Showing posts with label Democracy: Challenges. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Democracy: Challenges. Show all posts

Thursday, January 7, 2021

INDIA MUST EVOLVE THE IDEA OF DEMOCRACY

 India Holds the Key to Future of Democracy?

A diverse, developing and democratic India, despite somewhat lackadaisical performance on most parameters of governance and security, especially compared to its northern neighbour, holds the key to credibility and desirability of open political systems. A stronger India can not only stabilize the global order but also act as the biggest antidote to both Islamic radicalism and opaque authoritarianism. The world’s largest democracy, however, may have to reinvent, or at least remold, many of its key principles and practices of governance. It must do so by refining and strengthening, but not eroding, the core ingredients of democracy such as rule of law, integrity of electoral processes, autonomy of institutions, equality of opportunity, free media and secure common spaces among others. Its ability to build a robust governance-security apparatus, within a democratic framework, can offer a new lease of life to idea of democracy, which seems to be hurtling towards a dead-end, if not an imminent collapse.  

What inspires hope in such potential and capacity of India is its ability to sustain an open and competitive political system under most difficult circumstances. This would never have been possible without resilience of its original and eternal values. Simultaneously, a transformation in governance-security capacity of Indian democracy has become indispensable for defending some of its existential interests and priorities.  What reinforces such belief is the fact that no major state or civilization in the entire human history has ever been able to transform plight of its people, or achieve extra-ordinary advancement, through a political-governance apparatus that has evolved in response to needs of people in different social-cultural and economic contexts.

Westminster model of democracy, notwithstanding its sustenance and strengths in the Indian context, appears incapable of pursuing an ambitious agenda of accelerated and comprehensive transformation that India needs at this juncture. Hence, India has to explore a more advanced version of democracy, that can be captioned as Indocracy, to suit its own contexts, challenges and priorities.

Current Global Context

Sustained economic, military and technological ascendance of China, under an authoritarian and opaque political system, threatens to erode access to security, freedom and equitable opportunities at a much wider scale. This is especially in the context of expanding fissures and inequalities in even some of the established democracies, alongside serious institutional fragility in their counterparts in the developing world. Western democracies largely appear more content at managing their own internal challenges but China has gone on to steadily expand its global influence from Far East, Indian Ocean, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, Africa to most parts of Europe and going all the way to critical pockets of South America. It has managed to create pockets of support in many of these states through such non-transparent means that have not only been accentuating steeper inequality but also threatening political openness and transparency at a global scale. Amidst Increasing unsustainability of world-wide American influence and their sharpening domestic divides, such a scenario threatens far larger number of people and societies than what appears at the outset. 

 A closer look at the China’s economic, military and technological transformations suggest that these have been carefully crafted to enhance the cost and risk of US intervention from Far East to most parts of Asia.  China has also significantly bridged the gap, and even acquired some degree of tactical advantages in eventuality of a localized conflict in Asia, through its recent advancements in land, air, under-water, satellite and cyber warfare capabilities. These, added by some of its highly feted short to medium range hypersonic and ISR (Information, surveillance and reconnaissance) weapon systems and burgeoning naval capacity, appear to have created a near impregnable shield for mainland China and areas around it.

Simultaneously, China has forged way ahead of India on nearly all major indicators of national power. In foreseeable future, India may struggle to defend some of its legitimate security interests at a sustainable cost, leave aside matching or containing China. Nevertheless, resilience of an open system, if defended well, can throw up such powerful ideas and dynamic initiatives that can alter such an equation. Simultaneously, Chinese system may still crumble under contradictions of its own opaqueness. The eventual outcome shall depend on the quality of initiatives that the leaders and stakeholders in the two states undertake.

Compulsion for advancement of the idea of democracy further increases with the world-wide erosion in values and norms of democracy and subversion of its key institutions. Simultaneously, various shades of authoritarian regimes have continued to entrench themselves, by rigging the integrity of electoral processes. Such trends threaten to derail the larger process of democratization that had gained momentum since the end of second word-war. Large-scale decolonization, adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR), emergence of welfare state followed by stabilization of electoral processes in larger number of states and eventual collapse of communism in Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe, had been nudging the world towards greater respect for human life and human dignity, rule of law, political transparency and accountability. Today, this process runs the risk of losing both momentum and direction. Under these circumstances, ability of India to refine the very idea of democracy can offer a new hope to the world.

Constraints of Indian Democracy:

However, there are serious obstacles and challenges in this direction. India’s political culture is yet to extricate itself from medieval psyche of status-based entitlements and discriminations. Instead of being eliminated by a merit based competitive political system, these have only transitioned to a newer form to creep into political, corporate and bureaucratic institutions to retard their capacity and output. These continue to dent efficacy and credibility of mechanisms to administer rule of law. Hence, overall regulatory capacity of Indian state has remained suboptimal,  hindering  overall governance-security output. Appalling performance on most HDI parameters, a somewhat sluggish and expensive criminal justice system with frequent miscarriages of justice, an archaic red-tape laden bureaucratic structure-albeit with many brilliant minds in its ranks, a poorly regulated and deficiently competitive private sector amidst allegations of crony capitalism, sub-par output of R&D institutions, among others, appear outcome of such governance structures and processes whose integrity has been subverted.

Simultaneously, Indian state has also not been able to transform its strategic psyche despite bitter experience of external occupation and centuries of colonial subjugation. This is manifest in India’s inability to conclude covert war from Pakistan- despite spectacular military victories in 1965, 1971 and even Kargil conflict of 1999. Inability of India’s stakeholders to fathom national security implication of expanding asymmetry of power in favour of China, or suitably respond to the same, reinforces doubt in strategic psyche of India’s policy makers. Despite deeper cultural, civilizational and linguistic bonds with its smaller neighbours, India has struggled to secure their territories from prejudicial use by hostile forces. Inability to develop adequate indigenous defence hardware capacity, despite enormous military threats as well as access to a pool of skilled manpower, India had chosen, until recently,  to remain the biggest importer of armament amidst allegations of sleaze and graft in every defence deal. This only points to a serious underlying malaise. Due to poor governance systems and deficient security mechanisms, many critical programmes on national security continue to get dislocated. Some of the most brilliant minds working on cutting edge technologies or projects that can provide a major breakthrough towards advancement of India in any sphere suddenly face serious harassment and at times get eliminated under intriguing circumstances. These only lend credence to perception that under-performance, inefficiency, corruption and subversion remain inbuilt in many of the institutional structures and practices of Indian democracy. However, these have not deterred multiple instances of exceptional individual brilliance, integrity and quest for excellence under most difficult circumstances. This is the strength of India, if harnessed well, can transform the world. 

Why India Better Placed to Spearhead Innovation in Democracy

Longer roots of a humanist civilization, with probably the earliest traditions of political accountability and transparency, besides success of democracy under most difficult circumstances, make India the best suited to spearhead a major innovation in the idea of democracy. Democracy had evolved in Europe only after wider prosperity had dawned from the wealth extracted from erstwhile colonies of Asia and Africa.  Similarly, democracy in North America or Oceania had followed capture of vast territories with all the natural resources, by virtually wiping out nearly entire indigenous population. Initial development of infrastructure and prosperity, especially in North America, was sustained by unrestrained deployment of slave labour from Africa and other parts of the world.

