Ananta International Fellowship, 2014 – Deadline Approaching

One of my most fruitful intellectual ventures was as the Avantha International Fellow at Aspen Institute India. It is an experience I will encourage every international student to strive towards.

At Aspen Institute India

Ananta Centre, formerly part of Aspen Institute India, continuing in its endeavour to add value to society through participatory leadership, is proud to announce the Ananta Centre – Avantha International Fellowship 2014.

This unique fellowship will continue as an innovation lab for knowledge sharing and capacity building for international students during summer 2014.

 The selected fellows will be placed in Ananta Centre’s New Delhi office over a period of two months in the time frame of 1 June – 15 September, 2014 (dates are flexible to accommodate international university schedule) and exposed to India’s policy landscape. The fundamental aim is to foster prospective leaders and increase their responsiveness to national and international issues facing India. 

Are you interested or you know someone who could be interested. Then do well by informing and encouraging then  to apply for this unique fellowship opportunity. Last date for applications is 25th May, 2014.

 For further details, please contact ramit.grover@anantacentre.in

The United Kingdom In Immigration Gimmicks

January 1, 2014 is finally here and if one is to go by all the buzz and hype that has been going on in the British media, then the streets of the UK are undoubtedly going to be cluttered with an avalanche of Bulgarians and Romanians who are claimed will be stealing, begging and pick-pocketing. But as the charade has been going on, I have not ceased to wonder what immigration really means for the UK and the immigrant.

immigration

What it Means for the UK

There is no doubt that one of the most visible effects of globalisation has been the massive shift in the global demand for labour. The creation of new work opportunities in many richer economies in recent years, due to the shifts in type of industries could account for this. At the same time, lack of development and the absence of employment opportunities in poorer economies have created a labour force more eager, and able, to migrate to take advantage of these opportunities. The result of this has been a significant expansion of global mobility. The willingness of immigrant workers and their strong work ethic means that employers will be all too happy to have them work in the most demanding jobs, as was evident in the construction of the UK 2012 Olympic facilities.

It is argued that the movement of people from Europe to North America in the Nineteenth century did more to raise and equalise incomes than trade and capital flows and that in recent years, the Indian Diaspora in the United States for example, acted as an important catalyst to India’s breakthrough into the global market for e-services. This could only mean one thing, they were actively contributing to the economy of the United States. Looking at immigration from this perspective, it is therefore a positive sum game and as the Bulgarian President rightly pointed out, the UK also stands to benefit (if not more) from an influx of immigrants and will instead be at risk of isolation with tougher immigration policies.

If this were the case, then why is all this moaning in the UK about? While it is true that many people get to the UK because they consider it a place where they can tap into opportunities and better the lives of family members they left in their home countries, it is also true that anyone who strives to fulfil this objective will have to contribute massively to the British economy. Anything short of this will mean a backlash too terrible to describe.

The Existential Reality

The first impression given to the outside world is that in the UK, there are jobs simply waiting to be filled in.

Stats
Source: ONS

These statistics provided by the Office of National Statistics may show that there has been some improvements from previous years but this that not mean there has been a glut. For example, the ONS states that

  • The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 71.5%, down 0.1 percentage points from November 2012 to January 2013 but up 0.7 percentage points from a year earlier. There were 29.76 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 24,000 from November 2012 to January 2013 and up 432,000 from a year earlier.
  • The unemployment rate was 7.8% of the economically active population, unchanged from November 2012 to January 2013 but down 0.4 percentage points from a year earlier. There were 2.51 million unemployed people, down 5,000 from November 2012 to January 2013 and down 88,000 from a year earlier.
  • The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 22.4%, up 0.1 percentage points from November 2012 to January 2013 but down 0.5 from a year earlier. There were 8.99 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, up 40,000 from November 2012 to January 2013 but down 199,000 from a year earlier.
  • Total pay rose by 1.3% compared with February to April 2012. Regular pay rose by 0.9% over the same period.

