Sunday 24 July 2016

External actors seek to derail Indian growth story (Sunday Guardian)

The core of the plan is to shift government’s focus from development to fire-fighting.
Aware that India breaking through the “growth barrier” and entering a period of stable double digit growth will transform global geopolitics by creating a new pivot in Asia besides the existing giant, China, numerous groups are working quietly and efficiently to ensure that the India story gets derailed. This is sought to be achieved by lowering public morale and confidence, ensuring administrative sclerosis through delayed decisions, and by fuelling public unrest that detracts from the “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” narrative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Interestingly, thus far the BJP government has moved with cautious conservatism so far as administrative change is concerned, preferring to rely almost entirely on the systems and personnel inherited from the past. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has carried forward the tight money, high interest rate policy of his two immediate predecessors, and this has fused alongside conservative North Block policies to create job growth below the level needed for societal stability in a country comprising largely of the young. The emphasis on higher and higher taxation now, rather than adopting a policy of lower tax rates leading to high growth in future (introduced by the UPA during 2006-2007) has impacted the services sector, which has been growing with reduced momentum as a consequence. Manufacturing has been affected by high interest rates, while such irrational UPA policies as asking the buyer (Vodafone) rather than the seller (Hutchison Whampoa) to pay the TDS (tax deducted at source for a transaction) or making retrospective changes in taxation remain to be fully corrected. Although several experts have been pointing to the harmful effects of such measures, thus far the bureaucracy seems resistant to make the significant changes needed to rectify the harm done during the UPA period, confining itself to adjustments at the margin.
Change at the Prime Minister’s Office (which has regained under Narendra Modi the autonomy and primacy that was lost during the UPA period) needs to be replicated by similar dynamism in key ministries such as Home, HRD and Finance. In particular, most of the chokepoints set up to slow activity down that were added to during the UPA period need to be dismantled at an accelerating pace. The RTI needs to be strengthened and whistle blowers given protection, together with free speech and the protection of democratic freedoms in lifestyle. Also, until horizontal inductions take place in the higher bureaucracy of domain specialists on fixed term contracts, and a comprehensive weeding out through forced retirement of corrupt and incompetent officials takes place on a bi-annual basis, it will be difficult to counteract the carefully planned and well funded moves that are in play to ensure that the country moves towards a situation which more closely resembles that prevailing in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
While the ISI and GHQ Rawalpindi more generally are lead players in the planning and implementation of such efforts at sabotaging the future of India, there are a miscellany of other interests as well, including religious and corporate. Within not only the GCC countries, but the EU and the US, there are politically well-connected and generously funded entities seeking to convert tens of millions in India to the faiths to which they subscribe, and who are unhappy that the liberal visa regime for foreign preachers of hate against Hinduism that was in effect during the UPA period has been abandoned. East Asia has become a viable competitor to Europe and even the US in an expanding number of business segments, and the worry among both blocs is that industry, trade and services in India could potentially eclipse both of them, given the vibrancy of the people of this country, as shown by their prowess in those countries where a colonial culture of governance does not exist the way it continues in India. Examples of such economic warfare include the artificially induced (albeit effective) agitations against uranium mining throughout India, blocking crude oil extraction in Manipur that could have made this impoverished state wealthy, blocking bauxite and aluminium extraction projects in Orissa by groups that have not resorted to similar activities against any such projects in the rest of the globe, and infrastructure such as the Maheswar dam remaining unused for a multiplicity of reasons, primary among which is the ease by which projects can be stayed for decades under India’s legal system, international NGOs blocking the development of India’s coal resources in order to promote imports from far wealthier countries at higher cost, while agitations against nuclear plants ensure a growing market for (imported) coal in the country.
The core of the plan is to slow down economic growth in India through forcing a shift in focus of the Narendra Modi government from speeding up development and altering the governance paradigm through innovative use of technology, to fire-fighting of the kind recently witnessed in Kashmir, Gujarat and Haryana, not to mention ongoing tensions concerning the Dalit community. According to individuals familiar with the details of the plan, the slow pace of job creation in the organised sector has created a window for fuelling agitations for reservation in the state sector by communities that are much more prosperous than most others in their location. Thus far, intelligence agencies seem to have ignored the external push that has been given to several such agitations by patrons from afar seeking to derail the India growth story, each for their own reasons. After the Jat, Patidar and Kapu agitations, the expectation is that in Assam, significant segments of the Ahom community can be motivated to lobby for reservations on the Patidar or Jat model in Gujarat and Haryana, respectively, followed by a similar push by elements of the Maratha community in Maharashtra. Together with the Kashmir and Dalit flashpoints, clearly efforts are ongoing to ensure that the heat never cools for the Modi government, a situation which is expected to have an impact on the performance of the BJP in coming state Assembly elections.
Although the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has plugged the channels through which several NGOs are being funded by agencies abroad, a growing number of “underground NGOs” have sprung up that source moneys received through hawala channels. Because of the fact that those involved in such networks often service the needs of officials and politicians, thus far very little has been done against the major hawala operators in India, especially those operating in metro locations as well as in states such as Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and hence such individuals are free to funnel money to the groups being set up to promote chaos and confusion in different parts of India.
It needs to be mentioned that some of the overt and underground NGOs connected with the plan have adopted a saffron tinge so as to facilitate the perception that the Modi government and the BJP as a political party are behind the troublemakers motivated by such NGOs.
Kashmir is a special case, and is getting special attention from GHQ Rawalpindi, which has been assisting in the creation of a multiplicity of “citizens’ human rights groups” active in spreading a perception that only separation from the rest of India will lead to peace and prosperity in Kashmir, when the opposite is the truth. It is expected that Channel 4 in the UK will broadcast a series on Kashmir designed to show the Indian Army in a poor light, despite that force showing tolerance and moderation on a level never attempted by counterparts elsewhere. This is to go on air around the time of the September plenary meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission, which is expected to be attended by nearly four dozen NGOs, several of whom have been specially commissioned by GHQ for the purpose of casting India as a serial human rights violator in the matter of Kashmir, the Northeast, women’s & children’s rights and the situation concerning the Dalit community. It bears mention that Senator Timothy Kaine, who has been chosen as her Vice-Presidential candidate by Hillary Clinton, has been among the most vociferous anti-India voices in the US Senate, repeatedly calling for action against India on a cluster of issues relating to religious freedom and human rights, while Donald Trump’s key aide, Paul Manafort, was for a time associated with a pro-Pakistan group lobbying in the US for action to force India to hand over the state to Pakistan. Hopefully, both Kaine as well as Manafort have by now understood the factual position and changed their stands.
Given the concentration of effort expended on ensuring social unrest in India in the name of caste and job reservations, as well as the potential for induced agitations in multiple sectors such as banking and transport, “Business as Usual” cannot be the norm at the MHA, while officials in the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India need to look beyond the needs of big financial conglomerates in New York and London and focus on job creation through igniting growth sufficient to damp down youth unrest caused by a lack of economic opportunities. Going parallel with such plans are those of terror groups headquartered in Pakistan as well as the Levant that are planning mass terror attacks in India on the Paris and Nice model. The Prime Minister has called for “Naya Soch”. Narendra Modi will need it to ensure that ongoing efforts at derailing the India story fail.

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