PM Modi wants to marginalise Pakistan, or does he?

By saluting ISRO scientists for the launch of GSLV, the PM is acknowledging the secret space cooperation between India and Russia 24 years ago

Written by Jyoti Malhotra | Updated: June 6, 2017 5:12 pm
pm modi, bjp govt, nda govt, indian express PM Narendra believes that BIMSTEC, instead of SAARC is India’s natural habitat. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his greetings to BIMSTEC nations — an acronym for the mouthful that is the “Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation – on the 20th anniversary of its founding on June 6, following it up by another tweet which said, “BIMSTEC is a natural platform for regional cooperation.”

There’s a message there for anyone who cares to look beyond 140 characters. With BIMSTEC centred around the Bay of Bengal, which links South Asia to South-East Asia – which is why leaders of Bangladesh and Thailand and Sri Lanka and others marginalised it – the truth is that Modi wants to marginalise Pakistan.

The prime minister believes that BIMSTEC, instead of SAARC, the South Asia grouping which has been around for 31 years, is India’s natural habitat. Pakistan is too heavy a ball and a chain intent on dragging India down. The only way to allow India to bloom is by getting out of the region and allying itself with the South-East Asian Tigers.

But this gives rise to the big question : Why did External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday (June 5) emphatically rule out a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Astana, Kazakhstan, on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on June 8-9?

It is clear that Modi doesn’t like to be boxed into a position, one way or another. On the face of it, the PM has insisted that terror and talks cannot go together – as Sushma Swaraj pointed out again and again – but on the other hand, the trip by businessman Sajjan Jindal, along with two other NRIs, Suket Singhal and Virander Babar Singh, to meet Nawaz Sharif in the Pakistani hill town of Murree in April, indicates that the PM is trying to probe whether a back-channel with Pakistan is possible at all.

The fact is, Modi and Nawaz Sharif will be face to face at Astana, on the high table, along with other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. There is no way that an Indian prime minister can bring a regional fight to an international conference. Modi will have to deal with this new responsibility in his own inimitable way.

Over the last three years, the PM has tried to expand his world view, both literally and figuratively – as exemplified by two engagements on the same day as Sushma Swaraj spoke — with the Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth (SPIC-MACAY) and the GSLV space launch.

At a video-conference felicitating SPIC-MACAY’s 40th anniversary yesterday, a veritable journey over the last four decades expanding the appreciation of Indian music and the arts in every nook and cranny of the country, Modi spoke with feeling.

Music is not only about ‘shasan,’ rules, but also about ‘anushasan,’ about discipline, Modi said. For the world, music is an art, but for Indians, it is linked to the “guru-shishya parampara,” the inculcation of an art until it fills the fibre of your being.

Whether folk, classical or film, Modi went on to add, music has bound the country into one ‘swar’, one note, and persuaded us to live together…But we cannot be forgetful or reckless about our heritage. We have to be alert every second to prevent someone else from destroying it, he added.

But the PM couldn’t resist introducing his politics into an otherwise other-worldly subject. On October 31, which is the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, he said, we will launch the programme of “Ek Bharat/Shreshtha Bharat’.

There was not one word about the fact that October 31 is also the death anniversary of one of India’s greatest leaders, Indira Gandhi. In Modi’s scheme of things, there is clearly not much space for her.

As for his congratulations to ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organisation, for underlining India’s very special position in the unique club of space powers by launching the GSLV- Mark III, the PM tweeted, “the nation is proud !”

Hereby hangs a tale, as old as 1993, when then US president Bill Clinton pressed then Russian president Boris Yeltsin to cancel Russian space agency, Glavkosmos’ cooperation with ISRO, on the transfer of technology and cryogenic engines.

Under pressure from the US, the Russians invoked the “force majeure” clause and cancelled the contract with ISRO. But behind the purdah and out of sight of their own leadership, Russian scientists worked hard to give ISRO the requisite space technology, in total secret.

Trunk fulls of documents were taken in diplomatic bags from Moscow to Delhi in the dead of night…That’s a story that has hardly ever been written about, even 24 years later.

As the GSLV, powered by a cryogenic engine, breaks new frontiers in space, a small salute to those ISRO and Glavkosmos scientists is in order. With his tweet, the PM led from the front.

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    Pravin B. Ravi
    Jun 6, 2017 at 11:44 pm
    Ms. Jyothi Malhotra needs to do some research. "As the GSLV, powered by a cryogenic engine, breaks new frontiers in space, a small salute to those ISRO and Glavkosmos scientists is in order." This is not true, we were denied this technology by Russia, which put our space program behind by 30 years. If Russia did indeed help us covertly, then will it take 30years for our brilliant deligent ISRO scientists to 'reverse engineer'? This question begs an answer. This is poor journalism.
    Reply
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      l s
      Jun 6, 2017 at 8:06 pm
      Anti-Indian author, nothing else. Could be China and stan supporter.
      Reply
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        Abhishek Bharti
        Jun 6, 2017 at 7:34 pm
        What exactly does the writer want to say
        Reply
        1. K
          Kamal Pasha
          Jun 6, 2017 at 8:52 pm
          Abhishek Bharti : This article is for those who care for the country and not for the supporters of hugging PM/BJP.
          Reply
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            Abhishek Bharti
            Jun 7, 2017 at 5:38 am
            That was uncalled for
        2. M
          manu
          Jun 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm
          Please make up your mind! what do you want to talk about India-Pak relations or ISRO launch or Indira his death aniversary !
          Reply
          1. ಮನೋಜ್
            Jun 6, 2017 at 6:33 pm
            Journalists are there any corroborating evidence, independently verified by the journalist regarding the sacks of papers in deplomatic mail?...if this is the quality of journalism of this paper, then all articles on free press in india sounds very shallow.
            Reply
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              Madhukar Nikam
              Jun 6, 2017 at 5:27 pm
              Jyoti Malhotra seems to know more than others....however, I take it with sackful of salt, she is essentially running down the indeginious program and to say it she added India stan and the bay of bengal region......strange are the ways of journalists...who says there is no freedom of speech ...perhaps its in excess
              Reply
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