India, on the other hand, had herself suffered colonization that had pushed large sections of people under the yoke of crushing poverty. Hence, sustenance of democracy amidst such adversities, and the rapid strides that the country has made towards comprehensive economic and social advancement of its people, demonstrates resilience of its original humanist values. Exposure to Western democratic ideals and practices may have acted as a catalyst for resurrection and refinement of its own values but in absence of a conducive ecosystem, an open and accountable political system could not have survived in India. While its serious constraints cannot be overlooked but its success, howsoever modest, inspires hope in its ability to advance the idea of democracy, as well as governance capacity of its institutions, to a much higher stage.

A closer look, from our current perspective, shall suggest that democracy had never been perfect at any stage of its evolution in any part of the world. It has been evolving with every major initiative in response to a challenge. The current crises facing the democratic world  must encourage, and not deter, intellectual explorations towards refinement of the ideas and institutions of representative government in quest of a more humane and secure world. 

A deeper peep into history would suggest that elements of democracy and republicanism were present in some of the earliest political systems in India and beyond. In India it was probably way more advanced than rest, whereas in other non-European cultures it was a little rudimentary. One has to acknowledge contribution of modern Europe and the United States to usher in detailed and comprehensive version of humanist democracy and spread it all over the world. It is equally responsibility of other democracies to carry forward this idea by practicing and not preaching. Probably China and West Asia shall struggle to transition to democracy due to their values and past. China was probably only civilization where peoples’ participation in politics never extended beyond recruitment to civil service and armed forces. Simultaneously, most of West Asia had continued to drift towards despotism and autocracy, notwithstanding strong traditions of egalitarianism and recurrent efforts towards responsive governance under few spirited leaders.

There is very little documented knowledge available about political institutions of ancient India and Indo-Asia. General perception, largely due to literature available from medieval era onwards, suggests these societies were highly stratified and hierarchical. However, a closer look shall suggest that from dawn of first millennium or even Buddhism, nearly most parts of India and Indo-Asia was slowly moving towards a more pacifist, humane and amiable social order, with of course few significant exceptions.  On the other hand, Greece and Rome or most parts of West Asia still lacked the element of humanism. 

Even leftist Indian historians, who have not been entirely charitable towards the past of India, have conceded continuation of democratic republicanism on the Indian subcontinent from the earliest times, probably from the era of Raja Bharat, until the dawn of Buddhism in 6th century BC or even later. Traditions of Sabha and Samiti have often been spoken of and these appear to have continued, albeit with sustained distortion, until the dawn of British rule. Self-sufficient village republics with traditions of “Panch” confirm these.

The earliest elements of rule of law, as enshrined in Dharmashastras, Dhamrmasutras and down to Kautilyan Arthashastra, also corroborate India’s early tryst with political accountability and restrain on arbitrary authority of the ruler. The decay had set in these traditions with consolidation of agrarian economy and descent of hereditary kingship. These naturally exacerbated with onslaught of Mamluk and Mongol invasions. Despite multiple atrocious traditions like steeper hierarchy and social segregation of medieval era, which appear a later era distortion associated with most agrarian societies, Indian values have remained more humane than most other societies. This is what explains sustenance of democracy and advancements, howsoever, modest under such a political system.   

Need For A Concrete Futuristic Perspective

Need for refinement of democratic institutions have been felt for far too long in many societies. Today democratic  institutions in most societies have been breeding conflict, fracturing social cohesion and inducing economic under-performance. One can blame deficient institutions for this purpose but absence of social trust, declining common space due to unbridled privatisation are equally responsible.  While Western democracies can live with these discords, most in the developing world shall struggle to advance with these contradictions. India, facing determined hostility from its two nuclear armed neighbours, alongside pressure with serious domestic governance challenges, has its task well cut out.  It needs serious transformation in its governance and security capacity, to defend some of its existential interests. This is not possible without major restructuring of its institutions.

North America and Europe can scale down their engagements in Africa, Asia and parts of even South America and Oceania. Segregated by two Oceans- Atlantic and Pacific- and still enjoying substantial technological and economic superiority over China, United States can nestle in its isolation, whereas Europe can find a new equation with China, despite latter continuing with consolidation of its global influence. India, facing a permanent border dispute with China and civilisational war from Pakistan, shall struggle to handle the emergent equilibrium. So will many  other major democracies in Asia and Africa, whose resources, markets and even sovereignty appears under stress. A comprehensive modification of democratic political and governance instruments and processes, as per their own requirements and realities, shall be unavoidable for both their masses and elite.

The scope of such institutional restructuring has to cover structures and processes in political parties, civil -service, criminal-justice system, corporate sector, healthcare, elementary education, institutions of higher research, municipal and civic governance, media and civil society entities among others. The newer processes must foster higher quality of collaboration and competition with higher degree of fairness to get the best out of people. Democracies must protect the universal access to security and opportunities for sake of its own credibility. They may have to, simultaneously, explore newer strategies and techniques to manage internal conflicts and external non-military threats. It must be done at minimal material and human costs. A tangible progress in this direction can stretch ingenuity and genius of Indian scholars and capacity of Indian state. 

Conclusion

Democracies have been in turmoil for a long time. There are valid reasons to believe that Reaganomics and Thatcherism pushed them in a wrong direction, which multiplied their challenges with unbridled privatization in a globalized world. Extreme inequality, either among nations or within societies, especially in a globalized world, has seriously eroded regulatory capacity of most states and particularly democracies, as they have to withstand sustained pressure from various competing forces. Their ability to administer rule of law fairly and impartially or ensure equitable access to opportunities have come in doubt.  

Transparency and participative nature of open societies have also made them more vulnerable to subversion. A closed society can be misruled by a few people but subversion of an open society by multiple forces can generate virtual chaos and confusion. A poorly regulated political or corporate competition, emergence of mega cartels, an inefficient or expensive criminal justice system, especially in a globalized world, can enhance such vulnerability to subversion from both internal and external quarters. In absence of a major initiative and innovations to bolster institutional capacities of democracy and create simultaneous opportunities for leadership, the very idea of freedom, liberty and equity can face a serious setback. Democratic states probably require far stronger institutional as well as social safeguards against subversion. Democracies can be potentially subverted by many whereas authoritarian states monopolies right to subversion only by the rulers. 

Rise of powerful mega cartels and power centres within open societies, amidst increasing global clout of opaque and authoritarian states, controlled by smaller and cohesive groups, further enhances vulnerability of open societies. Their transparency and freedom can be more prone to malicious abuse. Hence, democracies need to innovate themselves internally as well as collaborate with their counterparts  to build a more conducive external ambience. This may undermine competitive trade in short run but will have substantive gains in long run. However, in absence of a larger culture of trust, progress towards democratisation shall be an extremely difficult proposition.  

At this stage of history, the very idea of democracy needs liberation from the shackles of Western orientations and moorings. Expectations and requirements from representative government in India and other post-colonial states differs from their counterparts in the developed world. These states  need not merely optimize governance and security output of their institutions but also enhance the quality of freedom, dignity and comprehensive security accessible to their people. An Indian model of democracy or Indocracy can attempt answering key challenges in this direction by carefully fusing its own humanist values with the scientific principles of Western democracy. Legislative and formal processes shall be inadequate for such transformation. A stronger synergy between the state and society, backed by a credible leadership shall be critical. The entire process shall not only inspire democracies in the developing world but can also offer few useful lessons to their counterparts in the developed world.

