Saturday, January 21, 2017

Liberal Globalisation meets its nemesis - Welcome Mr.Trump

The wheel has come full circle

It was 1991. My country was going through a huge period of turbulence. Rajiv Gandhi had been brutally assassinated, and the leading party Congress was rudderless, when a dimunitive but extremely intelligent politician Mr P V Narsimha Rao was thrust into the limelight. All other satraps imagined he wouldn't last too long, but he did. He not only lasted five full years, he ended up transforming India.

India abolishes industrial licensing - headline in Economic Times.
India adopts the New Economic Policy - headline in Times of India.
India opens up for business - headline in Hindustan Times.

As a young man about to graduate from the IIT Delhi, I was a curious newcomer reading these newspapers with intense interest. For the first time, I was introduced to the concepts called "globalisation", "liberalisation", and "privatisation". These were projected almost as the panacea for an economy struggling with rapid population growth rates, but poor industrial output.

Prime Minister Rao thrust India into the golden period of high GDP growth rates (despite all the leaking public services) and ensured that Indian entrepreneurs (like me) got a fair chance at doing what we loved to do - building enterprises. That would have been impossible just a few years ago.

(By the way, the public services have remained leaky till date!)

It was a bright new era. Open borders. An open world. Free trade (whatever that was supposed to mean). A new WTO coming up (Jan 1995). Wow. The world will be a free place, no borders stopping capital or labour.

Today, 26 years later, while sitting with my son about to enter college, I watched Donald Trump say everything that was the direct opposite to what I experienced in 1991.

We will put America First ⇒ The end of liberal globalisation as we know it.
We will ensure that Americans get their due ⇒ The whole Chinese narrative of "free trade" whacked.
We will bring back jobs to America ⇒ The end of a free run for Indian IT companies
We will ensure others don't get enriched at our cost ⇒ Allies, beware!
We will eradicate radical Islam from the face of this Earth ⇒ Pakistan - any reply to that?
We will eradicate radical Islam from the face of this Earth ⇒ Music to a patriotic Indian's ears.
We will ensure that power goes back to the people ⇒ Ooooh, bad days ahead, Establishment.

In the most radical of ways, Mr Trump has made it clear that starting Day 1, he intends to remain true to those who voted him to power, despite the brutal ridiculing he received at the hands of the liberal mainstream media and "coastal elite". Even the media and the elite have powers that are not infinite. While he shook hands warmly with Obama, he made sure to pull the philosophical rug from under his feet almost immediately.

I could hear the globalisation engine emit a loud noise as the gears went into reverse.

Here is my take on what the coming era will hold for all of us :

  1. Bad days for Indian I.T. companies, if Trump really does what he said today. Since most Indian IT companies make their profits using cheap labour packaged into dollar-billable assets, their basic model may evaporate. Since these companies are largely into services and lack any world-beating product (say, in consumer internet segment - the market of the future), their profit story may get a rude shock. And don't even imagine what will happen to the hundreds of engineering colleges dependent on "mass campus recruitments" to stay liquid. Bad luck for IT cos. shareholders, as valuations will tumble down the hole. If they don't, it will be another mystery of this story called "globalisation". All  the effort Mr Jinping put in at Davos seemed futile today.
  2. Pakistan and China may get the hard end of the stick pretty soon. India has cried herself hoarse reminding China (touchy as they are about "One China") that our own territorial sentiments must be respected. In the most blatant, devious and insulting of ways, the Pak-China combo has rubbed salt into India's wounds. It will be very bad days for that approach, if Trump sticks to his words. And anyway, for Trump "Hindus are a great people". Thank you Mr.Trump.
  3. India's overall geo-strategic interests will get a terrific boost. We are not a major manufacturing nation anyway - at least not when compared to China. So any harm that comes to exporters to the US, will be minimal in our case (relatively). We will recover. But for those hoarding trillions of dollars and using that leverage geostrategically, time to make fun of the Commander in Chief is all but over. Good luck to them!
  4. The closeness of many Indian businessmen and leaders to Mr. Trump must be leveraged to push India's case real hard. The time is right to reclaim the Indian Ocean Region for a long, long time. The time is right to speak aloud that enough is enough, stay off us. And anyway, Mr Rex Tillerson has warned the dragon to stay off the south China sea islands.
  5. More populism across the world - Trump's remarkable campaign (for all the hatred it evoked) will be a template for many more watching him closely. The frustration of the 99% may spill over, flooding and swamping away the riches of the 1%. Anything seems possible now.

