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GST: Another Modi gambling for perpetual economic disorder?

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Indian PM Modi is in news again with a new economic project called GST.  GST could mean two big things, one: Global State terrorism and two, Goods and Services Tax.  While Indians are still struggling with the impact of demonetization, the Modi government has come out with yet another shock called GST.

Apparently, Modi is still eager to be in the news and he does things only to promote that goal at a heavy cost for the people of India. His foreign tours, being arranged jointly by PMO, foreign ministry and Indian embassies abroad,  are meant to boost Modi’s image as a fast running PM of India. In fact, Mod runs into wanting state plane to take him for foreign tours. He thoroughly enjoys his foreign tours, meeting big leaders and having food with them and “shake hands” photos with them for Indian media lords.

The Modi government keeps trying various economic strategies, even if for fun, that harms the people at large. But neither Modi nor BJP nor RSS is worried about the consequences of their actions. It seems the BJP regime is targeting the people of India for ignoring them for too long to offer it the mandate to rule the nation. PM Modi is also not sure if people would repose their faith in his party or government when the next general poll take place.

The Modi government thus punishes the people of India while Mod himself keeps visiting big nations as his prime hobby along with big entourage of media lords and  government officals. Modi just ignores the sentiments of Indians by going to Israel against  Indian support for the support for the Palestinians whom Israeli  state terrorists keep attacking, killing even the children there for their blood and land for illegal Jewish settlements.   

In order to make his visit to Israel easy without any criticism in India, PM Modi has launched the GST so that people of India and media are busy with the issue while he would enjoy life in Israel. 

Global State terrorism today is the universal policy of fascism and imperialism. The state terror operations perpetrated by the regimes, targeting people of their own nations or people of other countries, like US led NATO terror wars in Arab world and Afghanistan, or perpetual Israeli terror attacks on Palestine for its lands and blood of Palestinians; or say continuous Indian state attacks on Kashmiris in occupied Kashmir (already over 1000,000 Muslims have been slaughter by Indian forces in Kashmir alone), and two, the Goods and Services Tax being introduced by Indian regime aiming at a standard tax system for entire country and in every state and region. Either could destabilize the weak nations and common people and could only promote capitalism and support global imperialism.

Here we are talking about the second problem of new Indian economic law GST, relating to uniform taxes. PM Modi has called it Good and Simple Tax. But common people are puzzled as they care confused about the consequences of GST. After their disastrous experience with demonetization drive, Indians are scared f of any new shock therapies by the Modi government. Certainly, they want to live with fewer problems.

One party, one system, one religion, one tax

Taking the one time victory as the permanent vote  by Indian people, the RSS/BJP government is bent upon one  system, one party and one religion system in India. Every in India is trying for essentially a  fascist-Zionist Hindutva ideology.

A nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST), came into effect on Saturday from midnight, has faced criticism for its complex design.  GST, being billed as the biggest tax reform since Independence, will subsume all indirect state and central levies, making India a single market. Under GST law, the producer must have to pass the added benefit of tax reduction. Businesses and their consultants have opposed it and said that it’s against the free market concept.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has likened the roll out of the GST – whose bill was cleared by both houses of Parliament last month after six years of stormy debate – to a revolution and the “most significant taxation overhaul in India.” PM Narendra Modi said the GST reflects the spirit of “one nation, one aspiration, one determination.” Opposition parties oppose it.

FM Arun Jaitley on June 29 asked opposition parties such as Congress and the Left to reconsider their decision to skip the midnight GST launch tomorrow saying they were all consulted on the indirect tax reform and cannot run away from it. “I hope every political party will reconsider and revisit its decision” on not participating in the launch event to be organised in the Central Hall of Parliament, he said. The government, FM Jaitley said, remains committed to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as any other reform. “It is single most important taxation reform in 70 years.” All decision on GST, including rules and tax rates, were taken in consultation with states and political parties must display broad shoulder and own up their responsibility, he said.

The leader of Indian opposition Congress decided to keep away from the special midnight June 30 meeting convened by the government on GST implementation. Trinamool Congress has already announced its decision to boycott the event. Left parties also boycott the meeting as they reject the GST. CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has already questioned the government on “hurrying” into introducing GST and recalled that the ruling BJP had opposed the system when it was in the opposition.

