Modi on right track?
Into: Modi’s B4B (Bharat for Bhutan, Bhutan for Bharat) will remain empty rhetoric if not backed up with action.?
These days one hears nothing but praise for Narendra Modi and, of course, with full justification. His recent visit to Bhutan has received media commendation to a remarkable degree. If Modi had decided to make Bhutan his first foreign destination because of some inner compulsion, that was all for the better. “The visit” said Hindustan Times (June 17) “had the requisite combination of symbolism, pomp, high-minded rhetoric and a measure of substance that will satisfy both sides.” Continuing, it said: “Bhutan has always been important to India because New Delhi has both material aspirations and strategic anxieties concering the kingdom.” Referring in many ways to Bhutan’s importance – especially in the matter of hydropower co-operation – the paper said, “Mr Modi has done the right thing by signalling to all that he intends to nurture relations with small neighbours.”
The Telegraph (June 17) noting that both countries had “gone through a rough patch in recent years”, suggested “Mr Modi’s visit may help heal some wounds and re-assure the Bhutanese of India’s commitment to the kingdom’s peace, security and economic progress”. “More important” said the paper, “if India earns the confidence of countries in its backyard it will do a lot of good to the new government’s image elsewhere in the world.” Saying that “the success of his (Modi’s) neighbourhood policy would stand out in sharp contrast to Beijing’s worsening relations with countries like Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines,” the paper added that “the short trip to Bhutan shows he is on the right track”.
Referring to Indo-Bhutanese relations in the past that have not much to commend, the DNA (June 17) said “diplomatic generosity, not high-handedness is the way to deal with Bhutan”. The paper recalled that “one of the reasons the SAARC has remained a punchline has been Delhi’s boorishness in engaging its neighbours. The paper said Bhutan is India’s “only unalloyed alloy in the region” and if Modi wishes to “initiate the turnaround in regional ties, that is important for the promised Indian resurgence, starting with low-hanging fruit is a good opening move.”
According to The Times of India (June17) “there is a significant shift underway in India’s foreign policy strategy with right form Day One, the Narendra Modi government making it clear the importance it attaches to relations with neighbouring countries.” In this regard, said the paper, Modi’s two-day visit to Bhutan – his first official foreign trip since assuming office – underscores his administration’s commitment to India’s neighbour. Recalling that Bhutan had hit a rough patch with the UPA government, Modi’s visit, said the paper, at this juncture “should dispel any friction and ameliorate ties”.
The Asian Age (June 18) said “clearly, while Bhutan is our smallest neighbour, it is a very important one” and Mr Modi’s visit to it “can be seen as a stock-taking and consolidation exercise rolled into one”. The paper pointed out that Bhutan is one South Asian country with which India has had trouble-free bilateral ties. In conclusion the paper said that Mr Modi’s B4B (Bharat for Bhutan, Bhutan for Bharat) will remain empty rhetoric if not backed up with action.
Meanwhile, another issue of some relevance has cropped up, the refusal of UPA appointed Governors to resign now that a new government has come to power. The Economic Times (June 19) thinks that “it would be graceful for the incumbent Governors to exit on their own, without waiting for the President to convey express disapproval.” The controversy according to the paper “is not all that difficult to solve” considering that Governors are “part of the political apparatus of governance”. Governors, said the paper are “not like judges, administrative service officers or drivers” and “hold office at the pleasure of the President of India”.
As the paper put it: “The President acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers” hinting that if the Council wants Governors to resign they should do so, only, the paper said: “Equally it would be graceful for the government to let some Governors whose term is about to expire in the near future” to stay on and complete their tenure. The New Indian Express (June 20 ) said with a change in the regime, all Governors “should quit on their own, honourably, if they are not in sync with the new political dispensation that has been voted to power.”
(The writer is a senior columnist and former editor
of Illustrated Weekly)