To all the liberal lobbies tearing their hair out, it is time for a cold, objective look into what prompted this amazing populist backlash.

Can technology really be allowed to take over millions of jobs?
Will people just sit and watch as elites corner all the benefits progress has to offer?
Will a condescending attitude towards the less fortunate ever sustain in the long run?
Will the narrative of a Utopian future in the presence of dystopian present ever hold?

Mr.Trump's arrival is the beginning of a whole new era of trade, finance and economics. He will not rest until he gets the job again (the next 4 years). In that light, among other things, I wonder what mighty institutions like the IIMs will do now, as the whole edifice on which their lofty existence was built is crumbling right under their feet. First it was Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishna who threw all the polish and facade of modern management practice down the gutter by upstaging monolithinc rivals through brutal innovation and back-to-the-roots. And now Trump. Ha ha - unimaginable.

Welcome to the brave new world, ladies and gentlemen. Get your seatbelts along.

And stay glued to Twitter. He is about to announce something soon :)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The emerging Asian mega-struggle

History in a nut-shell

The story goes back to 1947. India had just gained independence, and power was about to be transferred in the hands of a Prime Minister who believed firmly in the sentiment of a global fraternity of nations. Another Asian giant was struggling with its own internal challenges. Recovering from the Japanese attack, the Chinese Kuomintang Party – under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek – was struggling with the domestic Communists. America and other nations had been supporting Kuomintang and the Communists were not expected to usurp power. But surprisingly, in 1949, power came into the hands of Mao Tse-tung and he founded the People's Republic of China (PRC). The Kuomintang Party leaders fled to Taiwan. The same Taiwan, the recent tweets on which by Donald Trump has enraged the Chinese government for violating the “one China” policy.
Pandit Nehru’s philosophy was that of peaceful co-existence, but in only one decade all his dreams stood shattered when the Chinese communists not only annexed entire Tibet, but also engaged in a bloody military confrontation with India. Tibet, which with its 12.25 lac sq. k.m. geographical area, had been a safe “buffer zone” between India and China for centuries, suddenly came under Chinese ownership. The PLA immediately started building military assets there. Its impact is seen today in India’s military strategies, where we are forced to deploy our state-of –the-art weapons and military assets to combat the visible threats coming over from Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh.

Today, it's different

The conditions today are such that China directly criticises India for Dalai Lama’s activities in India and the Indian government responds with clarifications. China has not only acted in this fashion with India, but China has done the same with Mongolia and the US in the recent past – only the US responded tersely saying that criticism was not acceptable. If we see the entire overall strategy of China, it would be clear that there is only one direct, clear and current challenge for India, which  has both the capability and intention of harming Indian interests, and that is China. Pakistan does not have the capability to threaten India at all, if it does not enjoy the blatant support of the Chinese.,

Let us first look at the big differences between India and China –

First difference – No government in India frames a long term policy (strategic, industrial, or any other) which can last the next ten to fifteen years, whereas China is not only directly framing policies for the next twenty or thirty years, but also implementing them. It can be said that our democracy and elections every five years, have given us this huge “relative strategic loss”.

Second difference – Since China practically does not have the concept of Fundamental Rights, or the supremacy of any Constitution, and also no Supreme Court which can stop or prevent the government, hence, only a single-party government makes the economic and military  capability of the country at its will, and speedily implements it. In India, where the policy of “take it easy”  looms large all across, this type of speed can look like a day-dream. 

Third difference – Ever since 1980, under the leadership of Deng Xioping, China had realized that no strategic victory was possible without economic advancement, and hence it wholeheartedly devoted itself to manufacturing and scientific research. The situation today is such that this becomes the main issue in the US presidential elections.

Fourth difference – The Chinese state, working in only a single direction, with only a single aim and target, strives to eliminate every possible strategic problem either by virtue of resources or by the use of force. Huge foreign exchange reserves and massive economic power give it this immediate advantage.

Fifth difference – China wants a complete dominance on entire Asia. China has openly opposed and abused India’s every interest in the past decade. It is indicative of the fact that China wants to create the a 21st century of its own, with no intention of sharing it with India.

All these indications are now transforming into ground realities, and they are happening in our own land! China has speedily made its CPEC in the Illegally occupied PoK in the past two years and thereby prepared for its entry in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Possibly this would be its ultimate objective – to reduce India’s dominance in the most strategic IOR. All nations, which have so far been close to India are being supplied military equipments, like submarines (Bangladesh). Pakistan’s courage and 'power' has increased manifold, despite the Baloch rebels raising a hue and cry. The Babur missile test conducted by Pakistan in 2017 should be viewed in this light.

Now the issue is no longer limited to Pakistan. In the battle of supremacy on entire Asia, China is continuously investing which can seriously impact India’s interests. By showing huge procurement favours to an economically troubled Russia and convincing the Taliban for accepting a mid-way, China is creating new equations the ultimate results of which would possibly be not understood by anyone.

An Action Plan

So, what should India do? We can focus on five things –

First – We should try to make a common front with all possible allies. The military and strategic close relationship with Vietnam and Japan is being developed with this view.

Second – Our intrinsic strengths – our education system, scientific research capability and economy – should be strengthened if we are to remain steadfast against such forces for the next fifty years.

Third – The political system and democracy we take pride in, and which has slowed us against the Chinese communists, has to be completely cleansed – i.e. revolutionary electoral reforms.

Fourth – Speak in unison – when the issue relates to national interest, mutual bitterness and confrontations would not be helpful, and that too against an opponent like China. Our unity will always remain our strength.

Fifth – Preparedness for the future – It is quite possible that the Chinese government’s current model (no democratic elections) may struggle some day in the wake of despotism and finally collapse. And then there will be a likelihood of a change in China’s strategic approach.

The speed with which the 21st century is showing new forms, India should not hesitate to do everything possible to protect its interests and the prosperity of its citizens by national consensus.,,


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Castro – The last great revolutionary

The twentieth century has been a big turning point in modern human history. Three factors moulded it – First, the continued colonialism since the 18th century, which was itself influenced by mercantilism (accumulation of gold and silver by nations); Second, the miraculous success of industrial revolution in some countries and Third, the social disparities that arose as a result of the two – socialism and its extreme form, communism.

The results of complete success of industrial revolution were evident in some countries. Nations were divided into two groups – modern-industrialized and backward. Those countries which surged ahead went on to develop massive and dangerous military capabilities, and its result manifested in the form of World War I (1914-1919). The result of this devastating war was the ultra-nationalism of some countries, and finally the military expansion by Hitler culminated in the beginning of World War II (1939-1945).

When Germany and Japan were comprehensively defeated, America emerged as the undisputed and insuperable victor. America made relentless efforts to avoid the occurrence of a Third World War, for which it was proposed to constitute an international framework to institutionally help various nations and the focus remained on development and not on militarization. This resulted in the formation of institutions like IMF and the World Bank (WB) in 1945, and for once it was felt that humanity would indeed reach an era of persistent development and peace.

But a consensus on fundamental key issues was never reached – these issues being – which was better, Capitalism or Socialism, Mercantilism or Humanitarianism of the Welfare State, and whether it is right to interfere with sovereign states or not. These three key issues defined the entire twentieth century (from 1945 till the end). And ever since 1950 it was quite clear that the ideological conflict between communism of the Soviet Union and the “unrestrained” capitalism of the US could any time transform into a devastating nuclear battle of the Third World War.

Countries like India, Yugoslavia and Egypt kept themselves away from this tangle and formed a non-aligned group of the Third World countries and categorically conveyed to the first world (US and West) and second world (the Communist bloc) that they would remain out of this conflict. But the conflict between Capitalism (US) and Communism (USSR) flared up so much that the blazing flame of Cold War engulfed the whole world in different ways right from 1950 to 1991. The Cold War – no bullets fired but a nuclear war would loom large, meet at a forum but be prepared for backstabbing – a war of that kind!

