Guide to Modi’s Win-Win Foreign Policy

A Jargon-Free Guide to Narendra Modi’s (Mostly) Win-Win Foreign Policy

Just two things from last weekend can give you a huge insight into the manner in which India’s foreign policy has undergone a significant transformation under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who completes 10 years at the helm of India’s government and is poised to win another five-year term. But first the two things (spoiler: both have to do with S. Jaishankar, Modi’s foreign minister and close confidant when it comes to anything to do with India’s international policy).

One. Last Friday, at an event to launch the Marathi version of his book, Jaishankar said: “Whosoever will be the President of America will have good relations with India, because America will always want to have a partnership with Prime Minister Modi.”

Two. At the same event, in an obvious reference to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, he also said: “They (terrorists) should not think; we are this side of the line, so no one could attack us. Terrorists do not play by any rules. The answer to terrorists cannot have any rules.”

Both those statements by India’s foreign minister are accurate. I would amend the first a bit by substituting “partnership with Prime Minister Modi” with “partnership with India” but then we should not mind Jaishankar’s preference for mentioning the name of his boss. 

Indo-US relations and the China factor

Let’s start with the first statement. India’s relationship with the US has pivoted in the past couple of decades and has been warming for several reasons but for the US, the most important of them is the dynamics of China’s rise and its implications for regional stability. US-China relations have been deteriorating ever since the US started worrying about China’s military buildup and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. Then, in 2018, a trade war began under the Trump administration with both countries imposing tariffs on each other’s goods. In 2020, the tension escalated over the handling and origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and issues such as the handling of Hong Kong and the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. 

Strategically, the US supports India’s emergence as a leading global power in the region and sees it as a counterbalance to China’s rise. This strategic interest, coupled with economic interests and shared democratic values, has contributed to the strengthening of the US-India relations. 

The two countries now cooperate in areas such as defence, trade, technology, and climate change. So, to paraphrase Jaishankar, no matter who becomes the next occupant of the White House, the US will always want to have India as a partner, no matter what. When Canada accused India of being involved in the murder of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil, the US was remarkably guarded in its response, simply because it needs India strategically. 

For India, it is a win-win. It follows a policy of strategic autonomy and has avoided becoming a formal ally of the US, which allows it to follow an independent foreign policy that can also sometimes diverge from what the US would ideally expect. Case in point: India’s relations with Russia.

Indo-Russian relations and the economic factor

While the US-led West has imposed heavy sanctions on trade with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, India has maintained its historical bond with Russia. India buys Russian oil, weapons and trade between the two continues to be robust. In the financial year 2024, India bought 35% of its oil imports from Russia. India and China together buy an estimated 80% of Russia’s oil. In 2023, India spent $15.2 billion on Russian oil. For Russia, embroiled as it is in a war in Ukraine since February 2022, such revenue is of critical importance. 

Arguably, those earnings could be financing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s onslaught against Ukraine but for India, it is a win-win. Because India has been buying Russian oil at discounted rates. Following the sanctions imposed on Russia, Russian Urals crude has been selling at a discount. For instance, at one point, it was more than $30 a barrel cheaper than Brent crude, the global benchmark.

Indo-Chinese relations and the tension factor

If India’s relations with the US and with Russia can be said to be determined by strategy and economics, respectively, its relations with China are much more complex. It is marked by both cooperation and contention. Continuing border disputes with China have strained ties between the two countries. 

The border disputes over areas in the north-eastern part of India are long-standing. Recently, Prime Minister Modi highlighted the “urgent need to address” the prolonged situation on the borders to resolve the “abnormality in bilateral interactions”. There have been ongoing diplomatic efforts to ease the tensions, but there has been no breakthroughs.

A new controversy has been over China renaming territories by issuing standardised names in Mandarin for places within India’s Arunachal Pradesh, which China refers to as Zangnan. India has strongly condemned this move, with the Indian defence minister questioning the logic behind the renaming and asserting that such actions cannot change the fact that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. The U.S. has also reacted to this development.

These actions by China are seen as attempts to assert its territorial claims over the region, which India rejects. The renaming of territories is part of a broader pattern of assertiveness by China in its border disputes, but India maintains its stance that Arunachal Pradesh is, and will always be, an integral part of its territory. The situation remains sensitive.

India also fears security threats from China. In 2020, it banned 59 Chinese-made apps, including popular ones like TikTok and WeChat, citing them as a danger to the country’s sovereignty, integrity, and national security.

Yet, Indo-Chinese relations aren’t that simple. Despite the border tensions, trade between India and China has not only continued but has reached new heights. In 2022, the trade volume between the two countries was at an all-time high of  $135.98 billion, with India’s trade deficit with China crossing the $100 billion mark for the first time. This was despite India’s efforts to become more self-reliant and reduce its dependence on Chinese imports. However, imports from China have remained strong mainly because they are cheap.

