Thoughts on the new crisis that grips the Prime Minister
The US,in alliance with UK,still think of winning the war in Iraq.That is the assumption.But major powers, the G-8 and other powers,think otherwise.The point is that to fight the war against terror is also fraught with problems,as the terrorists constitute an invisible state!
So,America needs many more allies in this new war on terrorism.Can India be an equal partner with the USA in its new quest for a new world order?A major question for anyone who have the India of the future in mind.
The ‘conclusion’ of the Indo-nuclear deal saw the sudden eruption of the Lefts anger to the point of disrupting the very existence of the government.As we write there is no clear picture but the PM’s decision to call the Left’s”bluff”as it is described in the media has certainly created a new dimension to politics in India.More so,to the India of the future and the future course of politics and very likely to the very strategic direction this country might take in the foreign affairs. The completion of the 60th year of Independence must have given the government and the people a rare occasion to celebrate and rejoice at our progress on several fronts.But unfortunately,the nuclear deal has created a new uncertainty for the government and politicos in the country.
The occasion otherwise led to many wide-ranging discussions,by various panels to take stock of the developments so far in the country,in economic sphere,in the politics,thought processes and arts and the media and much else.One saw the new generation achievers,the new billionaires,stars in their own right,from the IT and the telecom industries and also the media stars,again from the new generation achievers from the television channels and the media was well-represented both in the print and the electronic forms,the news channels giving a new impetus to bring before the viewers the new generation of achievers,professionals and the articulators of the public mood.The women empowerment is now a strong force for change in much of the social fields and this was in evidence in the many panels that were constituted by the news channels.
Unlike the previous Independence day occasions,this time,one saw the interest of the international media and observers too,more so after the very important international foray of the government in the form of concluding a strategic Indo-US nuclear deal.What in fact,set the tone for a rather sombre mood was the sudden eruption of a war of words between the Congress and its prime ally,the Left.So,the many reflections on the occasion was in the nature of an introspection.
As the nuclear deal over-shadowed the occasion,it is best to consider what is likely to be the outcome of the current uncertain phase in the Indian political evolution.
Writing on the 60 years of Independence in The Hindu special supplement Prof.Amartya Sen makes some observations that deserve our attention.After surveying the evolution of India during the last several years as a sort of leader of the Third World,the Non-Alignment Movement etc,India today seems to have caught the attention of the world for its many achievements.Sen mentions the 1974 and the 1998 nuclear testings.But then the distinguished professor doesn’t proceed further and makes any comments,let alone any substantial comments, of immediate relevance or on the Indo-US nuclear deal that has caused the gravest crisis yet for his friend,the Prime Minister.He traces the progress in a routine sort of way to the Bangladesh war etc to highlight the US involvement with India,prior to the current emergence of a new friendship under George Bush.It would have been interesting if only Sen had followed up this Indo-US encounter with more insights as to its larger focus on world affairs or to the further deepening of relations with the world’s two large democracies.Instead Sen proceeds on different lines,quoting Adam Smith and to the rationale of a free economy and vision of an egalitarian world.Then,he reverts to the”vision thing”a colloquial expression by a former US President.The American Presidents are known for their folksy language and style and Sen takes this expression to indicate that the “ethical near-vacuum in our global thinking as an inescapable result of a market economy”.The only one remark that sounded a bit relevant and at the same time a bit unrealistic wish was his statement to the effect that India could do more to address the global concerns and for this “we can hardly have a better Prime Minister to present such a global vision that Manmohan Singh”.That would have at once sounded too weak a wish and at the same time a too timid a viewpoint, this global attainments of India and also the withdraw syndrome that characterizes our foreign policy front.
One would have expected Sen,such a distinguished intellectual and an Indian citizen(yes,he seems to hold the Indian passport still,while many of his other equally distinguished colleagues have all become American citizens!) would have compared the more recent and current perceptions of American establishment and the people about India and also shared his perceptions of the other big world powers like Russia and China in his assessment of the impact of globalisation and the evolution of policies in these nations towards a war-free world as such.When he or for that matter,anyone says,that India is becoming a super power of sort we should also be told by those who have some personal experiences and contacts how this perception(of India as a super power) provokes reactions,favorable or otherwise,in the other big nations.For,today being a super power is simply impossible,as we can see how America is grappling with the Iraqi war and also how it tries to contain Iran’s belligerent attitude in moving towards a nuclear testing.
