India’s Rising Profile

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again proven he is the ultimate showman politician. Immediately after wowing Indians in US along with US president Donald Trump at Howdy Modi event, the  PM had an informal summit with the Chinese president Xi Jinping in Chennai. The summit was once again a massive media event. Incidentally the PM had something remarkable to show for it. Kashmir didn’t figure in talks at all. The foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said the Kashmir issue was not a point of discussion between the two leaders. During their meeting, the two leaders discussed, among other things, the historical trade links between their countries, radicalisation and “terrorism”, with a new focus on people-to-people relations. Modi and Xi have met several times since 2014, but have solved  little success in resolving border issues, trade or the hostilities towards each other. The neighbours have had a long-standing border dispute.

Just two days before his India visit, Xi in his meeting with Pakistan premier Imran Khan said that he was “watching the situation in Kashmir” and would “support Pakistan in issues related to its core interests”. So, it was expected that Kashmir would come up in Modi-Xi talks. But this has not happened, a development that came as a surprise to the observers in South Asia.  The two countries, however, did not issue a joint statement in what appeared to be a lack of consensus between them on the border dispute, regional security as well as bilateral trade. There is concern in New Delhi over India’s widening trade surplus with China.

If anything, Modi’s recent meetings has once again been a showcase of India’s rising profile in the world affairs. True, the PM through his showmanship might have created a far bigger perception of India’s clout than is the reality, but this hardly detracts from India’s growing global influence. We are witnessing a world that is going through a profound geo-political shift. Old alliances and equations are loosening and the new are taking shape. Where China’s ideological model and its recently slowing economy are making it less of a global favourite, India’s perceived democratic and secular credentials and its huge market is making the country attractive to the west.

Where does this leave Kashmir? Stranded as always. In the state, the response to the changing state of affairs has been along predictable lines. It betrays a singular lack of understanding of the changing regional and regional dynamics. Their discourse remains stuck while the world has moved on and the new realities have redrawn the geo-political priorities. It is, therefore, high time for people in the state to introspect and recalibrate their strategies, not necessarily the goal. Not doing so, will change little for the better for the state.

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