Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised, and normally led with, the issue of terrorism at every bilateral meeting he has held in and around the G-20 summit in Hangzhou. This has been par for the course with New Delhi in every diplomatic event as it is seen as necessary to placate domestic concerns. In addition, relations with Pakistan are entering a rocky patch even as Kashmir has come to a boil again — often a precursor to problems on the border and terror attacks inside the country.
In a more perfect world, New Delhi would have been playing a different tune. The G-20, though struggling, is the world’s most important economic gathering and its agenda is to tackle the world’s considerable economic problems. Modi did contribute to this in the actual gathering of G-20 leaders, saying there was a need for a concerted global effort to carry out structural reforms and move away from the present dependence on loose monetary policy.
India is among the few major economies actually carrying out such reforms; Modi among the few world leaders taking on the political risks that such reforms often entail. United States President Barack Obama underlined this, praising the Indian prime minister for, among other things, passing the Good and Services Tax constitutional amendment. In a world of paralysed governments, overworked central banks and slowing economic growth, that India is actually stepping on the accelerator when it comes to deep reforms is a source of the diplomatic equivalent of envy.
Which is all the more reason why it is unfortunate India continues to struggle to shake off the millstone of Pakistan. This is a failing state whose most famous global export is Islamicist terror and primary economic strategy is to blackmail other governments with the threat of domestic collapse. India’s future trajectory is may be unclear, but it has pulled itself clear from that of Pakistan’s decades ago. In a few years its economic fortunes may credibly be compared to that of China’s or the earlier Asian tigers. India has called upon other governments to “de-hyphenate” it from Pakistan.
This is happening, but in a jerky, slow-motion fashion where the actual forward movement is so minute as to be ignored. India has been given an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group sanctions, it is a serious contender for a United Nations Security Council and it is one of the largest recipients of foreign capital among the emerging economies. Pakistan aspires to the first, runs interference with the second and its FDI targets are on par with those of Rwanda. India will be eligible to host the G-20 in a few years time. It should make it a point to not utter the ‘T’ word to show how far it has come and how far behind its western neighbour is.