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Monday, November 23, 2020

WHY MUST INDIA SPEARHEAD REFORM IN POLITICAL PARTIES

 

A New Low In Electoral Battles

    

 Controversy over credibility of electoral results in democracies touched a new low in November 2020. Incumbent President of the most powerful democracy in the world has continued to dispute an electoral verdict that has gone against him. He and his associates have alleged large-scale voter fraud in the recent Presidential polls in the United States, denting the moral superiority of Western democracies who have prided in smooth and peaceful transfer of political power in their political systems. Such transitions have been messy in most, but not all, post-colonial democracies. Probably the issue at stake is not the formal procedures and provisions but the underlying social and political discords that are getting increasingly unmanageable even in the rich Western democracies. But the controversy in the United States, if not resolved smoothly, can bolster pretensions of superiority of the Chinese authoritarianism that Xi Jin Ping has been boasting for quite sometime.

Simultaneously, the politically significant state of Bihar in India witnessed opposition parties boycotting the swearing in ceremony of the re-elected Chief Minister for the fourth consecutive term.  They too alleged poll irregularities, again without any tangible evidence. What has been really worrying is the quality of choices that the poll process offered in the state. An inefficient governance was challenged by a political formation that has been identified with criminality and rampant nepotism in the past. It was believed to have perfected a smart caste calculation to win elections without caring for plight of the people or efficient governance. Rather its top leaders  were charged with abusing state powers to enrich their personal coffers and torment political opponents.  

Divisive Impact of Polls and Their Inability To Reflect True Will of The People

Divisive impact of electoral processes, and their inability to decisively reflect popular will, has been universally acknowledged. United States witnessed an extremely narrow margin of poll victory for Jo Biden following a bitterly contested campaign. In a recent YouTube Video, associates of President Trump came out with elaborate stories of voter fraud perpetrated by external enemies of the country. Though President elect Biden has been measured and graceful in his public utterances but the both sides have demonstrated their deep-rooted distrust and mutual hostility. It had earlier seen President Trump reversing some of the major policy decisions of his predecessor -President Obama. These included not merely key domestic policies like healthcare but also withdrawal from a series of major global treaty obligations on issues varying from Paris climate peace to Iran and Trans-Pacific Partnership to quote a few. Hence, the current controversy over transition has the potential to exacerbate global anxiety amidst sustained ascendance of an authoritarian China. It could also undermine popular trust in the ability of most powerful democracy to effectively manage its own affairs.

Bihar too witnessed decline in the actual number of seats won by the sitting Chief Minister led political formation. Many consider it manifestation of popular disenchantment with governance records of the regime that lacked any serious innovation and energy. An overwhelming majority of the people have perennially endured poverty, malnutrition and joblessness, with appallingly poor state of public infrastructure and public services. Successive governments have done very little to change these conditions. 

Recently, large swathes of people of the state, who had been working on subsistence wages in different parts of the country, to escape crushing poverty at home, were forced to return to the state walking back hundreds and even thousands of Kilometers during national lock down after losing their livelihood and shelter. This was the most demonstrative spectacle of bad governance that the state of Bihar has suffered over decades. A large percentage of local population continues to struggle for a decent livelihood, healthcare, education and access to clean drinking water and 24 hour electric supply. However, poll winners have been hailing the electoral verdict in the state as endorsement of their "outstanding" record on governance.

The present regime had replaced a government led by a mercurial leader with earthy wit and rustic humor, who had "conned" Bihar into an abyss of lawlessness and corruption. Even though he is cooling his heels in prison, following indictment in one of the multiple corruption charges that he faces, his progenies spearheaded the challenge on behalf of political opposition. They came quite close to upstaging the sitting Chief Minister but its very prospects had shuddered those who had experienced the tyranny of their jailed father. 

 Constraints of Democracy in India

Democracy in India, despite being sturdy and stable, especially compared to its fragile counterparts in most parts of Afro-Asia, has always had its own constraints. But the phenomenon like Bihar lends credence to charges of cartelization of political space, denying people legitimate choices for better governance. The alternative to a lackadaisical governance was a family-controlled political formation, with an ignominious legacy of "criminality" and "corruption."

Like the jailed supremo of this family controlled political party, who had ruled the state for fifteen years riding on the populist support of two dominant communities- Muslims and Yadavs, his sons too sought to exploit the same caste arithmetic. They probably succeeded in swaying some impartial voters too who craved for change. But their calculations were upset with the entry of a Hyderabad based rabid Islamist party in the fray, which swayed substantial Muslim votes. Many have alleged, since then, a clandestine pact between so-called Hindu nationalists and Islamists. While, reality may never be known in this respect, but such a phenomenon threatens both long-term social cohesion as well as governance capacity of  the state.

Electoral experience in Bihar also questions the very ability of democracy to provide high quality governance. Poll outcomes in  the state have continued to depend more on arithmetic of identities rather than issues of governance. This has been somewhat a near national phenomenon in India, except in 2014 and 2019 national elections, when people overwhelmingly voted for a change besides reasserting their Hindu nationalist identity, which was alleged to be openly denigrated by the then government with the bogey of “Hindu Terrorism”. 

There are multiple parallels of identity driven political mobilization in both developing and the developed world. Sri Lanka, a small island neighbour of India, had experienced highly devastating consequences of identity-driven politics that had inflicted heavy material and human cost on its people. Probably all post-colonial democracies continue to face somewhat similar predicament. However, in recent years, even the most established democracies have struggled to escape the  trap of identity driven fissures. President Trump had crafted his entire political strategy by exploiting identity-based anxieties of white voters. Europe has been experiencing its own share of parochial ultra-nationalism.  Such sentiments may have subsided temporarily but not entirely eliminated from democratic political space. 

 

Pitfalls of Invoking Identity For Political Mobilisation

Under these circumstances, there is genuine apprehension that elections would be increasingly reduced into war through ballots among competing identities, with governance and genuine plight of the people taking a back seat. This can result in general decline in the economic and security capacities of democracies, giving greater space to efficient authoritarian states. It can also encourage some of them to manipulate internal dynamics within democracies by exploiting such discords and  openness of their institutions. Political mobilization in the name of identity, instead of governance, especially in the context of fragile criminal justice system,   can breed unmanageable levels of conflict, impede governance and make the entire political structure vulnerable to subversion by authoritarian cliques.

 Probably under-performance of a democratic India, compared to an opaque and authoritarian China, has its roots in political exploitation of identities. This has not only obstructed a concerted focus on governance but also created bigger space for subversion of institutions, including rule of law. When two or more identities are at war with each other, rationality and integrity lose their relevance. Otherwise, it is highly improbable for a merit based competitive society - the core premise of democracy- to lag behind a similarly sized authoritarian state, where a regime normally perpetuates itself through loyalty and coercion.

 Opaque political funding, badly regulated political and electoral battles and dilution of some of the core democratic principles- like fairness and integrity in political and economic competition- have obstructed rise of high quality leaders in nearly all sectors in India. This is notwithstanding few notable exceptions that include current Prime Minister of the country. Even such outstanding leaders appear helpless in face of a larger culture of entitlement and political rent.  They too struggle to make a difference beyond a point, especially compared to the potential that India continues to display. Persistence of some of the medieval era values like hero worship and  loyalty to caste and religious identities, amidst a fragile and sluggish criminal justice system, has built a vicious cycle of bad governance. Despite few enclaves of excellence -that independent India has built- the impact of such distorted values on the larger ecosystem of the country has been quite negative. These have  crippled optimal efficiency, integrity and potential of all institutions of state and society, resulting in abnormal asymmetry of power in favour of our similarly sized neighbour. 

