“Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism”
Countries and empires unravel all the time. The reasons why they do are varied and fascinating but history is replete with the reality of grand political orders and empires disintegrating. The mighty Romans, the Persians, the Ottomans and the British empires all collapsed due to long term processes of erosion and myriad contingent factors that accompanied their eventual downfall. Now, even one of the most formidable of them, the mighty British empire, is threatened with internal implosion in the final redoubt of territories that the English first conquered and absorbed, namely, Ireland and Scotland.
In recent times, the Soviet empire of satellites collapsed in chaos, Russia itself now threatened with humiliating subordination to the victorious Western powers. It is cornered by deadly NATO missile encampments on its western border and reduced to seeking succour from an imploding Jihadi state in order to secure its eastern perimeter. The end of Russia’s superpower status has prompted a renewed Western scramble to subdue areas of the world that the Cold war stalemate allowed to function in a form of quasi self-rule. The immediate factors that account for a specific intervention are unimportant, but the underlying motivation is unambiguous. It is mostly about security calculations and access to resources though the ease of seizing control of countries ruled by weak regimes makes the temptation irresistible, many in Africa prime examples of the predicament.
In the particular case of Venezuela, a monumentally incompetent populist regime ensured that its vast oil resources would attract the attention of its imperious powerful neighbour and that dismal drama is unfolding duly. The Middle East, a theatre of powerful Cold War rivalries, has prompted bloody and unforgiving imperial intervention at unconscionable human cost. Alegria was secured two decades ago by resort to cynical subterfuge that facilitated mass slaughter, blamed on Islamic radicalism when its major sponsor was the comprador regime. When such a regime has outlived its capacity to serve foreign masters and its own plundering has bankrupted the country, popular revolts against it are smartly finessed to implant a renewed comprador relationship. Egypt is a case study of the process and Libya a particularly egregious example of competition for spoils as well among the foreign interests themselves, with France, as usual, demonstrating new levels of shameless venality to gain a place for itself in the sun.
India’s unfolding predicament
China remains immune to such a fate, for the present, though potential economic crisis and consequent internal political upheaval may well create opportunities for foreign intervention. By contrast, India is descending rapidly towards a denouement that will end its two-generation old self- congratulatory superficial phase of domestic mismanagement, by a largely clueless domestic elite. A significant aspect of the unfolding drama that will likely end in the formal political break-up of the Indian Union, in its present form, is the indifference to the situation of a self-satisfied political and bureaucratic elite. Ordinary citizens are also not conscious because no effort has been made to mobilise them by an elite oblivious to the peril that could liquidate their country, possibly within two generations. As an aside, it may be noted that the intellectual elite of India is irrelevant because state patronage has ensured its mediocrity and most think-tanks are retirement homes for self-serving bureaucrats and senior armed forces’ officers. The most prominent and best-funded among the latter are financed by international foundations with close ties to foreign chancelleries and intelligence agencies. And the Indian media has already been unashamedly subverted by foreign interests to accelerate India’s liquidation.
The critical issue of identity informs the ability of a national political elite to govern the nation and maintain its political autonomy. It is a sense of collective and individual self-identity as the stakeholders of nationhood that is vital. And that derives from a multiplicity of complex socio-political processes that unite the diverse constituents who comprise a large country like India. Do the elites of different parts of the country have an acute sense of a shared national destiny that overrides other sources of fidelity like region, language and religion? In the case of India, there is considerable room for doubt and an equal conviction that any such sense of collective identity and destiny are ebbing in its contemporary political elites. The imperatives of competition for political power have produced an inexorable spiral of divisions that accentuates the lowest common denominator of parochialism to achieve political power and the considerable loaves and fishes of office that Indian political life offers. And each regional political grouping mines deeper into the well springs of parochial loathing of the Other to outwit its rivals and incite the local population further with resentments.
A corollary of the dire situation above is the succumbing of the nerve centres of national governance to instrumental foreign intervention that has instilled divided loyalties within India’s bureaucratic and political elite. Their vulnerability to cultural and intellectual brainwashing is accompanied by an even more dangerous yielding to lucrative opportunities abroad. Virtually no segment of the higher reaches of India’s political and bureaucratic circles has escaped the temptation of foreign funding for the education of their offspring abroad. And the ownership of US green cards by relatives and queues for them of large segments of the same political and bureaucratic cohort amounts to personal capitulation to foreign cajoleries. The situation transcends political divides in India despite superficial appearances to the contrary of supposed nationalist loyalties.