These statistics mean that there are millions of British citizens who are looking for jobs but cannot get them. And if this is so simply put, it may tend to justify the argument that immigrants are coming in to take the jobs of British people. But is this really the case? Of course not… For, how can a person take what does not exist? The fact is that before ever a job is given to an immigrant, it is certain that there are no British people to do them. In the first instance, even a cleaning job in the UK requires previous cleaning experience – which must have been gotten in the UK for a period of six months. How  then does an immigrant who has just entered the UK amass six months experience, that is the basic prerequisite for unskilled work? The paradox beats me.

I remember vividly how I had to pay for training to become a cleaner and caterer, which meant I had to spend close to six months searching for my first part-time job while studying. This makes me to ask the question: if with all the specialist experience I had prior to coming to the UK, I could not secure unskilled work for a long period (and this happens to have been the case with almost all of us who were studying then) how possible is it that claims can be made about jobs being taken by immigrants? It would be only fitting therefore, if the British politicians and policy makers could be generous to add, that there are some immigrants who have no recourse to public funds, and who spend a lot of money in the UK within their first few months without getting anything from the system. Shocking as it may sound, most often, the first few months spent by most migrants outside the EU who come to the UK tends to be a zero sum game – the sole beneficiary of course is the UK.

The Illogicality of the Benefits Argument

I know that most people who are now reading this will already be arguing that migrants from other parts of the EU come to the UK to enjoy the largesse of the welfare system. This thinking defies common logic because British citizens who are living on benefits have a standard of living not much different from those of ordinary working people from other parts of Europe. How then would a person exchange one form of shoddy living for another?  Would a person really travel hundreds or thousands of miles, with the objective of living a better life, choose to live on benefits in the UK? Lets face it, that simply does not make sense.

While there is no doubt that some EU citizens will take advantage of the British welfare system, this can only be for a short term, if they really hope to improve their lives and that of those they left behind in their countries of origin.

Why the Hullabaloo about Immigration

If my thinking is anything to go by, why the fuss about immigration? I can think of only two reasons – fear and publicity.

If Net Migration is actually falling, why the fuss?
If Net Migration is actually falling, why the fuss?

First, the history of the UK is rife with exploitation of other countries. The UK went across the world, grabbed from many countries and helped build their empire. Today, the thought of others coming in simply makes them think that it could be for the same reasons. No wonder there has been bold assertions that Romanians are coming to steal, beg and pickpocket from British people.

Another reason for the immigration fuss could be publicity. The more the British media and politicians talk about immigration, the more the message is sent out across the world that it is a highly-sought destination. This can only mean one thing, the UK needs immigrants more than they are willing to acknowledge. There is no gainsaying the fact that migrants constitute a solid part of UK higher education earnings. It will also be a fair statement to say that without immigrants certain parts of the British economy will slowly grind to a halt.

Leave

There is little wonder then that British policy makers and politicians are sounding ‘the horn on the borders’ to call the people to support the notion of cutting immigration only because they have an axe to grind.

INDIA’S JOURNEY TO THE “TOP” – THE MISSING LINK!

It is Santayana who rightly pointed out that those who forget their history are bound to repeat it. Despite all the negative aspersions that have been cast on history over time, especially given the biases that accompany some historical works, history as a record of a people’s past is something that cannot be taken lightly.

AAttending an event last week at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (where Prof. Sugata Bose launched his book His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire) happens to have been my waking call from a dogmatic slumber. The panel discussions, questions and contributions from the audience left a sour taste in my mouth. I used to be confident that I knew much about India’s pre and post colonial history from what I learned at school and could use these to analyse what is going on in their current political scene. I have never been more wrong. I realised how little I knew and how much was being left out. All through the discussions I could not help but remember Chimamanda in the Danger of a single story who points out that

“… There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”

She goes on to state that “Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, “secondly.”” It will be difficult to refute the fact that there exist just this power, one that will be a bit elusive to situate, that has directed the telling of the Indian story. Begin the Indian story with independence, the break-off of Pakistan and we have a different story with Nehru and Gandhi at the foreground of events. However, begin this story by integrating the great role that Netaji Bose played in the fight for decolonisation and the role his ideas would have played had he been alive at the moment of independence and the story takes a completely new dimension.