In Bihar, crushing poverty of masses and  large-scale  unemployment among youth failed to deter massive splurge of funds on poll campaign. There were over 50 political parties in the fray and large number of them were using private jets and choppers to facilitate their leaders reach multiple venues of public meetings. Nearly all of them had hired paid armies of campaign workers. Many experienced poll-watchers were alarmed at such extravagance at a time when ordinary people were indeed suffering. Marketisation of electoral processes and cartelization of political space, through sheer financial and organisational muscle, seemed to have commercialised the entire democratic poll process. These not only reflected lack of genuine empathy for the people but even credibility or caliber of candidates seemed irrelevant in larger desperation for political power. Overwhelming  majority of people appeared hapless passive participants in the electoral battles, compelled to side with the one or the other warring side. They had no real choice to select their representatives through a free and fair process. Sadly, even in media, there has been virtually no public debate on detrimental consequences of identity driven electoral mobilisation on long-term  governance and national security of the country. 

 

Need To Overcome Strategic Myopia

Strategic myopia of the ruling establishments of India is not new. Many describe the phenomenon as outcome of decaying Indian values of pre-Mamluk era, which had nearly paralysed the security capacity of the Indian subcontinent, notwithstanding its phenomenal prosperity. Hence, a highly advanced but a decaying civilisation had easily succumbed to bands of hardy marauders, lacking any vision or exposure to governance, civility or societal harmony. Under their oppressive and discriminatory occupation, driven by instincts of individual and racial  supremacy, Indian state and society touched its nadir to come under colonial occupation of a spice company. It was pitiful and ironical for a state and civilization that had produced, and practiced, the most advanced principles of governance, warfare and national security, as enshrined in the  brilliant treatise on the subject produced way back in the 4th Century BC in the form of Kautilyan Arthashastra. 

However, India, as a civilisation, has been losing its vigour and direction for a very long time, especially compared to its true potential. This is notwithstanding intermittent but recurrent phases of reforms and  rejuvenation. There is merit in the argument that it was sheer strategic myopia or inability of India's ruling classes to synergise  the subcontinent’s internal social and institutional capacities to contain domestic discords, which was critical for repelling and deterring external invasion from Mamluk-Mongol forces. These had nearly  pulverised entire Indo-Asia region. But as a state and civilisation, India has avoided serious strategic lesson from the past, notwithstanding recent assertions of ancient glory of the Hindu India, which sounds quite anachronistic as the phrase Hindu is medieval in origin and used only by the Arabs to describe India. 

Despite centuries of oppressive alien rule including colonial plunder, many of the original humanist-inclusive values and orientations of India and Indo-Asia could not be entirely wiped out.  This is what explains sustenance of democracy in India even under most adverse circumstances. Somewhat similar, but not identical, is the plight of South East Asian nations that have guarded against hard-line medieval tribal practices in the name of Islam, while retaining these original Indo-Asian values and legacies. At the same time, it would be incorrect to blame external forces alone for degeneration of India as the decay had started with onset of hereditary privileges much before the external aggression. 


Indispensability of  Reform in Political Parties:

Today, democracy is at a more serious crossroads than ever in the post second world-war  era. Its eventual fate would shape the quality of security and dignity accessible to people across all divides. But initiatives of Indian democracy to refine itself would impact the evolutionary course of representative governments from this point onwards to a large extent. India’s significance lays not merely in containing China or inspiring post-colonial democracies through excellence of its institutions. Rise of a heterogeneous gigantic democracy as a major global power shall infuse the requisite stability to the global order and major push towards transparency.

For any meaningful breakthrough in this direction,  serious reforms in political parties would be critical. Parties must re-emerge as credible platforms of people, instead of privately controlled syndicates, sharing similar but not necessarily exact vision and views on governance. Such platforms must be capable of generating high-quality discourses on political-governance issues as well as throw up genuine leaders with integrity, vision and ability to inspire trust and confidence of people. It appears impossible given the prevailing dynamics, structures and processes of nearly all political parties as well as the very contours of electoral processes. 

Serious and pragmatic innovations for stricter and impartial regulation of political competition to maintain their focus on governance, instead of identity divides, would be a necessity. Simultaneously, India will have to spearhead an agenda of internal reforms within political parties to curb number of tenures or nepotism, favoritism and backdoor influence through any means. Control of all political  parties need to be wrested from self-seeking cliques and cartels profiteering at the cost of society and state. This is not a moral issue but a fundamental necessity for long-term security and stability of open societies and their people, including elite in these states. 

Conclusion:

Rejuvenation of Indian democracy with fusion of original humanist-inclusive values of  ancient Indian subcontinent, through appropriate democratic governance structures and practices, is critical for plight of not merely 1.3 billion Indians but security and well-being of entire people in this region and beyond. Ascendance of an authoritarian China with an opaque power structure, amidst a general decline of democracy in the West and serious fragility of institutions and distortion of values in most parts of the developing world,  threatens mankind's quest for universal access to security, dignity and rule of law. Democratic India, as a major and older civilization than China, with far more profound humanist values at its roots, has both the capacity and the potential to set an example to inspire popular confidence in humanist ideals and values. It needs a robust but not oppressive governance at home, resting on better synergy between state and society.  An effective external strategic- security capacity requires a host of ingredients of state power but efficiency of governance institutions constitutes its bedrock. India will have to be innovative to address expanding asymmetry of power with China and neuter the threat of Islamic radicalism, terrorism  subversion and organised crime from Pakistan.  These objectives are unlikely to be addressed without serious reorientation and restructuring of internal institutions. 

 Progress in this direction is not going to be easy. But the world's largest democracy has enough resilience and potential to succeed. It needs both powerful ideas and equally determined initiatives by a decisive and powerful political leadership,  that it currently has at the helm. 



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

INDOCRACY: THE INITIAL VISION DOCUMENT

 


[Following is the vision document on Indocracy that has been mentioned  in the earlier writings of this blog. Indocracy was envisioned not as a piece of lofty philosophical idealism but a concrete course of persuasive reforms. It still retains such potential.  A friend had observed that only a genuine and unadulterated Hindu Brahminical mind, committed to  universal good, could visualise something like this. This paper is of 2012 vintage, prepared completely on the basis of my own ideas and imaginations. I also believed that India needed to set an example for the rest of the world by innovating upon its existing governance institutions to steer democracy to the next higher stage. Since then my views have remained consistent that the world's biggest democracy needed a major restructuring of its institutions. A copy of this paper was given to some of the most eminent Indians in 2012 . They all appreciated and offered moral support but I had to step out of civil service to pursue this. It did not work out. I believe that even such a harmless and general idea disturbed some of the powerful crime networks who worked overtime to sabotage it and break my resolve to pursue it. Still, it is not too late. We need sincere and committed Indians to come together. It is time to usher in democracy with stronger governance capacity and original Indian values.]  

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proposal to float a credible international entity with eminent global personalities as its face to: a) generate ideas for better governance in democracies; and b) undertake capacity building and consultancy projects for improving quality and output of institutions of  the governments, civil society, private and corporate sector, academic and research institutions among others.

