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From Kashmir to coronavirus, how Modi’s silver bullet Jaishankar is keeping troubles away

Jaishankar understands that crises are the bedrock of opportunities. So before EU leaders held a teleconference on COVID-19, India activated hot lines across South Asia.

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In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has turned out to be his silver bullet on the foreign policy front, splendidly managing one crisis after another, even as he lends his extraordinary intellect and pragmatic spine to the ruler in Delhi.

Of course, Home Minister Amit Shah remains the PM’s foil, counterfoil and everything in between. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been associated with the BJP for some time and his hands-on experience as a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief has been instrumental in managing the Modi government’s biggest national security challenge in the second term — how to pacify Kashmir.

But there is now a new rising star on the BJP block and his name is Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

From pulling off the biggest image-building exercise for PM Modi in recent times — the “very successful” visit by US President Donald Trump, travelling to Srinagar to ensure that all negative coronavirus Kashmiri students recently returned from Iran were nicely settled, Sunday afternoon’s teleconference between Modi and other SAARC leaders – Jaishankar has managed them all while doggedly staying in the background.

Also read: US and Russia hail Modi’s video-conference with SAARC leaders over coronavirus

The big visit

Let’s start with the Trump visit. All those who asked “what India got” missed the main point, which is that all politics, both foreign or domestic, is primarily about communicating how you achieve your goals.

As Modi delivered the biggest welcome party to the world’s most powerful and controversial leader in Ahmedabad, and as the Trumps hung out at the Taj Mahal and then in Delhi, Jaishankar ensured that the Modi message was identified with the most positive spin. He couldn’t help the riots that broke out that evening in Delhi, of course.

This week, for the second time in eight months, since the dilution of Article 370, Modi has been caught plumb in the middle with his second biggest foreign policy challenge — how should India deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Also read: MEA set to brief foreign envoys on coronavirus, will allay concerns over travel advisory

The bigger problem

On Sunday afternoon, in an initiative that smelt and sounded like the 2014 invitation to all SAARC leaders for Modi’s swearing-in, Modi spoke to the leaders of South Asia, save Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, on how to deal with the COVID-19 emergency.

The PM has the right idea. India is too closely intertwined with the rest of the region to deal with a major health care crisis on its own. After all, viruses don’t need visas to cross borders.

Jaishankar understands that crises are the bedrock of opportunities. So, one day before finance ministers of the European Union conducted a teleconference on the same subject, India activated hot lines across South Asia.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Maldives President Ibu Solih, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli, Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were on the other end of the video line. Imran Khan sent his special advisor on health Zafar Mirza, who came off looking terribly churlish when he raised the Kashmir lockdown in the middle of the discussion, although he covered it up by saying that health measures should apply to the Union Territory too.

Also read: Modi govt’s domestic politics hurting India’s ties abroad. But not as badly as critics say

Leadership show

It was a superb – if scandalously boring—effort. In any case, the leaders were reading off statements that their bureaucrats had prepared and nothing was new. The truth is that it was not intended to be anything else.

What was intended was a demonstration of Modi’s leadership, that he will not only lead India, but that India will lead the South Asian region under his charge – irrespective of what Pakistan has to say about Kashmir, which is a done deal, anyway.

Certainly, the coronavirus pandemic has become Modi’s biggest foreign policy challenge too. China’s Xi Jinping was roundly criticised for shutting down Wuhan and some other cities in the early weeks to contain the virus but he has been proved right in hindsight. Xi’s authoritarian decision bought the world time and none other than WHO has recognised it.

On the other hand, India remains beset, at least in the international press, with the image of a poverty-ridden, Third World country thatcannot even control a communal riot in its backyard. Former Goldman Sachs chief Jim O Neill’s comment that he’s glad the “virus didn’t start in India” hits uncomfortably close to the truth.

So what does Modi do? Remember that the PM has stated several times that India will take charge of all Indians all over the world. His massive diaspora efforts, which have become parallel foreign policy instruments, are part of this universe. As the virus travelled across the world, and Indians began to fall sick or prey to panic, Modi knew his work was cut out.

Also read: MEA appoints COVID Coordinator to streamline global efforts on coronavirus

Enter Jaishankar

From airlifting Indian students in Wuhan and sending a medical team to Italy to give positive or negative coronavirus certificates to Indians there, to sending a medical team to the Maldives, the foreign office has attempted to portray a softer and kinder government that takes care of its own.

But there was a larger message in the works as Modi sat across the video line with the leaders of South Asia on Sunday afternoon: I am, the PM implied, also willing to take care of your citizens too.

Views are personal.

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  1. When CJI Rangnath Mishra was sent to
    to the Rajya Sabha the Congress wanted to save the culprits of 1984 Sikh riots whereas CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination by the President of India has no such consideration and integrity is above board. His is a valuable addition to the Upper Chamber.

  2. Late Sushma Swaraj was so much better and quicker than the present incumbent. From office notes to prevent Indians with Corona from entering the process only settled recently.