Indo-Pak relations and the big daddy factor

I began this piece by listing two recent statements by India’s foreign minister but tackled only the first. The second too is of significance. When Jaishankar said the “answer to terrorism cannot have rules”, he could have likely been referring to a report in The Guardian, which alleged that India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), conducted operations deep inside Pakistan to neutralise wanted terrorists. That statement reflects the tough stance that India now adopts when it comes to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, particularly in Kashmir. 

Elsewhere, in its South Asian neighborhood, India under Modi has tried to reassert its leadership role. Its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy aims to foster better relations, but challenges persist. India’s influence faces competition from China’s economic clout, as Beijing invests heavily in regional infrastructure projects.

Modi’s global ambitions are also reflected in India’s outreach to Africa and the Middle East. In Africa, India has focused on development partnerships and trade, positioning itself as an alternative to China’s resource-driven approach. In the Middle East, energy security and the welfare of the Indian diaspora (66% of non-resident Indians live in the Middle East) have guided its policies, leading to stronger ties with nations like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

As Modi likely heads into a third term, what kind of foreign policy should we expect? For sure, the policy of “strategic autonomy” that has now become familiar will continue with India navigating the complex geopolitical web of the world by blending pragmatism with national interest. That strategy will also gain heft from  India’s economic might–it could soon become the third largest economy in the world. To sum up, it would be: Modi’s win-win foreign policy.

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CAA Shah

Shah Asks Persecuted Refugees To Have Faith In Modi-Led Govt

Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured persecuted refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to have faith in the Narendra Modi government and said that under the rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), everyone will be given equal rights as they will now become citizens of India.

“There are a lot of people, there is no count as of now. Due to the wrong campaign going on, many people will hesitate to file an application. I want to assure everyone to apply here and have faith in the Narendra Modi government that you will be given citizenship with retrospective effect. This law is accepting you as a refugee. If you have entered India illegally, there will be no criminal case against you…There is no need for anyone to get scared. Everyone will be given equal rights as they will become the citizens of India,” Amit Shah said in an interview with ANI on being asked about the number of people getting citizenship after CAA.

The Home Minister said there is no need for any section or any person to fear because there is no provision in CAA to take away anyone’s citizenship.

“CAA is only to give rights to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians and Parsi refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan…”

Answering a query, he said those who get citizenship under CAA will be added to the citizenship list like every common citizen of India. “They will have as many rights as you or I have. They can contest elections and become MP, MLA, CM and Ministers.”

“All those people who have entered India between 15th August 1947 and 31st December 2014 are welcome here. As per my knowledge, there are 85 per cent people who have relevant documents. We will find a solution for those who don’t have the documents. Even Muslims have the right to apply for citizenship in India under the rules of the Constitution,” he added.

The Home Minister assured the minorities that there was no case for their rights to be taken away by the implementation of the CAA.

“I have spoken on CAA at least 41 times on different platforms and spoken on it in detail that the minorities of the country need not be afraid because it has no provision to take back the rights of any citizen. The CAA aims to confer Indian citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim migrants–including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians–who migrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and arrived in India before December 31, 2014, and through this law, their sufferings can be ended” he added.

The Home Minister was critical of opposition leaders like AIMIM’s Asaddudin Owaisi and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee for claiming that the CAA was anti-Muslim.

“You cannot see this law in isolation. On August 15, 1947, our country was partitioned. Our country was partitioned into three parts; this is the background. Bharatiya Jan Sangh and BJP were always against the Partition. We never wanted that country to be partitioned based on religion,” he said.

“So when the country was partitioned on the basis of religion, minorities faced persecution, they were being converted, women in the minority section were being tortured and came to India. They came to our refuge; don’t they have a right to get our citizenship? Even Congress leaders during the partition in their speeches said that those minorities should stay wherever they are due to the widespread bloodshed and they will be welcomed later in our country. Now they started doing vote bank politics and due to appeasement,” Shah added.

The Home Minister said that it was the moral duty of the government to ensure the rights of those who were persecuted.

“The people who were part of Akhand Bharat and who were prosecuted or tortured those people should be given refuge in India and this is our social and Constitutional responsibility. Now if you look closely at the statistics, in Pakistan when the partition happened there were 23 per cent Hindus and Sikhs but now only 3.7 per cent of Hindus and Sikhs are left. where are they? They have not returned here. They were converted, tortured, and insulted they were given second-class status. Where will they go? Will the country not think about them, will Parliament will not think about them, and should the political parties not think about them?” the Home Minister said.

On March 11, the Union Home Ministry notified rules for the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The CAA, introduced by the Narendra Modi government and passed by Parliament in 2019, aims to confer Indian citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim migrants–including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians–who migrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and arrived in India before December 31, 2014. (ANI)

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Mauritius PM

India’s Support To Mauritius Far Reaching, Jugnauth After Launch Of New Airstrip, Jetty

Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth on Thursday, thanked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, for giving a new dimension to ties between the two countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jugnauth today jointly inaugurated six community development projects in Mauritius via videoconferencing.

