Visitors time, folks! Look who is coming to town. Barack Obama, ardent believer of the aerial bombarding doctrine in preference to the boots-on-the- ground one of his august predecessors, closely on the heels of Vladimir Putin, great proponent of the take-it-if-you-like-it theory, successfully put to experiment in Georgia and Ukraine. Watch it all on the telly, for you are going to get nowhere near the places of visit by the VVIPs for reasons of security, theirs and, to some extent, yours.
Obama will be in Delhi on 25 and 26 January 2015 as Chief Guest at India's Republic Day celebrations much to the consternation of the Sitaram Yechuris who are lamenting that India would become subservient to the US interests and miss a golden opportunity of becoming a leader of developing countries, by inviting the US President! By making such sound bites, Indian Communist leaders are demonstrating how much they are out of sync with the reality of the current world-wide political situation.
Lord Master and Protector of the Great Russian people, wherever they live on the globe, Putin is descending on the tenth of this month on a two-day visit. In contrast to a war-weary Obama, suffering from a nasty heartburn and diagnosed with acid reflux and therefore unlikely to be plied with dhoklas, theklas and other assorted Gujarati delicacies by his Indian host, Putin is coming with a good appetite, congenial for doing business with India. Putin will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi and is expected to sign a few agreements on investment by ONGC in Russia in the energy sector and direct trade in diamonds and the setting up of a diamond trade hub in Mumbai. He will also address a joint session of the Parliament. India, on its part, has already announced that it will not be a party to Western sanctions, against Russia. The ground rules for the visit have been laid.
PM Modi will have serious and meaningful dialogue with the Russian visitor on matters of mutual interest, including the global threat of terrorism, both within the two countries and their respective neighborhoods. It is noteworthy that both the leaders have strong views on terrorism and the modalities for rooting out the evil.
Both India and Russia have suffered for long by terrorism of the Islamic militants. Putin has gone on record, voicing his downright disapproval of calls for Sharia law in his country. He minced no words when he stated that it was the minorities who needed Russia and not the other way round. He was, therefore, categorical in his declaration that those who wanted Sharia law could go wherever it was practiced, making it more than clear that there was no room for fundamentalists and separatist elements in his country. A meeting ground for Russia's Putin and former PM of Australia, Julia Gillard! India has been, on its part, suffering terrorism silently and fighting it single-handedly. Our political leaders, especially the past ones, and sections of the Media which identify themselves with liberal thinking, have been fighting shy of identifying the root cause of terrorism, namely religious fundamentalism of the Islamic militants, both from across the border and the homegrown. We could, on this count, learn a lesson or two from Putin.
There has recently been uproar in the Indian Parliament and political circles in the country about the language used by Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti against the self-avowed secularists who fail to take cognizance of the Islamic fundamentalism in the context of the forthcoming elections in Delhi. The opposition parties attacked the Minister, made a cause célebrè of her statement and demanded her removal from her post. In their eagerness to vie with each other to claim moral and ethical superiority by demanding the Minister's removal, they conveniently forgot all about the gory glossary of pejoratives from which they had helped themselves, before their ignominious defeat in elections, to a liberal supply of abuses and absurdities to attack Narendra Modi and his party without any qualm. BJP party men and sympathizers have painstakingly prepared a volume of those cuss words topped by, the never-ever-forgettable "Chaiwallah" jibe, to expose the double standards of the opposition leaders who have been united by the singular urge of tarnishing the image of the Modi government.
The mainstream Media has not lagged far behind in the opposition parties' diatribe and has been baying for blood. More than the colorful vocabulary of the Minister, it is the color of her robes which has come in handy for the Media to run her down with. It is bad enough that a Chaiwallah has made it to the CEO's post. What is a Sadhvi who should belong to a Mutt or a Dera in the first place doing in the Council of Ministers? What a shameful state of affairs! Shekhar Gupta recently bemoaned in one of his articles in India Today the fate befallen the liberal thinkers of the country, warning them that a medieval past was upon them and that the barbarians were at the gate! He also rued the difficult times that the liberals had to go through because of the "stupidity of crores of people who voted for the government". Referring to Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti as a junior Minister in charge of "achar and chutney," he put it to Narendra Modi that the Sadhvi be sent away to "prayer and penance" for her colorful language rather than be allowed to remain in the Ministry of Food Processing and waste "public money" and make a pickle of BJP's image in the process.
An impartial observer of the ludicrous events would like to pose the following questions to Shekhar Gupta:What is wrong about being a junior Minister and why dub the lady as in charge of achar and chutney? What is it that he dislikes, the junior Minister or achar and chutney?
What has his doctor advised him to refrain from - achar and chutney, junior ministers or Sadhvis?
Whom was he referring to as barbarians at the gate? Apparently, he considers the Sangh Pariwar as the barbarians and the hordes of IS, Al Qaeda, the Talibans, LeT and other Jehadist elements from across the border as guardians of secularism?
How could he flagrantly call the collective wisdom of crores of people who had voted for the Modi government "stupidity"? Is his brand of Secularism more sacrosanct than democracy and the freedom it bestows on the people to choose a government of their liking? Or does he want to keep the 'unwashed humanity' consisting of Chaiwallahs and their ilk from casting their democratic right of voting?
What would he say was the image of BJP in the eyes of its detractors till now as he was worried it would be made a pickle of by the junior Minister?
How would the continuance of the Sadhvi in her post cause wastage of public money?
Why throw the baby away with the bath water by sidelining the onslaught of the Islamic militants from across the border with the support of the local breed of religious fundamentalists, in the process of castigating the Minister?
If there is no valid answer to any of the above questions, why the questions at all?
In such a hostile atmosphere prevailing at home, with the Opposition parties and Media totally insensitive and indifferent to the very real threat of international terrorism in the name of Islam, the Modi government is in dire need of allies in the big powers like the US and Russia.
Coming back to our VVIP visitors, Obama's position on the threat of Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other Jehadist elements is understandable. Although he is fighting them at the birthplace of the ugly phenomenon, he couldn't be open or very vocal about it because of the inherent constraints and limitations in his country's political system, could he? Let us not forget the fact that he has gone the extra mile by condemning the ongoing acts of terrorism in Kashmir. He will be presented with hard evidence of Pakistan's complicity in these acts, during his forthcoming visit.
One thing that we could be sure about is that terrorism would be discussed at some length by PM Modi with a receptive Putin and an equally understanding Obama. How he weans the two powerful leaders to the common cause of jointly fighting terrorism in the subcontinent, stop IS in its tracks, and stop Chinese military jingoism, without India getting into the dynamics of the US-Russia wrangle over Ukraine is a matter worth the waiting for the observers.
In any case, first things first. Let us unroll the red carpet and chill the champagne, or heat the chai, or whatever, for our friends! Atithi Devo Bhava!