It is very important for Indians,now having concluded the nuclear deal with the USA, to behave much more responsibly and come forward to say and share our responsibilities to see the world secure and free from further nuclear threats.Unfortunately,there is no voice from India we heard about these thoughts,that is about the nuclear future,for India and for the rest of the world.
It is a pity that Indian commentators from within India itself have not risen up to the current crisis that faces the Indian situation today.The one crisis that is likely to decide the fate of the Singh government is the Indo-US nuclear deal.By now,we are all clear as to the plus and minus points of the deal.First the minus points as highlighted by the nuclear scientists themselves.One section,led by Dr.A.Gopalakrishnan,A.N.Prasad and Dr.P.K.Iyengar,all connected with the atomic energy establishment,all experienced men of expertise and experience and their patriotism cant be doubted,say several loopholes in the 123 Agreement.The gist of their argument is that after the deal,India’s nuclear power programme would be limited to the terms under the agreement. That is ,we cant conduct anymore the nuclear tests.That may be right.But what they fail to say, rather unambiguously,in my opinion, is that this deal is a step forward to increase our nuclear power production.Is this a correct statement? I think so.The other two distinguished nuclear power experts,Anil Kakodkar,the AEC chairman and also R.Chidambaram,the science adviser,have been more positive.Kakodkar says clearly that Indians can test the nuclear device,if it comes to that,under the existing agreement.The public opinion and also the elite opinion would be something like this:after all the agreement has been negotiated for over two years under very difficult conditions and for what it is worth,it is a great achievement for the Indian government and the Indian people.American has been generous enough o make some exceptions to make this agreement possible.So,we have to take it and make the best use of it.
Really,the other related thoughts are as follows:
Indian nuclear industry’s achievements so far,after all these years of indigenous technology developments etc, have been rather modest.Compared with our energy needs. So,I ask these distinguished scientists:Haven’t we done the wise thing to seek the US help to augment our nuclear energy?If so,please let the public know the benefits for the peaceful use of nuclear power,as we have all the time proclaimed as our nuclear power programme from the days of Independence!
Second, is India right in assuming that we can have both the civil nuclear energy and at the same time,the right to test the nuclear weapon devices?It looks what remains unsaid in all these debates is that India wants to have both the foreign technology to increase it s nuclear energy and at the same time use the new technologies and raw materials for the purpose of nuclear testing.If this is so and it looks that this is the underlying assumption then,it is time someone calls our own illusions as to the realities of the world we live in.
So,in my opinion,the government,the Prime Minister or the various trouble shooters,more so ,Mr.Pranab Mukerjee who seem to be a clever hand in such tasks must make clear and assure the common man that India cant have the cake and eat it too.We cant have American technology and raw material and go on producing both the civil nuclear energy programme and at the same time aim to test the nuclear devices.
This should settle the lingering doubts in the minds of many,both here and abroad.
India should take the lead role in pursuing a more pro-active role in limiting the non-proliferation concerns of the world and also play its responsible role in persuading the friendly countries to a new world regime for non-proliferation,without waiting for the USA or any other power to do the job.
The point here is that the world needs a new paradigm shift in the direction of a less explosive and more regimes in a global context.
The strategic concerns of every major power,be it the NATO or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are one and the same.Security concerns are the strategies issues today.The world as it has evolved and evolving in the early 21st century has to be studied and analyzed and many lessons have to be learnt.
This is a task that cant be done by anyone individual or a nation or can it be done in a day.It is a task that is thrust upon us ,the historic burden we have inherited from our past,our immediate past and the distant past.
Just now,I am reading the latest book by Eric Hobsbawm,Globalisation,Democracy and Terrorism,(2007) and also following the various commentators,strategy and security experts. This is an ongoing task for everyone of us who can contribute to clarify and conceptulise the various dimensions of the global developments for the cause of world peace and a war-free world.
As the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was deliberating over the security issues in Central Asia,I read about a public apology by a Danish Culture Minister who was in Dublin,Ireland,for the atrocities caused by the Vikings,their ancestors when they invaded Ireland 1,200 years ago! I was deeply touched by the speech of the visiting culture minister when he spoke at the dockside at the river Liffey and my memories were revived, long forgotten,when I myself had the great opportunity one day,as a student at Oxford in the late Fifties when I landed on the same dockside one day and I felt a sense of new exhilaration when I learnt about the Irish struggle for freedom which was similar to the freedom struggle in India and I was lucky to get to see the legendary President,Eamon de Valera and exchange my thoughts on the same theme,the common sharing of the sufferings under an imperialist power.
