PRIME Minister Modi has given pride of place to MPs from the Hindi-speaking states in the Union Council of Ministers. This was because of the fact that the bulk of the MPs elected from the BJP were from the Hindi-speaking states. In 1977, these states overwhelmingly voted against the Congress Party led by Indira Gandhi. The second PM from the Nehru family (and India’s only woman Prime Minister) was the role model for Sonia Gandhi, who recently handed over the Presidentship of the Congress Party to her only son, Rahul Gandhi. In 2014, she followed in the footsteps of Indira Gandhi in a manner that was hardly welcome, which was to witness the Hindi-speaking states vote overwhelmingly against her party, exactly as they had in 1977.
Morarji Desai, who was chosen as Prime Minister by the ideologue of the anti-Indira movement, Jayaprakash Narayan, could not last three years in the job, although his overall performance on the job was superb. Economic growth got boosted and inflation reduced, but such successes had little effect on leaders such as Charan Singh, who every day was scheming to take over Desai’s job. Finally, a palace coup fuelled by MPs from the Hindi belt forced Desai to quit, thereby resulting in political instability until Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao managed to win over enough MPs to ensure a majority for his 1992-96 government. Although Rao came to office because of the support extended by Sonia Gandhi, she very soon turned against him, encouraged by those within the Congress Party who hated Rao, such as Arjun Singh and N D Tiwari, both from the Hindi belt. They formed a breakaway party with Sonia Gandhi’s not very hidden blessings, a development that caused the Congress Party to be defeated in 1996. These anti-Rao politicians were completely opposed to Narasimha Rao’s economic reforms, and it must be assumed that their hostility to economic reform was shared by Sonia Gandhi, else why would she have supported them in their revolt against Rao, albeit behind the scenes?
Modi chose Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh as his constituency, letting go of Vadodara in Gujarat. And from May 26, 2014 onwards, he and BJP President Amit Shah have sought to champion Hindi over English. More than in any previous government, the use of English in government has diminished while that of Hindi has grown. As a consequence, most of the top posts in the administrative structure have gone to Hindi-speaking bureaucrats. Modi uses Hindi (and Gujarati) as the medium through which he conducts the administration, and this places a handicap on officers from East and South India, few of whom are proficient in Hindi, the favourite language of such giants of Indian politics as Mahatma Gandhi and Ram Manohar Lohia. Standards have been tweaked in examinations and selection boards so as to make it easier for Hindi-speaking candidates to do even better than they have in the past.
And although there is a rising demand among the poor to be taught English, the language has been discouraged in an effort to speed up the use of Hindi. Several schemes have been announced for Hindi-speaking states, given the fact that it is crucial for the BJP to secure a good performance in these states in the 2019 Parliamentary polls. Interestingly, from being portrayed as “pro-business” while he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi is now being seen as a “friend of the poor”. His rhetoric has ceased to be business friendly, and has instead been filled with warnings that business persons will come under the scrutiny of the investigative authorities. The Income-tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate (ED),the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and other police orga nisations are these days as powerful as they were during the period when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister.
Modi secured for his party a majority in the 2014 polls because of the overwhelming support he received from the middle class, which in India comprises over 200 million. They voted for Modi in the expectation that he would lower taxes and regulations. Instead, donning his “friend of the poor” avatar, Prime Minister Modi has increased taxes in each of the budgets that have been presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who along with BJP President Amit Shah forms the inner ring of Team Modi. Far from taking action against members of the Union Council of Ministers under Manmohan Singh, Modi has spared them. A couple of days ago, a CBI court found Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi Maran not guilty in a case that had been brought against them of misusing state telecom network for personal gain. Some months previously, entire set of those accused of corruption in 2G telecom scandal were similarly found to be free of guilty by another CBI court.
The Modi government has in effect given its predecessors a clean chit, even though it had won the elections on the plank of making them pay for the corruption of the Manmohan Singh decade. The BJP leadership seems to have convinced itself that it is an inevitability that it will win the next elections. However, voters in the biggest Hindi-speaking states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have delivered a shock defeat to the BJP, choosing instead regional parties which had previously been shunned by them. The UP, Rajasthan (where too the BJP lost) and Bihar by-elections verdicts show that the mood in the Hindi belt is now more sullen than is safe for the BJP.
