Horned Politicians – The Indian Caricature
Till 1980s, the popular Hindi filmi villain was the caricatured businessman. Madhuri Dixit’s movies and the 90’s liberalization, killed this stereotype. Possibly, the massacre of politicians in ‘Inquilab’ ( a 1980’s film starring Amitabh Bachchan) initiated the change of villain from the businessman to the politician. Today, a popular profession for villains in Hindi films is politics.
The Neta In Colonial Times
From colonial times, the Indian neta has been a favorite target of smear campaigns, innuendo and propaganda. Colonial administration in India worked hard to undermine the credibility of the Indian ‘neta’ –for obvious reasons. Colonial bureaucrats (and their successors, the IAS) covered their incompetence and corruption with this lopsided image of the neta. Indians politicians are possibly as corrupt as any others in the world.
Ask the Japanese about Kakui Tanaka and Lockheed affair. Or ask the British about Mark Thatcher shenanigans. But don’t ask Americans about the son of bootlegger who flouted the US Constitution many times – John F.Kennedy. After JFK’s killing, 60 years on, there are many suspects who had motives. Mafia tops this list.
IAS – Indian In Name Only
But the English speaking, Indian bureaucracy is another matter. Having dragged India to the bottom of global corruption pervasiveness ratings, they cover their owns misdeeds, under the ‘umbrella’ of the neta.
This is one colonial institution that India has tried digesting, without succes. IAS (ICS during colonial times) a venal, corrupt cadre, has tied up India into knots – which have taken us decades to even start disentangling.
As in colonial era, the IAS lobby works behind the scenes. The IAS lobby continues with this. Indian TV channels routinely conduct sting operations on various institutions – politicians, universities, colleges, film stars, etc. But no one has tried a sting operation on an IAS officer. Is it their propaganda skills that they are able to cover their corruption – and the popular, elected leadership is continually tarred.
Or is it fear?
The Pakistan Fixation is a a cover-up of India’s laziness or lack of resolve on part of the diplomatic corps – the IFS. Does Pakistan have the focus or the persistence to do half the things that India imagines Pakistan is doing.? In the last 20 years, India has lowered its guard – and has become further fixated on the Pakistan bogey. The Pakistan Fixation hides Indian ineptness at confronting the root of Pakistani problem – USA, amongst others.
If India’s problems were limited to Pakistan, possibly, there is some merit to India’s Pakistan Fixation. India’s relations with its other neighbours are also in trouble. Its relations with Bangladesh are at a historic low. Relations with Sri Lanka are back from the brink. Nepal is the new fire in the sub-continent.
The Root Of This Problem
The state of inter-government relations in South Asia is a sign of lazy Indian diplomatic corps (the IFS) which considers all these neighbourhood postings as ‘punishment’ postings. The ‘best’ of IFS corps wants postings to Western capitals. Like the IAS, the IFS is another albatross around India’s neck.
A large part of India’s Foreign Ministry budget goes towards Western engagement (for proof, look at the dubious Festivals of India in USA, France, Russia, Britain, etc). Instead if the same money was spent in the sub-continent, it would have been better spent. The huge monies spent on Western embassies are mis directed. It would be ideal if those Western embassies were Spartan, frugal (I should actually say Gandhian) – and the money saved can be invested in the sub-continent.
India’s Western engagement are at a direct cost of involving and managing the neighbourhood relationships. The terrorism related issues have an element of Indian element. After all, who propped up Bhindranwale? The treatment of J&K Governments by the Rajiv and Indira Gandhi do not bear repetition. The birth of LTTE was midwifed by India. I have not followed the Naga and ULFA story as closely to get a clearer fix – but there is an element of ‘games’ in there also. And these ‘games’ have a habit of getting out of hand! It is not a co-incidence that John Nash suffered from schizophrenia.
Hence, our favorite game is blame game – blame the neighbours and get on with the Western pre-occupation. The Pakistani involvement in various crimes of omission and commission could be better understood if our relations with our other neighbours were better. It is India’s superior attitude that makes us believe that we know better. No neighbour would want to willingly embrace China! After all, India offers a template that others can use – and China offers a road map that points downhill. It is India’s superior attitude which has made it attractive for our neighbours to embrace China.
For this reason, again SAARC has been bombast – and little action. It is our diplomatic corps that are found wanting. The SAARC opportunities in the economic area are huge – and history is on our side. It is our Western pre-occupation and Pakistani Fixation which are to blame for the slow uptake on SAARC. SAARC has become a case of all potential and no performance.
Lord Meghnad Desai, in Times Of India, made some ‘standard’ comments about Indian ‘netas‘. While Desai’s article talks about what India’s netas need to do, it gives them no credit for where India is today.
If India’s netas, are powerful enough to influence the future then does it occur to His Lordship that they may have been (at least partly) influential in India’s post-colonial re-construction. Is it too much to expect even-handedness from His Lordship? Does His Lordship realize that India’s under-rated netas have nurtured the world’s only successful Republican Democracy in the last 200 years. India’s illiterate voters have participated enthusiastically in this success. Westernized Indians (like Lord Meghnad Desai) have seen India through a Western eyes and English language.
His prognosis for the West is even more interesting. It is His Lordship’s belief that possibly only the USA (from the West) will make the cut. The Euro zone, he implies will be irrelevant. How and why is Lord Desai silent about the role of Euro-politicians in the decline and eclipse (His Lorship’s pessimism) of Euro-zone. Is it that His Lordship does not dare criticize Western politicians? Or is that the West can do no wrong? Is Euro-eclipse as much black magic as The Rise Of India?
Behind Indian Success
Is this forward march of India an accident ? Or a happy co-incidence? Black magic, perhaps? Not forgetting credit to The West? After all, the the West is confident that modern Indian success is due to Western contribution? Of course, it begs a question as to why this has not happened in any other country.
Not to forget the NRI contribution – especially the Westernized NRIs (like Lord Meghnad Desai who wants to be an Indian now). Possibly, the only people who should not get any credit is are the desi, home grown Indians.
On April 28th 2009, a little less than one year after this post, some of the details of NSDL and NSE project were revealed. CB Bhave, who set up the dematerialised share repository, NSDL, revealed some interesting facts. The most interesting is that he felt the need to resign from the IAS – for things to happen.
Bhave resigned from the IAS in 1996, to take up what was then seen as a rather low-profile job — to create India’s first share depository, even though he had the option of going there on deputation. “The job needed full-time commitment from me and from the team I was recruiting. How would I get it, if I did not burn my boats myself?” he says. (via Lunch with BS: C B Bhave).
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