Former Congress President and scion of the Nehru-Gandhi Parivar, Rahul Gandhi, finally released the video that he had promised, although a couple of days behind schedule. In the short 3-minute clip, Gandhi speaks on the India-China conflict at the Line of Actual Control. As expected, he blamed the current government for the escalation by China.
Rahul Gandhi attempts to answer why China acted in the manner it did at this particular point in time. He says that countries are protected by a confluence of factors: Neighbourhood, Foreign Policy and Economy. As an aside, he also mentions that a country is protected by ‘the vision its people have’. And naturally, Rahul Gandhi attempted to prove that the government had failed in each of these three fronts.
Since 2014, the PM’s constant blunders and indiscretions have fundamentally weakened India and left us vulnerable.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 17, 2020
Empty words don’t suffice in the world of geopolitics. pic.twitter.com/XM6PXcRuFh
In the matter of foreign policy, Rahul Gandhi distinguished between ‘strategic partnerships’ and ‘transactional relationships’ although it is not clear as to what is the precise nature of the differences between the two. Are ‘strategic partnerships’ completely devoid of the concept profit and loss? Are ‘transactional relationships’ completely devoid of strategic objectives and simply crafted at whim?
Rahul Gandhi does not elaborate much on why ‘strategic partnerships’ are to be preferred over ‘transactional relationships’, or why the former is automatically more favourable than the latter. It might indeed be the case that the former is better than the latter but the only reason the Congress dynast gives is that it is better because Congress used to do it.
Of course, he does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Congress policy reflected ‘strategic partnerships’ while Narendra Modi’s reflect ‘transactional relationships’. Rahul Gandhi makes such bold assertions pretending as if these are self evident but that it isn’t the case can be gauged from the Congress party’s continued irrelevance in national politics.
Towards that end, Rahul Gandhi claimed that earlier, India had a ‘strategic partnership’ with the USA and at the same time, had a strong relationship with Russia. Now, he claims, it is not the case. But, it is an undeniable fact that geopolitical realities of today are not the same as it was yesterday. Is his argument that India should continue to maintain past relationships even if they are not as beneficial currently merely because of sentimentalities?
Web of Distortions
Rahul Gandhi says that earlier countries such as Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka in our neighbourhood were our friends. In fact, with the exception of Pakistan, all countries in the neighbourhood used to work with us, says the dynast. Notably, Rahul Gandhi appears to consider China as a country that was friendly with India as well, despite the fact during the era of ‘strategic partnerships’ China intruded on Indian territory on several occasions.
Rahul Gandhi then proceeds to say that ‘Nepal is angry with us’. While it is true that Indo-Nepal relationship is at a historic low, such a torrid relationship was not born in a vacuum. The beginnings of such a tumultuous relationship between the two countries began in the days of ‘strategic partnerships’ of Congress governments.
Right from the days Jawaharlal Nehru himself, The Congress held Nepal in disregard. However, it was after Rajiv Gandhi’s second visit to the Himalayan country that the relationship between the two countries really tanked. Rajiv Gandhi was miffed because Sonia Gandhi, his wife, was denied entry to the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu due to her being a non-Hindu.
It is widely believed that Rajiv Gandhi ordered a blockade of Nepal to avenge the perceived slight against his wife. A former Indian Ambassador to Kathmandu said, “It is well known that Rajiv Gandhi was ill-disposed towards Nepal’s monarchy and he had met pro-democracy leaders during his visit to Nepal in November 1987 for the SAARC summit. The Pashupatinath incident made him vengeful towards the king. The support that RAW started extending to Nepal’s anti-monarchists, including the Maoists, is very well known.”
The consequence of such a decision, made on the basis of ‘strategic partnerships’ as per Rahul Gandhi, was that the relationship between India and Nepal soured incredibly. And that was what led to Nepal’s tilt towards China. Finally the abolition of the Nepalese monarchy during the UPA regime cemented Nepal’s inclination towards China. Therefore, to maintain the pretence that Narendra Modi is entirely responsible for the current predicament reeks of historical ignorance.
In the video, Rahul Gandhi also says the Sri Lanka has given a port to China. He was referring to the Hambanthota Port, which was built by Sri Lanka with loans from China. And again, the loans for its construction were delivered during UPA’s era of ‘strategic partnerships’. Ultimately, unable to repay the loans, Sri Lanka had to agree to lease the port to a Chinese entity. Again, to pretend that the sole blame for it lies with Narendra Modi reeks of historical ignorance.
Furthermore, Rahul Gandhi claims that Maldives and Bhutan are ‘disturbed’. It appears that the Congress dynast is bent on creating disputes where there are none. While it is true that the relationship with Maldvies soured for a short while, things came back to normal and even better than before following the conclusion of their elections.
As for Bhutan, The India Chinese standoff at Doklam was a consequence of Bhutan’s status as India’s protectorate, apart from Indian national interests. Nothing has changed in that regard between the two countries. The claim that Bhutan’s relationship with India is ‘disturbed’ is just a plain lie.
‘Best Time To Attack’
Rahul Gandhi says due to a combination of these factors, along with the state of the economy, which is not limited to India as he pretends, led China to believe that this is the best time to engage in aggressive conduct at the LAC. Quite cleverly, he puts the entire blame on the current government without bothering to realise that sometimes, expansionist powers try to use calamities to extend their borders. And the Coronavirus crisis is certainly a grave calamity.
If it is the conduct of the current government that has made China act aggressively at the LAC, then Rahul Gandhi should also answer what it was about the UPA that made China intrude upon our territory in 2013. But, of course, the purpose of the whole video was to engage in petty politics. Rahul Gandhi has finally found the perfect medium where he can spout his inanities without anyone to counter his lies. Unlike live speeches, where mistakes cannot be rectified, such videos also present one with the opportunity to rectify mistakes before it is published.