Why India’s Next PM, Unlike Modi, Should Read Dinkar?
Nehru had read Dinkar closely, penning a wonderfully erudite introduction to Dinkar’s Sanskriti ke chaar adhyaya.
Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, who was bestowed the moniker of Rastrakavi or National poet, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for art and literature by Jawahar Lal Nehru. His work spans era and genres, with Rashmirathi perhaps his most famous creation. Nehru had read Dinkar closely, penning a wonderfully erudite introduction to Dinkar’s ‘Sanskriti Ke Chaar Adhyaya‘ but it seems Narendra Modi clearly hasn’t read Dinkar.
Let’s not distract ourselves with the mysterious educational qualifications of Modi but focus on the matter at hand: Dinkar. Actually, just one particular poem by Dinkar which says:
सच पूछो तो शर में ही बसती है दीप्ति विनय की/
संधिवचन सम्पूज्य उसीका जिसमे शक्ति विजय की.
सहनशीलता, क्षमा, दया को तभी पूजता जग है/
बल का दर्प चमकता उसके पीछे जब जगमग है.
(Truth be told, it’s in the quiver That lies the gleam of modesty/
Only his peace-talk is reputable Who is capable of victory.
Tolerance, forgiveness and clemency Are respected by the world/
Only when the glow of strength From behind them is unfurled)
When Modi assumed power in May 2014, he did so on the basis of claiming a 56-inch chest, standing up to China and obliterating Pakistan. Four years on, the reality is the opposite. Leave alone Pakistan giving India as good as it gets or India succumbing to Chinese moves in border areas, even smaller neighbours like Nepal and Maldives have demonstrably lost their faith in Narendra Modi. And it is directly related to the depletion of Indian diplomatic and military capacity in the past four years.
The foreign ministry is run by a minister who is more interested in her Twitter profile than in actual diplomacy. We have had a foreign secretary, now retired, who displayed a reckless approach and boorish behaviour on a daily basis while only intent of furthering Modi’s political line. His successor is trying for course-correction, but he has to contend with an absentee foreign minister and an overbearing National Security Advisor.
The National Security Advisor is another beast altogether. The popular media portrayal of him as someone with a great belief in hard power now seems more of a caricature than the reality. Hard power needs hard yards to create capacity, but he hasn’t put in those hard yards at all. Under his watch, India’s military power has degraded and declined. As intelligence capacity is a classified matter, one cannot be sure, but it is unlikely that it would be one bright exception when everything else is collapsing.
But to focus on diplomatic, military and intelligence capacity depletion would be to miss the wood for the trees. All this is linked to the one big thing which has been completely destroyed by Modi: the Indian economy. India is unable to spend on military modernization or offer more sops to its smaller neighbours because it doesn’t have the money. Even for the rest of world, India becomes less attractive if its economy doesn’t do well. That is what is happening now. India is clearly losing the plot.
Modi can lay claim to benevolence, forgiveness and tolerance in international relations but it is coming from a position of weakness, not from a position of strength. He may fool some of the Indians all the time, or all the Indians some of the times, but not all the Indians all the time – and as far as the rest of the world is concerned, he is fooling no one. Modi will perhaps not return to power in 2019, but the damage he has done to India’s standing will be his legacy for future governments to bear. Let’s hope that India’s next prime minister has read Dinkar.
Toba Tek Sen was born in Kerala, schooled in Bengal and lived in Dubai. While continuing to slave for daily wages, he dreams of availing bank loans like Nirav Modi and sipping beer like Vijay Mallya.