China gets real, engages India to counter US

The Chinese, as Henry Kissinger pointed out in 1971, are eminently pragmatic people. They became communists when they felt that it would help to accelerate their development. They gave up communism and allied themselves with US capitalism when they concluded that it was a better strategy for their purpose. They treated India with contempt when it was economically, militarily and technologically weak.

Now they are hailing India as a partner as they see the world looking at India as a possible engine of world economic growth bracketing it with China.

They proliferated nuclear weapon technology when they thought it would serve to countervail India, became a preacher of non-proliferation norms to India and today, as they realize the world is getting ready to abolish the technology apartheid against India they are not going to oppose civil nuclear cooperation with India, either their own or that of other nations.

Now that India is accepted as a balancer of power and a strategic partner by the US, Russia, European Union and Japan, the Chinese have no reservations in accepting India as a partner either. China understands that any impression of its animosity towards India would only compel India to move closer to US and contribute to US sustaining its economic and technological pre-eminence in the world, which they resent.

The best strategy open to China to countervail US is not to step up pressure on India. China opposing India getting waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) when US, Russia, France, Germany and others are in favour of incorporating India into the global non-proliferation regime will persuade India to befriend US intensively. That explains China accepting India-China civil nuclear cooperation, which cannot materialise unless the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is finalised, the waiver of NSG is obtained and the 123 Agreement with US is signed.

It would be supremely ironic if our Indian communists now stand in the way of India-China nuclear cooperation by opposing further moves to operationalise the 123 Agreement. China has clearly stated that China-India nuclear cooperation will be with due consideration to China’s international obligations which encompass IAEA safeguards and NSG waiver.

China has also come to appreciate the need for military exercises and strategic dialogues as confidence-building measures among nations seeking strategic partnership. In a multi-polar balance of power world, any nation is likely to have such military exercises and dialogues with as many partners as it can. Therefore China has decided to step up its own military exercise and strategic dialogue with India. China has not so far used its veto against any major move of the US in the Security Council. China went along with the US in imposing sanctions on Iran.

China’s all-weather allied state, Pakistan, is now considered a state of international concern. China, in spite of its close relationship with Pakistan, never had any serious objection to close US-Pakistan relations. Therefore it is unrealistic to assume that China views the world only through anti-US spectacles. China has no intention of confronting US. India, therefore, does not have to make a choice between the two powers for the next two or three decades to come.

China has correctly asserted that partners are not rivals. Given the poverty and underdevelopment in the developing world and the problems likely to be produced by ageing and decline in the fertility rates of populations in Europe, Japan, Russia and in China itself, there is scope for simultaneous fast growth of economies of both China and India and this has been recognised by both countries during the just-concluded visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China. The declaration in the joint statement that India-China partnership is not directed against any third party is also an acknowledgement that partnership of either with other powers need not be directed at the evolving India-China relationship.

Whether it is the issue of greenhouse gas generation and global warming or the Doha round of trade talks, China and India have common interests in spite of their relationships with other major industrial powers on other issues. Therefore, there is large scope for their cooperation on these two global issues.

In trade, Singh has highlighted that China has to provide a level playing field. In a sense, India has to look at trade with China not merely in bilateral terms but as one between two major suppliers of consumer items and white goods for the entire world. While in their bilateral relations the two countries may not be rivals, they are bound to be competitors in their roles as manufacturing hubs and suppliers of consumer items for the world. The levelling of the field for trade for the two countries has to be looked at from a global point of view and not restricted to bilateral trade. In this respect, India has to go far and its progress is being held up by the doctrinaire fundamentalists in our country.

Objective and qualified observers have analysed and identified the competitive edges in different areas in the two rising economies. A much greater economic and trade interaction between the two countries for which the present visit of Manmohan Singh has laid the foundation would help Indian entrepreneurs to level the field between the two countries for their future global competition.

There has been no advance on the territorial issue though Manmohan Singh is holding out hopes for the future. India has neglected the development of infrastructure in the border areas mostly because of the fear of our diplomats, bureaucrats, military and politicians who have been treating the Chinese as though they are ten feet tall. What is needed is a crash programme of border infrastructure development. If infrastructures on both sides of the border are equally well developed, the undemocratic side will have a lot more to worry about than the democratic side. This elementary fact was overlooked by our government in the last six decades. This situation should be rectified rapidly and then we should be able to seize the initiative.

