Caught in a pincer

India is ringed by hostile neighbours, who hope to bleed and balkanise it

By Gautam Sen, December 2005

(Dr Gautam Sen formerly taught at the London School of Economics & Political Science)

India is encountering a geopolitical pincer movement to corner it, prior to its eventual liquidation as a significant political entity. The principal instigator of this pincer movement is China, which has already garlanded India with a ring of hostile countries, itching to see it prostrate. The garland of thorns surrounding India begins with Bangladesh, Burma and Nepal and ends with the bleeding dagger of Pakistan already thrust deep into India’s body politic. Nepal’s unabashed participation in this campaign has been held back by India’s economic stranglehold over it, but its dominant elites are more than anxious to plunge a dagger of their own into India’s heart. Where Sri Lanka will fit into this equation barely requires much imagination, despite the apparent current honeymoon, because the Sinhalese have long harboured iridescent contempt for India.

The other arm of this pincer, threatening India’s very survival, is an array of Arab supporters of Pakistan now implanted deep inside Indian society and its polity. They apparently concur that the hiatus of British and post-colonial kafir ascendancy in India is poised to end. Sunni Islam is looking forward to the restoration of their rule in a vast swathe encompassing north and west Africa, reaching out towards the Black Sea coast and then stretching all the way eastward to obscure Chittagong port. And such is the Islamic self-confidence and influence within India itself that minor coastal Gulf statelets, with populations that would disappear in one Indian city suburb, finance and nonchalantly promote lethal bombing campaigns in its capital city. The Indian state, which could easily punish these vile Cantons militarily, utters not a whisper of protest as the evidence of their dastardly complicity piles ever higher.

Transnational ambitions of Islam and the Maoist revolt have combined to tie down the Indian state well and truly. The unfolding drama in which they are playing a pivotal role is a prelude to delivering a coup de grâce, at an appropriate time when the Indian state is besieged and stretched. At that climacteric moment of danger, India’s self-obsessed and morally neuter elites will be susceptible to blandishments to save their own skins in exchange for all sorts of acts of national betrayal. The outcome is likely to be the surrender of sovereign territory and grants of political autonomy to seditious regions that will make the provisions of Article 370 seem excessively centripetal.

The Islamic instrument of subversion is a remarkable, but entirely predictable hold over their sub-continental co-religionists. This far-reaching influence is maintained through doctrinal and financial stranglehold over India’s Islamic clergy and institutions. The clergy itself enjoys immense sway over the faithful through mosques and madrasas. In the eloquent testimony of Tehmina Durrani, the former spouse of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s close colleague, who laid bared the private vileness of Pakistan’s ruling elites, “The multitudes might be impoverished and illiterate, but invoke the name of Islam – no matter how erroneously - and they will rally.” As a result, India’s Islamic clergy is able to brazenly announce its loyalty to the wider ummah and the imperative of establishing a caliphate in the future, where non-Muslims, according to Jamaat leaders, will be suitably deferential.

The pincer movement against India distending ominously along its borders is combined with manifold domestic dissent and policy stasis, accentuating the impulse toward implosion. The selfsame foes, sitting animatedly along its borders, assiduously sponsor a great deal of this internal political discontent within India. Characteristically, the Left parties across the country are embarked on a truly insidious campaign of criminal sabotage of their own on all fronts. They have joined hands with China and jihadi Pakistan to ensure the failure of the Indo-US accord on nuclear energy. The Iran issue in the IAEA is merely an excuse since the real goal is to advance the interests of communist China, to which Pakistan happens to be joined at the proverbial hip.

Quire revealingly, India’s erstwhile foreign minister engaged in a disgraceful subterfuge by unilaterally stopping India from co-sponsoring a resolution to institutionalise the commemoration of the Holocaust at the UN. This was a pernicious and crude play for Leftist and Islamic sympathy to protect himself from the consequences of being named in the Volcker Report. But it is not a surprise that the Left and their Islamic co-conspirators refuse to commemorate the Holocaust because anti-Semitism has become their triumphant hallmark. The self-indulgent foreign minister himself gave no thought to India’s good name and its important relationship with Israel in perpetrating this shameful act of betrayal, which also happens to be contrary to avowed government policy. Yet, he remains a member of the Union Cabinet, with the zealous support of the political Left, and the honourable prime minister does not find the situation intolerable.

Of course, rotten governance and devilish economic mismanagement are also playing a diabolical role in undermining India’s advance. The government’s overweening presence in the economy constantly politicises economic disquiet and drags it into every contentious issue. In a largely impersonal private economy the political system would be more insulated from the daily ebb and flow of economic events that affect personal destinies. Economic setbacks would not rapidly translate into collective political discontent and revolt. But the collaborationist and criminal political class only has the short-term goal of securing political power and the spoils of office, with which reform has minimal connection. Yet, it is the Left’s impact on current economic policy that is proving extraordinarily damaging to India’s future, though the Nehruvian economic legacy has contaminated political parties right across the ideological spectrum.