Yes,Eric Hobsbawm,in his lectures collected in the book,comes back repeatedly to remind us that empires were once the order in the world.
Says he:”When I was born,all Europeans lived in states that were parts of empires in the traditional monarchical or the nineteenth-century colonial sense of the word”.The Chinese empire to Ottoman empire,the Hapsburg empire,the Russian tsar,German empire were all empires in one sense or other.
But the great empire in the recent past was the British empire in the sense of having a large number of colonies peopled by other races and religions and castes.The previous big empire,namely,the Spanish empire thrived on its naval power.British empire too thrived on its naval power.These colonies and the colonials were all seen as the “lesser breeds without laws” as Kipling would say!
Today,the old colonial type empires are gone,with the Soviet Russia also disintegrated,we are having a new type of empire,if we can still use such a word,in the American hegemony,as Hobsbawm terms the hold of the USA on the world scenario.
The word or words like empire,colonies and dependent states are conveying a slightly distorted reality today.
Yes,the American economic and military power is very strong and over-whelming but is America such an indispensable power anymore?
An indispensable power for the world peace and security?
Such questions are being raised by Americans themselves.
Where does India go from now?After the nuclear deal?
Just proceed ‘operationalising’ the deal ?Just mind our business?
The tone and temper of New Delhi now,after the furore in Parliament which would debate the ‘treaty’ but not vote on it,as is the convention and all that,is that India would just go about its ‘operationalising’ stage and happily live after!
This is where the really critical issues arise or likely to arise.Critical issues where India would be called upon to play its international roles.In all emerging strategic situations in the world.Already fears have been expressed in some quarters in India,and rightly so in my opinion,that India has given tacit approvals for the US needs in defense and other areas.One was the Indian vote against Iran in September 2005 at the IDEA Board of Governors.It was noted by an authority,Under Secretary for Non-proliferation, that India’s vote was “coerced”.Then came India’s tacit consent to play host to the US nuclear-powered navy,USS Nimitz at Chennai port.Our independent foreign policy,the PM asserts,remains totally unaffected and in place.If the NSS Nimitz,after enjoying Indian hospitality and refuelling is used against Iran,what would India say?
There are other ‘logistics’agreements to allow free passage of US armies thorough Indian territories etc.As against the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,the US proposes the Quadrilateral group of Australia,Japan ,India and the US.
the nitty gritty of these issues are all tied up with how India would march forward in the twenty first century and carve out a unique place of honour for itself as a great democracy and a responsible nation?As a nation strong enough,in economic and education and skills and cultural sense,to show the way forward in the unpredictable future of a world that has its own momentum,now thanks to the globalisation and its many spelt out and not yet spelt out scenarios?
Eric Hobsbawm,in the book mentioned above,sketches some possible scenario or scenarios for the future.Given his grasp of the past history,of the last century and its many peculiarities,the most bloody century,the most short period of a century,the last 50 years of the last century saw some dramatic developments in the very era of human history etc.we can learn some lessons at least from his prognostication,if not from his ideological slants.
International affairs is a complex subject and there cant be anyone who is fully capable of understanding the various aspects of the issues that impact the world or a single nation. As for India,we have learnt our lessons to live in peace and dignity at heavy costs. India fought wars with Pakistan and also with China.Our neighbours are not free from troubles that impact us.
As for the future what we can do is to keep us posted with developments and also seek a way through our own articulation of what is best for the larger world.
Our greatest asset is our democracy.Though here again,we failed once in Emergency and though we have come back,we are yet to fully understand the ideals of democracy.However,when compared with even the advanced countries,UK and USA,our democracy is a huge undertaking and our electoral practices came to be favourably compared with the US elections.Even in judiciary our higher judiciary is found much superior even those of UK and USA.So independent is our judiciary from executive influence.We have to see the political appointees on US Supreme Court and also the British higher judge fudging the report on Iraq war to suit Tony Blair’s war lies!
But these things are not known and appreciated in those countries who assume we are yet to learn lessons from them!
Increasingly,our electoral expertise is sought after in other countries. These areas,besides peace -keeping under UN auspices,we have to make them more visible.So is our NAM legacy.Though the US resents the old India legacies and attachments we have to learn to stick to our legacies more strictly.