 

 

 

AN INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVE FOR

BETTER GOVERNANCE IN DEMOCRACIES

WITH A STRONG CONSULTANCY ARM

 

 

 

Technology has made the whole process of globalisation with the current degree of economic integration quite irreversible. This has generated unprecedented interface among people across barriers of nation, culture, civilisation and geography. Resultant exposure to newer ideas, experiences and values have opened up phenomenal opportunities for almost entire humanity to gainfully cooperate, collaborate and compete with each other. This can potentially drive the world to a much higher trajectory of material and even moral progress with an implicit synergy between the two. However, states, societies and regions have also become far more vulnerable to subversion, plunder, pillage and destruction. We no longer require violent conventional wars for this purpose. Unregulated and unfair economic competition, technology, trade and ideology can be lethal tools of subversion, depredation and even destruction. States lacking adequate institutional capacity shall not only fail to optimise their own strengths or succumb more easily to possible tools of predation and subversion or collapse under the weight of its own internal or external contradictions. They can leave holes in the entire international order and be cause for global or regional instability depending upon their size and importance in global order. It is possible to generate powerful ideas and follow up their implementation through consultancy and training services to boost enabling and regulatory capacity of institutions of governance at grassroots level. The whole world needs a powerful idea at this juncture that can enhance stability, security and governance. 

 

 

 

 



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Executive Summary

 

The Idea:

Set up an India-centric International Think Tank (with a global consultancy service ) that will attempt to generate a scientific, viable and comprehensive Vision for governance on the basis of ideas and inputs from individuals who have made notable contribution in politics, civil service, corporate sector, civil society activism, media and academic and research institutions. Subsequently it shall engage eminent actors in all these fields to generate a broad based consensus on new Vision for Democratic Governance.

 

Background:

The current interconnected, inter-dependent and technology driven world has unleashed phenomenal knowledge, information and opportunity for creativity, innovation, cooperation and collaboration in the most spheres of human endeavours. It is post-industrial and knowledge oriented world where we need to consolidate upon the gains of industrial age of 20th century but capitalise upon the opportunities thrown up by connectivity and super-technology and amalgamation and comparison of multiple ideas. It is possible to expand all round opportunities for the large mass of people who had hitherto remained on the fringes of economic, political and social power equations. While they have better access to nutrition, healthcare, education as well as upward social and economic mobility but still the whole world is under-performing and breeding far too much of conflict due to poor capacity of institutions, poverty of smart ideas  and stranglehold of vested interests on power-structures. A new paradigm shift in ideas of governance and interaction among various components of state and society alone can address governance gaps and multiple forms of complex and highly diffused conflicts all over the world. 

Aims and Objectives:

(a)   Throw up new ideas for structures and processes of political parties to facilitate smoother and qualitatively superior ideas and incumbents in political, administrative, judicial and police institutions, corporate sector, media, civil society groups, elementary education sector and higher institutions of academic and scientific research on the basis of a sustainable synergy among all of them; (b) Build consensus on these ideas through seminars, discussions, debates, public meetings and media as well as consultancy for capacity building projects; and (c) Act as a platform to bring together eminent bodies in all areas to develop a National and Global Vision for Democracy and Governance.

 

The People:

 The Proposed Think-Tank shall consist of individuals with exceptional experience in politics, corporate sector, academic and research institutions, civil society groups, civil administration, diplomacy and defence/security establishments.  The proposed body shall co-opt eminent individuals who have earned distinction in various fields to lend credibility or weight to the proposed body. Eminent individuals shall be supported by a small core group of relatively youngish professional who shall work as permanent researchers and act as secretariat of the proposed Think Tank.

 

The Process:

The proposed body would engage and assist incumbents in Governments, corporate sector, civil society, media and others to build a consensus cum partnership among all of them. This may start with meetings, seminars and discussions based on research but would be followed by concrete and specific capacity building projects sponsored by the beneficiaries or a consortium of corporate entities.



(Details are being held back) 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

NATIONAL SECURITY OUTLOOK OF INDIA: NEED FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT


[At this juncture of history, India faces a predicament that probably very few big powers or civilizations may have faced in their entire journey. Its potentials and opportunities to rise as a major global power are entwined with formidable challenges. India’s rise as a  global super power can be the biggest possible antidote to both Islamic radicalism as well as opaque authoritarianism. But impediments - both internal as well as external – in this direction could be far too daunting]


NEED FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT

India has long ignored the complexity of its own geopolitical context, internal governance contradictions and the gravity of combined identity-driven threats from its two hostile nuclear armed neighbors. One of them is known as the epicenter of terror and patron of organised crime in this pat of the world and beyond. The other has emerged as a super power but has traditionally trampled upon its own masses and rampaged nearly all its neighbors. Military-controlled state power structure has thrived in Pakistan on congenital hatred towards Hindus and non-Muslims, whereas China cites its civilizational superiority to justify forcible and stealthy grab of territory and resources of people in the neighborhood and beyond. Both resort to destabilization and subversion of institutions of open and transparent societies as part of their larger strategic objectives.

Amidst these, India’s long history of internal political decay, external occupation and colonial legacies have left their own after-effects. India is still battling these despite freedom and democracy. Distortion in larger values and overall mass psyche has had a crippling impact on collective capacities of people, notwithstanding multiple instances of individual brilliance. These have been impeding rise and sustenance of healthy and robust governance institutions. Notwithstanding the strength and resilience of original Indian values, which have sustained democracy in India even under most adverse circumstances, the country faces an uphill task of securing its legitimate national security interests.

 The so-called ultra-nationalist position of India’s two hostile neighbours- that hinges substantially on anti-India sentiments, albeit to varying degrees and in varying forms - has helped opaque and authoritarian regimes in these countries consolidate their grip on the state power structures. In the name of Islam and Han nationalism respectively, they have decimated their political opponents, suppressed political dissent, denied liberty to their people and yet bolstered their political legitimacy. However, China’s efficient administrative apparatus has ushered in spectacular economic transformation. It has risen on back of excruciating labour of its work force and performance driven meritocratic bureaucratic structure accountable to the political authority rather than people.

 Chinese governance model has won endorsement of large sections of people at home and admiration of many abroad. Cohesion and efficiency of its governance apparatus to respond to any crises or extra ordinary situation has been manifest in its handling of Covid crisis. Unfettered by any concern for human costs, Chinese governance institutions can act more decisively, swiftly and flexibly than most democracies. However, its authoritarian structures poses as much threat to global security as the Military backed and crime driven establishment of Pakistan.

 China’s intent and capacity of strategic domination of the region, and beyond, is reflected in the quality and trajectory of its military-security advancements and innovations. These have been backed by a unique model of economic development that rests on secure and somewhat monopolistic access to resources and markets. China has successfully fused economic agenda with its security  objectives. Hence, control of strategic points on land and similarly significant sea lanes of communication become unavoidable to secure the markets and resources, which in turn fuel and fund the military-security innovations and capacities. Chinese state has developed appropriate military and non-military defensive and offensive capacities as part of its larger strategic design. It has inducted an array of highly sophisticated short and intermediate range hypersonic weapon systems, advanced stealth weapons including fighter jets, stronger Air and Satellite defence systems, as well as massive Information Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) infrastructure.

Some of these weapons systems appear capable of breaching the air defence systems of even the US bases in the region and blind both their satellite and under-water observation capacities in this parts of the world. These appear to have made China’s own defences in the region nearly impregnable. Simultaneously, its major push for naval expansion has not merely fortified its defensive capacities but also enhanced its reach way beyond its frontiers. In last 10 years, China has put more vessels in the Sea than most major powers combined. During the same period, it has also conducted more tests for hypersonic weapon delivery systems than even the United States. It has not merely bridged the gap in many of the conventional weapon systems but also built advantages in short and intermediate range offensive and defensive weapon systems. These have enhanced vulnerability of India as well as all states in Asia.

