In our today’s essay Dr. Shantanu Mukherjee – who finds his presentation rather telegraphic than essayistic – shares his thoughts on what the Modi government in India ought to do and better not to do. Every government is required to deal with national, regional and international issues. Mukherjee adds his theses to each of these three issues in terms of military, economic and political.
“Geography is the only constant in the affairs of states
States must not have friends; only interests”
|Foto: (c) Katharina Wieland Müller / pixelio.de
Will Durant opens the section on India in his majestic “The Story of Civilization” in eloquent despondency: “… But from Delhi to Ceylon the dominating fact in India is heat: heat that has weakened the physique, shortened the youth, and affected the quietist religion and philosophy of the inhabitants. The only relief from this heat is to sit still, to do nothing, to desire nothing; or in the summer months the monsoon wind may bring cooling moisture and fertilizing rain from the sea. When the monsoon fails to blow, India starves, and dreams of Nirvana.”
This is fair signal at the forking of a passage to a more optimistic tomorrow – away from lethargy, resignation, doom onto hope, courage and well-being. To ever more freedom from hunger, insecurity and stunting illiteracy, from sickness and the countless abuses of executive, legislature, justice – in short, from this Durantian tale of purgatory. Is there a shadow of deliverance beyond? Let us have a look.
I shall multiply three factors of geography by three of what might be called socio-political-economy to get nine ‘categorical imperatives’. The nine boxes are numbered. I shall to each say something. The rather telegraphic than essayistic presentation is deliberate.
Military Economic Political
National 1 2 3
Regional 4 5 6
International 7 8 9
(a) transform the police forces. If they are already a nauseating lump beyond redemption as, so I am told, in places like West Bengal, jettison them and introduce, say, special forces as replacement (admittedly difficult in a federal republic).
(b) the thing is to ignore clarion – and hollow – calls for ‘respect for the rule of law’. Assure instead in every breast a keen fear of ‘breaching the law’.
(c) it is vital to metamorphose the police into a gritty buffer to meddling by parliamentarian satraps.
(a) India does not exactly face the dangers of ‘too much of market, too little of state’. Do away with governmental planning, abolish planning commissions and sundry testimony to Mr. Nehru’s muddleheadedness.
(b) do away with stupid concoctions like ‘assured work for a hundred days’.
(c) act after the motto: as much privatization as possible, as little state-intervention as necessary.
(d) free the Central Bank from the dictates of government. Instead let it mainly (exclusively?) mind the money supply.
(e) privatize railways, steel production etc; this might help in curbing – not exterminating – corruption and raising efficiency.
(f) do away with the defunct infrastructure. Let a hundred motorways, harbours, let electricity (including that from nuclear energy, both on- and offshore) bloom.
(g) encourage the huge capital flow (cf. (f)) necessary, both domestic and foreign, via, say, tax exemptions.
(h) urbanize. Build towns fresh and new. The gap between rural and urban is still very wide. ( this could be a rare and happy case of governmental deficit financing). And this in turn could balance out the number of village dwellers.
|Foto: (c) Dieter Schütz / pixelio.de
(i) cut out the shocking maze of restrictions to exports and imports. One could start with sacking the hideous bundle altogether and after some ‘trial and error’ reintroducing some.
(j) welcome foreign investment in all areas. End governmental subsidies.
(k) never rescue bad banks with taxpayer’s money. They should best ameliorate in bankruptcy.
(l) so long growth is steady and assured, do not worry yourself to death on ‘overpopulation’. The invisible ‘Darwinian’ hand of ascending well-being curbs those numbers.
(m) do not worry yourself to death, after a current fashion, on ‘rising inequality’ either. It is but automatic for inequality to rise in times of epochal change, the heralding change nascent in the emergence of ‘information’ as decisive element in the economy. This emergence obviously leaves behind a trail of ‘underprivileged’ without proper grasp of ‘information’. Once the ’emergence’ phase is over, this discrepancy will gradually flatten out.
(n) To cut it short: education or its lack (cf. (m)) is the key – or hurdle – to economic growth and to prodigal ‘equality’.
(a) strengthen federal structures.
(b) consider a switch from majority- to proportional system at elections, or a mix of the two.
(c) streamline the entire body of justice.
(a) looking at South Asia, India’s geography will for ever be a source of instability and conflict: the country wears a necklace of uncertainties in Pakistan, Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Burma and Ceylon. The same geography though might be of advantage internationally (cf. 7b.).
(b) India and Pakistan mercifully share a rough parity in nuclear arms and delivery systems. This not only makes any nuclear war extremely improbable; it makes, as it were en passant, even conventional skirmishes unlikely. Do ever be aware that power is assured so long it is untested and deterrence is none as soon as it is tested.
