PM Narender Modiji is proceeding to US for a dialogue with the President Trump on matters ranging from world geopolitics, regional stability in Asia as well as South Asia, possibilities of joint production of military hardware including F-16s, membership to UN Security Council & Nuclear Supplier Group, US inaction towards terror heavens being operated from Pakistan to ongoing Qatar crisis. Issues are many and indeed it is always better to discuss at such level all similar issues not only with US and UK but with many other power centres in the world. India has treaded its way far too smartly, safely and in the best interest of the country till now. PM Modi has also so far taken right stances when it comes to foreign relations and world trade. A balanced approach in the foreign relations have kept India out from many serious problems which rest of the world has faced in past few decades including 2008 economic meltdown and like of problems in Middle East.
It is not difficult to understand the desperation of India to bring US to its side looking at its problems, small to large, with its immediate neighbours specially Pakistan and China. Although no bullets have been fired on Indo-Chinese border sine 1960 war, India’s anxiety with China is on the rise resulting from the increasing wealth of China as well as role of China in the troubles brewing in South China. The rise of infrastructure financed by China in the Indian Ocean and strategically encircling India’s shore line as well as China’s all weather friendship with Pakistan have only increased this anxiety. In spite of all these anxieties India has maintained its relationship with China in a more businesslike manner and it has worked very well so far. China’s OBOR project has however created some further anxiousness among Indians and has given room for more distrust towards China’s future plans. China’s investments in the immediate neighbourhood in countries rather friendly to India have further Increased this suspicion of India towards China.
With so many things going around India in this turbulent world, coupled with its own internal problems, country has its own insecurities and it is natural for India to expect favours and doles from traditionally the most powerful country i.e. US. Politically also it scores well for the current government to show benefits and favours flowing from US albeit it may be giving only a false sense of security and over-optimism with a country with its worst track record of friendliness and longevity of foreign relations. Before being too optimistic about US future role in the development and security of India and its future interests, it is important to understand the perception of US and its citizens about India as well as its neighbours in Asia.
It is no use of wooing US with the logic of India being a balancing power for the increasing might of China and as an important military base for US geopolitical interests in Asia, if we look from the US point of view of the situation here. India’s longing eyes on the 7.5 Billion USD proposed funding by US to India, also is not so positive for the country if we understand that US tax payers keep hawkish watch on every penny they pay in tax and returns they get in terms of doles meted out to foreign nations, however urgent purpose they may hold for the game of world geopolitics.
For one, it is silly to believe that US sees communist China as its biggest threat while not feeling the same way about a democratic India. It is not difficult to guess that US is as wary of China as it is for India’s economic rise. In fact it is likely to be more wary of a democratic India’s rise as superpower given the higher soft power India is likely to enjoy in a largely democratic world. The logic of India being a regional balancing power to China is too simplistic for a seasoned country like US. US in fact sees both India and China as highly populous abnormal nations, both ready to take over the world due to the natural shift of economic power from West to East. US see both countries with their humongous populations as encroaching upon the limited resources of this planet and as the liabilities for the inhabitant of optimally populated and presently rich nations of this world. Both the countries pose future threats to their current lifestyles, climate and resources. Therefore any geopolitical manoeuvre by US would be to deal with both the dominant countries of the future.
It is not the first time they have dealt with multiple adversaries together. Remember what they did with Iraq and Iran in conjunction with UK. First they created internal instability in Iran and then catalysed war like situation among the two countries, supplied weapons to both, covertly favoured more to Iraq and weakened Iran as well as later Iraq and then as next step finally disseminated Iraq itself. Even in the 1st and 2nd world war role of US had been just as an observer. In fact US benefitted substantially by other nations fighting it over with each other destroying their own economies, during both world wars and thereby weakening themselves, while US developed itself to become world’s leading power.
US is likely to play similar game in Asia to deal with both India and China. It is in the best interest of US and its citizens to substantially weaken both India and China by creating serious fissures between the two countries, without shedding any blood from their own side. In any case it is idiotic for India to expect any emotional favour from an experienced and mature country like US. Moreover in the present times no country like a weak nation, expecting doles and favour from another country. Every strong nation today favours a strong and self developed nation and takes moral side of such nations. No nation is likely to drastically differentiate between South Asian nations including India and Pakistan, when it comes to their positive or negative perception about the culture of people in this region. They may actually club India and China too in that respect. Therefore any expectation of extraordinary favour from US is unreal.
So what is the way forward for India at this juncture? Every nation in the world today is going through uncertainties, internal problems, and insecurities of their own. And remember every nation is busy solving their own problems. In the rat race to out manoeuvre others, no nation has time for others. In this environment, India must learn to live with its own problems and insecurities and solve its problems through indigenous solutions rather than look towards other nations however powerful they may be. Therefore the only way forward for India is to build on its own, secure its border, whatever way it can, focus on business like relationships with all the rich and developing nations including all its neighbours, without giving undue attention and favour to some. It should play a constructive role in world affairs and in solving various challenges being faced by humans on this planet and secure the future of coming generations of India. A strong, healthy and self made India will be envy of many and fancy of many others. There will always be friends and foes in this world. Trick is to engage both the types.
A state run Chinese tabloid, Global Times, a few days back slammed recent reformist agenda of Modi government in India and criticised the November 2016 Indian ban of old currency notes as too harsh an action for a developing economy like India. Interestingly, the same tabloid had earlier praised India, quoting Chinese government, in November 2016 for taking a bold and revolutionary decision of demonetisation. Chinese government had at that time even suggested Modi government to go to the extent of considering suspending almost half of its police and government workforce for corrupt and suspicious activities, to further lend strength to India’s economy. Chinese mouth piece, at the time, drew attention towards similar measures taken by Chinese government to put the Chinese economy on a fast pedestal in a similar fashion and with good results.
This U turn of Chinese propaganda machine is not new. It should be noted that the same tabloid almost regularly slams India and Indian government’s policies on one or the other issue. It is clear from the given state of press freedom in China, that these India targeted articles, put in this fashion, are directly conveying the messages which Chinese government wants to convey to either India, rest of the world or more importantly to its own people. It is interesting to know about what motivates Chinese government to direct the fabrication of such confusing and ambiguous messages through state run media.
It is no secret that Chinese government uses its media and propaganda machine to prove the point that Chinese government and its policies are the best in the world when it comes to good governance and larger public good. More so they tend to compare their own economic conditions and achievements with those of the larger democracies like US and Germany to bring home the point that Chinese communist government can only provide better future to its people and therefore tend to legitimise their communist rule. They have been doing it for a very long time when it comes to countries as mentioned above. Off late when India recently snatched the ‘fastest growing large economy‘ tag from China after a long running same tag to China for over a decade, the Chinese government got worried not only about its own economic future but also of the possible democratic uprising in China itself due to what is happening in its own neighbourhood. It started becoming more cautious about India and its progress which has the potential to swing the public mood in China towards democratic rule.
Now when in the last quarter, India’s growth rate slid down unexpectedly and temporarily in short run, China immediately seized the opportunity to slam India and its economic policies and conveyed a strong message possibly to its own people that China has the better economic future than India in spite of the grim facts facing China. It only shows the weaknesses of the Chinese government which is immensely fearful of its own political future and fearing its economy is likely to continue to slide down for a longer time to come, as it seems from all current macroeconomic indicators.
As for India, the country and its people are as confident as ever about their future and are ready to support the democratically elected Modi Government. In fact Modi’s personal approval rating has never been as strong as it is today. Indian press being immensely freer than that in China is also supportive of current Indian Government policies and have reaffirmed their confidence in the healthy growth of the country in foreseeable future. Therefore any Chinese propaganda of this type only seems to be meant for their own home consumption rather than for India or elsewhere.
The question is – why Chinese government is so worried about the views of its own people? Is it perhaps that Modi Ji and his successes in India are becoming more noticeable in China in general? If so an interesting point which emerges from this constant slamming of India’s policies by Chinese government in recent times also indicates possible growth of popularity of Modi Ji and India’s progress among Chinese public who seems to be constantly and increasingly following what is happening in India and its economy and is probably starting to dream of ‘India like individual freedom’ for Chinese people, if India indeed succeeds economically and continues to do better than China.
Remember what happened in Nepal when Nepalese public overthrew it monarch. This situation also reminds of the ‘Jeans War episode’ of the cold war period when many erstwhile Soviet states found its public was liking and purchasing US or Western made worker’s clothing mainly Jeans, at any cost and which became a widespread fad in the bloc. Blue Jeans were smuggled into Soviet bloc countries to the dismay of the Soviet Union’s reputation of being an exclusive worker’s world bloc and therefore their own worker’s clothing was supposed to be the best in the world. Although Jeans were made as worker’s trousers in the west, it went on to become the fashion statement even in the Soviet bloc.