A huge number of people have a stake in ensuring an overbearing role for the government in running the Indian economy. The government is the central platform for the destructive re-distributive struggle that has seized India, overshadowing the primary goal of productive effort. Everyone seeks a piece of the ill-gotten revenue pie and has an imaginative argument to buttress their claim. And ministerial office itself seems to mean that nothing has to ever be paid for again and every urgent necessity entails a trip abroad, preferably with one’s entire family in tow. One calculation suggests that half of India’s entire middle class is directly or indirectly dependent on the government for their incomes. Gratifyingly for them, government jobs, whether in administration, medicine, teaching and much else besides, are political rewards and very little actual work is required of the privileged few lucky enough to have them. In some leading teaching institutions in the national capital staff appear once a month only to collect their salaries.

Unsurprisingly, in such a corrupt system, much public investment is simply a circuitous route for embezzlement, since contractors, politicians and bureaucrats conspire to siphon off as much as possible. The ostensible intended work itself is the least of their concerns. The immediate damage is through direct theft, but private producers also suffer huge productivity losses because they need efficient services like transportation, energy, etc, in order to operate themselves. This is why the failure to expand employment in the organised sector is the unavoidable corollary of the mafia trade union politics of India, supported by all major political parties, which nurture their respective labour wings. This minuscule group of blackmailers and extortionists has made it extremely unattractive for prospective employers to hire labour because being held to ransom by trade unions is the norm. Only informal employment has grown in India in the past decade while employment in the formal sector has actually shrunk. But the Left is always present to ensure that the jobs of their work-shy members are protected at all costs.

The incumbent prime minister’s powerlessness in the face of rampant deceit and unashamed criminality within his own Union cabinet, with a succession of indicted ministerial colleagues forcibly ejected, is a harbinger of the shape of things to come. The writing is clearly on the wall since the functioning of most state governments has merely become a sublimated cover for illegality. In the grimly self-destructive pursuit of money and power political life in India has been reduced to unadulterated entrepreneurial activity that stops at nothing. Such is the cynical depth of this phenomenon that one sighs in silent relief when an accused legislator or parliamentarian is only alleged to be involved in kidnapping and armed robbery rather than multiple homicide.

In some regions the pretence of serving the public interest has been replaced by out-and-out criminality. A shocking calculation suggests that legislators accused of criminal activities in UP, belonging to all political parties, could form a government of their own, since they have enjoyed an absolute majority in the state assembly for some time. Not only are state legislatures and the national parliament itself teeming with felons, chief ministers of many states are also engaged in blatant criminal activity. Recently, a chief minister vitiated all precepts of justice and morality by instigating the illegal arrest of religious leaders, who define the very nature of Indian civilisation. An ally of the same state government is also ruthlessly harassing a business rival for making innocuous statements on safe sex by wilfully misusing a fully complicit judiciary.

The persistence of any public purpose in governance is not so much fortuitous as merely the final vestiges of a dwindling historic idealism. It survives by virtue of a degree of inertia, the prior dominance of the better educated and the integrity of selection procedures for higher administrative jobs, preventing outright collapse. But the arrangements barely survive. The bureaucrat, who may have once idealistically sought to further the public interest, has increasingly joined hands with his political masters to pursue corrupt enrichment. The capital city itself is in the thrall of political goons in hock to criminals, collectively engaged in a feeding frenzy of theft and extortion. The recent attempt to impugn an uncharacteristically honest municipal chief executive, who forlornly sought to inject a modicum of transparency, was launched jointly by government and Opposition legislative members. Amazingly, it went virtually unnoticed and he is now being put out to pasture.

The political class as a whole, both government and Opposition, hoodwinks the electorate by engaging in make-believe public jousts. In fact, they co-operate with each other behind the scenes against the public interest. Occasionally, an unfortunate individual may succumb in the course of such contrived displays of public divergences, but the political class usually ensures its own collective survival by looking after each other. Thus, governments in power rarely go in for the kill against the Opposition, confident that they too will receive due consideration from them when they happen to form the government. A catalogue of the mutual courtesies between political parties in recent history, while they strive to fabricate the impression of earnest and high-minded conflicts, is a salutary reminder that political entrepreneurs are not about to commit suicide by fighting each other to death. They have too much to gain by co-operating discreetly in order to secure their extremely profitable joint future robbing a credulous public.

It is also clear that ISI terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim and his associates were financing major political parties within India and businesses in various parts of the country. This gives the lie to expressions of serious intention by the Indian government in demanding Dawood’s extradition from Pakistan. In fact, one senior Maharashtra politician was seen in the company of Dawood in the VIP lounge of Mumbai’s international airport at a time when he was supposedly a fugitive from the law, accused of mass murder. But what are a few hundred dead bodies and national honour to Indian politicians and their bureaucratic co-conspirators when both can be bartered for hard cash? The lethal pincer has bitten deep indeed into the entrails of India.