The Left parties will not take part in the special midnight meeting on June 30 convened by the government to launch the Goods and Services Tax (GST), CPI leader D Raja said today. He said the parties will not take part in the meeting in view of protest by small and medium scale entrepreneurs, traders, weavers and informal sector workers on the way the GST is being implemented. “The Left will not be participating in the midnight GST meeting. People are agitating across the county. ..We cannot be celebrating when people are agitating,” the Rajya Sabha member said.

The Modi government wants smooth rollout of the GST the 30 June in the parliament. A war room will monitor and take immediate action on a complaint. Government officials have specially alerted to thwart any attempt of cartelization or disruption in the new tax regime. The government said it will use the circular-shaped Central Hall to launch the new taxation system that is set to dramatically re-shape the over USD 2 trillion economy. A gong will be sounded at midnight to usher in the GST. Prime Minister Modi will be the key speaker at the function. President Pranab Mukherjee, who is enjoying finals days at Presidential palace with Mogul Garden, , is also likely to attend the function, where former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda have been invited too. Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) chief said that “The finance ministry has set up a GST feedback and action room specifically for government officials to approach it with any urgent queries related to problems of GST in any area”.

The PMO and Indian government officials have specially alerted to thwart any attempt of cartelization or disruption in the new tax regime. The government has created a ‘war room’ to monitor GST (Goods and Service Tax) implementation process, a new indirect tax system which will roll out on Saturday. In North Block, the office building of Finance ministry has allotted a space named as ‘GST Feedback and Action Room’. Former Chairman of CBEC said that “The government wants these benefits to reach the consumers through these Anti- Profiteering Rules. On the other hand, its rampant application will create chaos and serious disruptions in business”.

Equipped with multiple phone lines and computer systems and manned by tech-savvy youngsters, a “mini war room” has been set up in the Finance Ministry to deal with crises related to the implementation of GST or goods and services tax. War room is also ready for prompt action from tax evasion to technical confusion on rates to transportation related issues. War room responsibility is more crucial as the anti-profiteering body is still in the process of being.

GST- one tax and several problems

GST is not as simple as Modi and Arun want us believe. It is highly complicated at different levels. BJP, a party of  finical lords,  cannot devise any policy to multiage the poor or common people.

The GST, a worldwide accepted tax system, was first introduced by France in 1954.  Presently, around 160 countries follow the GST or VAT in some form or the other. In some countries, analysts say, VAT is the substitute for a GST, but conceptually it is a destination-based tax levied on consumption of goods and services. However, only Canada has a dual GST model, akin to what India intends doing.

Indian government wants to replace it with a more streamlined nationwide Goods & Services Tax (GST) that is hailed by many as the country’s most pathbreaking tax reform and deplored by others who fear it will turn the economy down. The new system will eliminate India’s notorious complex layers of taxation including purchase, entertainment, excise, luxury and sales taxes (VAT) and others. Analysts predict that the GST, if properly implemented, will likely bolster the country’s GDP by 2 percent.

One of the major objectives of GST is to make the tax incidence on consumers less by reducing compliance costs, removing cascading of taxes, increasing the tax base, reducing logistics costs and reducing the effective rates of taxes from the present level. Other country experiences suggest that GST led inflationary pressures in an economy because producers have refused to pass added profit to consumers.

GST law said, “Any reduction in rate of tax on any supply of goods or services or the benefit of input tax credit shall be passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices”. Revenue secretary Dr Hasmukh Adhia had said that “We expect companies to cooperate. We hope we don’t have to use the weapon.”

A unified tax system is likely to remove a slew of indirect taxes as well as the cascading effect of taxes. Manufacturing costs will be reduced; hence prices of consumer goods – cars, phones, FMCG goods – will also likely plummet. A unified tax regime will also be a deterrent to corruption which will benefit the common man.Other benefits include simpler administration which will ensure an easier collection of revenues, widening of the tax net and plugging of leakages and multiple taxations which will boost the government’s revenue stream and efficiency. For the consumer/tax-paying citizens, the GST would mean more transparency, proportionate taxation, relief in overall tax burdens, slightly cheaper goods and services.

India’s gold industry is optimistic that the gold supply chain will be more transparent and efficient. The GST, some hope, will also provide an edge to the travel and tourism industry by reducing costs for customers, streamlining taxes and thus promoting overall growth. Under the GST, rates finalized for air travel, flying economy will attract a 5 percent tax.

India currently has one of the worst tax-to-GDP ratios among major economies at 16.6 percent, less the half the 34 percent average for the members of the OECD and also below many emerging economies. Improved tax compliance should shore up public finances, augmenting resources for welfare and development spending and giving a lift to the $2 trillion economy.