Hobsbawm makes certain insightful observations as to the future of the world,democracy and the war and prospects for peace.The fall of Berlin was called by an American expert as”the end of history”.This is a significant observation.The point is that democracy would be favoured all over the world in future.Even in Pakistan we can see the trend.No more the societies tolerate an unalloyed dictator,military or otherwise.Citizens awareness has gone up dramatically everywhere.Human rights are much rated and so too women empowerment.
Hobsbawm notes four significant social trends since the end of the 2nd world war.One,the dramatic fall of people in farming everywhere.Except,as the historian notes in China and India.Second,the rise of what he calls the hyper cities.A predominantly urban society is forming before our eyes.Says he:”within a few decades we will cease to be what humanity has been since its emergence”.No more people would be engaged in primitive occupations but in highly skilled ones.The fastest growing cities today are ,not in EU or USA but in Asia(twenty),Africa(six) and Latin America(five).That is a significant trend for much of our future pattern of living and occupations.
Third,the universal education,and women’s empowerment.So,still 55 per cent of the relevant age-group in EU and USA are pursuing education after the secondary stage.That means in human capital,human skills these developed societies lead the world.Though ,lately,India and China are giving real competition.What Hobsbawm fail to note here is that the great outflow of Indian skills,as doctors and engineers and the Indians heading the most sophisticated technology companies in the USA.
Fourth and last is of course the new face of the women.They are now again competing with men in every occupation and doing well,in particular in politics too! If the US chooses to have a woman President next time,that would be a revolution for much of the good of the world!
The growth of democracy,the citizen power,the rise of civil society and the expansion of individual freedom.No state today can compel the citizens as they did in the past to fight for their countries in case of wars!
Yes,this is a change.Today we see,as pointed out, thirty thousand or more armed ‘private contractors’ engaged in actively conducting the war in Iraq! That is for making a profit!
So too the declining trend in states’ legitimacy.So,no country can declare war and ask its conscripted army to fight to the finish! Those days are gone.Today,we need justification and some principles to motivate the peoples to obey and observe the laws of the land.
Today,the global GDP is also growing in a disproportionate way US,EU and Japan still account for 70 per cent of the global GDP.But China and India are posing threats!”How this global shift will affect the relative strength of the US economy is naturally a question central to the international prospects of the 21st century”.
The unsaid unwillingness of the US to accept China as a rival super power,has not receded.That is one strong factor in the US move to cultivate India as a counterweight! That is real.Whether we in India seek to recognize this US aim?Yes,we must.But there are certain questions that are unique to India.This we must recognize.One,India’s long history.Second,India’s recent history.Third,India’s vast geography and hence the need for certain India-centric policy and self-sufficiency in key areas like economy,food and military capabilities.We too feel threatened by China’s rise to international domination and China has always been an unknown and unpredictable quantity.That is one reason why even many others,states ranging from small ones to big ones would be interested how India shapes up internationally.
There are not enough thoughts within India nor for that matter among the more competent Indians abroad or among the India-friendly nations to think in a more objective and a more India-friendly manner.This is one area we have to specifically cultivate,in the academia,media and other strategic,military and cultural fields.
American reach all over the world is not only in terms of its economic and military strength but also in its cultural reach,say,in Hollywood.Fortunately,we have Bollywood and also a good English speaking population and also English language writers who
are making waves in the West and we must recognise them as our invaluable cultural assets as such.
Wars now and in future seem to be increasingly invisible wars,wars against”terror” and “terrorism”.And the US approach to assemble the global military strength to wage the “war” and to vanquish the terrorism is a tentative one,we require other weapons as well.All this calls for more global co-operation on many fronts.India is resisting US-inspired proposals to reform the UN,it is noted by US policy makers.In one respect,the US mind set hasn’t changed.
If the US wants to succeed in its mission to fight and contain terrorism it has to reform the UN and expand the Security Council and take India,Brazil and South Africa as members.Unless the world’s greatest democracy is brought in what sort of world peace the US hopes to secure?
The US concept of individual freedom might not cut much ice with the small nations,as they would feel it a rich man’s freedom only.The anti-US feeling runs deep in the world.This,the US must realise and seek to redress the image deficit!
So,India’s task in the post-nuclear deal phase seems cut out! We have to become more pro-active on the international stage.
Whether the Prime Minister thinks on these lines is the question.He might quell the short-lived rebellion against his US deal but he cant win a place for India,in the near and far future unless he changes his mindset and seeks a wider audience.