It will be difficult to say how events would have played out had Bose lived on to independence. That however, is not an area for my speculation. What I cannot seem to get over is how a man who was in the picture till 1946 and who won an election in 1939 against Gandhi’s candidate, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, should be so obscure. I was really nonplussed when I realised that many of my Indian friends also did not know of this great icon? I was the one telling them! What else did they not know? I began to ponder. This was the biggest problem about a story being told from one perspective – it “…creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

Some persons who know of Chandra Bose were bold in asserting that the man has been receiving recognition and that there are now monuments built in his honour and many people now bear his name. These are great ways of immortalizing a great man no doubt, but the million rupees question that ought to be asked is if Bose fought and died for India just so that he could be honoured. I certainly do not think so, as in his lifetime he did not seek personal agrandisment but sought the welfare of the Indian people. If there is one thing that should live on, it should not be simply the memory of a man, but the ideas that he sought to impart. Gandhi himself described Bose as a man whose ‘self sacrifice and suffering, drive, integrity and commitment to the national cause and the capacity to bind all Indians into one people were unsurpassed.” Strangely enough, it would seem that these wonderful qualities died with the man. We can all agree that many a great man has lived and died but their ideas are immortal. It is believed that Bose last words to his colleague, Habib-ur Rehman. were: ”I don’t think I will recover. So when you go back to India, do tell our countrymen that I tried my best to wrest freedom but they should continue their struggle until they succeed.”Another many-layered-hydraic question that needs answering is how ‘free’ India has become since gaining political ‘independence’.

If Keynes view that “Ideas shape the course of history” is anything to go by, then the question needs be asked as to What the implication is of the fact that India rode to independence on the tripod of three great ideological spheres but dropped one immediately on independence. What impact can it have on India as a rising power on the international scene? The answer to these questions inevitably will lay bare the fact that there is a logical jump from India’s pre-colonial history to her projections for future prowess.

Subhash Chandra Bose and Gandhi have been widely presented as having divergent views. While the two undoubtedly held different visions of how independence should look like, the common ground was that they were both great Indian Patriots who wanted the best for the Nation.  Bose who was influenced by the success of the five-year plans in the Soviet Union, advocated for a socialist nation with an industrialized economy. Gandhi was opposed to the very concept of industrialization. What independent india needed to have adopted is therefore a synthesis of all ideas so as to come out with a new thesis that will be peculiar to India, Bose had earlier made a solid argument that  “… common traits will form the basis of the new synthesis. That synthesis is called… “Samyavada” — an Indian word, which means literally “the doctrine of synthesis or equality.” It will be India’s task to work out this synthesis.” What I see today is clearly a failure by India to arrive at this synthesis and hence what I can conclude  is a failure at attaining independence. There seemed to have been only a transfer of power from the British to the Indians but the very structures which oppressed the Indian people under colonialism and which these great men fought to overcome seem to have been adopted if not fortified. It is my humble opinion then that if current trends persist, it will not be long before the ordinary Indians begin another struggle for ‘independence’ – albeit not from foreign oppressors but from internal structures that oppress them.

India, is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing economies in the world today, second only to China. Growing at a rate which economies like that of the UK can never reach again even if they are recovering from a recession, this is India’s opportunity to make sure that she handles her internal issues else they will continue to serve as distractions from her accessing opportunities abroad. China has already realised this and has been focusing great energy in the mitigation of inequalities that exist within her borders. India has got great potential, but unless she comes to her own and adopt the non-voilence of Gandhi in home affairs but the ‘radical’ ideas of Netaji to thread the paths of   international politics, she risks becoming a power that will contain within herself the seeds of her destruction.  Long gone are the days when military might was the criteria for being a global power but even at that, economic might without a viable political strategy will be only a short term project.