 Chinese assertiveness towards the United States has been accompanied by a bellicosity towards nearly all countries in the region, except its known lackeys. It has appeared particularly intolerant to any possibility of challenge to its supremacy in this region, which India alone is in a position to pose. Hence, it has encouraged and abetted Pakistani sponsored covert war against its democratic neighbour, which is manifest in its determined defence of Pakistani terror proxies like Hafiz Syed and Masood Azhar and unequivocal support on Kashmir. It has also exploited transparency, and even somewhat fragility, of India’s regulatory institutions to clandestinely pillage the latter’s economy through its advantages in trade and technology. Its transgressions on the Indian border need to be seen in this context. 

India’s internal governance institutions, notwithstanding their resilience and strength, appear inadequately prepared to face these challenges. This is especially given the existing pressures of meeting basic needs of large population amidst deficient resources like land and water. Lack of political consensus on key issues and social fracture simply compounds challenges in this direction.

 

PREVAILING DYNAMICS

     Successive Indian governments have always been cognizant of the gravity of the combined Pak-China threat as well as deficiencies of domestic governance institutions. However, strategic preparation towards dealing with these challenges has appeared inadequate. India seems to have ignored the threat from internal power dynamics of Pakistan, especially the way its society and state have evolved. These make it nearly impossible for large sections of Pakistani people to peacefully co-exist with India. Sustained radicalization of Pak society has been accompanied with increasing grip of deep state over levers of state power. Intensified domestic and international propaganda against India, and especially Hindus, has not only created a stronger political support base for the ruling syndicate but also helps raise an unconventional army of terrorists, criminals and radicalized clerics for an unconventional and indirect all out covert war against India. Radicalisation of youth at home and abroad, through chosen cronies, as well as support and patronage to organised crime have helped strengthen instruments of covert war against India.

 Economies of scale have forced this infrastructure to turn global and a significant component of terror and radical groups have also slipped out of their direct control. Nevertheless, they have retained control over a larger number of these through a blanket curb on civil society and dismantling any progress towards rule of law or transparency in criminal justice system. Such an arrangement enables the ruling syndicate to retain a strong control over the territory of Pakistan, as well as substantial parts of Afghanistan, in conjunction with their terror proxies like Taliban and Haqqani network. However, possibility of a large-scale turmoil in that country remains a reality, as the process of splintering of multiple groups and factions is inevitable in long run. It will have to be seen how Chinese deal with such situation to guard their investments in that country.  

The very dynamics of the existing power structure in Pakistan has necessitated building a formidable network of global terror, crime and subversion. They have propped up and sponsored some such groups on their own but also built up linkages with many of the existing ones.  These extend from South East Asia to India to Africa to Europe and going all the way to South America. Besides terror in  the region beyond, Pakistani footprint has been more than visible in nearly all shades of organised global crime. These vary from drug trafficking, counterfeiting of currency, money laundering to extortion, betting and bribing networks to street crime among others. All of these can be used as potent tools of subversion as well as garnering illegitimate clout.

During cold-war era when West was using Islamic radicalism as a strategic tool to counter communism, Pakistan sold its services to these powers. But over the past few 2-3 decades, it has drifted to the Chinese communist regime helping it reach out to influential elements both in the Muslim world as well as some of the Western countries. Chinese patronage of Pakistan’s subversive activities in India is widely believed to be aimed at obstructing accelerated march of the World’s biggest democracy to economic prosperity or stronger internal cohesion. Pakistani clout with the drug-crime networks in the Western world has also enhanced its clout and even utility for them. They have traditionally been believed to be collaborators in West's counter-terror strategies, despite backstabbing them by shetering some one like Osama Bin Laden among others. 

Many western powers have appeared reluctant to antagonise Pakistan beyond a certain point. This was evidenced in a fairly soft approach of nearly all major powers in Asia-Pacific Group (APG) on Countering Terror Finance (CTF) on brazen defiance of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidelines by Pakistan. Hence, it is doubtful that even a near global outcry against Pakistan for its collusion, support, patronage and sponsoring of terror, as well as organised crime, may result in commensurate tangible actions. 

In fact, complicity in terror and crime has appeared to offer a significant clout to Pakistani ruling syndicate. This has been amply manifested in their facilitation of US-Taliban agreement in Afghanistan, besides their so-called support in counter-terror investigations and policies. In a fluid geopolitical situation, Pakistan remains a possible conduit even for a potential deal between the West and China in future. India needs to be alive to such possibilities, especially in tighter situations where choices could be limited. Several elements even in the Western political and security establishments could reconcile to the idea of restricting the Chinese domination of Asia and confining Pakistani activities in this region.

The cost of confrontation with China continues to escalate for the West and so does the dismantling of Pakistani terror- crime network . India has to come out with innovative strategies and stronger institutional capacities to curb both expanding asymmetry of power with China as well as crush the covert war from Pakistan at minimal cost and within a reasonable time-frame. A stronger governance reforms that integrate security priorities with complementary economic and technological objectives would be indispensable.

Diplomatic support and international goodwill do constitute a critical ingredient of national power but given the fluidity of geopolitical equations in general, these do not always translate into tangible and dependable strengths.  Unconditional military-security support appears extremely difficult if other parties do not have an equally abiding stake on issues at stake, or if their gains are not commensurate with the risks involved. With onset of an inward-looking United States that has withdrawn from several of its international treaty obligations, the entire global equilibrium has become a little more uncertain. Major international powers cannot afford to risk their core national security interests on international goodwill and shelve plans and opportunities to empower themselves on their own. 

With relative erosion in economic and technological supremacy of the United States, and increasing assertion of China, India is left with no other option but to pursue an agenda of transformation of its economic, technological and governance capacities more seriously. These alone can sustain a proactive strategy to deter hostile intents and actions of actual and potential adversaries.  India will have to shun its inward-looking approach to engage, influence and shape issues and events beyond its frontiers to safeguard its core interests. It must do so at minimum military-economic costs. This would require building comprehensive defensive and offensive capacities with the highest possible levels of innovation in every sphere.

India’s defence forces have displayed the highest standards of professionalism and bravery in protecting legitimate military interests of the country. However, political-bureaucratic and corporate institutions, notwithstanding few notable exceptions, have struggled to provide a stronger economic, technological and social support in this direction. Inability of these institutions to harness existing tangible and intangible resources into comprehensive national strength is manifest in the prevailing asymmetry of similarly sized China that had a somewhat identical background until half a century back.

Inability of several of our governance institutions to perform optimally or respond decisively and swiftly to emergent challenges, has been worrying. The ongoing Covid pandemic has already tested our capacity to handle an epidemic or natural calamity of a large scale or secure food-water-energy-communication needs of a massively expanding population over long run. With depleting resources like land and water, the challenge is going to be increasingly formidable.

Given the enormity of the security and geopolitical challenges facing India, the pace of its economic-technological-governance advancements have appeared fairly slow and sluggish, with deficient levels of innovation. Post-independence India has contained many of its internal feuds and fissures quite well but its larger national cohesion has remained under stress. This is both due to deficient criminal justice system as well as poorly regulated political competition. These, in turn, have been undermining optimal industry, enterprise and social stability, resulting in sub-par economic development as well as sub-optimal technological innovations.

 These together with sloth and inefficiency in large sections of bureaucracy have eroded overall competitiveness of Indian economy in a globalised world. With competitiveness in trade and advantages in technology acting as lethal tools of depredation, something for which war was required in the earlier era, India cannot afford such a situation. Despite some enclaves of excellence and stellar accomplishments of Indians outside India, there is need for serious improvement in overall quality and productivity of all institutions of governance. This will not be possible without transformation in the larger social and economic ecosystems.