What India has to fear is fear of China. Once Indians get over that fear then India will be able to rise and get level with China. While the claims of the government and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) about the great success of the visit or of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and sections of academia of the total lack of results have both to be taken with a pinch of salt, what should not be missed out are the subtle changes in the stand of the Chinese leadership towards India over the last three years in view of international developments and progress in globalisation.

China is the only non-democratic nation among the major powers, but it has accepted the economics of the marketplace. Its communism is only a facade for a single party dictatorship and has no doctrinal content in it. Consequently, a non-democratic China poses a challenge to other democratic major global powers. In today’s world there is no alternative to deal with China’s challenge but for all major powers to engage it increasingly till such time that interaction will bring about democratic changes within China.

Manmohan Singh’s visit must be viewed as the first step in engaging China towards that end.

An Indian American president in 2020?

An Indian American president of the USA in 2020? It may sound fantastic now, but Jay Goyal, a 27-year-old legislator from Ohio, is confident that an Indian American will be in the race for the US presidency in another 10 years or so.

‘Within 10-12 years, you can expect an Indian American to be in the US presidential race. I won’t be surprised when it happens,’ Goyal, who is in India to catch up with his friends and extended family, said here.

‘It’s a matter of time. It’s going to happen,’ the dapper Goyal, who has been hailed as a new emerging face of the Democratic Party, said when asked whether Indian Americans are ambitious enough to covet the top job in the US.

‘With the second generation of Indian Americans, there will be a significant increase in the number of young members of the community proactively participating in US politics,’ he said while referring to the spectacular success of Bobby Jindal, who won the election on a Republican platform to become the governor of Louisiana last year.

This interest in politics stands out in dramatic contrast to the 1970s and 1980s when Indian Americans were not sure whether politics was the right choice for them.

‘It’s changing now. Indian Americans have always chosen safe professions in which they can succeed financially. Politics was looked at in a different light. Now of course all that is changing,’ Goyal said.

Goyal, a second generation Indian American who became the youngest legislator when he was elected from 73rd District to the Ohio House of Representatives three years ago, is not shy about citing his success in a white-majority district as a taste of things to come.

‘I am the youngest person in the Ohio assembly. In this district of 110,000 people, only 100-150 people are Indian Americans. Yet I won 63 percent of the vote,’ said Goyal who, as local folklore has it, knocked on 13,000 doors to get elected.

‘It speaks volumes about how much the Indian community has been integrated into the American mainstream. We have to leverage our financial muscle into political power,’ he asserts confidently.

It’s not that this race to the top is going to be smooth sailing all the way. There may be some landmines and prejudices on the way. ‘Racism exists. Racism exists everywhere. My family too has faced discrimination and snide comments like you don’t belong here. This attitude became slightly more pronounced after 9/11,’ said Goyal.

‘But an overwhelming majority of people looks past that. They look at your values and actions. And the Indian and American values are identical in terms of emphasis on family, education and hard work,’ Goyal, whose family migrated to the US in the 1970s, said with a faint American accent.

Goyal believes that failure of the India-US civil nuclear deal would be a big disappointment to the Indian American community who have lobbied tirelessly to get the 123 legislation past the Congress last year, but it would not be a decisive setback to burgeoning India-US ties in the long term.

‘If the deal passes, the strategic relationship will grow more vigorously. If it doesn’t, the relationship will probably not be as close as it would have been. But neither would there be a rollback from the present state of ties,’ he said.

Batting vigorously for his party, which is known to be hawkish on non-proliferation, Goyal said the deal has a future under the Democratic dispensation.

‘If you look at last year’s voting pattern in the US Congress, there is a significant Democratic support for the nuclear deal.’

Whom is he betting on in the 2008 poll sweepstakes? Goyal plays it cautiously, refusing to name any favourites, but one thing he is sure of – a Democratic victory would be a boost to India-US ties and the Indian American community.

‘That’s because the Democratic Party is more aligned with the values of Indian Americans,’ he said.

Philanthropy The New Muse Of NRIs

Adopt a village in rural Punjab. Or, help clean up dirty rivers and build houses for the impoverished in the hinterlands of India. This is the new philanthropic mantra that has fired the imagination of NRIs, says Harinder Takhar, the first Indian origin minister in Canada’s biggest province Ontario. ‘Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are now really interested in doing something more meaningful and lasting for the country they left behind,’ Takhar, Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Ontario, said in an interview during a recent visit to New Delhi.