As an emerging power, India therefore needs to be more assertive in her role as a Nation that understands the language of strive. She cannot do this by taking a neutral stance in happenings around the world. It was the South African, Desmond Tutu who pointed out that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” As a future super power, India will need countries like Chile, Nepal, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast and even Libya and the time that she can get the support of such Nations is now, especially in the wake of several cases of gross violations of the right of sovereign States by the current world powers who have adopted the name “international community”. One lesson that can be drawn from the cold war is that no super power wants a rival. And will stop at nothing to stop any threats to the privileges of being a hegemon. For India therefore, to hinge the prospects of her becoming a superpower or getting a permanent seat in the UN security Council, (which she rightfully deserves)  to winning the favour of the US or Britain is to have lost it.

RISING POWERS AND DEVELOPMENT POLITICS!

To say I expected this session to be emotional will be an understatement. For ten weeks we have had this stormy journey. Raising questions and attempting to answer them – only to realise the answers are questions in themselves. Many people had thrown in the towel and considered the question of ‘development’ one with a forgone conclusion – failure. Nothing seems to have changed since the so much talk about development. Was it worth all the trouble? This is surely what happens when a discipline spends so much time reflecting on itself rather than on the world. It happened with philosophy as it got caught in the ‘fly bottle of linguistic analysis’ so it is not surprising that it is happening to Development studies. Fortunately, IDD seems to have sensed this and places emphasis on linking theory and practice; the raison d’être for some of us who thought there was still something worth investigating. I can boldly affirm that these ten weeks have made me realise how lucky I am to have engaged in the quest.

I happened to have been at the Foreign and Common Wealth Office today for a POLSIS Study visit and in the few hours that we spent discussing with Alison Kemp (Joint Head, Policy Unit): FCO foreign policy priorities; Sara Everett (Deputy Head, Afghanistan Group): Afghanistan and  Greg Quinn (Head, UN Political Team, International Organisations Department): UN issues, several things we have discussed in the past few weeks took shape. I was able to put my questions to decision makers and hear their views about some of these issues. and was able to arrive at some conclusions…

First of all, the I came to the conclusion that the importance of understanding theory as a prelude to understanding the whole concept of development cannot be overemphasised. This understanding will leave little doubt that developments and politics are intricately interwoven.

Secondly, I was able to conclude that politics was indeed the most dominant variable in any discussion in development and that a talk on international politics could not go unsustained for long if it is not talking about issues of development. International Politics is inverted international development – was my ultimate conclusion. In the talk about foreign policy priorities – a talk which lasted about 20 minutes – Alison Kemp mentioned the term development (or sustainable development) about 8 times (once every 2.5 mins) a clear indication that issues of development were top on the priorities of the FCO.

Third any talk about ‘pro-poor’ politics is simply a charade. Any politics claiming to be aimed at the poor is simply a part of a bigger complex scheme. The endgame never benefit the poor – rather they suffer more when it goes wrong. The question I asked the Head of the UN political team was a simple one: why does the UN use economic sanctions on people like Mugabe and Abacha when they know very well that these people will not care a hoot if the country suffers, given that they will never go a day without their sumptuous meals no matter how harsh the sanction? Who suffers more from an economic sanction? If we can all answer that it is  THE POOR… then the soul-searching question will be if the UN in its politics is not pro-poor, where do we begin a discussion on pro-poor politics in an international forum?

Fourthly, the issue of ‘failed states’ is one that cannot be wished away easily. The fact that the concept is riddled with controversies, notwithstanding, the deputy head of the Afghan group used it several times in his description of Afghanistan. When he acknowledged the fact that 1979 arming of the Taliban was a great mistake, I could not help pointing to the fact that its result (Taliban support of Al Qaeda and the failure of the Afghan state) was being replicated in Libya.

Finally, the last conclusion I arrived at is that the nature of international politics was changing and it was going to take many by surprise.  The unprecedented rise of the Asian Tigers which challenged most of the conventional theories of development was simply the antiphon to a new era. Of course we should not have expected anything different if we recalled Marx stating in 1959 that “all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”

We have had the surprising rise of the BRICs but what should not surprise us is how China and India replay history in a refined manner. It was fascinating to see how Tom captured the concept of China’s trade relations to Africa… The many layered question is… Is it a dependency relationship or is it the flip side to modernisation? Difficult questions to answer but certainly thought-provoking.

