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What can Blinken give us?

Unvaccinated people from India and Africa and other parts of the world with low vaccination rates will travel to the rich world and could reignite the pandemic there.

Sunil Sharan | New Delhi |

The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, the foreign policy pawn of US President Joe Biden is visiting India to meet the two foreign policy pawns of India’s king, Prime Minister Modi, S Jaishankar and Ajit Doval. It is such a puzzle. Leaders in democratic countries run their electoral campaigns on domestic policy, but as soon they assume kingship (or queenship), they lose all interest in domestic policy and consider themselves foreign policy mavens.

What is Blinken going to do in India? Talk about Afghanistan? There is nothing to talk about Afghanistan. Capt. Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of Punjab, has just warned Navjot Sidhu, the new Congress party chief in Punjab, not to go soft on Pakistan. Singh says that Pakistan and China have joined forces with the Taliban to create problems for us in Kashmir and Punjab. Singh is right. But our army is competent to tackle any number of jihadis that Pakistan throws at us.

We don’t need the help of the US. What does the US want from us then in Afghanistan? Does it want Indian boots on the ground in Afghanistan? That proposal has been simply unacceptable to Modi. Does it want India as a counterterrorism base against Pakistan and Afghanistan? Possibly, but a better base for it would be Pakistan, where it has infiltrated all aspects of its security apparatus and where the generals of Rawalpindi are on its payroll.

Perhaps Blinken will talk about containing China. Not content with being humbled in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Yemen and Libya and deciding to lie low for a while, the US is readying itself for its next war – against mighty China – and wants to rope India into it. India has a limited border dispute with China, which as our army has repeatedly demonstrated, it is more than capable of handling. Beyond that, we have no issues with China. We are both rising Asian powers. This century promises to belong to Asia.

The era of white hegemony is over. Modi thus does not have any troubles in his neighbourhood that he cannot handle. He should instead focus on being the Deng Xiaoping of India and grow its economy to lofty levels. Yes, the US provides visas for Indian tech workers, but that is pretty much the extent of our relationship with it. China is an enemy country in the US, but Chinese tech workers too flood the US.

If you read War and Peace by Tolstoy, you will note that even as Napoleon marauded his way to Moscow, French remained the language of the Russian court and Frenchmen were freely welcome in Russia. Indian and Chinese tech workers are welcome in the US because without them the Googles and the Facebooks won’t be built. So no matter the animosity between the US and China, the US will continue to admit Chinese techies. And even if India says no to many of America’s demands, its techies will still get to go to the US. It is time for Modi to declare his foreign policy for the world.

That India is in no mood to fight a war, on its behalf or anyone else’s behalf. India wants to be friends with the world. Christ propounded, Love Thy Neighbour. One of our neighbours, Pakistan, hates us for who we are. Nothing can be done about Pakistan. But China doesn’t hate us. We should stop poking its eye through schemes like the Quad. The US is like a raging bull, seeking endless war. We must have no truck with the US in its nefarious schemes. Take the case of the Covid vaccine. Most people thought that the white world would corner the vaccines and it did.

The US is two-thirds vaccinated, but that is not because there is a shortage of supply. Onethird of the US population remains a strong holdout against the vaccine. American states are holding milliondollar lotteries to get the holdouts to comply but they still refuse to listen to reason. This is a global pandemic for crying out loud. Only about 5 per cent of India is vaccinated. Africa even less. When India asked for raw materials for vaccines from the US, Joe Biden said no. It has not dawned on the rich world that for its own benefit, the whole world needs to get vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people from India and Africa and other parts of the world with low vaccination rates will travel to the rich world and could reignite the pandemic there. India played no part in generating or fostering the pandemic. Yet, with customary stoicism, it has borne the brunt of the pandemic. Only now is it getting somewhat of a handle on the disease. It needs more vaccines. The rich world has them but refuses to share them.

If in such a life and death situation as the pandemic, the US will not help us, why should we help it to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan and contain China? China offered us its vaccines but we spurned it. We have needlessly made China an enemy in our heads, and their vaccines have become enemy vaccines. So, Mr. Blinken, please don’t fish in untroubled waters when you visit India. Our army is more than capable of handling Afghanistan and Pakistan and China. We don’t need your help and we have no help to give you.

(The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas)