By Shastri Ramachandaran
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is generous. Without batting an eyelid, he can give away to the wealthier West what belongs rightfully to India’s poor. His pledge of $10 billion to the IMF to bail out debt-trapped Europe is another bit of evidence that the status of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘coolie’ – who, under the British Raj, was but mere meat for the hungry tiger – remains unchanged.
We continue to be victims of western greed and profligacy. ‘Rising India’ unfailingly rises to the bait when it comes to the West’s financial sharks. Be it when President Obama comes asking for $16 billion worth of orders for U.S. companies or when the Prime Minister goes to the G20 Summit, they ask and we give.
There are, at least, 10 reasons why over a billion Indians should not be duped of this $10 billion.
One, India’s resources are meant primarily for the well-being of the Indian people, and no government has the mandate to give it away without first fulfilling the needs of the people who elected that government to office.
Two, Indian resources, whether military or financial, are for the security of the Indian people. This amount cannot be given away to Greece or Spain any more than the army can be deployed for maintaining peace in another country.
Three, without a debate – in Parliament, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance), the ruling coalition of centre-left political parties, or other public forums – the government cannot take liberties with national resources in pursuit of ‘foreign policy’.
Four, there is nothing to justify the government ignoring those trapped in extreme poverty in India in favour of the so-called poor in crisis-hit Europe. Poverty alleviation, like charity, should begin at home. Rescuing people from debt, like charity, should also begin at home.
Five, after equitable distribution of the benefits of growth and development at home, the next in line to be attended are India’s poorer neighbours. When it comes to mitigating economic distress, neither Greece nor Spain for that matter should take precedence over Nepal (one of the world’s poorest countries), Bangladesh or Myanmar. Poverty on the country’s periphery is a threat to India’s security and economic development.
Six, the UPA’s argument that it has contributed to Afghanistan only reinforces that its priorities are dictated by the interests of the West. New Delhi’s crony philanthropy in Afghanistan is just more proof of that.
Seven, India is not obliged to go to the rescue of those countries, systems and international institutions which did not come to India’s aid in times of crisis. Not too long ago, as our reform-minded PM would recall, India was deep in the red. But no country or institution came forward with any assistance. An indebted India was unforgettably humiliated and only after sending out gold as collateral to be held in the vaults of the West could a respectable amount be raised to tide over the financial crisis. Singh was not PM then, but he could not have forgotten how India was made to bow and scrape.
Eight, as one who has been in government and close to policy-making for decades, Manmohan Singh knows that the West imposes humiliating conditions and conditionalities when developing countries require assistance. These countries have never respected their international obligations when it came to poor and developing countries. Therefore, India is not obliged by any principle of internationalism, interdependence or reciprocity to go to the aid of these countries which are in a financial mess of their own making, resulting from their own irresponsible excesses.
Nine, a flourishing West, even at the peak of prosperity, has never supported moves to write off the debts of poor, developing countries. On the contrary, the West, particularly Europe, has always united to exert pressures and sanctions against developing nations. After the nuclear tests of 1974 and 1998, this same West, including a hostile EU driven by its ‘common defence and foreign policy,’ resorted to sanctions against India and did everything to isolate India in the world. When Germany, for example, does not want to be dragged down by its poorer EU siblings, India should not allow itself to be played for a sucker.
Ten, western financial institutions – and the IMF is no exception – are hard-nosed money-makers that would not spend a cent unless it can earn two cents, no matter how serious the crisis stalking a famine-stricken Africa or a poverty-ridden Asia. It is illusory to imagine that any gains would accrue to India’s benefit from such financial contribution.
There is no dearth of instructive reasons telling us not to fund sinking prospects abroad when our own people are dying. But little can be done when a PM values an invitation to the high table – even if it is to pick up the tab after the profligates have feasted to excess – as a privilege. With such poverty of policy what wealth will we not abandon?
Shastri Ramachandaran is an independent political and foreign affairs commentator. He worked as Senior Editor & Writer with the Global Times and China Daily in Beijing. A version of this article first appeared in Daily News Analysis (DNA) and is being published by arrangement with the writer.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the IDN editorial board.