Political Ideology in India

I have been listening to IVM Podcast’s The Seen and the Unseen podcast hosted by Amit Varma since about the last year or so. The important I learnt in lesson in this episode that the usual tags of left and right politics do not apply to Indian politics. Indian politics can be better understood based on the ideologies of identity and statism.

The cover art of the Episode 131 of the Seen and the Unseen
The cover art of the Episode 131 of The Seen and The Unseen

Amit’s earlies episodes espouses the classical liberal ideologies and are based on the idea of individual freedom. While the explanation made theoretical sense, it didn’t quite apply when I analysed many macroeconomic issues to try and understand why the government acted in the way it did. Hence, Amit’s episodes were critical of any government that was at the Center.

This particular episode presented a better political lens to understand the Indian political landscape. The episode is based on the book Ideology and Identity by Pradeep K Chhibber and Rahul Verma. Rahul Verma explains the terms ideology, identity and statism. He then takes us through Indian history post-independence as seen through the lens of identity and statism and explains how this bifurcation of Indian history makes more sense than the western right-wing and left-wing narrative.

The episode held several insights for me. That India had a rich “conservative” tradition but this was hidden from English readers like me. These traditions existed in the vernacular press in Hindi, Marathi etc. An earlier episode began digging at some of the features of the conservative tradition in India which seems to have been so different from the conservative traditions in other countries. It has been a fascinating listen for me.

I haven’t read the book but would definitely suggest listening to this episode if you want to decide either way about getting their book.

Integral Humanism

September 25th was the centennial birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya. I had heard the name mentioned and was curious to know who he was. A cursory reading of the Wikipedia article on him pointed out that it was his philosophy that the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party followed. His philosophy was called Integral Humanism.

The text that forms the basis of the philosophy is a 1965 text of the same name and can be found on the BJP’s website here. I read the text on Sunday and quite agree with the analysis provided on The Wire.

Things the Left needs to do Right

Prabhat Patnaik writes a useful critique of the Left in this thoughtful piece in The Hindu.

What is true, however, is that even the Indian communists, despite being opposed to globalisation and associated neo-liberal policies, have not charted a concrete alternative development strategy. Their opposition has taken the form of identifying particular parties as neo-liberal and having no truck with them, which has hampered united struggles for the defence of secularism and democracy. But uniting with others in struggles, on platforms, and even in government, against the Hindutva and semi-fascist forces and on the basis of a concrete alternative agenda to neo-liberalism, will serve the people better.

We need a good Left and a Right in politics to have a more balanced world. Also, waiting to see such a useful critique of the Right.

How US missed the Pakistani nuclear programme

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

A non-governmental research institute located in the libraries of George Washington University called the National Security Archives has published documents relating to US-Pakistan relation vis-a-vis the development of nuclear weapons capability. The Press Trust of India reported today that the documents contain revealations about then Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s response to a US request of making South Asia nuclear-weapons free.

This has made an interesting foray into nuclear programme before going to the talk by Dr. Yair Evron.

Talk by Dr. Yair Evron

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 31, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Today was my second visit to the offices of the Observer Research Foundation. I went down to their offices to attend the talk delivered by Dr. Yair Evron. His talk was about Iran’s rise as a nuclear power and possible Israeli reaction to it.

He began his talk by describing the Israeli Nuclear Programme, which according to Israel does not exist. It is believed to have been developed in the 1950s and was completely developed by the end of the 1960s. It’s primary reason to go nuclear was as deterrent to stop war with the Arab world. He said that Israel was under tremendous pressure from America not to go nuclear. As a result, it has what is called an ambiguous posture under which it does not admit that it possess nuclear weapons. There are international reports to the contrary.

He said Israel was a responsible nuclear power since it had not made use of nuclear weapons during instances such as the 1973 war and also not used as a coercive tool in political negotiations (which he admits has not worked as a negotiation tactic). He states that Israel had good relations with Iran till 1979. This continued until the Revolution there.

After 1979, relations between Israel and Iran have been hostile. This is mainly because of ideological differences and because of change in political leadership that Iran wanted show to stand against Israel like Jordan and neighbouring Arab countries did.

Evron says that the development of Iranian nuclear capability began after the Iran-Iraq war. It provided reasons such as deterrence against Iraq, USA, Israel and the Soviet Union (who had occupied Iran during the World War and these wounds are fresh in Iranian minds). The first exposure of Iranian nuclear programme happened in 1991 Gulf War. Evron made it clear here that he did not believe in the minimum deterrent theory. He also states that the Wikileaks expose of the Arab request to attack Iran also shows that the Arab countries were equally worried of the impact of Iran going nuclear as Israel was.

