We are living through historic times. Not in living memory has the world seen a global pandemic of this magnitude.
COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, chilled economies, separated people and resulted in losses that no amount of recovery will ever compensate for.
In these difficult times, India was faced with the expansionist agenda of the Chinese.
The inscrutable Chinese are not pleasant neighbours and have a predilection for rogue countries like Pakistan and North Korea, finding it much easier to negotiate with their authoritarian regimes than with democratically elected leadership.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, since he burst onto the international scene, is a leader who attracts the admiration and envy of his peers. Let us move beyond geopolitics and evaluate the human interactions between these powerful individuals.
In a recent debate, a senior journalist who had visited China at the time of PM Modi’s visit, recalled a particular instance, when there was a crowd of thousands who had gathered and were chanting ‘Modi! Modi! Modi!’
The journalist noted that the inscrutable Xi had a shift in emotion, a flicker of something that revealed envy. Xi is no people’s man; he has climbed the totem poll of communist politics in China from his early days in the seventies when he was posted as a Communist Party Secretary in a small village.
His machinations have centered on manoeuvring, exhausting and winning over his comrades, not so much as being a person of the people. He was never accountable to the Chinese people, only to the Communist party.
Xi is a dynast. His father was a powerful Communist party leader who fell out of favour for a few years and was purged, only to be rehabilitated later. Xi is part of the set known as the ‘Princelings’, a crew of second generation heirs to the political legacy of their parents -- all powerful members of the Communist party, they are associated with nepotism and cronyism and actively lobby for each other.
Significantly, XI disappeared for a few days before he took over the party leadership, cancelling meetings with American politician Hillary Clinton, amongst others. Rumour had it that during a meeting of the Princelings that turned violent Xi had been injured and had gone into a sulk. Just a little bit of entitled comrade-ship.
In either case, Xi cannot stake claim to the organic popularity Modi enjoys amongst his people, his ascent has come through hard nosed lobbying and in no small measure to access.
Modi, on the other hand, was the outsider, born to a humble family with no political connections. He has seen a far-from-ideal childhood and life. In his journey to the top office in the country he has won the affection of people around the country and is now in a position of public adulation that few leaders anywhere in the globe can aspire to.
If Xi was a little jealous, he was only being human.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party is authoritarian, but its elite politics decides that collective leadership is the way forward: this principle has seen the peaceful transfer of power in the past.
Under Xi, this principle has faltered like never before, leading some China observers to comment that collective leadership is dead.
Needless to mention, the crown sits heavy on Xi’s head, his compulsion to push the ‘Middle Kingdom’ theory may also be seen as a strike for greatness that is denied to him by his elite gang of comrades and the world.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Modi has used his six years in power to reach out to the world, from small nations in Africa to superpowers such as the United States.
Is it any wonder then that France was quick to stand by India in the Galwan standoff, offering its unstinted support extending to its armed forces.
This was unthinkable in the past: even during the dastardly terror attacks of 26/11 on Mumbai, we saw outpouring of grief and solidarity but not much else. It has been a leap to this stage, with countries offering their soldiers to stand with us shoulder to shoulder in this critical time.
It is in this context that the prime minister’s visit to Leh must be viewed, it was the visit at the height of his popularity and likeability, not only in India where he won a majority mandate yet again but also in the world.
When Modi spoke from Leh, he spoke to the brave soldiers of the armed forces, the people of India and the world. Every one was listening.
Advaita Kala is an author, screenwriter and a columnist. The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
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