Modi ready to do business with China

By Liu Zongyi Source:Global Times Published: 2014-5-19 19:13:01

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance powered by Narendra Modi emerged victorious, as expected, in India's general election. But its victory was greater than expected, with an overall majority in the national elections for the first time in 30 years.

This is a turning point in Indian politics because no party has managed to get a simple majority since 1984 when the Congress party won over 400 seats riding on the wave of sympathy after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Modi will be the next prime minister and the BJP could even form a government without allies. This is Modi's victory. The prime minister-elect has won a thumping endorsement from Indian industrial and commercial circles, middle class, young people and the "low castes" due to his resolute governance style, clean image, outstanding record, as well as his low caste background, which sharply contrast with his counterparts from the Congress.

Modi is a controversial figure. Critics say his political career has been stained with his authoritarian rule in Gujarat and actions during the 2002 riots, thus they argue Modi will alienate minorities and fuel confrontation as an "autocrat" after he assumes the office.

The opposition to the BJP hold this view out of the need for partisan competition, while as for Western critics, their attack on Modi is out of ideological concerns, because Modi's governance style and philosophy are very close to Chinese practices.

The BJP sweeping over half of the seats in the lower house of parliament indicates that reforms promoted by Modi could be easily passed. But it isn't important enough to worry about the prospect of Modi's "autocratic" rule.

The BJP only has around one fifth of seats in the upper house, therefore the odds are against Modi becoming an "autocrat." The prime minister-elect will be committed to dealing with long-term Indian political maladies such as rampant corruption, bureaucratism and low efficiency, that cannot be healed overnight.

Given Modi's emphasis on Hindutva ("Hinduness") during the election campaign, it's possible that he may fan religious conflicts, but at the same time, Modi's conception of Hindutva also underscores that "India is great simply by being India." The narrow-minded and extreme nationalist stand of the BJP has changed and the major task facing Modi is to create a stable domestic and neighboring environment to revive the ailing economy.

Modi promised he "will try to make India self-reliant and strong" in 10 years. Then he needs a peaceful and stable neighborhood to facilitate domestic economic development.

Some Western media are fomenting discord between China and India. They portrayed Modi as "India's Abe" who will take a tough stance against China. Modi acted indeed aggressively on the Sino-Indian border issue during his election campaign. He also vowed to establish a "web of allies" by strengthening strategic cooperation with countries on China's periphery such as Japan, Vietnam and Russia. But Modi is unlikely to act as vehemently as Abe, as it would be of no benefit to India's economy at all. 

The border issue is the biggest obstacle in bilateral relationship. But China and India has established a spectrum of effective cooperation and communication mechanisms including China-India strategic dialogue, special representatives meet on border problem and trilateral talks among Russia, India and China.

The Sino-Indian border issue was generated under the leadership of then Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru, Modi and the BJP have no historical burden over this, which may help solve the thorny issue.

The new prime minister will boost India's infrastructure and manufacturing, and then there will be myriad of opportunities for Chinese enterprises. As a right-winger in Indian politics, Modi is more likely to become India's "Nixon" who will further propel the China-India relationship.

The West's hyping Modi's aggressiveness toward China in fact reflects its own upset. It's noticeable that the US has taken a sharp turn in its attitude toward Modi after knowing he will be the next prime minister. US President Barack Obama congratulated Modi on his election victory and invited him to visit the US despite a previous US decision to deny him a visa.

Modi will not deliberately estrange New Delhi from Washington because of the discrimination he personally suffered.

But the new Indian government will surely reflect on its relationship with the US over the past decade in which India has only been a chess piece of the US to contain China.

The author is a research fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

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