“Indeed, we are making history today on the Islands of Agalega, where the inauguration of new airstrip, new jetty, and several other development projects. This event marks another great moment for the remarkable and exemplary partnership between Mauritius and India, the Mauritius Prime Minister said.

Jugnauth said that the setting up of the facilities of the new airstrip and St James Jetty in Agalega is the fulfillment of yet another Mauritian dream which people of many generations have lived in their hearts.

“This could not have been possible without the assistance of India which has entirely financed these infrastructural projects,” he said.

He expressed gratitude to PM Modi for special consideration that he has given to Mauritius since he assumed the responsibility as India’s Prime Minister. Lauding the role of Indian diaspora, he said that these people have strongly established themselves as a “global powerhouse of values, knowledge and success.”

Jugnauth said, “I wish here to heartily thank Shri Narendra Modi Ji for giving a totally new dimension to the Mauritius-India relationship and partnership. I also wish to express my deep gratitude to you, Narendra Modi Ji, for taking time out of your busy schedule to honour us with your gracious presence on this momentous occasion.”

Expressing gratitude to PM Modi for his efforts towards Mauritius since assuming office, Jugnauth said, “Modi Ji, I wish to convey to you the profound gratitude of the government and the people of Mauritius for the special consideration you have given to our country ever since you assumed responsibility as the Prime Minister of the Republic of India.”

“As your inspiring leadership and statesmanship radiates across the world, the people of India and the Indian diaspora have strongly established themselves as a global powerhouse of values, knowledge and success. Today, the people of Agalega are very proud of the developments that are taking place on the island,” he added.

He said that India’s support to Mauritius is “far reaching” and added that his country became the first nation to adopt the Jan Aushadhi Scheme.

Highlighting India’s support for Mauritius, he said, “India’s support to our republic is indeed far-reaching. and not later than yesterday, again, thanks to your special consideration towards our Republic, Mauritius became the first country to adopt the Jan Aushadhi scheme.”

Speaking about benefits of Jan Aushadhi Scheme for people of Mauritius, he said, “This scheme will allow our country to source some 250 high-quality medicines from the Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Bureau of India. It will ensure access to quality medicines from India for our population, especially the vulnerable.”

“The launching of this scheme in Mauritius will benefit our people at large and will impart further momentum to India’s partnership with Mauritius. It has been my vision and that of my government to spearhead development in every single part of our territory since our people remain at the heart of our development goals. We are translating that vision into reality,” he added.

The Jan Aushadhi Scheme (JAS) is a government initiative that aims to provide quality generic medicines at affordable prices. The scheme was launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers in 2008.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was present during the inauguration of the projects. In an earlier press release, Prime Minister’s Office stated, “The inauguration of these projects is a testimony to the robust and decades-old development partnership between India and Mauritius.”

“The projects will fulfil the demand for better connectivity between mainland Mauritius and Agalega, strengthen maritime security and foster socio-economic development,” it added.

The inauguration of these projects is significant as it comes after the recent launch of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and RuPay Card services in Mauritius by PM Modi and Mauritius counterpart Jugnauth on February 12. (ANI)

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How Old Is Too Old To Be a Head of State?

How Old Is Too Old To Be a Head of State?

Frequent gaffes by the two main contenders for the 47th presidency of the United States has brought the focus sharply on whether age is more than just a number when it comes to politics. Unless something unforeseen happens, the US presidential elections in November this year will be a face-off between the incumbent Democratic US President Joe Biden, who is 81, and his challenger and former Republican President Donald Trump, who is 77.

Both gentlemen have been grabbing the headlines recently with what would seem like instances of memory lapses or cognitive failure. A few weeks back, while delivering a speech, President Biden mistakenly referred to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as the leader of Mexico. Earlier this year, Trump confused his main Republican rival Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and former speaker of the US House of Representatives. Ironically, Biden made his confused remarks when he was defending his position after a special counsel report on his handling of classified documents that had referred to his memory as “poor”.

Both Biden and Trump have committed other similar gaffes that point to memory lapses but their aides insist that the two are not mentally infirm and that they do not suffer from age-related mental conditions that could interfere with a job that is arguably one of the most important and impactful in international geopolitics. The US is the most powerful country in the world–economically and politically–and the US President is highly empowered to take decisions that could affect the rest of the world in profound ways. 

How old is too old in politics?

The focus on their age, however, can raise questions about whether age should be a factor determining eligibility for top political jobs. Should there, for instance, be an age limit for those who aspire for top political jobs? Many company boards have retirement ages for their directors who have to step down, say, when they reach 70 or 75. Should governments have similar rules on retirement? 