Amidst all this a leader emerged in politics right in the backyard of the US who, despite all dangers and assassination attempts, would continue to challenge the mighty US for the next five decades. The message was straight and clear – do not interfere in the affairs of others, do not depict the omnipotence of market-mechanism as Godlike, and do not allow the international institutionalization of the robbing the deprived classes. It was a scary dream which would haunt the US year after year at all international forums that the all-powerful could also commit blunders and that they must be shown a mirror.

Five primary elements of Fidel Castro’s politics and personality defined him. Let us see the magical charisma of this personality.

First – Not losing any opportunity of reminding the US of its blunders despite the constant grave dangers to his own life (the CIA had official sanction to eliminate him!), and boldly raising his assertive voice for hours on end at the UN as well as at all other international fora. This provided a moral support to the poor nations that in a bi-polar world (until 1991), and thereafter in a uni-polar world a lot could be achieved provided one had the courage to speak the truth. Although, most other countries did nothing more than genuflecting their financial knees before global agencies, but still, symbolically Castro continued to shine like the proverbial Pole-Star.

Second – Castro repeatedly cautioned the world that the dangers of global financial systems had converted the entire system into a gambler’s den. In the blazing storm of liberalization and globalization post-1980, these dangers had spread across the world, and Castro's foresight was visible after the 2007 collapse of the US housing sector which prompted a global recession. He had also predicted that the current form of consumerism would finish off all resources. Isn't this not what's precisely happening presently?

Third – Fidel Castro had cautioned that the capitalism that we have embraced, would take social inequality to such a dangerous level – and the 2015 report of Oxfam made it clear when it highlighted the fact that the wealth of top 62 people today is equal to that of half of the global population! This equation (62 = 350,00,00,000) apparently seems to be the most dreadful aspect of the lopsided global economy! And why even recall Castro – remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi “This world has everything for the requirements of all of us, but it does not have anything for the greed of any one of us”.

Fourth – Quite different from the alleged communists of many nations, Castro’s Cuba tried to help and support local revolutionaries of various countries who revolted against the colonial powers. And this was not secret but bold and open, which Cuba had openly declared. So the designs of the power and wealth-hungry colonial powers (mostly European) came in an open and honest manner, and the results were usually pleasant – in Congo, Mozambique and particularly in Angola, where the racist South African army got such a humiliating beating that finally the white regime had to abandon apartheid in 1993! But Castro’s fighters never tried to reap the fruits – they always returned to Cuba after accomplishing their mission. Such honesty in words and deeds is rarely seen in the world.

Fifth and the last was Castro’s never surrendering to mercantilism despite almost the entire world bowing before it! It is now that one realizes that he could envision the power of unlimited greed to plunge humanity into a deep morass.

Despite all the criticism, it would not be wrong to salute Castro for his honesty and his steadfastness towards the goal. This great and last revolutionary of the twentieth century could never be bent, and who gave a firm voice to millions of oppressed communities against mercantilism.

Here is my editorial on the topic published in a Hindi newspaper. Enjoy!,


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Demonetisation and nation-building - a multifarious exercise

Post the major & bold decision on currency demonetisation, many aspects of governance and nation-building are in sharp focus. In the middle of the inconvenience caused to the masses at the banks and ATMs, there are many other serious points to ponder. I wrote an Editorial Article in Hindi, published recently and excerpted below, the English version of which is here. Do let me know your views. Let the Mahayagna begin.

And don't forget to check out our comprehensive analyses on demonetisation, here!

Jai Hind!

An open letter to the Prime Minister

Hon’ble Modiji,

The country is struggling with many grave challenges, and all true Indians are striving to transform these challenges in to opportunities. I am trying to understand all aspects of this intricate subject of modern nation-building. May I attract your attention to seven issues. Despite all the hardships that the common Indians are facing today, crores of citizens feel that a genuine crucial action seems to have been initiated.

First – Entrepreneurship and nation-building - After your important announcement of November 8, an honest entrepreneur who could only weep in despair, has started feeling a sense of relief.  He was compelled to part with his hard, lawfully earned “white” money to gain his lawful rights, by various government officials who would want payment in black. If one did not oblige, it was impossible to go even one step forward. This meant months of further problems.  It seems that out of fear, this menace can be curbed to an extent. Yes, now possibly the number of job seekers in the government sector is likely to go down because a major attraction for these jobs seems to be evaporating!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

न्यायपालिका - कार्यकारी गतिरोध सुलझना आवश्यक

Here is an editorial I wrote for a leading Hindi newspaper. Enjoy, and the link to original image is at the end.