While there is no official estimate of the potential fiscal gain, some tax experts say the measure, after the initial teething trouble, would lift the tax-to-GDP ratio by as much as 4 percentage points as the number of tax filers is estimated to more than treble to 30 million. In future, compliance is going to be extremely crucial

True, not many are interested in paying taxes and as corruption, being religiously promoted by the regime and politicians, has badly affected the tax officials as well, most pay taxes not properly.

The unorganized sector of India’s economy is vast, employing an estimated nine out of 10 workers. While staying outside the GST regime risks losing business, joining it will necessitate an overhaul of firms’ accounting systems and an investment in technology.

The new tax system requires three filing a month plus an annual return – a total of 37 filings – for each of India’s 29 states in which a firm operates. For smaller companies operating on wafer thin margins, hiring accountants and technical staff could substantially dent their bottom line. A head of portfolio management services at financial firm in Mumbai says all consumer-facing industries will be big beneficiaries of the GST

Most of those who argue for GST are also the supporters of BJP government. Only time will let the peole know the real move of GST as India has long ago under the corrupt Congress misrule mortgaged its economic policy to IMF and World Bank and increasingly work to promote American economic interests in order to gain some favors from Washington. The Hindutva fanatics are too eager to promote those “structured” relations with USA.

Of the eight million existing tax payers, 6.6 million tax assesses have already enrolled for GST. And about 1.7 lakh new applications for GST have come in. However, the silence inside the headquarters of Goods and Services Tax Network or GSTN, housed on the fourth floor of an imposing glass building aptly named World Mark I right next to Delhi’s international airport, is misleading. Behind white and blue cubicles, professionals with expertise in IT and taxation are putting in extra hours to ensure that the switch over to GST is a smooth affair. The biggest task for GSTN – a not-for-profit company set up to manage and collect indirect taxes – is to help traders and businessmen migrate to the GST platform.

Indian GST Network has developed a tool where you can work offline and upload when there is connectivity. It will take seconds to upload your returns. As the officials test and retest their programs and applications, our question “when was your last off day” made everyone burst out. “We will have to check our records,” said a former banker who’s “measuring end user results of the GST software.” “This is our national service.”

However, some chief ministers of Indian states have already expressed their dissent. How is one-nation-one-tax good politics for all 29 states and several Union territories and the center given the fact they all have diverse economic strengths and weaknesses?

Observation

GST interferes with federal arrangement and imposes its will on the states and thereby encroaches upon state rights and privileges. In other words, federal government tries to control entire nation and state resources.

One tax indeed means big problems for the people of India.  Conscious people in India feel if India has been purchased by international frauds that play with the psyche of Indians who want to see their nation a super power as soon as possible to challenge both USA and Russia while making China a non-issue. 

GST is likely to harm the common masses. GST is exorbitant. Tax is likely to increase on a massive scale. Traders are not going to reduce the prices.

Who will benefit? Any reform or policy is supposed to help the people of the nation. Corporate lords will have more profits under GST.

Once lauded as path-breaking, which is now causing rancor in the European Union.  Lesser-developed economies like Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain have had to adopt extreme austerity measures that have sent unemployment soaring all over southern Europe. This has led many of the anti-EU states to consider a referendum on exiting the union a la Brexit.

In India too, there is a strong chance that the GST, the country’s boldest and riskiest tax reform yet, may give the ruling political establishment a greater headache than it may have bargained for.

The country’s biggest tax reform since independence is promising to bring millions of firms into the tax net, boosting government revenues and India’s sovereign credit profile. Until now, all rundown premises and small scale operation has kept the business below the radar of India’s tax officials. Since July 1, however, the party will be over. The new tax will require firms to upload their invoices every month to a portal that will match them with those of their suppliers or vendors. Because a tax number is needed for a firm to claim a credit on the cost of its inputs, many companies are refusing to buy from unregistered businesses. Those who don’t sign up risk losing any customer who has.

The nation is waiting for the real problems of GST to come to fore.

There are serious apprehensions in the minds of people over GST’s implementation. Unfortunately, India is under the grip of international frauds like the BJP MP and IPL boss Mallya. Unless corruption is contained and done away with, a new tax system won’t be fruitful. If the regime let its supporters to loot the nation’s resources and evade taxes, nothing good or positive is going to come of the envisaged tax reforms.

