ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2019.
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I believe that critics are unfairly targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for what they perceive are excessive foreign visits. They are envious of his reception by hosts everywhere, the crowds he attracts and their adulation of him, and of course his achievements from these well publicised visits. During the election campaign preceding his spectacular success at the polls, I had projected him as the most exalted planet in India's horoscope. The people's verdict proved my point and I felt proud that I had made some small contribution to his success, something I conveyed to him a little after, also adding that I sought nothing in return — nothing meaning literally nothing. I also recall expressing my favourite sentence about myself that "I am now living in the departure lounge of God's airport", and praying that he fulfils all the promises he made to the people.
Coming back to the PM's foreign visits, if we look at them objectively, we can only conclude that each one them has served a national purpose, which is of top priority for him, which he believes he must achieve urgently for the country. He has tried to place India's imprint in important countries of the world which can hasten India's economic progress, even those at the borders of distant hemispheres. As he commented in his typical caustic style, which has become his hallmark, that in spite of the great advancement in air travel, and reduction of travel time between Canada and India, it has taken 42 years for an Indian Prime Minister to visit Canada. (He was of course referring to bilateral visits, and not participation in the G20 conference that his predecessor had done in 2010.)
It is clear that the PM's first priority is to get India's growth rate to surge as high as possible, and he believes that "Make in India" is key for this. What "Make in India" really implies is simple, fundamental and essential. It implies accelerated and state of the art manufacturing and production. But this in turn needs requisite skills and technology, and assured supplies of energy, none of which we can claim as our core strengths today in the globalised world, thanks to their neglect by the decade long UPA regime. We should have during the last decade customised our skill creation and technology development plans to a serious needs assessment for our vision of India. But, sadly, we created no long term vision for India during the ten long years of UPA rule. Quite understandable, as their only priority was a long term vision for the plunder of India.
Only Make in India can provide employment to the aspiring "neo middle class" that has just emerged out of the poverty line through functional literacy and some access to capital; to the rural-urban migrants for whom income from agricultural activity is not enough aspiration for a decent quality of life. Make in India and resultant jobs is the promise that the PM has made to the people of India.
It is with great satisfaction that we read the IMF/World Bank forecast that India's economic growth for the next two years will overtake China at 7.5%, to become the world's fastest growing major economy, as against China's expected growth of about 7.1% this year No doubt, cheaper import of oil has been a boon, which has contributed to a rapid deceleration of inflation. But as Forbes puts it, India's economy is now firing on all four cylinders, for which credit must go to the government for creating a more enabling and efficient climate for investment.
So far so good, and hopefully, it should get better. The PM's visit to France was certainly a success in clinching the Rafale deal, purchasing 36 planes in flyaway condition, in a direct government-to-government deal. Our Air Force needed the planes badly, and the procurement was hanging fire for more than a decade. We are informed that there is every possibility that the off-the-shelf purchase of 36 planes by the government could be followed by France's Dassault Aviation jointly manufacturing the next batch of its Rafale fighters in India with an Indian partner, as a condition for securing the remaining contract. That would be a real high tech boost for "Make in India".
The PM's visit to Germany, again can only be termed as a great success. It was bonhomie from start to finish, and the joint statement between him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised strengthening our strategic partnership and encouraging "greater synergies between German engineering, experience in sustainable development, innovation and skills, and the new opportunities available in India and through 'Make in India', 'Clean India', 'Digital India' and other initiatives towards achieving economic growth and sustainable development". The PM's priority programmes all find place, apart from modernisation of railway infrastructure, cleaning rivers, improving urban habitats. But what is definitely interesting is the explicit hint of defence cooperation, with announcements of visits by the German Defence Minister to India and the Indian External Affairs Minister to Germany.
Side by side, an issue really germane to our internal affairs was also being played out in Germany. Prime Minister Modi met family members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in Berlin and assured them that he would personally examine the case for the declassification of the Netaji files. The nation has been following the story of surveillance over the Bose family that has been revealed in some of the declassified files, and there is demand from the Bose family members to declassify all the files, to finally put at rest the controversies surrounding Netaji's disappearance.
The refusal to declassify the Netaji files has been the most heinous crime of the UPA regime and it is a pity that the present government inexplicably retained this position for some time. Indian democracy should have been treated with more respect.
However, despite its previous stand that release of the Netaji-related records may prejudicially affect "relations with a foreign country", true to his word, even while the PM was still in abroad, the government constituted a committee to examine the provisions of the Official Secrets Act (OSA), framed by the British in 1923, in the light of the Right to Information Act (RTI).
The Bose family are delighted. They had written to every Prime Minister from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh, but to no avail. Narendra Modi acted within 24 hours of their meeting, and that too while he was not in India.
Declassification of the Bose files will be an important milestone in India's history. It would reveal the truth regarding one of our most revered and nationalist heroes, who met a tragic end, perhaps with the connivance of his erstwhile comrades, a story that has deliberately been suppressed so far. It will also shatter many myths and haloes, particularly of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Cantab blue-eyed boy of England, and who knows, perhaps even of the ruling party. There have been continuous media reports about the deposition of one Shamlal Jain, confidential steno of the INA Defence Committee, before the Khosla Commission, that Nehru wrote to the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, informing him that Subhas Chandra Bose, "your war criminal, has been allowed to enter Russian territory by Stalin. This is a clear treachery and betrayal of faith by the Russians. As Russia has been an ally of the British-Americans, it should not have been done. Please take note of it and do what you consider proper and fit." Well, if this deposition is indeed true, then I believe that the term "maut ka saudagar" has finally found its definition. Let us wait a little while longer for the declassification issue to unfold.
The Canada visit has created a new chapter in reviving our much neglected relations with it. Commercial cooperation in the civil nuclear energy sector will resume and on the first day itself, a deal to buy more than 3,000 tonnes of Saskatchewan uranium over the next five years for our power reactors was signed. India badly needs energy, for its economic growth and Make in India, and we must use every source of generating it.
Before I conclude, let me say that there is, however, a debit side to the PM's German visit which I will share with my readers someday not far off.
My pursuit of the stolen assets of the poor people of India is too well known. It is a decade old and I have been a lone fighter. Almost every lawyer and judge knows about it. The party rewarded me by a mean expulsion which has not been withdrawn despite numerous promises, reminding me of Shakespeare's famous lines:
Blow, blow thou winter wind,/Thou are not so unkind/As mans in ingratitude."
While this is something people in power will have to reflect upon sooner or later, I am certain that before I quit this planet my achhe din should soon send my betrayers scurrying for cover. But let me give Narendra Modi the credit for the remaining balance of my depleted stock, for his achievements.