AN OPTIMAL BUT NOT AN ABSOLUTE SECURITY COVER

While no country can practically obtain an absolute level of national security, which is not worth even the labour and pain, but every major power has to optimise sum-total of its institutional capacity to prevent, preempt and deter both real and potential conflicts. Such capacity must be sustainable and conflicts and challenges must be addressed in a manner that does not erode long-term potential and capacities of the nation. India’s progress in this direction has remained inadequate largely due to: a) formidable nature of geopolitical challenges; and b) inherent and inbuilt constraints of some of the existing governance institutions due to colonial legacies and larger distortion in values and outlook. While tactical challenges need to be dealt with tactically, but a long-term strategic approach is critical for building a sustainable national security capacity.

India as the oldest civilization and the biggest democracy in the world needs to redefine its identity and priorities both in the interest of its people as well as larger stability of the world. It must not merely respond to threats and challenges but should attempt redefine the regional global equilibrium. Its inherent values and ethos are such that any progress towards optimizing the quality of its own security is likely to enhance the quality of global security. However, it has to pursue creation of conducive internal and external environment for its own growth as a society and state.

India and Pakistan are not comparable. In terms of Civilization, Pakistan – with its essentially Mamluk and decadent Mughal psyche- remains a destitute, lacking any past or vision for future. It has been least concerned for its own masses. The ruling syndicate has been using Islam to deploy various shades of criminality, violence and coercion to silence political opponents at home and deceitfully subvert institutions of open and transparent societies through various criminalized actions that have been part of its strategic policy to build a global clout for itself. Its congenital hatred for India has provided the raison-d’etre for both its own identity as a state as well as building such elaborate capacity for covert war.

     On the Other hand, despite the camouflage of communism, China has regained its earlier political trajectory of authoritarian imperial rule with the backing of an efficient civil service and professional army. Masses have remained oppressed and voiceless and yet contributing to the larger prosperity of its elite. The critical difference is that large sections of people have moved out of poverty. Better access to nutrition, healthcare and education has transformed most of them into stronger productive force for accelerated economic development. Nevertheless, higher echelons of political and economic power structure remain inaccessible to overwhelming majority of masses.

    With an efficient governance mechanism, driven by sense of civilizational superiority, China has continued to expand both its territory and domain of influence. It is likely to generate considerable human cost both at home and abroad until such time its systems crumble and collapse due to their inbuilt contradictions of opaque authoritarianism. This would be largely due to absence of safeguards or inbuilt checks and balances in their institutions. However, such a scenario can have devastating consequences whenever it happens. 

A NEWER NATIONAL VISION BACKED BY COMMENSURATE CAPACITY

India has been a much older civilization than China and a rootless Pakistan that represents a somewhat vagabond Mamluk-Mughal psyche of pleasure, plunder and loot through deceit and deception. India's nobler and loftier original values were sought to be revived during freedom struggle as well as in the aftermath of independence. But the country's strategic psyche and outlook suffers from negative impact of centuries of internal decay and degeneration. It has perennially suffered from insufficient internal cohesion and lack of stronger external strategic vision. This is what explains its disintegration, decay, degeneration followed by prolonged external occupation during medieval era, despite exceptionally glorious past. Some of the pitfalls of deficient strategic psyche continues to haunt it even now. Hence, it has ignored the external threats and overlooked internal contradictions for far too long. Its inability to optimally mobilise itself to address governance and security and priorities has been amply manifest even during Covid crisis even though most would believe that majority of governance institutions have been energized by personal appeal of Prime Minister Modi. 

Nevertheless, India has to cover a long distance towards building a reliable and sustainable national security cover that can manage external threats and optimizes internal internal strengths. In practical terms, it must translate into adequate institutional capacity to: a) conclude and eliminate the threat of covert war from Pakistan as well as space for radicalism within the country,  It must be achieved at minimum human and material costs and within a reasonable time frame;  b) Contain, or at least deter, the threat from China in every dimension; and c) optimize economic, social, military, technological and diplomatic capacities by harnessing all tangible and intangible strengths. 

This would require an extra-ordinary innovation to create a contemporary national vision and national outlook, that is consistent with Indian realities and Indian psyche.  It must be backed by adequate governance-security capacity that is sustainable in our context and yet contributes to our comprehensive empowerment as a state and nation. A stronger and sustainable national security capacity has always been one that integrates economic, military, political and social institutions and strategies in manner where each empowers the other. Hence, there is need to revamp institutions and outlook across the board. 

THE BRASS TACKS

India's defence forces - with the highest possible traditions of courage, valour and professionalism- have deftly handled tactical threats and challenges, even middle and higher rungs of serving military officers are known for deeper strategic understanding of geo-strategy and military security issues. However, it is well known that strategies of military warfare too are changing and military capacity on its own is not sustainable. Military institutions need a supportive and conducive ambiance to thrive, flourish and evolve. Simultaneously, tactical capacity of other civilian security apparatuses require suitable uplift, where it can supplement military capacity of the Indian state. What political leadership and other stakeholders of India can do is build a stronger strategic and institutional capacity and ensure optimum synergy between strategic goals and tactical priorities. 

Higher quality of human resources, in terms of stronger physical-cognitive-technical capacities, as well as the larger values like integrity-industry and enterprise, have traditionally constituted the base of the pyramid of national security. Instead of sheer numbers, it is these attributes that reflect the real strength of a population. It is these that determine productivity of soldiers, industrial, workers or agriculture workers or entire work force of a nation. 

India’s records are quite alarming in this direction. Relatively low life expectancy, high incidences of malnutrition and morbid diseases, impaired cognitive skills and stunted growth of large percentage of children, among others, have led to physically weaker and deficiently skilled work force. With poor access to high quality technical- professional capacities and even life skills, the overall productivity of collective human resource of India is way below the potential. It dilutes the advantages of sheer numbers. Such challenges appear unlikely to be resolved by the existing free-flowing, and somewhat chaotic, dynamics of markets or state of existing governance and healthcare institutions.

Simultaneously, disproportionately larger sections of our healthy and productive working population appear to have been sucked into professions like political activism, cinema, infotainment, marketing, advertising, liaison, public relations etc. These, together with various shades of disguised unemployment, or not so productive white-collared jobs, are such whose real contribution to the tangible national output may be suspect. These could be symptoms of a deeper underlying challenges like extreme inequality, deficient regulation, and structural imbalances of inadequately regulated market economy.  It will stretch the genius and imagination of even the best among Indian economists to find innovative solutions. We have to explore solutions beyond the prevailing dynamics of market economy or state control to gainfully harness advantages of large population.

Simultaneously, the nature of reforms that we need in regulatory and enabling capacity of the state may not have any ready-made parallels. We require much stronger and sharper capacity to segregate the bona-fide corporate entrepreneurship from subversive theft of resources in the name of private entrepreneurship. The former needs to be nurtured, protected, encouraged and supported in the larger quest of economic and technological advancement but the latter certainly needs to be deterred.  

Indian state requires more innovative approach and strategies to build its private sector as a genuine partner in wealth creation and generation of gainful employment. Given the quality of upper layers of human resources, India’s private sector can be a much bigger driver of economic and industrial prowess as well as technological innovation and excellence. Substantive progress in this direction would be difficult in absence of larger trust-based social systems, which encourage and sustain a wider culture of excellence and integrity driven leadership. It will test capacities of major stakeholders of the country to unleash such an agenda of transformation of institutions of state and society both.

