If there is any country that has suffered the most in the September 11th incident - apart from the United States - it is India. We have suffered in prestige, if not in other ways.India does not seem to count any more.It is Pakistan, not India, that is making world headlines, and it is again Pakistan that has become a frontline state, though if should have been India.
Open any foreign newspaper or magazine; you don't find any mention of India anywhere, even when so many worthies have been going in and out of America ever since that terrible September. Our foreign minister was there recently but you would not have noticed it from any US newspaper. Neither the New York Times nor Washington Post took any notice of him. Other papers hardly ever mention India, so it is not surprising that they totally ignored the foreign minister.
Actually, the day our Singh arrived in Washington, New York Times carried a long interview on its Opp-Ed page - with Pakistan's ambassadorin Washington! Even that country's ambassador is considered more important than our Singhs and Vajpayees. In fact, Singh had to return empty-handed after he discovered that America's love affair with Pakistan was as torrid as ever and even senators who were asking for Musharraf's head on a platter until recently have now changed their minds and have become Pakistan afficianados.
Look at the way Britain's Tony Blair has behaved.He came all the way to Pakistan to plead with her supremo to spare the lives of British missionaries who are being tried in Afghanistan. Of course, he gave it a political colour, investing his mission with international overtones. Initially, he had no intention of visiting India, until he was told that it would look very bad indeed if, having come all the way to this part of the world, he would go back without paying a visit to Delhi.And although he spent almost half a day here, he spent exactly 28 minutes with Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In Pakistan, he spent hours with Pervez Musharraf, almost on bent knees, asking for mercy to his missionaries in Afghanistan.
Why is India being treated like this? It is all our own doing. When you become a doormat, you are treated like a doormat. We are falling over backwards to please Americans, doing the kind of chamchagiri Indian princes had raised to a fine art when dealing with the British. After fifty years of independence, this chamchagiri is still very much a part of our psyche.When I say 'our', I don't mean you and me, for we never did any chamchagiri when the British were here, nor do we do it now.But there are some Indians, particularly those who have lived in the old princely states, who are still chamchas at heart, and cannot but bend and crawl when they see a white pro-consul or even a white babu.
We were the first ones to offer our assistance to the Americans as also our air bases, and may be other things, when America was attacked in New York. The Americans didn't ask for our help. They didn't even inform us about what had happened in New York. But chamchagiri is in our blood and within hours of the incident, we had pledged our facilities to them including possibly military help.
No wonder, we are being ignored and treated with disdain.Somehow we believed that now that the US itself had felt the heat of terror first hand, they would appreciate our help and President Bush would come all the way from Washington to express his gratitude. India has suffered more from terrorists than almost any other country in the world, and that too continuously for the last fifty years, but the Americans are not interested in this kind of history. What matters to them is who can help them in their present crisis. And they know fully well that apart from moral support, there is little that India can offer, because in almost all matters, India herself now needs US help and has become a US underling.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has played its cards very well. When you see Pakistani spokesmen on the TV, especially on CNN, you get the impression that these men are very smart and know what they are doing. When the Americans circulated the so-called proofs of bin Laden's hand in the New York attack, and Pakistan was one of the countries that received the evidence, their foreign office refused to say that the evidence was strong enough to indict bin Laden atleast initially, though later on they did say that the evidence was adequate. Throughout his interview with a BBC reporter Pervez Musharraf was careful not to praise America too much, and was so guarded that the reporter was too stunned to speak.Musharraf gave the impression that he was in full control of his house and the Americans would have to do business with him, not somebody else. Incidentally, Pakistan has been successful in extracting a lot of money from President Bush and also probably other concessions, while we have come out of this minus our reputation.
Our friends do not care for us; our enemies are not afraid of us. Even Musharraf can tell us to lay off and all we can do in return is write a long letter to Bush to tell him that our patience has its limits. Why write to Bush? Is he our protector? Here again, the old habits of princely states die hard. For them, the British king was their protector and they lived in his patronage. Has India reverted to princely statehood with the United States replacing Britain?
This patronage business began the day the Vajpayee government abandoned its party's Swadeshi policies and tried to please the westerners by going global. Since then, foreign investors have become our patrons, though they do not really care for us, or our economy. A good example is Enron, which behaved right from the start as if it was obliging us by investing in India, and always emphasised the fact that it had powerful friends back in Washington. Actually, Enron does not have much of a reputation in the US and is more of a trader in electricity than an investor. It makes more money by buying and selling electricity in the market, that is, mainly as a speculator. And speculators are not looked upon kindly even in capitalist countries.
But New Delhi is so scared of companies like Enron,it dare not call its bluff. It seems to have no policy at all on how to deal with rogue companies like Enron, for fear such a policy might antagonise the powers that be, back in Washington. This is not how sovereign countries behave. Even Britain, which is known worldwide as America's poodle, does not behave in such a servile fashion.
The net result is that though the economy is in a mess, the government has no cue how to deal with it. The company is probably already in recession, with GDP growth back to low single digits, probably no more than two or three per cent. Industry is in such a bad state that industrial growth this year may be negative. If so, nothing can save us. With agriculture growth also in low single digits despite reasonably satisfactory rains, this is going to be one of the worst years in memory, a disastrous start to the New Millennium. We would not be in such straits but for the government's total dependence on foreign investors. For reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained, the government seems to believe that foreign investment is the key to progress in development, though everything points the other way.Foreign investment helps if first you help yourself. This is what China has done. China's growth owes much more to its own efforts than foreign investors.
China has gross domestic savings of 42 per cent of GDP, among the highest in the world, if not the highest. When you have that kind of savings, growth rates are bound to be high. Actually, investment in China is less than 40 per cent, which means China does not really require all that foreign investment. The country is driven by its own savings, which are nearly twice ours. No wonder, GDP growth rates in China are also twice ours. The key therefore is not foreign investment, as the apologists of foreign investors believe, but China's excellent financial management which yields such high savings rates.
We are now so mesmerised by foreign investors that the finance ministry is at a loss to know how to proceed in the current crisis. It has taken no steps so far to get the economy moving, because it has no idea how to go about it. The United States, on the other hand, has been drastically reducing its interest rates and has done so seven times in the current year, almost once every month.
Midterm interest rates have come down to 3 per cent a year, the lowest in 30 years. But even then, the economy is not moving, for interests alone do not do the trick. Investor confidence has been shaken to a point of no return, and unless and until the Bush government makes good on its promise to capture Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice, consumer confidence will continue to remain badly shaken.
Consumer confidence has been badly shaken in India too, but even more than that, it is the political confidence that lies in tatters. Indians are a proud people and do not expect their government to grovel before foreigners. If we cannot tackle the problem that Pakistan has been creating in Kashmir, then it is our problem, not America's problem. All this talk about global terrorism is bunkum. If India cannot deal with problems of terrorism at its door, it is futile to expect America to do so for our sake. It only means that we are not the nation we are supposed to be, and therefore not deserving of any respect. Can such countries ever attract any foreign investment?
Published in Samachar. I used to read Jai's articles when I was a kid. They were mostly critisizing Rajiv Gandhi. As I was a fan of Rajiv, I did not like Jai's articles. This one makes sense to me!