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Game of Tours

C Anand Velayudhan 

Saudi royal, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) whistle-stopped at beleaguered Pakistan to offer US$ 20b aid. His next stop being India after which he went to China makes his tour program much like the political geography of the subcontinent – India juxtaposed between China and Pakistan. Probably mere coincidence that around eve of his visit to Rawalpindi, 40 valiant Indians fell victim to a suicide bomber at Pulwama in Kashmir. Netizens never even remotely surmised that Pulwama episode was to impress the strapping Saudi prince, ignoring a convenient hypothesis. Online alacrity at the killings in Pulwama could have forced MBS to detour back home for wash and clean before going to India. The world looked hungrily at this new Prince of Arabs expecting to be served a fresh line of thinking. But Alas, that wasn’t to be.

We exist in an era sans cogent discourse over the funding pattern of terror outfits. Though denied by Pakistan, perception is that their largesse nurtures terror. In the same breath, we often hear of Chinese having funded Pakistan way too much for the Rawalpindi to maintain an independent foreign policy.

Now funding Pakistan has become an untenable proposition with her shallow domestic market and indolent debt servicing. Hence as a nation she sleeps with many nations to become indispensable. In an outsiders’ view, India has unstable relations with all its neighbours, while Pakistan only with India. To the sub-continent world India is probably the threat and Rawalpindi a victim! The frenzied Indian media reportage of Pakistan being a terror rarely resonates in the west. China, UAE, Iran, Saudi are all courting Pak. US administers mild knuckle raps with harsh words. Lack of Indian soft power remains the culprit.

While India, a nation with legacy of wisdom, will castigate Sidhu but show little inclination to pull up the Chinese demand Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to punish Pakistan. This Saudi Prince offers Indians cheap Saudi oil and then offers dollars to Pakistan. And it really doesn’t matter that the young prince might have blood of a dissenting journo on his hands.

To his credit, Sidhu is largely well respected in his constituency and perceived to be an honest politician. But when subtlety was the demand he fired all his honest opinion guns. Netizens have insubstantial grasp of alternate view, and so good that Sony evicted Sidhu for untimely persiflage. He is funny till he considers himself capable of diplomacy. But loath to imagine the glee his ouster brought to conspirators, for they were able to silence the only man who carried the dove line with direct access to Imran.

Now, the Chinese hand in the Pakistani belligerence is another taboo topic. Indo- china trade puts too much money with Chinese. None of the netizens who chided Sidhu would ever agree to stop buying Chinese products, despite an online uproar against the Pulwama carnage.  Indians offer only lip service to the cause of local manufacturing and woud not be surprising if Indian army found itself in possession of repackaged Chinese goods with ‘made in India’ tag. So much for ‘Make In India’. But the government isn’t the culprit. It is the citizens who easily fall prey and cheat for quick bucks. Staging protest march against Pulwama bombing is a mere charade without the market place refusing to buy Chinese goods. People need to get less frivolous about national interest. Buying Chinese goods is waging an economic war against yourself.

The govt. on its part should use our large market to extract good behavior from China. More than that , they could have told Saudi that their head cannot be welcomed here since he is being investigated by the US congress for alleged link in late Kashoggi’s murder. Death of 40 soldiers is reason enough for a countrywide dragnet to trace and eliminate terror cells, and most inopportune time to welcome friend of an enemy.

Lets not fall for Prince Mohamed Bin Salman’s game of tours, even if there is $ 100b on the table.

C Anand Velayudhan is Chief correspondent – India for an American Television Channel ‘blissanand@rediffmail.com