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, the average age of current national leaders is 62 years. When grouped by decade, the largest share of global leaders today (35%) are in their 60s. Roughly a quarter (22%) are in their 50s, while 18% each are in their 40s or 70s. Measured against those statistics, both Biden and Trump are much older than the average. 

Yet, both of them are younger than many heads of state in the world today. For instance, the oldest currently serving head of state is Paul Biya, who at 91 has been the president of the Central African country of Cameroon since 1982. There are others too who are older than Biden and Trump. Palestine’s president Mahmoud Abbas is 86; Cuba’s Raoul Castro is 85; and Namibia’s president Hage Geingob served till he died early this month at 82. 

In India, surprisingly, heads of state (and I refer here to Prime Ministers and not Presidents) have been relatively young. When Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India in 1947 he was 57; Indira Gandhi was 48 when she became Prime Minister; Rajiv Gandhi was 40; and Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister, was 63 in 2014 when he began his first term. He’s 73 now. 

India has also had its share of older Prime Ministers, though. When Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister in 2004, he was 71, the same age at which the late Atal Behari Vajpayee became Prime Minister. And, in 1977 when Morarji Desai became Prime Minister he was 81. His successor Charan Singh was 76 when he got the top job; and when I.K. Gujral became Prime Minister in 1977, he was 77. 

There aren’t really many instances of cognitive failures or memory lapses by Indian Prime Ministers or other senior ministers–at least, they haven’t been reported in the media (although I once attended an Indian foreign minister’s press conference in 2010 where he repeatedly referred to Russia as the Soviet Union but I guess we can pardon that slip!). 

In fact, some anecdotal accounts of Indian Prime Ministers showing signs of exhaustion or tiredness are lapses that might not have anything to do with age. One of them famously concerns H.D. Deve Gowda, who became Prime Minister quite unexpectedly in 1996 when a short-lived coalition of regional parties won the elections. Deve Gowda was only 63 when he got that job but he soon earned an unenviable reputation for falling asleep during official meetings. His nodding off probably had nothing to do with his age. After all, who doesn’t like to sneak in a cheeky siesta or a power nap?

Lifestyle choices can make a difference

Indian politicians, particularly those who have taken up powerful positions in government often enjoy and edge over others when it comes to health and mental well-being. Many of them follow healthy lifestyle routines that keep them in good stead. At 73, Prime Minister Modi is pretty fit, both physically and mentally. A keen adherent of yoga, he practices the discipline daily and has been doing so for years; he walks regularly; and is a vegetarian who also fasts intermittently. His predecessor, Manmohan Singh, now 91, was also known for his spartan eating habits and healthy lifestyle. Neither Modi nor Singh (during his two terms as Prime Minister) has ever shown signs of mental confusion or committed gaffes such as ones by Biden or Trump.

Historically, India’s prime ministers have led disciplined lives that have been healthy and abstemious. Forty-six years ago, when Morari Desai became Prime Minister at 81, the New York Times wrote: “Mr. Desai forswears many pleasures of life. Not only is he a teetotaler, he is also a rigorous vegetarian, living on a diet of fruits, nuts and milk and fasting frequently. He renounced sex after he and his wife had five children.”

Zooming back to the two most likely candidates for the US presidential election, the question is whether having an age limit is a guarantee for having someone who is sound of mind to run a country or should it be something else. Earlier this month, in a guest column for the Economist, David Owen, a former British foreign secretary and Member of Parliament, waded into the Biden-Trump age controversy and argued that no one above the age of 70 should be considered for the job of head of state. Lord Owen, who is also a former neurologist, argued that in humans aged 60-70, the brain’s frontal lobe and an area called the hippocampus begins shrinking and this affects how the brain processes information. Because of that memory and cognitive functions can get affected.

Extrapolating from that and with examples from history (examples involving the US President Franklin Roosevelt and his decision to stand for elections in 1944), Lord Owens recommends that Biden should voluntarily step aside in favour of a younger nominee from the Democratic Party during this spring’s national convention of the party.

Lord Owen’s suggestion of an age limit is one point of view. The problem with it is that not everyone ages in the same way. There are enough examples that one can draw from different fields to show that some individuals continues to demonstrate mental acuity well into their eighties and even nineties. The list of notable people who have continued to work well into their senior years is too long to list out here. 

Why not tests instead of an age limit?

Rather than an age limit to ensure that only people with sound minds get to govern countries, would it not be more scientific to test the brain functions of an ageing person, depending on the purpose and the level of cognitive abilities that are needed for a job? There are different ways of assessing the brain function of an aging person, depending on the purpose and the level of detail needed. Some methods that could be adopted are:

Cognitive screening tests: Short, quick tests that check how well your brain is processing thoughts. They involve answering simple questions and performing simple tasks, such as recalling a list of items, spelling words, or drawing a clock. These tests do not diagnose specific diseases, but they can identify a problem with cognition and the need for more in-depth testing.