The facility for nuclear weapons by Iran began development in the 1990s and this was exposed in 2002. In this case, Iran had violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which Iran is a signatory. In 2008, a second nuclear enrichment facility had been exposed. Iran is also believed to have been developing missile systems with nuclear capability. This, he admits is tricky and difficult technology to master. Currently, Evron claims Iran has sufficient uranium for 2 bombs although not weapons grade. Iran currently has, Evron says, nuclear material with a purity of 3.5% to 20% whereas a weapons platform would need 93% Uranium. These are the developments under its Uranium enrichment technique. Iran has also begun working on the plutonium enrichment route.

Evron says that since 2005, Iran has been actively working on an advanced enrichment programme, a weapons programme and developing warheads for missiles.

Commenting a bit on Obama’s current policy on negotiation and economic pressure through sanctions, it says it might work and is a better option than that presented during the Bush administration which wasted a great chance when Iran offered unconditional negotiations in 2003. Evron says that Israel and Iran might have a relationship if Iran goes nuclear.

Evron says that for a stable relationship to take place between a nuclear Iran and Israel, both will have to understand and be mature about the use of nuclear weapons and must be in continuous dialogue with each other. If Iran goes nuclear, he foresees that the Middle East would become unstable since the Arab world could also begin to look for nuclear weapons for deterrence. This could be further used by groups such as the Hezbollah and Hamas to cause what is known as “catalytic war” – provoking countries to take nuclear action. Evron says that dialogue would only become more important if Iran goes nuclear.

Ending his talk, Evron says that the Universities in Iran had free intellectuals till last year who were ready to talk with an Israeli such as him. He says though things have changed in the past one year where they have gotten a bit scared about talking openly. He says civil society in Iran wants regime change and that Israel and the Arab world would accept a moderate Iran.

During the Question and Answer session, he went into details on certain aspects. If Iran were about to go nuclear, he said, he would advise that the US consider the military option against it. Israel taking such actions would have other repercussions in the region. He said the US could perform surgical strikes of Iranian nuclear weapons installations and declare that this was done purely to protect the region. Such an action would not cause Iran to retaliate other than to bad mouth US imperialism and such. He said that if Iran tried responding militarily, the US air force could destroy the Iranian military in a couple of weeks.

Indo-French Nuclear Co-operation

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 06, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Vaiju Naravane of The Hindu writes about the Indo-French nuclear co-operation specifically talking about the deal with French nuclear company, Areva. I have been learning of the Jaitapur Nuclear Plant project mostly through Greenpeace and their Nuclear-Unsafe campaign. Sadly, Areva’s defences in public have not been very effective and have even been countered.

The Times of India today and the Greenpeace blog earlier reported on the protests against the Jaitapur Plant. It has been interesting to see a growing number of controversial projects coming up along the Maharashtra and Orissa coastlines.

I am personally not 100% against nuclear power. I am concerned about India putting in lots of public money to obtain a nuclear technology that is still in stages of refinement. In the software world, this is like downloading the beta or developers version of a software. One does not download such software if one does not know about the software’s vulnerability and issues. Similarily, investing money without having experience or an authority in new nuclear plants, India should have played it more safely than it has. Hopefully, better sense prevails.

Let the elections begins!

This was originally posted on https://pradx.org/blog. I retrieved the post using the Wayback Machine here.

The Election Commission yesterday announced the dates for the national elections – April 16 through May 13. Results will be announced on May 16. 714 million people will vote with 522 constitutences will be using photo electoral rolls. The elections will take place across 8,28,804 polling stations and will be governed by 4 millions civic officials and 2.1 security officials. The largest democracy in the world swings into action.

The political work outs have already begun with boards, flags, wall paintings, posters on the streets of villages and towns. In party headquarters, the alliances are being forged, the party tickets (the permission to run for a seat on behalf of the party) are being sold and candidates are being finalised. In the Election Commission voter list have been finalised and are running through a list of measures to keep the voting as transparent as possible. Various media houses are running with their own campaigns and coverage to get India to vote and to perhaps create a US like sentiment amng the masses in India. 

A major element for this election would be the newly demarcated constitutencies by the delimitation process. Here’s how Mumbai looks now:

  1. Mumbai South: Colaba, Mumbadevi, Malabar Hill, Byculla, Sewri, Worli (MP: Milind Deora)
  2. Mumbai South Central: Anushakti Nagar, Chembur, Dharavi, Sion Koliwada (GTB Nagar), Wadala, Mahim (MP: Mohan Rawale)
  3. Mumbai North Central: Bandra, Vile Parle, Kalina, Chandivili, Kurla (MP: Eknath Gaikwad)
  4. Mumbai North East: Bhandup, Mulund, Vikhroli, Ghatkopar, Mankhurd and Shivaji Nagar (MP: Gurudas Kamat)
  5. Mumbai North West: Goregaon, Dindoshi, Jogeshwari, Andheri, Versova (MP: Priya Dutt)
  6. Mumbai North: Dahisar, Borivali, Kandivali, Magathane, Charkop, Malad (MP: Govinda Ahuja)

This time for my first elections, I will be casting my vote along with 43 million other voters electing a representative to the Lok Sabha in the Mumbai South Central constitutency.