Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures during his address to the nation Tuesday | Photo: ANI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures during his address to the nation Tuesday | Photo: ANI
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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in not responding to the India-China border situation under pressure from critics or public opinion, is displaying statesmanship, because anybody who fires a shot under pressure takes completely unnecessary risks, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta said in episode 510 of Cut The Clutter.

In a short address to the nation Tuesday evening, PM Modi spoke about the guidelines for ‘Unlock 2.0’. He shocked and even disappointed many people by not addressing the stand-off with China in his speech.

But a strategic decision of that nature is not a T20 match, it’s a five-day Test match, where everything has to be decided very carefully. That cannot happen if a leader is responding to public pressure, Gupta said.

This is a much bigger problem in these times of populism, when so many countries are being run by very powerful single-man governments, who are alpha-male populists. Their decisions are often based in a need to show how powerful and decisive they are, but any leader who takes important decisions under that pressure suffers, Gupta said.

Lessons from the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru are important to keep in mind here. In 1962, Nehru’s decision to go to war with China — at a time when he knew the Indian Army wasn’t ready — was made under heavy public pressure. Nehru’s decision was made out of exasperation, because he was so completely harassed by his critics to go to war. While he was very much a one-man, personality-driven army, he did let the criticism get under his skin.


Also read: Modi skips Eid in the line-up of Indian festivals. Act of omission or commission?

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Cuban missile crisis

The same year as when Nehru decided to go to war with China, the United States was facing the threat of Soviet Union’s missiles. But then-US president John F. Kennedy’s response to the threat tells you that very often it is more prudent for leaders not to decide when under pressure — either of public criticism or public adulation.

On 15 October 1962, US intelligence got evidence that the Soviet Union was planting nuclear missiles in Cuba. This was 800 miles from the American coast, and those missiles would have had almost all parts of the US in its range. The news caused great alarm and the US defence forces wanted immediate, massive military strikes to take over Cuba. That may also be the immediate inclination of any leader — to be decisive and just go for it.

But Kennedy, who was still not a very experienced president, did not lose his nerve. He did not decide in a hurry. It is then that he is supposed to have spoken the famous line: A good leader does not have to decide every time.

Similarly, former Indian PM Indira Gandhi was under immense pressure to act against Pakistan when on 25 March 1971, the Pakistani army cracked down on East Pakistan. But she knew that India wasn’t ready. So Mrs Gandhi waited almost a full nine months, and used that time to prepare India militarily, as well as diplomatically and strategically. The war finally began on 3 December and it took India barely 13 days to register a win.


Also read: Modi’s rajniti unable to tackle India’s three big crises. Time for lokniti


Demonetisation and lockdown

PM Modi’s demonetisation in 2016 was a result of ‘one-man-think’ — where one man thinks and decides. There is no openness of debate or discussion. It was his decision, taken under the advice of some pop-economists. But no idea of this scale can go up for implementation unless it has gone through the usual rounds of scepticism and doubt.

But this happened because of the current obsession with shock and awe.

Similarly, the first lockdown was another such decision taken, with no thought given to what happens to migrants in the cities. The boss thinks of an idea, and everyone starts to retweet it, calling it a masterstroke instead of debating it.

So, by not reacting to the India-China standoff under a pressure, PM Modi is now avoiding that temptation.


Also read: Why can’t China retaliate to Modi’s virtual strike? There is no Indian TikTok to be punished


 

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14 Comments Share Your Views

14 COMMENTS

  1. Even over Pakistan, it is not certain India won. International observers say India hit nothing of value in Balakot and India lost a pilot who was graciously returned soon. It is just in that case, the BJP was able to pass it off as a victory to Hindus.

  2. It’s not the statesmanship of Modi. It’s the fear of China that has kept Modi in its true place. If Modi had had courage, he would have challenged China.

    • I agree. SG is attrubting Modi’s silence to sagacity. I don’t think so. It is the fear of another sure beating from China. Modi knows and the Chinese know. SG pretends he does not know.

      With demonetisation and lockdown, Modi has nothing to fear. Hindus worship him. The Chinese don’t !

  3. Indira Gandhi’s constant theme before
    the Bangladesh war was that nearly 10 million refugees ftom East Pakistan must go back. It was a great humanitarian crises, of concern to the entire world. She spoke about it to the Nation. So the nation knew the reality. There was no hide and seek. There was very natural dignity, national and cultural pride in dealing leaders of other countries.

  4. china and pakistan are different. 2. first time the 56″has not played to the gallery. rhetoric is fine. but has taken a considered , careful stance. disengagement is the only option not only because we are in the midst of a pandemic as well as worrisome economy. even a battle is the last thing we can afford. thank God that he has not shown the usual belligerence and drag the nation at this time into a crisis . a timely diplomatic initiative to reduce tensions would have saved the lives of our brave soldiers .

  5. Nehru was too democratic to ignore his colleagues even though he was conscious of the India’s weakness. He was defeated, But he was gracious enough to accept and own defeat. One can have only sympathy for that great man. Kennedy was pressured but he could withstand the pressure from his colleagues not by exercising his power but by persuasion. He was aware of the strength of his nation but he looked to the future generation’s well being and avoided war..Even after Russian withdrawal he did not gloat over his triumph.And gave strict instructions to his people also not do so. Instead he praised the statesman like behavior of chairman Khrushchev. But what about Modi What was his posture after the victory over a weak Pakistan.!! If now he shows restraint it is not statesmanship but fear, cowardice and duplicity

  6. An excellent article. An irrational and impetuous response should be avoided at any cost. The Chinese are now squatting on some of the areas where both India and China have claims – these are referred to as Areas of Differing Perceptions (ADPs). There are 23 ADPs across the LAC. In effect, China has ignored India’s claim in the Pangong lake area and occupied it up to what they consider is their perception of the LAC. It is difficult to dislodge them , unless we resort to an armed conflict, which we cannot afford to do at this juncture. The only option we have is to protest loudly and be vigilant to ensure that there is no recurrence of such instances in other ADPs. It is very difficult to conceive that India can impose economic costs on China. Banning Chinese Apps is just a notional remedy. Chinese exports to India amount to just 3% of their total exports , but they form 14 % of our total imports . So, this is an uneven contest. A rash action can hurt our economy. What we should aim is to gradually reduce our import dependence on China. This cannot be a one-day phenomenon and will essentially be a long drawn out process.

  7. Nehru was too democratic ignore his colleagues even though he was conscious of the India’s weakness. He was defeated, But he was gracious enough to accept defeat. One can have only sympathy for that great man. Kennedy was pressured but he could withstand the pressure from his colleagues not by arrogance but by persuasion. He was aware of the strength of his nation but he looked to the future generation’s well being and avoided war..Even after Russian withdrawal he did not gloat over the success.And gave strict instructions to his people also not do so. Instead he praised the statesman like behavior of chairman Khrushchev. But what about Modi What was his posture after the victory over a weak Pakistan.!! If now he shows restraint it is not statesmanship but cowardice and duplicity

  8. This statesmanship only comes with China. When it is Pakistan both Pakistan and Indian Muslims are equally targeted without any remorse.

    • With China, he has to be statesmanly to avoid another public beating. With Indian Muslims, he makes Hindus feel victorious.

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