Last year, the world was amazed when America elected its first African-American President, a man who brought hope to America and the rest of the world. The entire world looked at America and wondered why their societies are not able to achieve what America achieved.
We believe that last week’s election in India had a similar impact on the world. At first glance, this may not seem valid. After all, America is the world’s richest country and the most dominant power. What America does and how America behaves has an enormous impact on the world.
On the other hand, India is like much of the developing world or much of the developing world is like India. The rich in India, like the rich in any country, are global in outlook and access. The middle class in India is growing fast and may be different that of many countries in the world. But the majority of Indian Society is poor, illiterate and uneducated like much of the developing world.
In other words, any developing country in the world can theoretically do what Indian society did last week. But hardly any other developing country does.
Every person in the world wants to have a say in how his or her life is run. Every person in the world wants to choose the leaders of his or her country and wants to have the right to throw them out if they do not satisfy his or her wishes. We consider these truths as self-evident.
But, hardly any other society in the developing world allows its citizens this right. Hardly any other developing country allows this right equally to citizens of all religions, races and ethnic groups, the right to collectively install and remove its leaders. We believe that many people in Asia, Africa and Latin America looked at the Indian election and wondered why their countries are unable to achieve what India has achieved.
Europe & India
This is also true of Europe. A United States of Europe is the best analog to India. Each state in India is similar to a country in Europe. For example, Gujarat-Maharashtra are as different and similar as France-Germany in almost every way, in terms of language, culture, social mores and societal characteristics. The farther the distance between countries in Europe, the greater the differences. The same is true in India.
Just like in India, there is a basic sense of Europe and being European. Yet, Europe has never achieved a cohesive integrated society as India has and did almost 5,000 years ago. That is why when conditions worsen, Europe tends to break.
Ten years ago, Europe achieved a major success by forming the European Economic Union and creating the Euro, a single currency for all of Europe. But this “union” is mostly a paper concept. Unlike America and India, the workers of one state in the European Union seldom migrate to other states of the European Union and if they do, they are not received well. The European Union has not been able to create a unified Treasury Department in the last decade. Today, there is widespread concern that the European Union will break under the stress of the current recession and because of the inability of Europe to create a flexible economic system that meets the needs of its diverse constituents.
So far, Europe did not have to deal with religious diversity. But, that is changing. During the past decade, Muslim migrants from Africa have entered European Society in relatively large numbers. So far, European society has kept them secluded and isolated in their own ethnic neighborhoods. This is a volatile mix and one that Europe will have to deal with reasonably soon. India has already mastered this art.
America & India
Strange as it might seem, America and India are similar societies. Both are multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and grew through immigration. Both societies have created successful assimilation processes and both societies have created a sense of “country” that supersedes narrow, ethnic considerations.
Unlike India, America has a single language and the vast majority of Americans believe it should remain so. On the other hand, it is an inherent human right to speak one’s own language. The Latin American community has already become the second largest race in America and this figure will only grow. America faces the challenge of making Spanish a fully American language without creating two language blocs. This may be America’s greatest social challenge yet.
This is also an economic challenge for America. American students and workers find it difficult to work in multi-language environments. As the world grows and markets like Brazil, China, India grow in importance, global companies will require the ability to work seamlessly in multi-language environments. This is a structural disadvantage for American executives and a structural advantage for Indian & European executives. India has a lot to teach America in this key area.
President Bush saw the vision of a USA-India strategic partnership and he created it. President Obama seems committed to build on it. The Indian Election solidifies this partnership. Imagine, if you were the American President and you had to choose a society as a long term partner for America. Whom would you choose? We think the answer is clear. It is India.
America will remain the predominant economic and military power over the foreseeable future. But, the desire of America to be the single-handed policy maker and enforcer for the world is getting old. After all. Empires are expensive things. Sooner than later, America will need partners, societies that share America’s value systems of democracy and free markets, partners that have the size, power and desire to shoulder a greater role in the world. Again, the answer seems clear to us. It is India.
China & India
A couple of years ago, President Hu Jintao visited India. He traveled to different cities including Mumbai and Bangalore. One of his aides was reported to have said aloud “India is so diverse, with so many languages and religions. If they can have a democratic society, why can’t China, which is essentially a one-race country?”
We hope China does or at least it tries. China has grown from the top, by dictates of the state and with the support of the state. It is a totally different model than the democratic, grow organically from below, model of America, Europe and India.
It is our fervent wish that China becomes a democracy. The stability and growth of China is of paramount importance to the world and we believe an eventual if slow transition to “people’s rule” is essential for the People’s Republic of China.
On a narrower tactical basis, the Indian Election is a blow to Chinese aims. In our opinion, the Communist Party of India was China’s ally inside India. Take the case of the USA-India Nuclear Deal. China did everything it could to block this deal outside India and within India. Finally President Bush placed a personal call to President Hu Jintao to ask him to not oppose this deal at the International Nuclear Supply Group.
Inside India, China used the Indian Communist Party to try to torpedo this deal. The Indian Communist Party was a member of the coalition government of Dr. Singh. They became strident opponents of the USA-India deal. Finally, when Dr. Singh went ahead with the deal, the Communist Party resigned from the government and the coalition. Then they tried to topple Dr. Singh’s government with other opposition parties. None of this worked and the USA-India Nuclear Deal was signed by both countries.
The utter rout of the Indian Communist Party is a big blow to China’s goals inside India.
Pakistan is ethnically Indian. Some sections of the Indian Muslim society decided to break away from India and form a non-Indian society for themselves. India was unbelievably stupid to let them go. Both societies have paid an extraordinarily heavy price for this separation. In fact, Altaf Hussein, the London-based leader of the party of immigrants from India to Pakistan has called the Partition as the greatest mistake of the 20th century.
The reality is that when Pakistan separated from India, it also separated from Indian culture and the deep unifying strength of Indian society.
Look at the results. BanglaDesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971 cutting that country in half. Now, Pakistan is embroiled in a war with its Pashtun minority, a war that might end up breaking up that society. When a Pakistani Panjabi or a Pakistani Sindhi looks at the Indian election, they have to wonder why India works so well and why their own society continues to self-destruct.
The case of Pakistan shows that democracy is not just the ability to vote, but it is a structure of true self-governance, of building institutions that are for the people, by the people and of the people. Unfortunately, Pakistani society does not own its institutions, it is owned by its one functioning institution, its Army.
The biggest strategic impact of India’s election may be on Nepal, a country that lies between India and Chinese Tibet. The Maoists of Nepal have waged a guerrilla war against Nepal’s king for years. A couple of years ago, the Maoists won the election and became the largest party in Nepal. They terminated the monarchy and established a republic. This was a strategic victory for China, which uses the Maoists as its weapon.
The Nepali Maoists were supported morally and physically by Indian Maoists, who are waging a war against Indian Society. The utter rout of the Indian Communist party will be a major negative for India’s Maoists and for Nepali Maoists as well.
This is a huge positive for the young democracy of Nepal.
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