‘NRIs can contribute in a positive way to socio-economic transformation of India. We are now thinking in terms of giving concrete shape to some of these ideas like adopting a village or building schools,’ Takhar, who had come here to attend the sixth conclave of overseas Indians, said.

‘The Punjab government has come out with many ideas and suggestions like building schools, hospitals or gurdwaras in fifty-fifty partnership. We are open to these ideas,’ he said.

Takhar, a 50-something businessman who migrated to Canada from Punjab in the early seventies, is, however, not in favour of centralised funds to channelise the NRIs’ philanthropic impulse.

‘Large centralised funds entail huge administrative costs. Moreover, we are not sure whether money is being used for intended beneficiaries,’ said Takhar, who also served as a minister of transport in Ontario government.

‘If it is done individually, they can relate to these projects better. They can see the change happening with their own eyes,’ he said.

Takhar is impressed by winds of change sweeping the country he left behind in early seventies and transformation in its image as a rising power in the world.

‘India is on the way to becoming an economic power and is seen increasingly as an economic giant with its economy growing at around 10 per cent every year. The world is now realising that India is the place to be in.

‘For NRIs, it’s a big moment. There is a resurgent pride in India and all things Indians.’

Economic ties between India and Canada, however, remain much below potential with bilateral trade just about $4 billion, Takhar said, stressing that both countries need to do more to cash in on new opportunities.

‘We need to promote Canada as a top investment destination. It has a conducive business environment and is home to world class companies. Some of big Indian companies like Tatas, Aditya Birla Group and Ranbaxy are already here,’ he said.

‘What stands in the way is a lack of sufficient information about opportunities in both countries. We need to make Canadian companies more aware of huge opportunities in India,’ he said.

Takher also made a strong pitch for an entry of Canadian carmakers in India’s burgeoning automobile sector. Ontario is the leader in the automobile sector in North America, but a downturn in the US economy has hit this sector in Canada, with car manufacturers announcing cuts in jobs. The Indian market is becoming more attractive to Canadian companies, he said.

An invitation to attend the Pravasi Divas, as the jamboree of overseas Indians is called, is a chance to replenish roots and old values that sustain the spectacular success of overseas Indians in their adopted countries.

‘NRis are extremely hard working and passionate about what they are doing. They want to pay back and make a lasting contribution to the country they left behind years ago,’ he said.

‘Functions like the Pravasi Divas help to promote an active dialogue between the diaspora and India. It gives the NRIs a sense of what is happening in India and what the government is trying to achieve.’

‘Indians abroad can harness their skills and expertise to benefit India,’ he added.

The art of philanthropy and the Indian diaspora

By Shubha Singh

Indians have a long tradition of charitable giving that flows from the concept of ‘daan’ as a religious obligation, and many Indians who have gone abroad to make their fortune also want to do something for their homeland. IIT alumni associations have set up foundations that have collected substantial funds, which have been used to upgrade facilities, add to the infrastructure and set up new schools in the alma mater.

Individual NRIs such as Britain-based Raj Loomba have done considerable charitable work in India. Punjab-born Loomba began business with a market stall in Cheshire in 1964 and over the years built a flourishing clothing and fashion business in Britain. In 1997, he registered the Loomba Trust as a charitable institution in Britain in memory of his mother with the aim to provide education and support for children of poor widows. The trust began its operations with the target of providing education for 100 children in each of 29 states of the country. It now supports the education of 3,610 children, including 500 orphaned children of tsunami victims in Tamil Nadu, and has extended its activities to Bangladesh, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

Loomba’s drive and enthusiasm has made the Loomba Trust a well-recognised Indian charity in Britain. Its Diwali function was attended by a host of celebrities and raised 250,000 pounds ($493,000) for its charitable activities. With its emphasis on widows and their children, the Loomba Trust organised the premiere of Deepa Mehta’s film “Water” in London and has raised funds through other high-profile events.

Other people of Indian origin settled abroad have also felt the need to give something back to the country. The Indian diaspora has responded with contributions in times of need such as wars and natural disasters, from the time Indians in East Africa sent donations to India during the 1962 Sino-Indian war to the overwhelming response after the earthquake in Latur and Gujarat.