So in conclusion it may not be impossible that Chinese government is becoming wary of the possible uprising of Modi Wave in China which may even destroy the Chinese communist government and result into a democratic and resurgent China where Chinese public can enjoy real individual freedom and its real economic progress.
Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. Climate change is only one of the boundaries which human activities might have already crossed beyond repair. A group of scientists led by Johan Rockstom and including James Hansen has come out with a total of 9 planetary boundaries, each of which if crossed may lead to driving the earth system into a much inhospitable state, driven by human activities. Climate change is just one of the four boundaries that scientists believe has already been crossed – the others being – loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change and altered biogeochemical cycles (Nitrogen and Phosphorus). Hence it is clear climate change is mere beginning of the human ecological global problem.
Coupled with the global threshold of climate change and other similar natural boundaries crossing of which should be prohibited for human action (through an effective world governance), there are other current and emerging global challenges which need to be addressed by a new shape of world governance. Although debatable, current shape of the world governance chiefly administered through Bretton Woods Institutions (UN, IMF, IBRD & WTO) is ineffective or have failed. Role of entrepreneurs, capitalists or ruling class in solving these urgent problems is questionable. So it is time for all the inhabitants of the planet from different sections of the society to at least think of a new shape of world governance which can effectively guide human action away from self destruction or advance bills for the coming generations.
I invite all to share their views on the subject on what is your ideas for a new model of world governance which may either replace or complement the existing system of governance. You may like to join me on this group I have created for the purpose – https://www.linkedin.com/groups/10324713
If you have any idea to share do join the above group and share it.
The colour of world trade is changing. And it is changing fast. From colonial era’s mercantilism to Porter’s diamond model, no economist has ever contested the benefits of free trade among equals or among not so equal. And world trade has been shaped around these principles in letter and spirit. The world should salute the minds of the people of US and UK the strongest of the proponents of a free world. When the world had seen enough of destruction in World War II, all the countries of the world, sat in Breton Woods to invent the likes of UN, IMF, IBRD (World bank) and the ITO (subsequently emerged as WTO). Such efforts have been always led by US and UK and their uncontested belief in a freer world, based on economic interdependence and free flow of ideas. Decades have been spent on these principles to give the world a longest period of ‘peace’ in the recent human history, that was dreamed of at Breton Woods in US. Consequently world tolerated the defiance and opposition of these ideas by ‘Russia and others’ till they decided to budge in 1991 and joined these institutions advocating the ideas of a free world led by US and UK. In fact a lot of fuss have been made of the real benefits of these Breton Woods institutions for the world as a whole and to US and UK individually. There is no denying the fact that whole world has embraced these ideas for a fairly long time i.e. more than 65 years. Memberships to these organisations have increased exponentially in these many decades. ITO took its reincarnation into WTO and was established exactly after 47 years of its imagination but has made substantial difference to the way world trade is done in this fairly free world. The world has therefore accepted the contribution of the so called big brothers US and UK of creating this world order. A long time has gone into making and shaping this world order under the umbrella of ideas generated from US and UK. The world has become used to this order and look forward to better times for all. China and India are at the cusp of benefiting from such institutions like never before. In fact India was the biggest beneficiary of the largess offered by IMF when its economy almost dwindled in 1991. India is among very few countries which have shown impressive progress from these ideas of a free world and globalisation. Moreover India has now become almost self sufficient in terms of its food production apart from moving towards a dynamic economic force.,
This world order is surely changing if we notice the two major events of 2016. First is the Brexit and the second is the emergence of DTrumpism in USA. Both events speak volumes of a changing mind and direction of foreign policies of US and UK, after a really long time of work on the present order. Both events indicate emergence of the belief in a new theory that a free trade of the type being practised in this world is skewed in favour of poor countries rather than to rich nations. Even it seems to signify that a free world and free trade of the Breton Woods type ensures poor countries benefit at the cost of rich countries like US and UK. If that is true, the two big brothers need to now focus their attention to having free trade with only equally rich nations. This is the reason while Donald Trump despises Mexico for many of the ills America faces today especially in terms of vanishing US jobs in manufacturing, rather than Canada, both being partners of US in NAFTA agreement. The blue collared manufacturing workers and a similarly thinking majority has helped Donald Trump to enter the While House with a belief that a free trade of the present type has done unprecedented damage to America and its manufacturing set up which must be changed now. Similarly Britain is now unwilling to be part of a larger Europe crowded by poor countries looking for a better life style at the cost of the life style and incomes of its own people.
