Monday, July 8, 2013

Clean chits abound, Ministers crawl, and India falls.... O! what a fall!

In a surrealistic way, the rupee's fall to record lows reflects India's fall in prestige to record lows.... O! What a fall is there, my countrymen; then I, and you, and all of us fall down, whilst bloody shamelessness flourish over us.... At home unclean men get clean chits. Abroad America and Europe, China and even Pakistan slap us around, and we turn the other cheek. We have become a country that can be taken for granted. We just don't count.

In other countries prime ministers get jailed for offences ranging from bribery to rape. In our country it all depends on who you know and which party you belong to. The latest to get a clean chit is Pawan Bansal, former Railway Minister. Nephew Vijay Singla and eight others got a CBI chargesheet alleging they accepted bribes to fix a Railway Board appointment. No fool will bribe a nephew unless there is an obliging uncle behind. Therefore the clean chit to Bansal is a continuation of the clean chit the "private businessman" Robert Vadra got from the Haryana Government. And sports lover Suresh Kalmadi got before him. Our country is swarmed by certified clean people. We are blessed.

We are twice blessed, actually, because our Government in turn gets clean chits from its patrons in the West. Consider the latest scandal about America spying extensively on other countries. To some extent we can understand the US spying on Iran, a declared adversary. The National Security Agency's surveillance equipment collected 14 billion pieces of intelligence from Iran. But next in line were "partners" of the US. From Pakistan they collected 13.5 million pieces of intelligence, from Jordan 12.7 million, from Egypt 7.6 billion and from India 6.3 billion.

Friendly allies and military collaborators like France, Germany and Turkey were also spied upon. To their credit, they protested. Germany summoned the US Ambassador to ask for an explanation. What did the Indian Government do? In an incredible show of servility, the Foreign Minister justified the US. "It was not snooping", said Salman Khurshid. "It was only computer study of patterns of calls". This shaming of India was similar to Manmohan Singh telling the despised George Bush that "the people of India love you".

What is the need for such shows of slavishness? Even Pakistan had the courage to protest against US drone strikes and occasionally threaten retaliatory action such as blocking lorry convoys to Afghanistan. Pakistan has benefited from such firmness. India makes itself so weak that big powers feel they can have their way by bullying it more. The present Washington line, for example, is effusive about Pakistan and its "genuine shift in policy" which has "encouraged the Taliban" to attend peace talks on Afghanistan. US leadership also wants India to make concessions to Pakistan over Kashmir so that the problems in Afghanistan will be solved. With strategic partners like this, we don't need enemies.

It looks like India is yielding to bullying by the European Union as well. With 38 percent of its new 2014-2020 budget earmarked for agriculture, European Union farmers are the world's most subsidised. Now they are going to have the additional advantage of a Free Trade Agreement with India. If approved, this will open a virtual one-way street from Europe to India. India's pepper, Basmati, tea and even generic medicines and indigenous silk will be adversely affected. Amul which now has two cheese manufacturing units in Europe will have to close them down.

Yet Commerce Minister Anand Sharma described the FTA plan as "India's most ambitious trade and investment agreement". Our Agriculture Minister, who supports even Monsanto-Endosulfan lobbies, is happily silent. A good time to ask: What is the matter with us?

Perhaps the only way to comfort ourselves is by seeing all this as Indian aid to Europe which is currently in a bad way with unemployment at 50-60 percent in some countries. But neither their economic woes nor our enforced Free Trade aid to them softens the arrogance with which they humiliate us when we apply for a visa. Ungrateful lot!