The GST is in fact a regressive tax, which will consume a higher proportion of poor people’s income, compared to those earning large incomes.  Many feel that imposition will also result in a surge in prices of services like telecoms, banking and airlines. If the actual tax benefit is not passed to consumers, and sellers increase their profit margin, the prices of goods will go up instead of down. Even assuming the GST delivers on the revenue front after an initial lag, one has to realize that it goes counter to the long-term trend of devolving greater powers to states.  It centralizes in the GST Council the powers of indirect taxation, and could thus be a constant source of friction between center and states, or between states if some gain or lose more than the others.

One also suspects if the governments of Congress and BJP are trying to eliminate the poor and have-nots from the Indian economic system by GST and other such measures as the IMF and World Bank, committed to capitalism and colonialism, are pressing the third world to do away all subsidies to the poor. .

The BJP government that worships cow and Israel as real gods, has been searching new ideas to boost the image of the Modi led RSS government which is shattered by false promises to the people and issues like black money and demonetization. GST therefore is crucial for the BJP government which has lost the blackmoney issue as part of gigantic demonetization drive that spelt disastrous for the common people for months and the impact is not completely worn out.

Uncertainty cannot be the foundation of any government because people suffer not knowing how to deal with new threats to their ordinary lives.

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South Asia

India’s Unclear Neighbourhood Policy: How to Overcome ?

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India has witnessed multiple trends with regards to its relations with its neighbours at a time vaccine diplomacy is gaining prominence and Beijing increasing the pace towards becoming an Asian superpower, whereby making these reasons valid for New Delhi to have a clear foreign policy with respect to its neighbourhood.

Introduction

The Covid Pandemic has led to increased uncertainty in the global order where it comes to power dynamics, role of international organisations. New Delhi has tried to leave no stone unturned when it comes to dealing with its immediate neighbours.  It has distributed medical aid and vaccines to smaller countries to enhance its image abroad at a time it has witnessed conflicts with China and a change in government in Myanmar. These developments make it imperative for New Delhi to increase its focus on regionalism and further international engagement where this opportunity could be used tactically amidst a pandemic by using economic and healthcare aid.

According to Dr. Arvind Gupta, New Delhi has to deal with threats coming from multiple fronts and different tactics where it is essential for New Delhi to save energy using soft means rather than coercive measures.. India under Vaccine Maitri has supplied many of COVAXIN doses to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where many have appreciated this move. The urgency of ensuring humanitarian aid during these periods of unprecedented uncertainty are essential in PM Modi’s Security and Growth For All ( SAGAR) initiative, which focusses on initiating inclusive growth as well as cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.

This pandemic witnessed various threats coming in India’s neighbourhood through multiple dimensions which include maritime, land, cyber as well as air threats where adversaries are using these to put pressure on New Delhi to settle land as well as marine disputes as per their terms.  These encirclement strategies have made it necessary for India to open up various options such as holding maritime joint exercises with like-minded countries, developing partnerships, providing economic as well as healthcare support to weaker countries plus having a clear insight about changing global dynamics and acting as per them.

This piece will discuss about various changing tactics, pros and cons which India has with respect to developing its national security vis-à-vis its neighbourhood, why should it prioritise its neighbourhood at the first place?

Background

India’s Neighbourhood is filled with many complexities and a lot of suspicion amongst countries, some viewing India because of its size and geography plus economic clout as a bully where it is wanting to dominate in the region putting others aside. This led to New Delhi play an increased role in nudging ties first with its neighbours with whom it had multiple conflicts as well as misunderstandings leading to the latter viewing Beijing as a good alternative in order to keep India under check.

Ever since PM Modi has taken charge at 7 RCR, India’s Neighbourhood First Policy has been followed increasingly to develop relations, to enhance understandings and ensure mutual cooperation as well as benefit with its neighbours. The relations with Islamabad have not seen so much improvement as compared to other leaders in the past. Even though former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited for PM Modi’s 1st Swearing In ceremony in 2014, terrorist activities have never stopped which could be seen through Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama terror attacks which killed many of the Indian soldiers. Even though surgical strikes were conducted on terror camps in retaliation to these bombardments, Islamabad has not changed its heart at all about its security or regional demands. New strategies and friendships are being developed where Beijing has played a major role in controlling power dynamics.