Brain imaging techniques: These are methods such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scans or electroencephalogram (EEG) that can help detect changes in the brain due to aging, disease, or injury.

Neuropsychological assessment: This is a comprehensive evaluation of the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions of the brain. It involves a series of tests that measure memory, attention, language, reasoning, problem-solving, and other skills. This assessment can help diagnose specific conditions, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or brain injury.

Instead of an age limit, scientific tests and assessments such as those listed above could be a better way of ensuring that an aging candidate retains the mental capabilities that the job of, say, the head of state would require. However, there is a catch. Will such tests be acceptable for politicians, political parties, and the interest groups that they represent? My guess is that they probably won’t. At least not in the foreseeable future. Till then, we will have to amuse ourselves as some senior citizen politicians make their occasional gaffes, suffer memory lapses or just nod off to sleep. 

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Countdown To Modi's Third Term Begins

The Countdown to Narendra Modi’s Third Term Begins

The next time you are at an Indian railway station and it happens to be one of the hundred that has a selfie point, you can pass the time while waiting for your train by taking a photograph of yourself along with a life size replica of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The selfie points, if they’re of the permanent sort, cost around ₹6.25 lakh, while the temporary ones are cheaper at ₹1.25 lakh.

Railway stations aren’t the only places where you can take a selfie with the Prime Minister (albeit in a life-size 3-D avatar) beside you. Such points have also been installed at museums, parks, and other public spaces. According to media reports, universities and even the armed forces have been instructed to install them. One source says the total number of selfie points is 822.

At New Delhi’s international airport terminal, as you walk to the departure gates, there are several booths with Modi’s image along with that of Swami Gyananand where you can take a selfie. Swami, an Indian Mahamandaleshwar saint, is known for his research on Bhagavad Gita, the 700-verse Hindu scripture. He has also founded another organisation to globally promote the Gita.

The ubiquity of images and pictures of Modi, on posters, banners, official documents, and other commonly used official papers and forms for the past 10 years that he has been Prime Minister is not new but now their omnipresence seems truly larger than life and, quite clearly, this has much to do with the forthcoming parliamentary elections, which Modi and his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would like to win and extend the tenure of its rule by another five years.

Last December 31, The Guardian’s headline of an article said: BJP win in India’s 2024 general election ‘almost an inevitability’. It was written by Hannah-Ellis Petersen, the newspaper’s South Asia correspondent, and it described how, with less than six months left for the election (in which 900 million Indians will be eligible to vote) the Modi government had launched a nationwide campaign to highlight its achievements “despite criticisms of politicising government bureaucracy and resources for campaigning purposes”.

The Guardian’s use of the word “inevitability” in its headline (although in the article it is attributed to a prominent Indian policy analyst) displays the newspaper’s bias against Modi and his government, which are seen by the West as pushing a Hindu nationalist agenda and creating insecurity among minorities. Nearly 80% of Indians are Hindus and 14% are Muslims. As a percentage of India’s population of more than 1.4 billion, viewed against any global population statistics, both those numbers are huge.

Still, the view from the West could miss the reality on the ground in India. For instance, The Guardian article says: “At state and national level, the apparatus of the country has been skewed heavily towards the BJP since Modi was elected in 2014. He has been accused of overseeing an unprecedented consolidation of power, muzzling critical media, eroding the independence of the judiciary and all forms of parliamentary scrutiny and accountability and using government agencies to pursue and jail political opponents.”

To be sure, many Indian observers also agree that since the BJP-led regime came to power, elections, especially in the more populous northern and central states, have been marked by religious polarisation. And that inequality remains one of the biggest concerns and challenges. The richest 1% of Indians own 58% of wealth, while the richest 10% of Indians own 80% of the wealth. This trend has consistently increased–so the Indian rich are getting richer much faster than the poor, widening the income gap.

Also sadly, despite over 70 years’ of effort by the Indian government, the caste system (or social inequity) also continues to keep widening that gap. People coming from the marginalised sections of caste-based social categories, continue to be directly impacted in terms of their opportunities, access to essential utilities, and their potential as a whole.

The ordinary Indian voter, however, sees Modi as a strongman, a hero who has not only tried to enhance India’s prestige and status on the global stage–last year it hosted as rotational president the G-20 summit; and sent a space mission to land on the moon–but also tried to help improve the average Indian’s economic fortunes. India’s economy has grown at a higher rate than most large economies (although inequality has not been impacted significantly); a slew of subsidies aimed at the poor have benefited millions; and universal digital services have ensured that beneficiaries are not denied what they have the right to receive. Infrastructure, especially roads have improved impressively and so has public access to medical facilities and hygiene.

A well-known publicity and communications strategist of the Congress party, which is the BJP’s main challenger from the Opposition, admits that India will go to the polls with a clear advantage for Modi and his party. In 2019, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is led by the BJP, won 353 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament. The BJP on its own won 303 seats. This time, the Congress strategist who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the NDA wins 350 seats, a staggering 65% of the total seats.