BRI in context of peace, sustainability
THE Indian Ocean Region (IOR), an important trade zone of the world, includes a wide variety of races, cultures, and religions. Today, the true spirit of Silk Route is being considered a historic and cultural heritage of India Ocean Region (IOR) that symbolizes communication and cooperation between the East and the West for greater peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and benefit. The case of IOR has the same feature, where the concept of One Belt One Road (OBOR) / Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was conceived as a multifaceted economic, diplomatic and geopolitical undertaking that imagined a US$1.3 trillion Chinese-led investment programme – a potential Sino-Asian shift. Dollar’s dominance would be affected due to China’s new vision and strategy towards modern globalization.
To be optimistic, the notion of development strategy Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would be significant in maintaining historic values. The global maritime industry is entrusted towards an estimated economic output potential of 300 billion USD gross value added (GVA) and 5 million full-time jobs, with around 1.5 trillion USD GVA and 31 million full-time jobs output for all ocean industries. More than 80% of all goods (by volume) are transported by ships, a very efficient mode of transport providing access to global markets for food, energy and other products with current freight costs calculated to be 7% relative to the value of goods for developed countries and to be 8 to 11% for developing countries, and corresponds to approximately 3% of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions or about 900 million tones per annum. At present, IOR supports over 40% of the global trade where the concept of ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, especially through Gwadar Gateway – the link between China’s maritime and overland silk road with the port of Gwadar forming the crux of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), would be significant to meet the obligations of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As far as the interests of Pakistan are concerned, the value of CPEC infrastructure projects, originally valued at $46 billion, is now worth over $62 billion. CPEC would rapidly modernize Pakistani infrastructure and strengthen its economy. Socio-economic uplift is quite visible especially for a neglected coastal community in particular and overall Balochistan at large and adjoining areas through commissioning of Gwadar Port and entire CPEC route in general. Besides, overall national economy would get a quantum jump. The UN’s global agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers a good avenue to Pakistan to showcase CPEC under that umbrella as maritime industry has the greatest potential to contribute to the SDGs on climate action, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, life below water, good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, and life on land. Opportunities related to these goals can also positively contribute to other goals thus would be instrumental in bringing social-uplift, peace, harmony and integration in the region.
On other hand, traditional and non-traditional security threats needs to have a deep insight on geo-political scenario where Pakistan has traditional rivalry with India. India is developing its ties with Iran’s Chabahar Port. The Chabahar and Gwadar Ports can be the sister ports in order to compliment the huge potential of CPEC/BRI. However, security concerns are high due to Indian infiltration due to its strategic and geo-political interests which are not in the best interests of the overall region at large. The non-traditional threats include environmental, safety and climatic concerns.
It is quite visible that the potential threats are best evaluated by the Chinese Communist Party thus included the BRI in its constitution, proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the concept has a central and significant place in China’s foreign policy going forward. With excellent risk analysis, focus of Chinese Government can be seen on all important dimensions of BRI i.e. policy coordination and advocacy; facilities connectivity; unimpeded trade; financial integration; and development of people-to-people. Understanding Sino-Asian shift and taking direction from Chinese measures regarding BRI, development and implementation of a Comprehensive Risk Management Strategy for CPEC and Gwadar is critically important and need of the hour for Pakistan. China’s has dominating posture throughout the globe in setting modern globalization trends where Pakistan may experience a potential threat indirectly from existing market forces, and at same time Pakistan has traditional rivalry with India which has undeclared support from other Pro-Indian/Anti-China international forces.
The Risk Management Strategy of Pakistan needs to include and launch more coordinated advocacy campaign at national, regional and international level. The “Islamabad Declaration and Vision 2025” as conclusion of the 13th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) can be instrumental, diplomacy needs to be strategized on priority basis. In a nutshell, maritime diplomacy (including Environmental Diplomacy) is critical beside other naval/strategic security measures in order to safeguard the interest of a prosperous Pakistan through CPEC and Gwadar Port under the umbrella of Belt and Road Initiative.