One thing that stands out though is that China rose to power on the wings of communism and a ‘closed’ state and is now seeking to expand that power through Capitalist means. Maintaining communism at the home front and capitalism at the international level is a strategy that only time can tell its outcome. It however points to something… China is being flexible and to me that is ‘politics’ or better still ‘development politics’. Their recent neutrality in the resolution over Libya is yet another pointer of her cautious nature. China is avoiding any form of conflict while at the same time building an empire outside China.

In the final analysis, we can all begin anew by asking ourselves what actually is new in development. Is there something intrinsically new? Or are we simply filling new wine into old wineskins? Can they hold the new wine? Whatever the case it will do some good to remember Duncan’s words

… a focus on ‘what’s new’ runs the risk of ignoring ‘what isn’t new’, such as the bread and butter issues of development: reducing poverty; supporting active citizens and their efforts to build effective, accountable states; fighting for universal health care, education, access to water and food; and equal rights for all women and men.

The onus however lies in knowing the difference… and this I guess is what I have been able to learn from this module.

World’s Largest ‘Democracy’ In Search of Gandhi

I had always thought that there was no such thing as ‘conjunction’. I had this tendency of writing it off as a mere association of ideas by people, as a result of the mind’s ability to move beyond space and time and bring things together. I have had too much within the last few weeks to simply wave them away. How can I ignore the fact that just last week Jude Thaddeus Langeh sent me a link to a book he had just published The Relevance of Gandhi’s Doctrine of NonViolence: Africa Needs Gandhi, and this week we had to watch a movie/documentary In Search Of Gandhi”. Going through the movie, two things struck me – first the fact that I began to question the notion of India being a “democracy” as I realised that the concept was itself suspect.  Secondly I realised there was a vast contrast between what Gandhi believed and professed and what the average Indian politician today believes. Not that I expected them to be similar, but there was this yawning gap between the ideology that created the nation and the ideologies that are aiming at sustaining and developing the Nation – a gap that cannot be ignored.

It is common knowledge that since independence, India has faced and still faces several challenges ranging from religious violence, casteism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies. Since the 1990s terrorist attacks have affected many Indian cities. India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People’s Republic of China, which, in 1962, escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. There are still high levels of poverty in a land of affluence and present trends suggest that the gap between the rich and the poor may be taking an upward trend. These are just a few of the visible problems which can be associated with India but as I went through the that movie, I could not help but notice that all of India’s visible problems are simply effects of an invisible problem, the problem of the ideologies that drive India’s day to day activities. What are these ideologies? What are their roots? Who benefits more from them – India or another Country or organisation? Have these ideologies been thoroughly examined to ascertain their suitability to the Indian experience, with some focus on her unique history and culture? These and many other questions kept running through my mind as the movie and discussions progressed. I could not stop myself from concluding that these questions and more where actually what needed addressing if one is to begin thinking about resolving issues not only in India but in most of the developing world today.

I immediately saw in India’s case a reflection of most of the Third World’s problems today. They had been caught in the whirlpool of globalisation illusions. And what this amounted to for any developing nation was the erosion of their ideological authenticity. While this may sound like painting a bleak picture, the reality is that even in the field of economics where globalisation can be said to be most successful, there is still a huge question mark. While it is a fact that globalisation can make the conditions for investment in poor countries more feasible and enhance the movement of capital into these regions, available evidence makes me feel that the poor countries got integrated into the global economy through the wrong end. To see Indian politicians involved in the reproduction of poverty and destitution in the name of creating Specialised Economic Zones made me feel like weeping. How could one in his right senses dig up a hole to fill another. Gandhi made what could have been considered to be a hard statement that “Western Democracy is a diluted form of Fascism.” At first I could not fully grasp what he meant especially with the oft-made statement that “India is the world’s largest democracy.”  After watching reading Langeh’s work and watching that movie, many pieces fell in to place – what people actually meant was that India was on the verge of becoming the world’s largest Fascism.