It is a fact that the Indian mainstream media is no longer a platform where criticism of the ruling regime or a focus on problem areas such as religious polarisation is encouraged. In fact, India’s largest newspapers and TV channels are dominated by hagiographic coverage of the Modi-led regime. Even “independent” media outlets, most of which are small and lack robust business models, have begun to shy away from criticising the government or its policies, some of them because they fear retaliation in the shape of tax raids or other regulatory action.

No one really cares. Last year, several leading Indian artists were “commissioned” to make artwork themed on the Prime Minister’s monthly addresses to the nation, Mann Ki Baat. The event, which occurs once a month, is aired by the state-owned TV channels (and co-telecast by many private channels as well) and streamed on the internet and social media platforms. The commissioning of artists marked the 100th episode of Mann Ki Baat and the art that they created was exhibited under the title Jana Shakti (people’s power) at Delhi’s prestigious National Gallery of Modern Art.

Last week it was announced that the Opposition alliance of nearly 30 parties, called I.N.D.I.A., would be headed by the Congress Party’s president, Mallikarjun Kharge. I.N.D.I.A., which stands for ‘Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance’, is a group of opposition parties, including the Congress, which have joined forces to challenge the NDA, led by the BJP, and stop it from securing a third consecutive term at the Centre in the Lok Sabha elections. Most Indians think that it will end in a whimper. And that Modi, 73, and his party will win the elections decisively and secure a third term for the regime he heads.

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INDIA Bloc is UPA in a New Package

‘INDIA Bloc is Old UPA in a New Package, Won’t Hurt BJP Prospects’

Prof. Amit Upadhyay, who teaches Political Science in Deen Dayal Upadhyay University, points out that the new opposition alliance is rife with internal political differences. His views:

The abbreviation of the re-packaged new opposition front, INDIA (an acronym for Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), might generate some emotional and psychological attachment for the nation and a feeling of love and affection for India, but it will not, by any stretch of imagination, be sufficient to replace PM Narendra Modi and emerge as a replacement for the NDA. However, some improvement in the vote share of its constituents is very much possible.

First, INDIA is yet to finalise a face that could be at par or prove to be a better replacement for the charismatic personality of Modi. Second, there is a visible acceptance in INDIA bloc that if they fought the BJP individually, they will not be able to give any kind of resistance. But coming together will help them in putting up a decent and challenging fight. This in itself proves their secondary position.

Contesting Lok Sabha elections is altogether a different fight and needs a totally different strategy. Thus, a coalition like this will enable the participating parties to pool in resources as parliamentary constituencies in India often involve multiple candidates, splitting votes three or even four ways. As a result, parties win elections even if they secure less than 50% of the votes cast.

For example, the figures of 2019 General Elections showed that BJP had about 37% of the total vote while non-BJP parties accounted for 63%. So, if they could consolidate a chunk of this through one-on-one contests, then the opposition vote will not get divided and that should be the heart of their strategy to take on Modi who, till date, appears to be taking the office for the third consecutive tenure.

ALSO READ: ‘BJP Has Raised And Dumped Ayodhya Cyclically’

The Congress appears to be in a survival mode rather than leading the front because of the turn of events taking place in some states. Like in Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party is playing on front foot and appears to be in no mood to yield any ground to the Congress in the state.

If we talk about the Congress supporting Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on the Delhi Services Bill, its own leaders are not having a consensus on the issue. As far as Delhi and other states like Punjab are concerned (where AAP is in power) the Congress knows that it will come to power (in the Centre) in future and that is the reason that its support to AAP is very selective and minimal.

Meanwhile in Bihar, Congress has no standing as the collaboration of CM Nitish Kumar and Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav (JDU and RJD) is strong enough to give a decisive fight to BJP and hence the Congress is nowhere in the scene. One thing is clear that the new front and the name will succeed in giving a visible challenge to the BJP and the NDA but that will not be enough to stop Modi in coming to power for the third consecutive time.

As told to Rajat Rai

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Mahatma Gandhi

Modi Pays Tribute To Mahatma Gandhi At Rajghat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Delhi’s Rajghat on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti on Monday.

Mahatma Gandhi’s impact is global, said PM Modi in a post on X, today while also urging to work towards fulfilling Gandhi’s dreams.

“I bow to Mahatma Gandhi on the special occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. His timeless teachings continue to illuminate our path. Mahatma Gandhi’s impact is global, motivating the entire humankind to further the spirit of unity and compassion. May we always work towards fulfilling his dreams. May his thoughts enable every youngster be the agent of change he dreamt of, fostering unity and harmony all over,” the Prime Minister said in his post.

Earlier today, Congress national president and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge paid tributes to Gandhi at Rajghat.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Delhi Lieutenant Governor LG Saxena also paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.

