Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have known that a powerful lobby in India would look with disfavour on his journey to Wuhan to have a tête-à-tête with President Xi Jinping. Quite apart from the very powerful weapons lobbies operating in the national capital, there are several analysts steeped in the culture of think-tanks in London, New York and elsewhere within the Atlantic Alliance who constantly warm the hearts of their mother institutions by calling for unceasing tension and sometimes even conflict between India and China. In much the same way, there are hugely influential lobbies in Beijing and Shanghai that parrot the New York and London line that India and China are destined to be at each other’s throat. In particular, a sizeable chunk of the top tier of the People’s Liberation Army has swallowed the propaganda from their “all-weather” friends in Rawalpindi that the PLA must forever be on guard against Indian forces. The desire of GHQ Rawalpindi is to have a two-front war against India, with China providing much of the deadly force of such a conflict on land, sea and air. From 1947 onwards, it has been the desire of the Pakistan army to witness the carving up of India into a multitude of entities, and from the start, the obsessive cultivation of China by a military that has remained a member of an anti-communist alliance has been with the intention of doing harm to India together with China. But what will China gain through following the Pakistan army’s agenda on Delhi? The reality is that China would be the loser, for the simple reason that India is already among the biggest markets for Chinese products, and bids fair to be an even more important destination for exports from the People’s Republic. While China spends humungous amounts of money in Pakistan, with no prospect of getting a return on money that comes from the pockets of the Chinese people, the PRC has for long been making handsome profits out of India. Such a situation simply underlines the reality that a close and cooperative relationship between India and China would be in the best interests of both of the biggest and fastest growing countries in Asia. It speaks for the wisdom and far-sightedness of President Jinping and Prime Minister Modi that they both have understood this, and have shown their determination to fulfil the dream of Deng Xiaoping that the Dragon and the Elephant should not fight, but dance in tandem, as PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently reiterated.
Now that Prime Minister Modi has succeeded in establishing a warm relationship between India and China, it is time for him to turn his attention to the other superpower. While China is a desirable partner in matters commercial, where security is concerned, the US is a good fit for India. The Prime Minister needs to talk to his other friend, Donald Trump, and ensure that the US President pays a visit to the world’s most populous democracy. While he is here, both Trump and Modi can witness the signing of the two other Foundation Agreements on India-US defence ties that have languished even after Modi took charge of Government of India on 26 May 2014. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would possibly have been in favour of signing all three of the Foundation Agreements (one of which has become operational two years ago), he was held back by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was clearly uneasy with the move to align closely with the US in matters of defence and security. This is presumably the reason why she chose A.K. Antony to be the Defence Minister of India. A well-known pacifist, Antony was an admirer of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for as long as that construct lasted, and retains an awe and admiration for Russia, even having in his library the works of Lenin and Stalin, both of which he used to read carefully in days past. Such Cold War thinking needs to be despatched out of the door, and the way to do this is for the Prime Minister to sweep aside opposition from weapons and other lobbies and ensure both that a Presidential visit takes place within a few months and that such a gesture be marked by the signing of the other two defence agreements. Both India and the US have several commonalities on defence and security, just as China and India have numerous congruences on matters of trade and commerce. India must ensure the best of relations with both the US and China, though in different ways. After Modi’s brilliant diplomacy together with Xi, it is time that Trump and Modi did the tango, this time in Delhi.