By MR Josse
NEW YORK, NY: Even as President Donald Trump returned enthused from his most recent European odyssey, here at home the drive for impeachment proceedings to begin against him has gained momentum.
Significantly, though, according to an NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist Poll, Americans are still split – overall – on what to do after the release of the Mueller report. In fact, a slim majority (52%) wants one of the following: to begin impeachment proceedings (22%), to continue investigations into potential wrongdoing of Trump (25%), or to publicly reprimand him (5%).
Thirty-nine percent say no further action should be taken and that the current investigations should end. That, as NPR reminds, is largely reflective of Trump’s base, as he maintains a 41% approval rating in the poll. Democrats are divided as to whether impeachment should begin (36%) or investigations should continue (37%). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to try to hold the line against impeachment proceedings, saying she favors investigations.
In addition to “relatively low support for impeachment proceedings, there are other hints of good news in the polls for Trump. With Americans’ improving views on the economy, fewer are saying that they will definitely vote against him in next year’s presidential election.”
On the Democratic front, as per Politico, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the crammed field – now with as many as 24 announced interested candidates – with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in a tight secondary grouping alongside South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the third poll of the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating state.
As reported by CNN, “2020 Democrats will be tripping over each other in Iowa this weekend, as nearly 20 Democratic primary candidates swarm the state, holding dozen of rallies before gathering in Cedar Rapids Sunday to take turns pitching a crowd of state party officials, activists and organizers.”
NEW POLITICAL FOLKLORE
Meanwhile, as perceived from this distance, despite a solid majority in parliament for the K.P. Sharma Oli-led government back home, there is a seeming loss of political direction, attempted to be camouflaged by a splurge of disjointed foreign missions by the peripatetic prime minister.
The government appears to operate on an ad hoc basis without any clear over-arching vision, marred by dissension in Communist ranks and disarray in the Opposition; on the other hand, there seems to be an alarming resurgence in public disillusionment with regard to the putative magical virtues of secularism, federalism and republicanism. Added to that, there is plainly a bewilderment about how to grasp the stinging nettle of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s second term.
Meanwhile, in post-election India, there is much political ferment, even anger and uncertainty, with the Indian Congress seemingly in no mood to graciously accept the results of the recent parliamentary election, redolent of the political mood in America following Donald Trump’s stunning electoral upset in 2016.
There is – not one bit surprisingly – much chest-thumping about India’s ‘leading power’ status, and the endless recantations of the ‘neighbourhood first’ foreign policy mantra, ostensibly reflected in recent Modi’s visits to Sri Lanka and the Maldives – and Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s foray to Bhutan.
It does not, hence, require the diplomatic acumen of a Chanakya to realise the underlying nexus between those gambits and the message New Delhi hopes thereby to transmit to China: her ‘neighbourhood first’ policy aims not only at supremacy of the region around India but suggests, too, that the same applies to the Indian Ocean region, where the Chinese Navy has a growing, and legitimate, presence.
It is equally manifest in Modi’s imperious snub to Pakistan – the only neighbour not invited for his inaugural ceremony and which was, in addition, rebuffed by his downgrading the importance of SAARC, in favor of BIMSTEC.
At this stage, I should like to draw readers’ attention to Shyam Saran’s piece in the Hindustan Times arguing that the Modi government and its foreign policy team will have to deal with “a much more complex external environment” than hitherto.
Saran – who never made it to foreign minister but was eminently productive as foreign secretary and had several stints as ambassador, including to Nepal – predicts that “the asymmetry of power between India and China will expand as will Chinese influence in India’s immediate subcontinental neighbourhood, as China continues to march towards superpower status.”
Saran’s key point is that India’s pursuit of ‘leading power’ status – recently asserted by Jaishankar – would depend on not spreading herself “too thin across the region” but, instead, by “concentrating resources where they are required the most.” He explains further: “In the face of Chinese intrusion India must maintain its dominance in its own neighbourhood, with priority to the Himalayan states, Bangladesh and the maritime states of Sri Lanka and the Maldives.”
How India can do all that and still manage to get along, swimmingly, with a puissant China, which shares much of the same neighbourhood as India’s, has not been explained. That conundrum needs to mulled over, particularly by a Nepal neighbouring both a ‘leading’ as well as an emergent ‘superpower’!
To be kept in mind, too, is the frenzied myth-spinning that is now going on in sections of the Indian media regarding the talented Jaishankar. Indeed, a brilliant example of the same is embedded in a story in a PTI item in tribuneindia.com where the outlandish claim is made that he is, according to a covey of India-born Americans, “one of the world’s best diplomats”.
Without detracting one jot from the reported brilliance of India’s new technocratic foreign minister, methinks it’s one heck of a stretch to claim that he is “one of the world’s best diplomats.”
While we shall naturally know, by and by, how Jaishankar performs as India’s chief diplomat, there has been so much made about his extra-ordinary skills that one quite forgets that India has had a whole string of extremely talented and very successful diplomats.