Yesterday, on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, President Droupadi Murmu extended her greetings to citizens and appealed to people to follow his values and teachings in their thoughts, speech, and actions, dedicating themselves to the welfare of the country.

Born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar town of Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi or Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi adopted a non-violent resistance and was at the forefront of the freedom struggle against colonial British rule.

This led to India finally achieving its independence in 1947. Fondly known as Bapu, his unwavering belief in ‘Swaraj’ (self-governance) and ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence) won him accolades across the world.

Globally, Gandhi’s birth anniversary is celebrated as the International Day of Non-Violence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched a cleanliness drive beginning on October 1 to mark the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti and said that Swachh Bharat is a shared responsibility, and every effort counts.

‘Ek Tareekh, Ek Ghanta, Ek Saath’ Campaign is a mega cleanliness drive to mark the celebration of Gandhi Jayanti. This initiative is a run-up to the ‘Swachhata Pakhwada- Swachhata Hi Seva’ 2023 campaign.

Exhorting the people across the country to get involved in the cleanliness campaign, PM Modi said taking the campaign forward will be a giant step towards fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a clean India. (ANI)

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Modi Swachh Bharat

Modi Blends Swachh Bharat Campaign With Good Health

As people across the nation took time to take part in a cleanliness drive on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also participated in the Swachh Bharat campaign. His one was special as he blended cleanliness with fitness.

Prime Minister Modi met social media sensation Ankit Baiyanpuriya, who had started a 75-day hard challenge to imbibe the culture of fitness among the youth.

They discussed fitness and cleanliness as they participated in the Swachh Bharat initiative, a video released by PM Modi on his X timeline showed.

Ankit has garnered 4.9 million followers on his Instagram profile.

“Today, as the nation focuses on Swachhata, Ankit Baiyanpuriya and I did the same! Beyond just cleanliness, we blended fitness and well-being also into the mix. It is all about that Swachh and Swasth Bharat vibe!” the video captioned.

The video starts with PM Modi saying Ankit “I will learn something from you today.” How will Swachhata Abhiyan help fitness, PM Modi asked Ankit.

“Keeping the environment clean is our duty. If the environment remains healthy then we too will,” Ankit replied to PM Modi.

PM Modi also asked how was the awareness regarding cleanliness back in his village in Sonipat. He says people are more aware now towards cleanliness.

PM Modi has said Swachh Bharat is the collective responsibility of all citizens of the country and that public participation is very important in this direction. He had asked everyone to take out an hour on Sunday at 10 am to maintain cleanliness and help build a brighter future for the country.

In the video which lasted 281 seconds, PM Modi went on to ask Ankit how much time he dedicated towards physical activities, to which he said 4-5 hours.

“I get motivated seeing you exercise,” Ankit told PM Modi. PM Modi then says “I don’t do much exercise. I do sufficient exercise that is needed to accomplish my day-to-day activities.”

“I follow discipline. There are two aspects of my life where I am not disciplined. One, the timing of meal. Second, I should give more time on sleep but I am unable to,” PM Modi continued.

PM Modi praised Ankit and said he noticed many youths are following his activities on social media. Ankit also praised PM Modi for promoting sports and standing with the sportpersons.

“I was a sportsperson but I am away from sports now due to some injury. I saw you personally calling sportspersons when they win medals. Fit India and Khelo India initiatives are motivating athletes,” Ankit said.

Finally, PM Modi asked Ankit what was his 75-day challenge.

“I follow five rules. First, I workout two times a day, one indoor and other outdoor. Both outdoor is also fine. Next, I drink four litres of water. Read 10 pages of any book. First, I studied Srimad Bhagavat, now I am reading Shiva Puran. Fourth, I follow a strict diet. Lastly, I take a selfie to document the progression in me,” Ankit said.

As per reports, Ankit Baiyanpuria started his 75-hard challenge on June 28, 2023, and finally completed this gruelling challenge on September 11, 2023. He used to put an Instagram video each day during the course of his 75-day challenge. (ANI)

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Modi Calls For Cleanliness Drive Ahead Of Gandhi Jayanti

Calling upon people across the country to take part in a cleanliness drive on October 1 beginning at 10 am, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that Swachh Bharat is a shared responsibility, and every effort counts.

“1st October at 10 AM, we come together for a pivotal cleanliness initiative. A Swachh Bharat is a shared responsibility, and every effort counts. Join this noble endeavour to usher in a cleaner future,” PM Modi posted on X (Formerly Twitter). 

Earlier during his 105th episode of Mann ki Baat, PM Modi said, “A big event on cleanliness is going to be organised on October 1 that is on Sunday at 10 am. You too should take out time and help in this campaign related to cleanliness. You can also join this cleanliness campaign in your street, or neighbourhood or at a park, river, lake or any other public place.” 

