ territorial disputes with China.  Mr Abe’s tenure has marked a nadir in China’s relations with one big neighbour; so Mr Modi’s victory does not look good for China, either.  That is one view.  But other Chinese thinkers are cheerier, applauding an apparently chummy meeting this week in Delhi between Mr Modi and China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi.  Writing in the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, Liu Zongyi, of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, even predicted that Mr Modi is less likely to be ‘India’s Abe’ than its ‘Nixon’—a right-wing leader who overcomes distrust to transform relations with China. … China’s leaders were not invited to Mr Modi’s inauguration last month.  But in a front seat was Lobsang Sangay, formal head of the exiled Tibetan government-in-exile, which is based in India, is loyal to the Dalai Lama and reviled by China as splittist. … Moreover, as if to confirm his ideological kinship with Mr Abe, Mr Modi has announced that he will visit him in Tokyo on his first important foreign trip in office.   Mr Abe has recently been suggesting that Japan needs to play a bigger role in regional security, and hinting at the beginnings of what looks like an anti-China front.  He has made no secret of his admiration for Mr Modi—drawing attention, for example, to his Twitter account.  He ‘follows’ only three people: his wife; a conservative writer and politician; and Mr Modi. … Economic competition does not preclude political co-operation, nor Mr Modi’s turning out to be India’s Nixon.  He has two advantages over his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, in dealing with China.  One is his reputation as a hardline defender of Indian rights—in contrast to Mr Singh, who was mocked by opponents as a mild-mannered weakling.  The second is that his Bharatiya Janata Party has less reason to be traumatised by the humiliation India suffered in 1962, when Congress was in power. … But reaching a formal settlement with China is probably a long way down his list of priorities.  Neither India’s Abe nor its Nixon, as far as relations with China are concerned, the new prime minister may turn out to be that now rather unfairly despised creature, Manmohan Singh, mark 2—setting aside an ambitious political settlement in favour of an incremental improvement in commercial ties.”

Quickie Analysis:  An excellent and thorough analysis of new Indian PM Narendra Modi’s likely foreign policy outlook.

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