Estimates on the inflow of diasporic philanthropy are difficult to come by because a large part of it is carried out through informal channels. Giving funds for charitable purposes while on a visit to India is the most common form of diaspora philanthropy. Most charitable donations by overseas Indians are given to organisations where there is a personal link through family or friends since there is little personal satisfaction for a donor that his contribution has made a beneficial impact when there is no feedback on how the donation was utilised.

Having prospered abroad, Indians want to give back to their native places. Most of these contributions have been routed through friends and relatives rather than in response to appeals for donations by NGOs or charitable organisations. But the experience of giving has not always been a satisfactory one. For instance, Chicago-based NRI Ramu Verma’s cousin had helped set up a computer lab in his local village school in Haryana, but when Verma visited the village five years later he discovered that the lab was no longer in use. He found to his dismay that three computers were not working and two others were missing. Village politics and factional fighting had rendered the lab dysfunctional and there was no one Ramu Verma could turn to for setting things right as his own relatives were involved in the factions.

According to another NRI, most Indians give mainly at the time of natural calamities at home. “I would like to make regular contributions, but I’m not sure how I should go about it. Indian associations in America mobilised contributions for those rendered homeless by the devastating earthquake in Gujarat and victims of the tsunami. But there is some discomfort among the donors over whether their contributions reached the victims or not. Some of us have heard stories about aid not reaching the truly needy,” the NRI said.

There is a strong distrust of government organisations among the overseas community due to perceived corruption, bureaucratic sloth and inefficiency. Indians living abroad are also wary of civil society associations and NGOs because of a lack of transparency in their functioning and accounting methods. The personal link with individual organisations usually helps to overcome the misgivings about the functioning of Indian organisations.

The Indian ethos of giving is a personal one linked to religion, but in the West, Indians have become familiar with the institutionalised manner in which charitable donations are made in those countries. Indians living abroad have been influenced by the Western pattern of social service and culture of giving. Many large American companies have a policy of making matching contributions to the donations made by their employees to certain listed charities. Companies with a significant number of Indian employees have some Indo-American not-for-profit organisations on their list of charities. But for more organised and systematic philanthropy, recipient organisations in India need to build up public credibility with greater transparency in their operations.

Philanthropic institutions in the West understand that well-defined distribution channels for philanthropic contributions have a significant effect on helping to increase the volume of donations. The awareness that a well organised and effective distribution network exists usually has the effect of converting a generalised willingness to give into the positive action of making a donation.

Overseas Indian associations have been active at times of natural disaster but now some of them are trying to make a more valuable impact. Indians living abroad have offered not just financial support but also help in accessing resources such as specialised knowledge skills and new technology. The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) is initiating a pilot programme in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar for rural healthcare using innovative practices in preventive care measures and community preparedness.

“To make a difference where it matters” TERI has started a programme that seeks to make technology based solutions for rural areas under the adopt a village concept. Its website details the kind of programmes it offers – from supply of drinking water to sanitation to water harvesting – and also lists the cost involved in each project. It allows prospective donors to choose projects in their preferred geographical locations in the country and to be active partners in the project if they so desire. While the programme is new, TERI has received queries from Indians abroad wanting to make some contributions.

The Indian government also intends to set up a Global Indian Foundation – or Pravasi Bharatiya Kosh – to promote philanthropy in the diasporic community. It is likely to be launched at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas function Jan 8-9. The foundation would provide a channel for overseas Indians to contribute to causes such as education, health and rural development in India. Contributors can make small or large donations for specific projects in the region of their choice. The foundation will follow a similar pattern where contributors can view the impact of their contribution on the internet or make a personal visit to the area of activity in India.

Decoding Modi’s Victory and Secular Politics

By Manish Chand

Narendra Modi’s repeat landslide victory in Gujarat against the spectacular odds stacked against him – anti-incumbency, the odious hangover of the 2002 riots, an unforgiving Muslim minority, BJP spoilers and a hostile media – has exposed the fragility and speciousness of secular politics practised in the country by those who are quick to seize on the secularism mantra as the sole rallying point.

