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Modi Vs Morarji – Who Is The Better US Agent?

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Former Prime Minister Morarji Desai and two deputy PMs―Jagjivan Ram and Y.B. Chavan ― were alleged to be CIA operatives active during the 1971 war.

Author-journalist Seymour Hersh, in his 1983 book, “The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House”, alleged that Desai had passed on sensitive information about Indian foreign policy and domestic politics to the CIA for $20,000 a year during the Johnson and Nixon administrations. Hersh had six sources who were high officials in the US Government, and each had identified Desai as a CIA agent. Once he became the PM, he reduced the budget of RAW, India’s intelligence agency, by 30% and closed down most of its operations. He also unwittingly revealed the details of the RAW network in Pakistan to the Pakistan Martial Law Administrator, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. This divulgence of Information proved disastrous for RAW’s operation and its agents. The agents were relentlessly searched and killed. Gen Zia’s government obliterated all of RAW’s network in Pakistan.

Narendra Modi’s cosy relationship with the USA is no secret. The frequent US-India talks are often shrouded in mystery with issues like Pakistan and terrorism being used cleverly to divert people’s attention. Modi’s disastrous economic policy, demonetisation, is said to be an outcome of cooperation agreements between the  US government’s development agency USAID and the Indian ministry of finance. One of these agreements has the declared goal to push back the use of cash in favour of digital payments in India and globally.

Modi A Pawn In The US-China Power Struggle

The challenge that India faces is to ensure that the Chinese do not ever pose a threat to its economic and defence interests or that of its allies in Central, South and South-East Asia. To do this, India does not need the US. However the last couple of years, a trend has emerged which supports the hypothesis that India is being used by the US to block the Chinese economic corridor project “One Belt One Road”(OBOR) and the expansion of Chinese military influence in the South China Sea.

After Modi took over in 2014, he had no clear policy for South-East Asia, and he probably had no idea on how to deal with the OBOR policy. During the 2014 ASIAN summit, he revealed the “Act East” policy to reinvigorate New Delhi’s relationship with South- East Asia. Around the same time, his government initiated “Project Mausam” to counter the China Maritime Silk Road (now part of OBOR) initiative. Modi did not speak of OBOR during his meetings with Chinese President Xi in India and China. In fact, India did not object to OBOR in 2015 apart from objecting to the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor.

However, the change in India’s policy came with the appointment of S. Jaishankar as the Foreign Secretary. This man is known as the architect of Modi’s foreign policy. He was the ambassador of China till 2013 and then the ambassador of US till 2015. Modi’s decision of appointing Jaishankar by removing his predecessor Sujatha Singh was as surprising as his decision to give Jaisharkar a post-retirement extension of one year (till Jan 2018). Since his appointment, he has been the driving force behind India’s foreign policy. In the First Raisiana speech in March 2016, the Indian External Affairs Ministry for the first time objected to OBOR.

A Curious Pattern Emerges

In January 2017 at Modi’s Inaugural Address at Second Raisina Dialogues, he said  “Connectivity in itself cannot override or undermine the sovereignty of other nations… Only by respecting the sovereignty of countries involved can regional connectivity corridors fulfil their promise and avoid differences and discord…Nothing could foster that more than an open-minded consultation on the future of connectivity…We believe that respecting freedom of navigation and adhering to international norms is essential for peace and economic growth in the larger and inter-linked marine geography of the Indo-Pacific.”

In October 2017, during US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Visit to India, he suggested that the US and India partner to build road connectivity in the sub-continent and port connectivity in the Indo-Pacific, as a sort of alternative to the Chinese One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. Countering OBOR was the first main agenda of the trip.

However, the key point of Tillerson engagement was that the two biggest democracies in the world should join hands in providing a rule-based and transparent funding alternative to the OBOR in the region. US SoS’s second agenda was to increase cooperation between the two countries in the Indo-Pacific region so as to uphold rule-based rights of navigation and overflight in the area. Tillerson said, “As part of the free and open Indo-Pacific, we have elevated our engagement with India.”

In January 2018, at the Delhi Declaration of the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit, the countries involved agreed to:

  1. Reaffirm our commitment to work closely together on common regional and international security issues of mutual concern and ensure an open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture
  2. Reaffirm the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region, and other lawful uses of the seas and unimpeded lawful maritime commerce and to promote peaceful resolutions of disputes, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the relevant standards and recommended practices by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In this regard, we support the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea(DOC) and look forward to an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).

The similarity in the choice of words (marked in bold) is no coincidence. The open, transparent and rule-based regional architecture is obviously not the brainchild of Modi, but it is the agenda of the USA. Why else is India dragging its feet on the Maldives crises, which has given China the opportunity to step in and resolve the issue? Why is Modi silent on Trump’s policies which are against India’s interest such as H1-B visas?

Since 2014, Modi has been criticized for not participating in the OBOR initiative, which has the potential of making Asia the epicentre of economic and industrial growth. He has put India in a position where we are perceived to be having an inferiority complex with China.

On the other hand, the USA has realized that they cannot use the threat of Communism as a way to stop the growing Chinese economic, political and military influence in Asia. The only strategy the US has left to put some pressure on China without antagonizing her is to outsource the job to India.

In other words, the USA would prefer a cold war between India and China rather than having India and China align and emerge as an alternative to the Western powers and they have found a perfect agent in the form of Narendra Modi. There are many reasons why Modi would be willing to play along. His party shares the same right-wing capitalist ideology as that of the USA. His corporate friends reap the benefits of the Modi-USA links in the form of defence contracts, mining leases etc. which will most probably be passed on to fund BJP (remember electoral bonds?).

The problem is that by towing the line of the US, Modi has put India’s long-term strategic, economic and defence interests at stake.

Just like in the case of Morarji, we will never know exactly how India’s foreign policy is being influenced by the USA. However, we will soon see the negative impact it will have on our economy and foreign relations especially with the South East Asian countries. This time, the damage will be far greater than the loss of some RAW agents.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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        Find out more about the campaign here.

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        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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