  3. India doesn’t need any external enemy. It has enough and more ” Jaichands ” in its Macaulay Media. Shameful.

  4. There are so many Left Bhakts here, that they are entirely losing the plot. Whenever, there’s a pandemic, there are few things called as Medical ethics and Journalism ethics. These few sentences are for those criticizing the press media for not interviewing the people who are cured of the infection. The first and foremost thing that any responsible person working in Medical or Journalism field is to keep the infected persons details a secret. Don’t try to impose the very little knowledge that you have, which is of no use to anyone else, other than you.

  5. Jyoti ji, excellent analysis. You just skipped one silver bullet & that happens to be the CDS. Why do you think, pakis utterly failed to respond militarily on Kashmir inspite of being challenged on their very idea of existence & tremendous internal pressure ?

  6. Good journalists try to hide their bias while writing. Great journalists succeed. Jyoti , sadly, doesn’t even attempt to hide where her sympathies lie. It is tragic that ThePrint allows such trash. Gatekeeping, anyone? Obviously, journalistic credibility doesn’t count for much anymore.

  7. Good & learned people should enter the parliament. In that context CJI Gogoi ‘a nomination is an welcome phenomenon. When Congress nominated CJI Ranganatha Mishra, there was no hue & cry; so why now,when BJP govt selected him.

  8. Real Journalism. The psuedo-libral breakdown can be clearly seen in te comments because their paid news sources like TheWire dont show them this.
    Earlier I thought ThePrint was also paid but now i think its more of Centrist channel which at times criticises and very rarely praises the govt and the miseducated left-bhakts should know that this article praises the executive not the BJP-led legislature.

  9. Real Journalism. The psuedo-left/Libeal breakdown can be clearly seen in te comments because their paid news sources like TheWire dont show them this.
    Earlier I thought ThePrint was also paid but now i think its more of Centrist channel which at times criticises and very rarely praises the govt and the miseducated left-bhakts should know that this article praises the executive not the BJP-led legislature.

  10. The author must have got her share of the virus. She is singing praise for Modi, and Guptaji has approved it .

  11. Dear Print,
    Do you have to really crawl when you are asked to bend? Extremely servile article meant to image build the PM. Did the PM even bother to give solace to the Delhi riot victims ? They were Indian citizens too.

    • There is definitely some thing burning here, turn around and check your back side….. Such mis guided you are..the article is about CoViD-19 and you are talking about delhi riots, skin to paki health minister…OUT OF CONTEXT, GROW UP!!!!

  12. Take it for sure
    Gogoi Ranjan will also prove to be an asset for the nation as JAI SHANKAR is
    Don’t go into barks of certain pakis – Modi is selecting Jewels

  13. Whatever the issues in domestic front created by Congress and left in association with pfi , the modi government successfully overcame those unnecessarily maligned image and has shown the world that the Indian government is strong and has tremendous leadership that the international community cannot ignore .it is also a fact that the current government is quite capable of dealing with challenges from international sector which definitely Congress cannot handle.

  14. Madam we just 1000 Test Kits per One Core of population. Testing has been restricted to bare minimum. Bombastic words are an attempt to pull wool our eyes.

    • The risks of privitising testing is the virus can be leaked in sub standard facilities.. Private players are driven by profits & will lie in reports creating panic. Sub standard minds won’t understand.

  15. Jyoti Malhotra is extra ordunarily good in licking the boots of the ruling party. This fellow Jaishankar has messed up everything from the worst press India ever had to, EU parliment condeming India etc etc still she has the audacity to fool the nations. Print you are printing your dirt everywhere.

  16. The virus is a lesson to the west. Press are not able to understand the virus as they have journalists who are BA and Commerce graduates in their pay rolls and not one qualified Dr. To write an article. The same in this case linking virus issue to external affairs. It is a good measure by the government , but as an publication house most of them have lost the plot and are simply putting our some stories and statistics . Has any one interviewed the the patient who has been cured with Corona virus in kerala and published it or the Italian who is free of Corona. These guys have just lost it.

  17. India has no Lone Ranger and or Superman. There are no superbullet available for any thing. I pity your delusion.

  18. The actual rogue is our opposition who bent on defaming india. Rahul gandhi most immature surrounded by baseless spoons are responsible for all defamation.

  19. Jaishankar can keep problems away except the rogue journalist defaming India through foreign media. Their Indian citizen tag save them.

  20. Just to stop Jyoti from her usual wild criticisms, Modi found Jai Shankar and put him as EAM! And even if Jai Shankar is now associated with Modi, his reputation is thankfully in tact at the hands of Jyoti. Of course, Modi by himself deserves this line from “Former Goldman Sachs chief Jim O Neill’s comment that he’s glad the “virus didn’t start in India” hits uncomfortably close to the truth.”. To put it short- as often, this is another inane article without any substance from Jyoti..

  21. There was a time, not far back, when India had decisively left behind its global image of being a poverty ridden, Third World country. Why these attributes, along with communal violence, have regained currency should inspire the deepest introspection.

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