Internal cohesion has always remained the most critical ingredient of national security. These have enabled states to handle external threats better. Despite sustained assaults on social harmony, and downsides like caste-based divisions, India’s cohesive heterogeneity has remained fairly robust and resilient. However, situation could be far better with a genuinely efficient criminal justice system. Stronger curb on malicious abuse of freedom of speech and expression or even deterrent action against malicious crime on part of incumbents in state and society would be critical for securing our governance capacity.

Simultaneously, India needs innovative and low-cost strategies to curb internal fissures. These erode capacity of the state to deal with external subversion and even military aggression. Despite consistent clandestine efforts of Pakistani deep state sponsored networks, overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims have remained immune to subversive propaganda and derive pride in their Indian identity. However, all identity-driven fissures, including radicalism in the name of Islam, can be addressed only through combined efforts of criminal justice system and societal initiatives like persuasion, communication and social reform strategies.

While, subversive radicalism peddled by hostile forces through clandestine global networks needs to be dealt with exemplary and deterrent coercion but political exploitation of identity divides could have serious negative impact on internal cohesion. However, coercive actions of state can have deterrent impact only if these are channeled through a process of credible and impartial criminal justice system. 

There are large number of studies suggesting that organised subversion- including radicalization and religious terrorism - and organised crime thrive and feed on each other. These eventually build a spiral of their own, making it difficult to differentiate normal corruption and sponsored subversion. India has to find a more effective solution to deny space to organised subversive and crime networks which have been flourishing, with the clandestine support of hostile forces.

With strong pockets of global influence, these clandestine networks, aided by access to advanced technologies and ability to operate swiftly and flexibly, can wield far more influence than what one can visualize. These can potentially subvert key institutions of state, interfere with our democratic governance processes and institutions to the detriment of our comprehensive national security. In certain situations, these can virtually paralyze capacity to key institutions to defend and protect even legitimate national interests of a democratic country.

 Gravity of the threat of subversion to open and democratic states and societies is manifest in the US allegations of external interference in its electoral process as well as key decisions of some other institutions. Sections of US media have highlighted this issue along with malicious abuse of the mechanism of lobbying by exploiting open nature of their society. Australia too has alleged consistent clandestine Chinese interference to exact its natural resources at a preferable prices. It is difficult to fathom the entire reality in this direction but available inputs expose greater vulnerability of even the most powerful democracy of the world to subversive assaults of clandestine nature.

United States, even with the most comprehensive network of efficient and autonomous institutions - enjoying access to most sophisticated technologies- has struggled to contain clandestine threats from China. Given the larger fragility of India’s governance or regulatory institutions, and intensity of hostility of some of its adversaries, its task is well cut out. Tactical efficiency like improvement in transparency in financial transactions, including electoral funding, or curb on bureaucratic corruption or curb on money laundering may be necessary but probably insufficient to address the scale of threat. 

India's unique geopolitics, where it is surrounded by a number of small states, requires a more innovative approach. China has been seeking to build bases of influence in each of these states. It is possible that it may scuttle and subvert democracy in most of these states to install or retain a pliable regime in each of these neighboring states to the detriment of aspirations and interests of local population. India has to bolster its own democratic, governance and diplomatic capacities  to retain buffer status of each of these states. 

Simultaneously, the gap between military capacity of India and China has increased manifold. India will struggle to contain China on its own. It has probably a stronger requirement today, than at any other point of time in the history, to closely align with US and NATO forces, without compromising its own independence and aspirations to grow. Such understanding is in the best possible interest of even the US led West. What is worrying today is declining American interest, under President Trump, in NATO at one level and impact it may have on India's traditional ties with Russia and Iran. India has to take the West into confidence and maintain its ties with both Russia and Iran at one end and forge an understanding with the US led West not merely to pursue national interest of the two biggest democracies of the world but the larger peace and stability that the world has enjoyed under the US led international order. 

 

CONCLUSION

Hence, a paradigm shift in the national security outlook of the world's biggest democracy has become indispensable given the scale of challenges and threats. A comprehensive restructuring of institutions and outlook, howsoever Utopian it may sound,  has become indispensable as the cost of status-quo would be simply unaffordable. 

However, India, at this juncture of history, faces a predicament that probably very few big powers or civilizations may have faced in their entire journey. Its potentials and opportunities to rise as a major global power are entwined with formidable challenges in this direction. There is massive domestic aspiration- by significant potential- well as wider international support in favour of accelerated advancement of India. India’s rise is also seen as the biggest possible antidote to both Islamic radicalism as well as opaque authoritarianism. But impediments - both internal as well as external – could be far too formidable in this direction.

Besides clandestine influence of global cliques, cartels or networks - as well as rough and tumbles of globalised world- India may face resistance from large sections of its own political, corporate and bureaucratic elite. Many of them have thrived and flourished in an ecosystem of fragile institutions. They may be apprehensive of competition, transparency and meritocracy that could potentially result in loss of privileges and entitlements. A persuasive, gradual but time bound transition appears unavoidable in larger interest of national security.

China’s spectacular governance accomplishments, compared to post-colonial democracies, have raised serious doubts about the efficacy of the existing Western democratic governance institutions to transform the plight of people in the developing world. Saturating governance capacities of the Western democracies or the roots of their prosperity confirms such apprehensions. Chinese scholars often claim that West was able to establish its comprehensive material, intellectual and technological superiority over the rest largely due to colonial moorings of its early prosperity. These provided foundation for subsequent innovations, industry and enterprise. China claims to have built its prosperity and technological modernisation through sheer strength of its civilisational values and governance model, which it claims to be superior than contemporary democracy.

India’s societal ethos have retained their essentially humanist, plural and transparent nature. This is despite all pressures and distortions or degeneration, which have been backed by significant phases of resurrection. This is what explains sustenance of democracy in India even under adverse circumstances. Any drift towards authoritarianism is likely to be counter-productive given essential ethos and values of its people. This is likely to erode the capacity and output of India as a nation. Hence, the biggest democracy of the world has to explore refinement of some of its key institutions to bolster its collective national output. Proposed reform must cover political parties to civil service, criminal justice system, corporate sector, media, civil society entities, institutions of higher research, heath-care and elementary education regime etc.

 India will have to practically spearhead transition of contemporary democracy to the next higher stage of evolution for building and sustaining a stronger national security architecture. It shall have to build high quality governance institution, equipped with suitable norms, values and procedures as well as wider culture of superior skills, output and leadership. Political, bureaucratic or even corporate rent, or entitlement driven privileges or hereditary leadership, is a luxury that no dynamic society can afford within any of its institutions. Hence, reforms in political parties and corporate organisations become very critical.

 Democracies can potentially create far superior governance institutions than their authoritarian counterparts. However, they need to marshal their basic principles to build a stronger synergy between individual and institutional excellence, where both drive and sustain each other. India has to explore an integrated and yet dynamic framework of high-quality governance and social institutions. Their autonomy and independence may be crucial for optimal growth, evolution and output. But they must be able to collaborate with each other in pursuit of larger objectives of governance. This would require suitable safeguards and instruments of functional complementarity along with a wider culture of integrity.  

 Probably, challenges towards such transition would be huge. But with a decisive nationalist government at the helm, there could not have been more opportune time for the country to embark upon a journey in this direction.


 


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