OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

The Hindu reports:

Some members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday gave individual and separate notices for privilege motions in both the Houses of Parliament objecting to remarks attributed to India’s Ambassador to the United States Ronen Sen in an interview to Rediff India Abroad, a news website…The BJP was equally upset with the envoy’s remarks, especially since the former External Affairs Minister and Rajya Sabha MP, Yashwant Sinha, was reportedly named in the report ….

Ronen Sen belatedly tried to clarify his headless chicken remark directing his ire at the media rather than the “honorable” members of parliament. The mood in Parliament being what it is, Ronen Sen would need more than an apology for cover. Just when the week long mind game had come to resemble a ping pong of unspoken threats tossed between the Congress and the Left, the Sen remarks come as a welcome diversion.

Sen with his remarks has presented himself rather unwittingly as the sacrificial lamb to the blood thirsty politics raging on all sides. To the Government the Ronen episode is a great diversion from having to answer the Left’s questions. By offering him up for sacrifice it might even be able to extract a concession or two from the Left. To the Left which has been ravenously hungry but was restrained from going for the kill, the Ronen episode is a great opportunity to show it can bite and not just bark. Mr. Ronen the politically correct animal he was, made sure the BJP was  invited to the party as well by targetting Yashwant Sinha.

So a poll wary parliament can now begin the rites while the Government remains on Life Support for it has now been gifted with a Sacrificial Lamb for a surrogate.

While the mindgame takes a backseat and the sacrificial rites keep our poll-wary Members of Parliament busy, Offstumped reflects on What is the Indian National Interest ?

First an anecdote from watching GeoTV, the Pakistani Private TV Channel, which carried an hour long discussion in Urdu on Pakistan’s Geopolitical Strategy between a Dr. Shahid Masood and a Retd General Assad Durrani, former DG of the ISI.

Somewhere in the middle of the conversation Gen Durrani makes an interesting observation that Iran as an ancient Civilization is set in its ways, India as an ancient civilization has its links with Iran, but Pakistan an upstart nation is different.

After listening to the hour long conversation one would draw the conclusion that to Pakistan National Interest in the General’s opinion is really about the Geopolitical Adventurism of a dominant Sunni Majority which thinks and acts like an Upstart Nation not burdened by a sense of history or civilization. It (the dominant Sunni majority) sees the territory of Pakistan as gift which allows can be used as leverage in its Geopolitical Adventurism with no responsibility towards the other minorities that dwell in its territory who are both a territorial burden/nuisance (the Shias) and a geopolitical leverage (the NWFP Tribes, Kashmiris etc). Leverage on Afghanistan is hence guaranteed via the Tribes and can be used as a laboratory for its geopolitical experiments. Unfinished business with India is really about Water Security which if ensured could herald a complete ethnic break with the Indians, the Kashmir issue having outlived its usefulness. It can then move on with its geopolitical adventures in Central Asia to secure hydrocarbon sources and thus exercise leverage on Iran, India and everybody else who cares about Central Asian Hydrocarbons.

So there you have it a glimpse into what constitues Pakistan’s National Interest or really what constitutes the Sunni Majority’s Geopolitical Interest neither burdened by history nor by territory.

Can we answer the same question of the Indian National Interest ?

Is there a coherent answer that emerges from the cacophony of political voices ?

To the Left National Interest is about holding brief for the Chinese, for Iran, for the Hezbollah and every other repressive regime the world over. To the Regional Parties National Interest is anything that festers Muslim fears and anxieties while preserving State Sponsored Entitlement in the name of Social Justice. If the fringe Right that routinely swears by Nationalism has blinkered its vision of National Interest with settling “historical wrongs” the Center Left and Center Right in the Congress and the BJP have been guilty of shifting the goal post on National Interest with opportunism depending on which side of the political divide they happen to find themselves in.

But then why is it that the Center Left and Center Right have been opportunistic. It is important to reflect on this question for in it lies the answer to why we dont have a coherent view of what constitutes our National Interest.

The political opportunism that the BJP or the Congress display when in Opposition has to do with the flawed model of Democracy we have been burdened with where the Executive is subordinated to the Legislature to a degree where unless you control the Legislature you have no stakes in Governance for the next 5 years till the next elections and are pretty much irrelevant watching on the sidelines.

To better appreciate this let us examine why is it that despite having a strong Non-Proliferation agenda the Democrats in the U.S.  Congreess are able to work with a Republican President on the Nuclear Deal. The American Model of Democracy that separates the Executive from the Legislature while requiring Legislative Oversight of the Executive at the same time allowing for wide latitude in Executive Privilege is largely responsible for this. The separation of Executive and Legislature means the two principal parties can control separate functions of the Government thus both can be invested in and have a stake in National Affairs at the same time. Also the wide latitude the party system in Congress allows for bi-partisan sponsorship of legislation with Legislators cutting across Party Lines to come together on issues which also creates a stake for the opposition in the affairs of the Government.

By creating the opportunity for the opposition to stay engaged in National Affairs and by making it a stakeholder it is possible to evolve a coherent view of National Interest and to ensure consistency whether inside or outside the Government.

Offstumped Bottomline: So while we can blame political opportunism for obscuring National Interest unless we create a stake for the opposition to stay engaged in the affairs of the Government, it is opportunism that will rule the day.


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