(c) China is a much more severe headache. Start with water from the Himalayas and end not with China’s nuclear assistance to Pakistan. There is a sliver of hope, though. This century will almost certainly witness a Pacific war between China and the USA (cold? lukewarm? hot?). Which means, China will seldom be in a position to blackmail, threaten or belligerently confront India wholeheartedly. Take this as cue for, say, subtle reverse blackmail vis a` vis China.
(d) In case intrusions from Bangladesh are indeed massive (are they?), fortify borders. No state is truly sovereign behind insecure borders.
(a) China almost certainly will be eager to offer massive credits for revamping India’s moribund infrastructure. Go for that offer. None else can supply the extraordinary amount of capital necessary. Utterly ignore World Bank, IMF, UN and comparable saviours. At the same time, never leave out a chance to “flirt” with all potential creditors simultaneously.
|Foto: (c) Dieter Schütz / pixelio.de
(b) Pakistan and Bangladesh are in the mediate future natural, borderless partners for India in trade and investment. Throw the domestic market open to anybody willing.
(c) deepen relations to Pacific states, thereby countervailing Chinese aspirations – not just military aspirations but economic as well.
(d) curb alacrity at every multilateral treaty, conference etc..They are mostly balderdash. The proper motto should be: as much bilaterally as possible, as little amidst a crowd as necessary. If a set of bilateral ventures should later meander into some multilateralism – well then: the more the merrier.
(a) The tussle with Pakistan will probably turn friendlier once theocratic fumbling and terrorist chaos in Pakistan have run short of breath.
(b) Kashmir is an existential nuisance. And apparently shows every promise of remaining so. Its affairs are volatile, enclosed as it is in an unfriendly neighbourhood. And its populace, so I am told, seeking to secede. If Kashmir is to be held on to, no amount of autonomy and concessions will quench desires. Only firm suppression of insurgency and non-infiltratable borders ultimately might. I for one consider the possibility of Kashmir in the long run seceding not frightfully low. But then: in the long run we are indeed all dead. Keynes too.
(a) dependence on Russia for military technology is a mockery of far-sight. Russia still is a backward country with a rotten infrastructure, a fake democracy (admittedly, Mr. Putin rallies considerable popular support), with sagging technology and a petrified economy, all sitting upon a huge well of oil. Nearly everybody should be welcome as partner in military hard- and software. China, USA, Israel, Britain and else. India’s indigenous prowess is significant too.
|Foto: (c) Tim Caspary / pixelio.de
(b) India’s landmass, tapering out at the Indian Ocean, offers a long coastline and, hence, strategic advantages. But that requires redoubtable harbours, submarines with medium-range ballistic missile capability, fighter aircraft on large carriers and much else.
(a) India is surely short of energy. Israel should be a candidate as willing supplier of oil and liquified gas from its Mediterranean fields. The snag is: how to transfer all that. Large container ships are frustrated by the Suez Canal, circumnavigating Africa is expensive, and laying pipelines to, say, the Persian Gulf from the Mediterranean, technically and topographically easy, is politically impossible now. Invest in wide research in fracking, taming the sun’s power, hydrogen fusion etc..
|Foto: (c) Katharina Wieland Müller / pixelio.de
(b) Australia should not be left to prosper merely as China’s backyard. Japan might prove to be of use here in cooperative tapping of that country’s sizable resources.
(c) India, were it to forget either Africa or Latin America in trade and investment, would surely suffer.
(d) if we ignore nature, nature definitely is not going to ignore us. Look at the serious atmospheric health hazards in Chinese cities. But here again, to quote Bert Brecht: first the feeding, only then the morals.
(a) Seeking a fresh strategy, look East. Remember: the great Atlantic millennium is ending. Europe will turn gradually irrelevant. America is ever more poised on the Pacific. China, notwithstanding the current and unique experiment in marrying a mellow totalitarianism to a controlled-free economy, has chances of precisely therefore ultimately imploding; otherwise it is of course the other eminent address for India to forage.
(b) Please note, Bismarckian and Metternichian balance of power is most often better than vague institutions and note too that alliances with two members are infinitely more efficient than with two hundred.
India’s dynastic quasi-socialism, rapturously inept over generations, offers a purgatorial choice: to hell or to paradise. In practice, one never quite reaches either. But the path matters, and the answer to the question “where to?” matters. Teleology in the affairs of states is a waste of time. The road rather, is the goal.
Author: Dr. Shantanu Mukherjee, Frankfurt/Main, Germany