The Belt and Road initiative, first time mentioned during President Xi’s 2013 speech in Kazakhstan, then officially in 2015,  lays emphasis of achieving a Chinese Dream of bringing countries under one umbrella, ensuring their security, providing them with infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, pipelines, highways etc. The main bottleneck is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor when it comes to India’s security threats, passing through disputed boundaries of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir till Gwadar. Other projects have been initiated in Chittagong, Hambantota, Gwadar , Kyapkyou. These projects form a String Of Pearls in the Indo Pacific where New Delhi is being balanced against through economic plus development incentives being given to the member countries under the project. That’s why in the recent past, New Delhi is asserting its influence in the region, looking at new dimensional threats where Beijing’s threats in the maritime domain in the islands in East as well as South China seas are not being seen favourably in many countries such as ASEAN, US, Australia and Japan which is giving India an opportunity to look towards countries with a common threat. Amidst this great power struggle between Washington and Beijing, New Delhi is stuck between a rock and hard place i.e., having a clear and strong foreign policy with its neighbours.

In this region, India has a sole threat which is mainly Beijing where the latter has achieved prowess technologically and militarily where New Delhi lags behind the latter twenty fold. So, there is a need for improvising military technology, increase economic activities with countries, reduce dependence on foreign aid, ensure self-reliance.

Situation

South Asia is backward when it comes to economic development, human development and is a home to majority of the world’s population which lives below poverty line. The colonial rule has left a never-ending impact on divisions based on communal, linguistic and ethnic grounds. Even, in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, New Delhi lags behind Beijing significantly in the neighbourhood because the latter is at an edge when it comes to bringing countries under the same umbrella. Due to these, many initiatives have been taken up by New Delhi on developing infrastructure, providing humanitarian aid to needy countries.

There have been numerous efforts made by India with respect to reaching out to the Neighbours in 2020 through setting up of the SAARC Covid Fund where many Neighbourhood countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka gave contributions to ensure cooperation, joint scientific research, sharing information, healthcare kits where the countries contributed USD $ 18 million jointly towards this fund where New Delhi made an initial offer of USD $ 10 million.

New Delhi has even mustered ties with the Association of Southeast Asian countries during the pandemic under its Act East Policy where proper connectivity through the Northeast could be useful in easing movement of goods but currently, the infrastructure in Northeast needs more improvement where issues such as unemployment, poor connectivity are prevalent whereby disconnecting it from rest of the other states. This region could play an important role in linking Bangladesh, Myanmar to New Delhi along with the proposed India-Thailand –Myanmar Trilateral Corridor. Focus has also been laid to develop inland waterways, rail links and pipelines to ease connections between countries, making trade free and more efficient.

India is focussing on developing the Sittwe and Paletwa ports in Myanmar under the Kaladan Development Corridor, at the cost of INR 517.9 Crore in order to provide an alternative e route beneficial for the Northeast for getting shipping access

Summing Up

 These above developments and power display by a strong adversary, give good reasons for New Delhi to adopt collective security mechanisms through QUAD, SIMBEX and JIMEX with a common perception of having safe and open waters through abiding to the UNCLOS which China isn’t showing too much interest in, seen through surveillance units, artificial islands being set up on disputed territories which countries likewise India are facing in context to territorial sovereignty and integrity. These developments make it important for India to look at strategic threats by coming together with countries based on similar interest’s vis-à-vis Chinese threat.

There is a need for India to develop and harness its strength through connectivity and its self reliance initiative ( Aatmanirbharta ) so that there is no dependence on any foreign power at times of need . Proper coordination between policy makers and government officials could make decision making even easier, which is not there completely because of ideological differences, different ideas which makes it important for the political leadership to coordinate with the military jointly during times of threats on borders. Self-reliance could only come through preparedness and strategy.

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India is in big trouble as UK stands for Kashmiris

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 A London-based law firm has filed an application with British police seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and a senior Indian government official over their alleged roles in war crimes in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Law firm Stoke White said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit on Tuesday, documenting how Indian forces headed by General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians – particularly Muslim – in the region.

“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to the territory in the Himalayan region.

Based on more than 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021, the report also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.

The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. It also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.

“This report is dedicated to the families who have lost loved ones without a trace, and who experience daily threats when trying to attain justice,” Khalil Dewan, author of the report and head of the SWI unit, said in a statement.

“The time has now come for victims to seek justice through other avenues, via a firmer application of international law.”

The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been initiated abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in Kashmir.

Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK.

Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.

“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.

The police application was made on behalf of the family of Pakistani prisoner Zia Mustafa, who, Camuz said, was the victim of extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and on behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the past two decades in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Muslim Kashmiris mostly support rebels who want to unite the region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi.