भारतीय राज्य व्यवस्था की सबसे बड़ी खूबी है उसका संतुलन। हमने 1950 से ही, संविधान को अपना सर्वस्व माना, और राज्य के हर अंग को उसके अधीन करते हुए, ऐसी व्यवस्था बनाई जिसने इतने विशाल और विविध देश को 70 सालों से संभाल रखा है।

हमारी राज्य व्यवस्था तीन स्तरों पर कार्य करती है - केंद्र सरकार और उसके संस्थान व निकाय, राज्य सरकारें और उनके संस्थान/निकाय, एवं स्थानीय प्रशासन निकाय (शहरी और ग्रामीण) जो जड़ों तक फैले हुए हैं। चूंकि ये एक वृहद् व्यवस्था है जो विभिन्न सरकारें मिलकर चलाती हैं, अतः संविधान में अनेकों संतुलन बनाये रखने वाले सूत्र दिए गए हैं, मसलन केंद्र-राज्य-स्थानीय निकाय संबंधों को परिभाषित करना और एक निरपेक्ष भाव से उनको चलाते रहने हेतु अनेकों स्वायत्त निकाय भी बनाना।

किन्तु सत्ता का एक श्याम पक्ष होता है - सत्ता भ्रष्ट बनाने की ताकत रखती है, और पूर्ण सत्ता पूर्ण रूप से भ्रष्ट बनाने की ताकत रखती है। इसीलिए, हमारे लोकतंत्र को तीन स्तंभों पर खड़ा किया गया है, एक पर नहीं। पहला - विधायिका (लेजिस्लेटिव) अर्थात संसद व विधानसभाएं, जो कानूनों को बनाती हैं और इन्हीं में से बनती है सरकारें (राजनीतिक कार्यकारी), दूसरा - कार्यपालिका अर्थात प्रशासनिक व्यवस्था जो चुन कर नहीं वरन परीक्षा से चयन होकर आये लोगों से बनती है, और तीसरा - न्यायपालिका जिसका मुख्य कार्य है संविधान की संरक्षा करना, कानूनी विवाद निपटाना और कानून की व्याख्या करना (बनाना नहीं)।

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Detailed Editorial Analyses - Bodhi Prabodhan - a Premium service

I am happy to present to you a Bodhi Prabodhan session - detailed editorial analyses - in which we cover multiple editorials/articles from leading newspapers and magazines, and then present all possible interpretations and insights that students and professionals can directly use. This is part of our Premium service, in the Bodhi Booster platform.

This project was in the making for long, and it was rolled out this week! Here is the complimentary session we uploaded on YouTube, for you!

Bodhi Prabodhan - sample playlist

Some useful information -

Do let me know what you think of this initiative. Thanks for reading, and watching!

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Iron Man who united modern India - a salute

Today is India's Iron Man - Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's - birth anniversary, and his amazing achievements need to be understood in the context of the complex background he was working in.

The Britishers came into south Asia as traders, became our rulers, looted us for 200 years with all enthusiasm and sowed seeds of discontent and struggle that we are forced to live with till date. The central pillar of their rule over such a huge land with massive diversity was simple - break Indian unity by nurturing selfish kings and princes, while defanging their military strength systematically and giving them a dream of a bright future. Today's Rajya Sabha itself came into being as a Council for such Princes, where they would meet together under British supervision.

As the fires of independence struggle started burning bright, the British were sure of one thing - once they left, India would simply balkanise (break apart) into hundreds of pieces. They knew it as they saw no single Party or individual capable enough of tying the huge land into one thread of unity. The rulers had no idea that a man whose vision was broader than Bismarck and skills sharper than Robert Clive and Warren Hastings combined, was waiting in the wings.

Here is one of the many maps of the India when Britishers left in 1947. The complexity of the situation and immensity of the task of unification could have driven anyone crazy.,

(this is one of the many maps available)