FRAGRANCE OF IDEAS
The recent tour of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to the United States proved to be a compendium of his charisma, diplomacy and statesmanship with a blend of smart agression at the UN General Assembly in New York. When he left the Indian shores, what made the rounds on the social media was his photograph depicting him attending his files in the aircraft during his travel to the US. This indeed was a very pleasing message to the Indians at home and to the Indian diaspora assuring them that their Prime Minister stands committed to his duties and responsibilities in all the formats of his life.
The tour was being conducted at a very tough time though preparations for it were afoot for the last one month. Besides attending the Quad Summit in Washington DC and some important high level meetings at the Oval office of the President of US, his address in the UN General Assembly were his main focus. He was greeted at the Washington Airport by the waiting Indian Diaspora with great enthusiasm, love and regard. This was his first tour to the US, rather the first international tour barring the neighbourhood visit, after the outbreak of the pandemic Covid19.
The Quad meeting was a big focus of the tour. Australia, Japan, US and India went ahead with their high level Summit meetings in the Washington DC. Modi's bilateral with US President Biden, a delegation level meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris, meetings with 5 CEOs of US companies and surely, the main highlight of the visit: the Quad summit was the biggest outcome of the tour. Sensex at home also got impacted by the outcome of the visit and the global economic trends lifted it to a record of 60,000 points for the first time in history.
Cooperating on countering covid19 and the post covid economic recovery was also a part of the main political and diplomatic course, and PM Modi was thanked for decision to start exporting vaccines from next month. In particular the Quad vaccine initiative, which will see one billion Johnson and Johnson vaccines manufactured in India, funded by the US, distributed in South East Asia by Japan and Australia was discussed and leaders said it was on track. However, India’s demands, for vaccine indemnity from US manufacturers, and support for the India-South Africa joint proposal at the WTO for a waiver on patent rights for covid vaccines and medicines, did not find a mention.
PM Narendra Modi before leaving for India also addressed 76th session of the United Nations Security Council besides attending the Quad summit, bilateral and multilateral engagements with US President Biden, US Vice President Kamla Harris in the background of change of administration in the US and the Afghan developments.
PM Narendra Modi himself said that he had productive bilateral and multilateral engagements and expressed confidence that India-US relationship will grow even stronger in the years to come. He added on Twitter, "Over the last few days, have had productive bilateral and multilateral engagements, interaction with CEOs and the UN address. I am confident the India-USA relationship will grow even stronger in the years to come. Our rich people-to-people linkages are among our strongest assets,"
Both Biden and Harris made a repeated mention about the need to respect democratic values, but the PM and the Indian delegation appear to have taken the comments in their stride, and there were no sharp responses. Harris ended her press statement by addressing the PM directly on “defending democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries”. PM Modi called those similar values, and invited Harris to Delhi.
PM Modi also brought India 157 artifacts and antiquities, which were handed over to India by the US during his visit, with both he and President Biden expressing commitment to strengthening efforts to combat theft, illicit trade and trafficking of cultural objects. While nearly half of the artefacts (71) are cultural, the other half consists of figurines related to Hinduism (60), Buddhism (16) and Jainism (9). The list of 157 artefacts includes a diverse set of items ranging from the one-and-a-half metre bas relief panel of Revanta in sandstone of the 10th CE to the 8.5 cm tall, exquisite bronze Nataraja from the 12th CE.
Two days before Modi's address at the UNGC, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan also addressed the UNGC virtually from Islamabad. Taking a clue from the Pak media debates, the analysts in the country seem to have been unhappy with his text and tone of the speech. In this context, the representative of India in the UN very maturely replied to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's diatribe against India. The statement that 'Jammu and Kashmir was, is and would remain an integral and inalienable part of India' reflects the ground realities. It is time for Pakistan to vacate the illegally occupied parts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh including Gilgit and Baltistan, as was rightly expressed by the Indian diplomat in the UNGA exercising her right to reply.
In between, as a god sent, came the statement of United Kingdom Member of Parliament, Bob Blackman on Kashmir in the British Parliament which added more charm to the Prime Minister's UN address. He was speaking in the UK House of Commons in which he made a laoded statement saying that if India had withdrawn troops in Kashmir, Islamist forces would have come in and eliminated democracy in Kashmir. "Indian Army has stopped Kashmir from becoming Taliban’s Afghanistan. Kashmir has been tainted by multiple terrorist attacks, killings and forced conversions by radical Islamist terrorists. It is because of the Indian military that the region of Jammu and Kashmir hasn't resembled Taliban-occupied Afghanistan as yet".
The debate proposal was given by Parliamentarian Debbie Abrahams and Pakistan-origin MP Yasmin Qureshi. It may be noted here that an organisation with which Debbie Abrahams is associated was accused of receiving funding from the Pakistan government. Further, Abrahams was deported by India in February last year for travelling to the country on an invalid visa.
Bob said, "We should remember that while Kashmir Valley may be probably Muslim (dominated), Jammu is predominantly Hindu and Ladakh predominantly Buddhist. And the fact is, historically persecuted religious minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, women and children have unfortunately suffered in the Valley". He pointed out categorically that it was because of the Indian Army that Kashmir had not become another Afghanistan. “It is only the Indian Army and the sound footing of the Indian military (and democracy) that has stopped the region of Jammu & Kashmir resembling Taliban occupied Afghanistan," asserting that "the region is legally and rightfully an integral part of the Republic of India”.
What is appreciable is what UK minister said in the debate. The UK Minister for Asia in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Amanda Milling, responded to the debate by reiterating the UK government's unchanged stance on Kashmir as a bilateral issue between India & Pakistan. The Minister, Amanda Milling, responded to the debate on Thursday by reiterating the UK government's unchanged stance on Kashmir as a bilateral issue. “The government takes the situation in Kashmir very seriously but it's for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political solution, ....It's not for the UK to prescribe a solution or to act as a mediator".
PM Modi travelled to the U.S. for a number of important meetings. As Prime Minister, Modi visited the US seven times in seven years – in 2014, 2015, twice in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021, and has met with three different Presidents- Obama, Trump and Biden, whom he met when he was Vice President too. This visit was watched particularly in context of the global developments impacting the US-India relations in view of change in the administration in US. PM Modi, surely, made a big impression this time reflecting his charisma, art of diplomacy and statesmanship which stand acknowledged and recognized.
(Senior BJP & KP Leader, Incharge: J&K BJP Political Feedback Deptt, Author & Columnist. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org)