Rahul Gandhi Deserves Credit For Being Forthright During US Visit
“He should be lauded for presenting a reasonably coherent foreign policy vision”, writes Tridivesh Singh Maini.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters miss no opportunity to ridicule Rahul Gandhi. A string of electoral defeats in state elections, after the loss of 2014, have not helped the Congress Vice President’s cause.
But, of late, Gandhi has been trying to rebrand himself and reposition the party. In an attempt to reach out to the urban middle classes, and professionals, he set up the All India Professionals’ Congress (AIPC), a wing consisting of professionals. The AIPC has received a reasonable response so far.
The AIPC is headed by Shashi Tharoor, former minister and Thiruvananthapuram MP, and its Vice Chairman is Milind Deora, former minister and MP who is also the coordinator of the Western Zone. The other Zonal Coordinators are Gaurav Gogoi (Eastern zone), Salman Soz (Northern zone) and Geeta Reddy (Southern zone).
US Visit Stood Out
During his US visit, while admitting the flaws within the Indian political system, and the mistakes of the Congress, Gandhi made some solid observations in the context of India’s USP versus China – Democracy and space for dissent.
While delivering a lecture, titled ‘India at 70: Reflections on the Path Forward’, at The University of California Berkeley, he said:
“Roughly 12 million young people, 12 million, enter the Indian job market every year. Nearly 90 per cent of them have a high school education or less. India is a democratic country and unlike China, it has to create jobs in a democratic environment. India does not have and nor does it want China’s coercive instruments. We cannot follow their model if massive factories controlled by fear.”
In an interview to Nicolas Berggruen, chairman of the Berggruen Institute, Gandhi stated:
“China has paid a huge price for what it has achieved. Thirty million people died in China as a result of its policies over the years. I am more than happy to give up one or two percentage points in GDP growth for the lives of 30 million people.”
While distinguishing between the Indian and Chinese model, and successfully hard-selling India’s advantages over China, Gandhi of course did mention the need for cooperation between China and India, given the fact that these are the two largest economies. Apart from acknowledging China’s success in the economic sphere, he praised China for decentralising power.
In his interview to Berggruen, he said: “If you look at Chinese cities, local governments have a lot of power.”
Gandhi on India’s Ties With the US
Apart from the India-China comparison, Gandhi also struck the right note in the context of India’s ties with the US. While reiterating the importance of India-US strategic ties, he also stated that India needs to have strong ties with both Russia and China.
A number of South Asia watchers (including think tanks, academics, former diplomats and politicians) in Washington DC were especially impressed by his understanding of complex issues – and his forthright approach. He had held closed-door meetings at think tanks, including The Center for American Progress.
Gandhi also had meetings with conservatives. These were organised by The Heritage Foundation and the American Foreign Policy Council. A number of those individuals who interacted with him confessed that the interactions were a revelation, and that he was far more coherent and substantive than they had thought.
All the above observations are significant, because he has often been accused of lacking a coherent vision. In addition, based on the Congress’ 2014 manifesto, there was a feeling that he did not have an adequate grasp of the changing geo-political dynamics, and would take back the party towards the old anachronistic Left-leaning economic and foreign policies.
We will continue to support the goodwill nurtured for decades amongst socialist countries.Congress’ 2014 manifesto
During his interactions, the Congress Vice President has adopted a far more Centrist approach.
Whether these efforts yield results in 2019 or not, Gandhi needs to be lauded for presenting a reasonably coherent foreign policy vision, which may appear simplistic, but is pragmatic. Gandhi also deserves credit for being forthright.
(Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based Policy Analyst associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat. The views expressed above are of the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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