~ By Kavita Ogale
543 seats. Over 10 lakh polling stations. The Lok Sabha election 2019 has gathered steam and is keeping the entire country on its toes as 900 million Indians vote in the largest election in the world. Amidst all the action is the inimitable voice of one man who claims he has the power of an alchemist to turn India into a superpower. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to keep term with an encore to the last elections he fought, Inchin Closer reflects on how he matches the powerful vision and ambitions of an equally dynamic leader across the border, his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wish of seeing India as a superpower is not very different from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s promise of fulfilling the ‘China dream’. Both leaders strive for global recognition but while retaining a significant and strong nationalistic foundation. They both play to the galleries and have always tried to reach out to the masses, gaining from the populist mileage they create in their wake. Both Xi and Modi came to power around the same time. Xi took over the reigns of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2013 and has been architecting its destiny at an unprecedented pace, fiercely protective about the nation’s sovereignty and undeterred in his zeal for economic supremacy across the world. Modi was elected Prime Minister in 2014, largely supported by the antagonism against the then existing Congress party rule and fuelled by a strategically sound front put up by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Wearing their absolute loyalty to their respective parties as a badge of honour, they are both not known to mince words when it comes to critiquing rivals who may try to overshadow their vision. Both have also been extremely diligent when it comes to forging close ties with neighbours and fostering a durable foreign policy that hinges on mutual co-operation. Modi is only two countries short of Xi’s score of visiting 39 countries in a span of merely two years, underlining the need for a revival of faith in their countries’ international stature.
Of course, one must admit that Xi has a relatively easier ground to operate on, in a nation that is unified and bound by the common desire for social empowerment. As a representative of a country that has multi-faceted complexities and is distinctly diverse in religion, language and community within its very borders, Modi is still dependent on the vote of his people dictated by the edicts of the world’s largest democracy. To tide through the bureaucratic mess and the opposition’s chaos in a country like India takes both endurance and tact.
President Xi is poised at the epicentre of control in a socialist state that gives him immense freedom in taking decisive steps when it comes to international trade and investment. This has manifested in several nations across Southeast and Central Asia to Africa becoming ready allies to China’s resource-rich promise of infrastructural growth. Modi on the other hand, must navigate through a circuitous path to channelise his moves, beset by an unyielding and highly resistant system of slow-moving institutions and processes.
As chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi exerts firm control over the technological development and rapid modernisation of China’s weaponry system. His revolutionisation of the military, airforce and naval artillery is aimed at self-defense, with an eye on spreading its influence in the South China Sea, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
Modi’s military moves although relatively restrained in comparison have been coldly calculated and promptly deployed to counter terrorism, winning him plaudits more than brickbats. While some consider the successive surgical strikes after the Uri and Pulwama tragedies as a fitting military reply to terrorism- it has also labelled him an ‘autocrat’ who is seeking self-aggrandisement at the cost of impaling the democracy.
It is clear that Modi will win the elections only through consensus of the majority unlike President Xi’s one-party monopoly. His emphasis will remain on staying true to his resolute and steadfast reputation of taking India from being a frequently undermined developing nation to the third largest economy after China and the US by 2030. His clarion call for national integration, flourishing commerce and solidarity with countries beyond one’s own mirror Xi’s ruling principles and are most likely to see him through as one of India’s unrivalled ambassadors of favourable geopolitical and domestic progress.