That no specifics emerged from the much-trumpeted all-party meeting on Friday confirms suspicions that the intention was less on building national consensus on two critical issues facing the nation ~ the Sino-Indian stand-off at Doklam and the crumbling situation in the Kashmir Valley ~ and more on forestalling trouble on either “front” during the monsoon session of Parliament that commences on Monday. That neither the Prime Minister nor the president of the Congress party (not even its vice-president) attended, points to a lack of genuine effort at consensus-seeking or building. Both the potential for a flare-up at Doklam and the continuing violence in the Valley ought to have merited detailed discussions “across the aisle”, their being clubbed together for a single session points to the routine nature of the meeting. It is conceded that the track-record does not testify to fruitful multi-party action, yet it is the responsibility of the government to try and bring the “collective wisdom” of the political leadership to bear, and to evolve a united approach that goes beyond diplomatic mouthing of political sweet-nothings.
The impasse at the Trijunction with Bhutan has been evident for weeks. The government’s bid to keep the rhetoric muted has not been matched by Beijing, which seems to favour drawing belligerent parallels with 1962. Surely a national response (alas, that term now conjures up skewed images) required formulation much earlier? The Chinese did not respond to Indian hopes of an ice-breaker at Hamburg, so no great hopes should be entertained for the upcoming meeting of the National Security Advisers of the BRICS countries. It might pass by, just as have visits of Indian ministers to China even as the troops are on alert at the Trijunction. It is also true that no discordant voices were heard at the all-party meet (at least not loud enough for media ears), but neither were there any positive signals or advice sent out. External relations do not get much attention from Opposition parties except when seeking to embarrass the government ~ as Rahul Gandhi recently attempted in customary childish fashion. Nor for that matter has the Opposition offered anything positive on J&K. After seeking to hit the headlines during a trip to the Valley last year and some “rumblings” over the continuing use of pellet-guns the Opposition leaders have lapsed into customary indifference: Sitaram Yechury flattered to deceive, possibly now more “concerned” with his parliamentary future. The nation is thus condemned to keep muddling along, any likely “breakthrough” will not be the result of all-party deliberations. And Parliament has been subjected to so many storms that another will not prove overly upsetting. Regretfully, neither the government nor the Opposition appears capable of, or interested in, rising to the occasion: the people are condemned to living with “petty” and “politics” remaining hyphenated.