Pope Paul VI (1967 35, p. 22) held the view that “…economic growth depends in the very first place upon social progress: thus basic education is the primary object of any plan of development. Indeed hunger for education is no less debasing than hunger for food: an illiterate is a person with an undernourished mind.” I  think that the first step for India should have been serious education of its people. An education which will lead to the total liberation of the Indian people, and not simply enslave them to some defunct economic and political ideologies as happens to be the case with many educated person in most third world countries. It can only be through mental liberation, that every Indian will regain the sense of personhood and the boldness of asserting it before the international community. What I instead saw was a case where poor people who could not afford basic education and shelter where being driven out of their homes in the name of attracting FDI. With an under-nourished population who will be able to regulate or even benefit from these investments?

The argument that day in class was that every country does some lobbying to attract FDI. This is where my problem lies. Every country is not the same and nations cannot simply do things because others are doing it. Can the Indian government regulate the activities of a Multinational Corporation in the same way the UK or the USA will do? I don’t think so.  Miller pointed out that  “Shell Oil’s 1990 gross national income was more than the combined GNPs of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zaire, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan—countries that represent almost one-tenth of the World’s Population.” (Miller 1995, p. 35) With such figures, can there be any doubt as to why and how Shell was able to buy-off their involvement in perpetrating the loss of human life and destruction of livelihoods in the Ogoni – shell saga that led to the killing of Ken Sero-Wiwa and eight others in 1996?

I hope I don’t get misunderstood here. It is not as if I have a problem with FDI or multinationals. Like  McCormick argues , “multinationals are a powerful force for good in the world. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business. That’s why so many developing countries are competing fiercely to attract their investment.”

 I totally agree with him but what he fails to do is say in what direction the wealth is spread and whose standards of living is raised and who gains from the better ways of doing business. What he gets right though is that developing nations are competing fiercely for their investments. And this is where  I have another problem. This competition has made many so blind that they see only an end and neglect the means that will lead to that end.

According to Langeh’s analysis, Gandhi, was preoccupied with the problem of means and ends. In his Satyagraha, he propounds the non-duality of means and ends. The means precede the ends in time but there can be no question of moral priority. Truth is inseparable from non-violence and the method of achieving and clinging to the truth is non-violence. Gandhi therefore, referred to non-violence as being both the end and the means. He goes on to state that shortly before his death, Gandhi commented in a prayer speech in New Delhi that “means and ends are convertible terms.” The dialectics therefore that can lead to sustainable growth in Indian life and for most Third World Nations has to take this ideal as a thesis to begin with. Social progress and the good of all should be a prelude to economic development else all talk about economic development in the face of so much social injustice will amount to nothing but sophistry and illusions.

This however, will require a philosophical re-articulation of the Indian reality; a re-articulation because of the history of bastardisation of the intrinsic realities of Indians. It should be a philosophy of “existential hermeneutics” of self-rediscovery of the past, for an adequate re-integration and possible synthesis for a new way of being, doing and saying. In this sense, it should not be a mere mental or metaphysical outlook on life: not a mere ideological, and not even only an existential construct; but something that involves all of the above – a holistic vision and attitude to life. When this is done, there will be little reason to go out in ‘search’ of Gandhi because the ideals he fought and died for will be there for all to see.

May be I am getting it all wrong. May be India is actually a democracy and the dividends are there for all to benefit but unfortunately some people happen to be looking at the wrong places or… may be they keep coming a bit late. May be the politically motivated religious violence that are threatening the very fabric of Indian society are all the benefits of this democracy. May be…  I do not know the meaning of ‘democracy’ in the first place and that is why I am getting it all wrong. Good enough a thing, next week’s lecture will be on ‘Democratisation and the State’ – though it will be looking at the case of Latin America, I will surely use the opportunity to lay to rest my confusion about the concept of democracy.

Pope Paul VI; (1967) On The Development Of Peoples of Boston: St Paul Books & Media