Friday, December 14, 2007

India 60 Years after Lord Mountbatten and Mahatma Gandhi


August 15, when I appeared the NHK TV forum on Japan’s pacifist constitution this year, is a memorial day for both Japan and India. For Japan, it is the End of War Memorial Day, when Emperor Hirohito declared to stop fighting against the Allied Forces. For India, it is the Independence Day.

On August 15 in 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy of India, transferred power from the British Empire to newly independent India. It is the 60th anniversary of Indian independence this year.

Ever since the independence from Britain, India had been pursuing nonalignment foreign policy. Its economic policy had been based on Fabianism, a moderate planning and state control. The first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was captured his heart with this ideology as a student at Cambridge University. He employed economic policy advisors educated at the London School of Economics.

Today, India is at crossroads. Since 1990s India has changed its economic policy from Fabianism to neoliberalism. Also, 9-11 led India to shift from the leader of nonalignment to a key strategic partner of the United States.

In view of policy changes, a book review was contributed to the Washington Post by George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In his review, “Big Democracy: Appreciating the miracle of India's triumph over chaos” on August 19, Perkovich introduces a book, entitled “India after Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha, a columnist and historian, who has taught at Stanford and Yale.

Perkovich comments highly of this book that Guha narrates how democracy in India has developed despite difficulties such as ethnic and religious conflicts, outdated caste system, grave poverty, regional separatism, and natural resource scarcity.

George Perkovich points out two lessons to be learnt from Ramachandra Guha’s book: democratic nation building and the Indo-US strategic partnership.

Regarding democratic nation building, the constitution drafting committee was chaired by B.R. Ambedkar, an untouchable. Such a successful overcome of class struggle is noteworthy, in view of post Saddam conflicts in Iraq, Perkovich says.

Also, Guha points out similarities between exploration for close US-India relations in 1962 when China invaded over the Himalayan borders, and today in order to fight against Islamic terrorists and counterbalance against China. Guha even mentions common backgrounds between Ambassador Kenneth Galbraith of the Kennedy administration and current Ambassador Robert Blaclwill, as both of them are ex-Harvard professors.

I would like to mention another Indian opinion leader, Shashi Tharoor, Former Under-Secretary of the United Nations. In his article, “60 Years of Independence and Democracy” to the Times of India on August 12, Tharoor insists that Jawaharlal Nehru made a great contribution for solid democracy in India, and his legacy continues whoever the prime minister is.

On the Independence Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivered a special address. Singh stressed key initiatives for massive increase in governmental spending on education, science, health care, agriculture, and rural development. Prime Minister Singh described malnutrition a “national shame”, and appealed that the government will work hard to eradicate it (“PM Addresses the Nation on 60th Independence Day”; Times of India; 15 August, 2007). This empowerment will strengthen democracy in India furthermore.

Though it is a commemorative year, I regret that Global American Discourse did not have enough opportunity to post an article on India. There is no doubt that India will be more important partner for America and its allies. Also, it is important to notice Shashi Tharoor’s comment that the legacy of Nehru has made India democratic. This is a sharp contrast between India and Pakistan. As everyone knows, Pakistan has been under military dictatorship and stagnant economy. President Pervez Musharaf of Pakistan is criticized bitterly in the global community, due to unfair election. This is not the case with India.

Earl Mountbatten and Mahatma Gandhi will be pleased to see successful and prosperous democracy in India today. How will US-India ties help promote world peace and well-being?