‘Ek Tareekh, Ek Ghanta, Ek Saath’ Campaign is a mega cleanliness drive to mark the celebration of Gandhi Jayanti. This initiative is a run-up to the ‘Swachhata Pakhwada- Swachhata Hi Seva’ 2023 campaign. This follows PM Modi’s appeal for one hour of ‘Shramdaan for swachhata’ at 10 am on 1st Oct by all citizens.

Every town, Gram Panchayat, all sectors of the government like civil aviation, railways and public institutions will be facilitating cleanliness events led by the citizens.

A special portal has been set up to help organizations put up different events. This portal will also invite influencers and citizens to join this people’s movement as Swachhata Ambassadors. People can click pictures and upload them on the portal to mark their presence.

The Swachh Bharat Mission was launched on October 2, 2014, with an aim to make the country open defecation-free and also universal sanitation coverage.

Earlier in 2021, PM Modi launched Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0 to make all Indian cities ‘Garbage Free’ and ‘Water Secure’.

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM-U) 2.0 was launched on October 1, 2021, for a period of five years with a vision of achieving Garbage Free Status for all cities through 100 per cent source segregation, door-to-door collection and scientific management of all fractions of waste including safe disposal in scientific landfills. It is also aimed at remediation of all legacy dumpsites and converting them into green zones.

Exhorting the people across the country to get involved in the cleanliness campaign, PM Modi said taking the campaign forward will be a giant step towards fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a clean India. (ANI)

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Modi Condoles Death Of MS Swaminathan

India has lost a visionary leader in the field of agriculture, as  MS Swaminathan, renowned for his pioneering role in India’s “Green Revolution,” passed away in Chennai on September 28, at the age of 98.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of MS Swaminathan recalling his interactions with the agirculture scientist. 

“Deeply saddened by the demise of Dr. MS Swaminathan Ji. At a very critical period in our nation’s history, his groundbreaking work in agriculture transformed the lives of millions and ensured food security for our nation” the Prime Minister said in a post on X. 

“Beyond his revolutionary contributions to agriculture, Dr. Swaminathan was a powerhouse of innovation and a nurturing mentor to many. His unwavering commitment to research and mentorship has left an indelible mark on countless scientists and innovators” the Prime Minister added. 

“I will always cherish my conversations with Dr. Swaminathan. His passion to see India progress was exemplary.

His life and work will inspire generations to come. Condolences to his family and admirers” the Prime Minister further said.

Born on August 7, 1925, in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, fondly known as MS Swaminathan, leaves behind a legacy that has forever altered the landscape of Indian agriculture and global food security.

Swaminathan’s lifelong journey into the world of agriculture and genetics was profoundly influenced by a pivotal moment during the Bengal famine of 1943, which witnessed the loss of countless lives due to the acute shortage of rice.

This humanitarian crisis deeply moved the young Swaminathan, igniting his passion for agricultural research and his commitment to ending hunger.

His personal motivation led him to pursue education at prestigious institutions such as the Madras Agricultural College and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

Armed with knowledge and unwavering dedication, Swaminathan embarked on a mission to develop high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice, capable of thriving in India’s diverse agricultural conditions.

His ground-breaking work paved the way for what would become the “Green Revolution” in India—an agricultural transformation that significantly increased crop yields and ensured food security for millions.

Swaminathan’s leadership and vision played a pivotal role in making India self-sufficient in wheat and rice production.

Swaminathan’s impact extended far beyond India’s borders. He served as the Director General of the International Rice Research Institute and later as the President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

His tireless commitment to addressing global agricultural and environmental challenges earned him a place among the “Time 20,” Time magazine’s list of the most influential Asians of the 20th century.

A passionate advocate for sustainable agriculture, Swaminathan championed eco-friendly farming practices and emphasized the responsible use of resources. He envisioned an “evergreen revolution,” which focused on preserving biodiversity while ensuring food security.

His forward-thinking approach continues to inspire contemporary efforts aimed at protecting our planet and fostering a prosperous future.

In his pursuit of eradicating hunger and poverty, Swaminathan established the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation—an institution dedicated to empowering farmers with knowledge and innovative farming techniques.

This foundation stands as a beacon of hope, carrying forward his noble mission.

Swaminathan’s contributions earned him numerous awards and honours, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, the Albert Einstein World Science Award, and the prestigious First World Food Prize.

He was also the recipient of Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan, among many other accolades. His vast knowledge and leadership earned him fellowships in prestigious scientific academies around the world, including the Royal Society of London and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

In collaboration with Dr Norman Borlaug, MS Swaminathan was instrumental in averting famine conditions in India and Pakistan in the 1960s.

Their innovative work in genetic research and plant breeding revolutionized agriculture and improved food security on a global scale. Their dedication to addressing food insecurity and poverty has left an indelible mark on history.

MS Swaminathan’s passing is a profound loss, but his contributions to humanity will endure as a source of inspiration and hope. (ANI)

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