By Mayank Jain:
“History repeats itself twice. First time as a tragedy, second time as a farce”, Fareed Zakaria quoted Karl Marx in 2012 and rubbished the possibility of rise of Modi as even a regional leader. In an event hosted by Indian Express, he was emphatically predicting his downfall, “Modi’s downfall is imminent”.
2 years down the line, it is the same Fareed Zakaria who interviewed the now Prime Minister Modi. The interview happened at a crucial juncture ahead of his much awaited US trip and the UN General Assembly address. Yes, fortunes change in the democracy and how. Modi’s own tea seller rhetoric is much well known to be recounted again but the facts remain the same. He is now the Prime Minister with an assertive majority and the country has been ‘saffronized’ with BJP at the helm of the government for the next 5 years.
The interview was aired in India by CNN in a partnership with IBN7 which is owned by Network 18, which ironically is now owned by Reliance. The company now has a ‘preferential’ access to content of Network 18 and TV 18.
The interview was PM’s first after taking up the post and held a lot of hints on what the future holds with him as the leader at the forefront. A major portion of the interview was on foreign policy and international relations and the same can be expected of the government now that it has started mending ties with Pakistan as well.
Here are the 4 major takeaways from #TheModiInterview:
1. Foreign relations are set to improve:
An emphatic “YES!” was PM’s response on the possibility of India developing a strategic alliance with the United States of America. Not hiding behind the veils of ‘policy’ and ‘circumstances’ like his predecessors, the PM appeared to be right on the money from the word go. His emphasis on building a strategic relationship stemmed from the globalization phenomenon and increased interdependence. PM, however, reiterated that India doesn’t need to be China and can grow with China as well.
The interview is a refreshing relief from a foreign policy perspective where the PM has shown great confidence in improving relationships and developing strategic policies without using any of the jargon. If turned into action in a manner similar to PM’s visit to Nepal or concluding successful talks with Chinese President, we are definitely headed for more international collaboration and a better relationships for sure.
Â 2. Diplomacy is not going anywhere:
It will be a little unfair to expect the magnificent orator to move away from being diplomatic in knotty situations. If kept in check, this diplomacy might actually prove to be useful rather than appear as indecisiveness. The Prime Minister is here to please and he has his verbal arsenal ready to get him out of critical problems with heavy thrust on ‘mutually beneficial solutions’ within sentences which suddenly take the focus away from blaming and shaming the perpetrators. Responding to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, he gave an empathetic and at the same time, a non-aligned response:
“Firstly, whatever happened there, innocent people died in a plane accident. That’s very saddening. These are not good things for humanity in this age. Ultimately, India’s view point is that efforts need to be made to sit together and talk, and to resolve problems in an ongoing process.”
3. We still don’t have PM’s stand on violence against women:
He blew the trumpet of his commendable girl child education emphasis once again when asked about the problem of violence against women. But, it is worth exploring how much violence can be curbed by sensitizing women instead of men. Prime Minister’s statement was also beating around the bush when talking about solutions and usual rhetoric of law-order occupied space when the issue is much deeper than just lack of policing. Responding to the question on India’s cases of violence against women and rapes, Modi seemed to escape the ground realities and took refuge in rhetoric and also absolved the ‘political pundits’ (including himself) of any responsibility to look for the cause of the problem:
“Look, us political pundits shouldn’t tangle ourselves up in knots by searching for the root cause of this problem. More damage is done by statements from political pundits. Dignity of women is our collective responsibility.”
4. PM loves democracies though his actions prove otherwise:
Centralization, fast decision making and cutting down of processes as it has been happening in the Ministry of Wildlife and Environment to give way to industrial projects is a characteristic of capitalist autocracies. However, the Prime Minister seemed determine to uphold his love for democracies in the interview. He clarified that we won’t compromise on democracy but it is still unclear to many of us about how he defines ‘democracy’. Is it about elected government gaining all authority or about people being representatives? We might never know from his response:
“You can’t say that growth is not possible because of democracy. Democracy is our commitment. It is our great legacy, a legacy we simply cannot compromise. Democracy is in our DNA.”
If there is one thing that the PM should do next is to hold another interview, this time preferably with an independent journalist or do a press conference and let questions come his way. With his wit and oratory skills, it won’t be a difficult task to handle those; but a fair opportunity for media to interact with the PM will definitely boost his PR among those who aren’t ‘saffronized’ yet. It is time we start embracing the democracy we vehemently cheer for.
Credits: CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS