Foreign Ties Reset
New Delhi has decided it is time to change the focus of its foreign policy which revolved around the US. Now, the new approach is to pay more importance to neighbours to prevent them getting too close to China—Narendra Modi’s trip to Nepal was part of the new strategy. All other neighbours, even the Maldives, despite extreme provocation, have been subjected to a charm offensive. The diplomatic outreach includes countries getting close to Pakistan.
Modi discussed Pakistan’s terror tactics with President Xi in Wuhan and next week, he meets Vladimir Putin (Russia is negotiating arms deals with Islamabad). Another Pakistan ally, North Korea has also just received a rare visit by an Indian minister, General VK Singh (left).
Simultaneously, Delhi has restarted the stalled Raisina Dialogue with Pakistan, also known as Track II, where informal but secret talks are held between retired IFS, IAS, armed forces and academics and intelligence officials, from both sides, acting on behalf of their governments. The Ramzan ceasefire break in J&K would also suggest that the big brother approach to smaller neighbours has boomeranged and the pressure on Delhi by China, the US and others is for a resumption of formal talks with Pakistan. Track II is a baby step in that direction.
Rahul’s Single Status?
He is India’s most eligible bachelor, now getting a bit long in the tooth, so is marriage an option? It would seem so, judging by the rumours that started circulating last week. They started after a meeting between the family of veteran Congressman Akhilesh Singh and Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka. The focus was on Aditi Singh, also a Congress member. She contested the UP elections from Rae Bareli Sadar and won, and is now an MLA like her father. She is also an attractive, articulate 30-year-old who would be a perfect match except she has denied any such alliance in a tweet, saying the rumours were meant to distract Rahul from the Karnataka polls. So he remains Bachelor Number One.
An Eye on 2019
As is typical of the Modi-Shah combine, they are taking no chances when it comes to the 2019 general election. The ministry of information and broadcasting has been tasked with hiring people familiar with social media across 716 districts in the country. Their job will be to monitor local media outlets—newspapers, blogs, radio, television and cable channels—and prepare reports which will basically reflect the mood of the people in a particular region.
In essence, they will be freelance eyes and ears of the government to provide feedback which will then determine the NDA’s election strategy. The ministry has already sanctioned Rs 20 crore for the project. The priority is to monitor any criticism of the government, whether state or central, as well as projects and programmes. They will also be tasked with countering any fake news or propaganda put out by rival parties. The freelancers will be connected to a special digital platform which will support all important social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and YouTube. The ministry has put out a tender inviting companies operating in the social media field to bid for the project.
Now that he has been elevated to independent charge of the I&B Ministry, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore seems to be the man to watch out for. He used the Doordarshan platform to deliver an impromptu monologue praising the prime minister and attributing the Karnataka results to the Modi effect on the results in Karnataka. Apart from his success in heading the Commonwealth Games Indian team, Rathore seems destined for greater things—possibly, if the scuttlebutt in South Block is to be believed, as a replacement for CM Vasundhara Raje before the Rajasthan elections.