Happy birthday Sharief

V Pattabhi Ram

I now understand Narendra Modi’s biryani taunt of Dr. Manmohan Singh. Apparently, Modi likes cakes and ales; and not biryani. Jokes apart, I am not a strategic affairs expert, given to enormous spin. What I know is that you can look at an action from any prism of your choice.

My sense is that having visited several countries, some once and others more than once, Modi has begun to realize that if he wants to be counted as a world leader, despite his not so very glorious past, he needs to make international friends and influence people internationally.  Or at least, he must be seen to be a nice guy; a dove and not a hawk.

My sense is that his Pakistan visit was a carefully planned strategy that was not shared even within the party. After all, a surprise action draws more attention. A planned itinerary could have lead to a lot of noise pre his departure.  Also, it’s inconceivable, given the umbilical chord that attaches him to the RSS, that Modi did not take the RSS into confidence. Remember, how Advani got into trouble for far less adventurism.

My sense is that it’s exciting to have breakfast in Chennai, lunch in Mumbai and dinner in Delhi.  It should be far more exciting to have breakfast in Kabul, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Delhi. It was something Dr. Singh dreamt of in a more substantial way, but he was too much of a consensus creator to help it happen, hemmed as he was in different directions by characters of different kinds.

While personally I am not very excited by this “Hi, Happy birthday Sharief” charade and then dropping into this granddaughter’s wedding, I think there are some lessons that we can draw.  Surely if meeting people and wishing happy birthday could help us buy peace, then we should be doing this across the world, day after day, every day. Actually, in one sense, Sharief should get the handclaps because it was he who invited Modi. I am sure Modi wouldn’t have asked, “Happy birthday. Can I drop in at your place?”

Would it not be equally gratifying to see Modi reach out to the leaders in India?  Or does he need an invitation? Did Modi drop in at the office or residence of any of the leaders of the Opposition?  No, he did not. May be because he carries the baggage of the past. Should he drop in?  May be, yes.

If Modi wants to be the apostle of peace, he has first to make peace with the politicians in India. How he does that whether by apologizing for his party’s past action of blocking parliament or otherwise, is his lookout.  If he does that as in making friends and influencing people, he would have made a point. Charity, after all, begins at home.

Modi will rise in everybody’s esteem if he can bring about peace in the region if he builds a positive relationship with politicians at home, acts against corruption charges even if it involves his ministers, and makes hi party let other governments work.

At a personal level, I am neither excited nor angered by this Lahore visit.  We have seen too many ulta-poolta, too many somersaults in the last six months to know which to trust and which to mistrust.

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