One of the first reactions from the Left parties after it became clear that Modi has won the Gujarat sweepstakes defying all punters and pundits was that the victory should encourage secular forces to come together to face a resurgent “communal threat”. In other words, Modi may have won Gujarat, but in the process he may have unintentionally created a bigger headache for the BJP by forcing the so-called secular parties into a closer embrace than before. Other reactions were on more predictable lines: Congress party spokesperson Veerappa Moily tried to put a brave face on his party’s abject defeat, saying success doesn’t make a man virtuous.

In other words, no matter how many elections Modi wins, it does not wash away his sins in being an alleged abettor or silent onlooker to the communal holocaust that engulfed Gujarat over five years ago, leaving a sharply polarised polity behind. Modi, basking in this historic win seen by pundits as a sort of watershed in Indian politics, can now retort with glee: “If I am maut ka suadgar (merchant of death, as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi tried to project him), then so are all those people who voted for me.” And when he says that, regardless of what you and I think, a majority of Gujaratis are likely to applaud in unison.

True, no electoral victory can extenuate the enormity of what happened in Gujarat in 2002, allegedly with active connivance of or a silent nod from the powers-that-be in Gandhinagar. In all fairness, Gujarat, the land of Gandhi, Patel and Dhirubhai Patel which is now being remoulded as the laboratory of Hindutva, may have moved on, but Modi could have shown at least some sign of remorse or said sorry. But in his strong man image – tough, incorruptible and not easily swayed by compromise – he has done none of these.

Despite all this, the Congress has clearly not been able to tap into the pervasive mood of resentment and outrage among Muslims, whether in Gujarat or in the last elections in Uttar Pradesh, because it sounded apologetic about making riots a central issue in elections, thinking it may play into Modi’s hands. Communist leader Sitaram Yechuri pointed this out when he said after Modi’s victory that the Congress campaign against communalism was not “concerted enough”. Other Left leaders said the Congress did not have the stomach to go the whole hog on the issue of communalism as was evident from the flip-flop on Sonia Gandhi’s “maut ka sudagar” remark after Modi justified the encounter death of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.

And for all its tall claims about speaking for “aam admi” (the common man) against chartered members of Shining India, the Congress was spectacularly tardy and inept in forging a coalition of Muslims and backward castes that could have derailed the Modi juggernaut.

The real point about Gujarat verdict 2007 is that it has discredited the politically inconvenient brand of secular politics, as practised by its current votaries who feed on Muslim anxieties of being swamped by an assertive, intolerant majority and regard Muslims as a vote bank to be milked at will. In 1992, the then Congress government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao is said to have played a game of duplicity in the days leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, putting one foot in the Hindutva camp and the other in assuaging the minorities. Rao is said to have been sleeping when the news of the demolition of the mosque broke.

Many political observers have pointed out that the so-called secular leaders have been cynically using secularism as a slogan without showing any real courage in standing up for what they seek to espouse. In their pronouncements on secularism, which essentially amount to branding their chief opponents as communal monsters in a kind of contrived demonology, one can barely see any conviction. Moreover, such a posture reeks of an opportunistic move to perpetuate the Hindu-Muslim divide for purely electoral reasons.

At this point, one may ask what are the lessons of the Gujarat elections for national elections that could be held within the next one and a half years. Although the dynamics of state and national politics differ sharply, there is one enduring message in Modi’s victory: it’s time for all mainstream political parties to move beyond sloganeering centred around secularism to real all too real issues of development and national identity.

It may sound simplistic, but it’s time to demystify punditry and unscramble many an alphabet puzzle – BIMARU, KHAM etcetera – that clutter political discourse and return to the plain sense of things. The point is no matter how high-sounding manifestoes and pamphlets of political parties are and how admirable it is to place the institution above personalities, leadership matters. And leadership means decisiveness, calculation, sincerity and conviction and embodying in words and deeds the idea of India a leader stands for. The idea of India a leader espouses may be a contentious one, but he must believe in it wholly and completely and not regard it as a matter of compromise. Not that Modi embodies all of these ideals; far from it – but his victory proved that despite what cynics say millions of Gujaratis saw him as embodying “Gujarati asmita” and ‘vibrant Gujarat.’

In other words, the next ruling dispensation should not be forged on the basis of the fear of Modi – read real or imagined of threats to secularism – but on seeing Modi as just one of the competing ideas in national discourse and making real the promise of India for its one-billion-plus citizens.

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K. Subrahmanyam