Situation on ground zero
India is also an incredibly porous society despite all the earnest talk of the reach of government security agencies, whose intensity of focus is intermittent rather than systematic. National agencies also spend disproportionate effort and resources catering to the whims of the political class, spying on their opponents while a particular dispensation is in power and ensuring their personal comfort and security. In addition, Indian political parties are infiltrated by foreign intelligence agencies on a shocking scale, some pretty much funded and directed by hostile countries abroad. And the principal platform for national entertainment, its film industry, is deracine on a scale that only highlights the moral bankruptcy of a nation which has allowed itself to become a willing accomplice to emotional enslavement by its historic tormentors.
In the past two decades of globalisation, India has opened itself to rampant subversion owing to significantly increased foreign consular footprint, apt to meddle without hindrance or let. It is also a given that foreign correspondents are almost without exception intelligence assets of their home country. Foreign-funded NGOs have become a dominant feature of Indian society as well, using their local agents to pursue goals inimical to the integrity of the country, with aggressive self-confidence. The Indian judiciary, including its highest levels, has become an eager handmaiden of this egregious intrusion into many aspects of national life. It responds with alacrity to the cynical intervention of hostile foreign-funded NGOs, often of evangelical provenance, impacting Indian society with brutal contempt. Apparently, India’s judiciary has been overawed by overweening intellectual violence originating abroad. The higher judiciary has been reduced to passing incoherent euphoric judicial homilies consonant with dismantling its own society, brick by brick. Alarmingly, an extraordinarily divisive piece of proposed legislation to impose judicial remedy on a whole raft of day-to-day human differences in society that will deepen divisions among Indians along numerous axes, contrived by an Oxford academic, was tabled in the Indian parliament by an especially suspect member.
The war of ideas
The intellectual and perceptual framework of Indian society, always fragile and largely colonial in its origin has lost the incipient post-independence desire to find an authentic voice located within itself and consistent with defined national goals. India’s dominant intellectual class has been pretty much absorbed into the global nexus of imperial dominion that unavoidably moulds its untermenschen collaborators. Almost without exception, India’s intellectual entrepreneurs abroad are unequivocally anchored in supposedly superior enlightened local values of Western societies in which they operate and make a living. Their estrangement with India is unfailingly consistent in their hostility towards it and articulates, in the final analysis, the interests of imperialist machinations. The ease with which a majority abandoned Leftist pretensions, once the Soviet experiment ended and the Chinese communist party exhibited all the textbook attributes of classical fascism, is astonishing. The intellectual entrepreneurs abroad quickly adopted biddable handwringing over human rights issues, soon followed by a descent into total moral and political degradation with apologetics for the historic Jihadi wary cry of ‘Islam in danger’!
Once the garb of felicitous language and aesthetic pretensions are shorn, what the arguments posited by them insist on is the unviability of India’s own allegedly irredeemable traditions and, as a corollary, an implied need to have a trafficked world-view imposed on it, forcibly if necessary. Tragically, India’s mediocre and insecure domestic intellectual life has been comprehensively poisoned by the outpouring of spleen from the portals of privileged academic institutions abroad, where this Indian-origin cohort enjoys the comforts of a very good life. These institutions abroad wield instruments of intellectual subversion and facilitate genocide by providing the rationale and justification for it (as they did recently over Iraq). Unfortunately, they can, in the bargain, also transform the life of a hapless native toiling in an obscure mofussil town by a single invitation to a seminar abroad. Yet, glitzy social science and humanities faculties abroad in institutions like Oxbridge, LSE, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and Chicago, are firmly integrated into the national purpose of their own societies, including its imperialist goals of domination and conquest.
India’s political failings
By and large, all Indian political parties have ignored the difficult task of nation building that requires mobilising the majority on the basis of values with which they can identify, their history, culture and traditions. On the contrary, these have always been assaulted mercilessly and continue to be derided and mocked by forces seeking the break-up of India, with the help of their myriad sepoys at home and abroad. The crucial dimension of this assault is to portray the entire history of the civilisation as the product of racist conquerors who created a false religious order to perpetuate themselves through caste primacy. As a result, the entire ancient canon and objects of worship are deemed repellent and the traditional projection of the struggle of every civilisation between the forces of evil and good is inverted. Thus, the divine Rama and Durga are denounced as tyrants and the objects of their divine antipathy portrayed as deserving veneration. Most of this abuse originates from evangelical sources, much practiced in the black arts of defamation and mass killings. Their domination of elite Indian education and the media has turned the egregious abuse into the legitimate common currency of discourse within Indian society. But it is the Indian state itself that has allowed the accelerating liquidation of the nation, over which it presides, to gather momentum through its own complicity in treasonous activity. The reason is not far to seek since there are immediate short-term advantages in ignoring such persistent assault.