Rights groups have also criticized the conduct of armed groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.

In 2018, the United Nations human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir, alleging “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”.

India’s government has denied the alleged rights violations and maintains such claims are separatist propaganda meant to demonize Indian troops in the region. It seems, India is in big trouble and may not be able to escape this time. A tough time for Modi-led extremist government and his discriminatory policies. The world opinion about India has been changed completely, and it has been realized that there is no longer a democratic and secular India. India has been hijacked by extremist political parties and heading toward further bias policies. Minorities may suffer further, unless the world exert pressure to rectify the deteriorating human rights records in India.

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S. Jaishankar’s ‘The India Way’, Is it a new vision of foreign policy?

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S. Jaishankar has had an illustrious Foreign Service career holding some of the highest and most prestigious positions such as ambassador to China and the US and as foreign secretary of India. Since 2019 he has served as India’s foreign minister. S. Jaishankar also has a Ph.D. in international relations from JNU and his academic background is reflected in this book.

His main argument is simplistic, yet the issues involved are complex. Jaishankar argues that the world is changing fundamentally, and the international environment is experiencing major shifts in power as well as processes. China is rising and western hegemony is declining. We are moving away from a unipolar system dominated by the US to a multipolar system. Globalization is waning and nationalism and polarization is on the rise (p. 29). The old order is going away but we cannot yet glimpse what the future will look like. This is the uncertain world that Dr. Jaishankar sees.

Dr. Jaishankar also argues that India too has changed, it is more capable and more assertive. The liberalization program that began in 1991 has made the Indian economy vibrant and globally competitive and it is well on track to becoming the third biggest economy in the world, after China and the US.  The war of 1971 that liberated Bangladesh, the liberalization of the economy after 1991, the nuclear tests in 1998 and the nuclear understanding with the US in 2005, Jaishankar argues are landmarks in India’s strategic evolution (p. 4). So given that both India and the system have changed, Jaishankar concludes, so should India’s foreign policy.

But his prescription for India’s foreign policy, in the grand scheme of things, is the same as before – India should remain nonaligned and not join the US in its efforts to contain China. India will try to play with both sides it seems in order to exploit the superpowers and maximize its own interests (p. 9). But he fails to highlight how India can find common ground with China other than to say the two nations must resolve things diplomatically. He also seems to think that the US has infinite tolerance for India’s coyness. In his imagination the US will keep making concessions and India will keep playing hard to get.

Jaishankar has a profound contradiction in his thinking. He argues that the future will be determined by what happens between the US and China. In a way he is postulating a bipolar future to global politics. But he then claims that the world is becoming multipolar and this he claims will increase the contests for regional hegemony. The world cannot be both bipolar and multipolar at the same time.

There is also a blind spot in Jaishankar’s book.  He is apparently unaware of the rise of Hindu nationalism and the demand for a Hindu state that is agitating and polarizing India’s domestic politics. The systematic marginalization and oppression of Muslim minorities at home and the growing awareness overseas of the dangers of Hindutva extremism do not exist in the world that he lives in. He misses all this even as he goes on to invoke the Mahabharata and argue how Krishna’s wisdom and the not so ethical choices during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas should be a guide for how India deals with this uncertain world – by balancing ethics with realism (p. 63). Methinks his little digression in discussing the ancient Hindu epic is more to signal his ideological predilections than to add any insights to understanding the world or India’s place in it.  

One aspect of his work that I found interesting is his awareness of the importance of democracy and pluralism. He states that India’s democracy garners respect and gives India a greater opportunity to be liked and admired by other nations in the world (p. 8). Yet recently when he was asked about the decline of India’s democratic credentials, his response was very defensive, and he showed visible signs of irritation. It is possible that he realizes India is losing ground internationally but is unwilling to acknowledge that his political party is responsible for the deterioration of India’s democracy.

This is also apparent when he talks about the importance of India improving its relations with its immediate neighbors. He calls the strategy as neighborhood first approach (pp. 9-10). What he does not explain is how an Islamophobic India will maintain good relations with Muslim majority neighbors like Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan.

The book is interesting, it has its limitations and both, what is addressed and what is left out, are clearly political choices and provide insights into how New Delhi thinks about foreign policy. So, coming to the question with which we started, does India have a new foreign policy vision? The answer is no. Dr. Jaishankar is right, there is indeed an India way, but it is the same old way, and it entails remaining nonaligned with some minor attitudinal adjustments.  

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