If indeed the two most important countries are now looking for equals to trade with, then the colour of the world trade is changing drastically. The message is that the international trade theories which assume free trade among all nations need to be redrafted to mention that these benefit only when the free trade is among equally rich countries. Probably the future of world trade has to adjust to these drastic changes in economic thinking and emerging realities around the world trade of today. These changes would also spell new changes into foreign policies and foreign relations of US and UK. The time is running fast disfavouring outsourcing of jobs from US and UK, and free entry of cheaper goods into these countries from the developing world. Need India be too optimistic about the new found Indo-US flavour? It remains to be debated.
One of Thomas Friedman’s thesis states that individual countries must sacrifice some degrees of economic sovereignty to global institutions such as capital markets and multinational corporations for high performance, a situation he termed as ‘golden straitjacket’. Most ‘miracle countries’ like Singapore, UAE and others have done it commendably by making their economies resilient, free of corruption, most ease of doing business and most importantly ‘light on taxes’ to the individuals and corporations. The situation make sure that the world takes notice of such countries and prioritise their business interests around them.
Lee Kuan of Singapore showed the world how brilliantly it can be done. It is now said that another Lee Kuan is born in India in the form of Narender Modi, who seems to be bent upon replicating the Singapore type experiments on mass scale in a larger economy like India. By taking an unprecedented decision to curb black money in India a few days ago, he seems to take more radical measures to eventually make India a pleasantly tax free country, thereby taking India’s ‘ease of doing business’ to decisively attractive levels for the world capital markets and the multinational companies. Imagine a country like India with vast land, labour and market resources, offering an ease of doing business like that offered by Singapore. There could not be a matching opportunity of this type of situation anywhere in the world for international investors – short term or long term. By bringing India’s entire monetary system online and over the board, wiping away the parallel black economy, the biggest opportunity for India would be to also make it totally tax collection free (except import duties). Before the last few days only 20% of the estimated daily average transactions of 2.7 lakh crore (around 40 billion USD) is taking place via banks- says Anil Bokil of Arthkranti, a Pune based financial think tank. The think tank also propagates the idea of doing away with all high denomination currency notes in India and force the country to use visible and legal methods of transacting like- payment gateways, mobile payment apps, online payments and similar. By having a single banking system to collect revenue for the government which can be done in the form of a nominal transaction tax on daily transactions, it is possible for the government to stop collecting any direct or indirect taxes.
What does a tax free India signify anyway?
No country in this world as large and as populous as India has been able to offer a tax free environment for doing business till date. In fact this situation itself is one of the barriers to making India a tax free country. Traditionally India has not experimented with new ideas untried anywhere in the world, as we have consistently shied away from entering into an unknown territory with respect to policy of governance. Electoral reasons for a large democracy like India could be one of the reasons for India being a follower of the ideas of governance more so in the case of economic governance. However in last few days, we have seen our prime minister demonstrating that India is ready to enter unknown territories by experimenting with untried ideas elsewhere.
However what does a tax free India signify to its future? It can do a lot to make India a truly dynamic and reasonably rich country with less corruption and most sought after destination for business and tourism. A tax free India means a larger number of activities happenning here in terms of businesses, manufacturing, infrastructure and tourism. A better ease of doing business would ensure that big global operations are designed to be wound around what is on offer in India in terms of land, food, raw material, labour, engineers, managers, simplicity of business policy environment and a corruption free interaction with regulators. Add to these is a very large emerging market for new products and services in India. A tax free India also means simplicity in revenue collection for the government thereby ensuring reduced salary bill for government staff and bureaucracy. A tax free India encourages enterprise, innovation, hard work and incentive to produce quality in services and goods. After all, only the best can fetch a premium.
A tax free India also makes it mandatory for all players to comply with important rules and regulations in the country to govern the society, while taking care of the environment and resources available. A tax free environment encourages, tourism, increased shopping, and better entertainment for the world. It also have the potential to bring necessary cultural changes in the Indian society for example potentially a reduced ‘power distance’ which is quite high in Indian culture at present. A tax free India would also make India an apex economy in today’s world, if not the top most economy. We would definitely be able to better the example of China.