Lacking a felt sense of common identity that would need to derive from their shared sense of identity as a people and their common struggles against invaders, Indians are impaled on a form of self-destructive selfhood that ensures and deepens both vertical fissures along caste lines and horizontal ones of region, language, etc. The seriousness of the situation seems to escape many Indians, preoccupied with daily life and a political and bureaucratic elite primarily concerned with its own survival and petty individual advancement. National policies and indeed, of late, constitutional propriety are in doubt, with much of the Northeast rejecting imperative policies and other states thwarting criminal investigations decreed by the highest legitimate authorities of the Indian Union. And a veritable tsunami of foreign infiltration, facilitated by regional political parties, has already changed the demography of West Bengal and Assam. Other parts of the country like J&K barely function as a part of the nation, with entire populations ethnically cleansed through violence and the perpetrators only held in check by a massive security presence. Inexplicably, the state at the centre appears willing to surrender the entire region to secession by itself sponsoring demographic transformation of the remaining part of the region that had escaped the worst of the violence sponsored by neighbouring Pakistan.
Modus vivendi of breaking India
A sense of the kind of break up that might overtake India can be inferred from the pattern of evangelist-sponsored menaces being repeated by domestic politicians themselves. The idea of a southern federation of Christian states seems to have penetrated the popular political imagination, occurring in the backdrop of the effective expulsion of the bulk of the Brahmin population from southern states like Tamil Nadu. And massive conversion to Christianity, which has spread openly along the entire Andhra coastal belt, portends serious consequences though the secession of the south is likely to be, in the first instance, a common goal of Islam and Christianity. A parallel phenomenon has also occurred in West Bengal with the decimation of the intellectual and literate middle class during several decades of supposed communist rule beholden to the Muslim peasantry and the mosques which can mobilise them to enforce their demands; and its toxic fallout is amply evident today. The weakening reach and authority of the centre is the historic phenomenon that threatens to disrupt the Indian Union, as it did Mughal India earlier and other dominant territorial rulers of the remote past.
One constant feature of foreign-inspired intervention against the Indian Union since independence has always been to attack and attempt to weaken central rule. Observers mesmerised by immediate political events and the cut-and-thrust of daily struggles are unable to grasp the sheer scale of foreign intervention to diminish central power and authority in India. Two episodes universally misunderstood in India illustrate this corporeal reality. The first is the Naxalite revolt that originated with debates over revisionism but was ultimately a reflection of the embittered Sino-Soviet dispute and their associated border clashes. By that time the US and China had become collaborators against the Soviet Union and Maoism became a pawn to disrupt a perceived revisionist Indian CPM, supposedly still dominated by pro-Soviet elements. This was common goal shared by China and the US, vastly reinforced by India’s invasion of East Pakistan in 1971 that provoked them both enormously and fuelled a desire to create havoc in the border state of West Bengal. The second episode was a US conspiracy to disrupt Mrs Indira Gandhi’s rule, as threatened by Henry Kissinger himself because of her intervention in East Pakistan, by strangling India’s rail transportation network; subsequently celebrated as some sort of heroic instance of civil disobedience! It had extraordinary echoes to the modus operandi used earlier by Henry Kissinger in 1973 to overthrow and murder Salvador Allende of Chile by organising a trucker’s strike. The declaration of the Indian Emergency by Mrs Indira Gandhi was mostly the outcome of entrapment, contributing to her own downfall and, ultimately, assassination. It had precipitated the adoption of oppressive autocratic policies that reinforced the downward spiral of India’s internal divisions.
Yet there are glimpses of a different India emerging, with a growing urban population more committed to the idea of nationhood, pragmatic in its interests and less parochial. They are imagining a nation fashioned by themselves, without any help from the political class or India’s educational system, often inspired by incomplete and imperfect animated discussion of heroic ideas over the Internet. Yet it is a race against time and which forces will prevail remains to be seen. On the one hand, powerful, well-resourced foreign agencies and their local collaborators perceive mounting opportunities to cleave the Indian Union into broken sovereignties, frequently facilitated by a passive or complicit Indian state. On the other, there is a subterranean, popular urbanised churning that is becoming inchoately loyal to the promise of a united and economically successful nation that also espouses some kind of cultural authenticity. The ongoing current national general elections of 2019 will be a major factor determining which of the two political currents will have the opportunity to consolidate and dictate the fate of an ancient civilisation fighting for its survival.
Featured Image: The Indian Express
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Dr. Gautam Sen taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for over two decades.