We don’t need no indecisive slobs (2)

Cite Pakistan’s failure and draw your favourite conclusion

What’s with editors of leading Indian newspapers? After Mr Gupta, the articulate Vir Sanghvi falls into the same trap: of declaring that democracy is better than dictatorship (linkthanks Pragmatic) and then tripping up while attempting to draw other conclusions. This time about the fates of states vis-a-vis their policy towards the United States.

There were only two major Asian countries that rejected the US prescription for development and foreign policy: India and China. And look where they are today. And look at America’s client states.

Of course, Nehru made mistakes. But can anybody really deny that the principal reason why India and Pakistan, once part of the same country, have followed such divergent paths is because of the choices both countries made in the years following independence?

At first, India’s priorities may have seemed (from a middle-class perspective) wrong-headed and muddled. Pakistan’s may have seemed glamorous and instantly gratifying. But, in the long run, we ended up as the superpower. And Pakistan as the failed state. [HT]

Leave aside that India is far from being a superpower. But citing Pakistan to prove that America’s ‘client’ states in Asia have done badly for themselves is shoddy analysis. Japan and South Korea too were American ‘client’ states in the second half of the twentieth century. Look where they are today. And look at us. South Korea, mind you, was a military dictatorship—much like Pakistan—for much of that time. That, it turns out, did not prevent it from jumping from a poor country to a rich one within the span of one generation. And then look at Taiwan and the other Asian Tigers—it turns out that pro-American states have done rather well for themselves.

Just as it is wrong to blame the United States for Pakistan’s failure, it is wrong to credit Nehru with India’s relative success. Assessing Nehru’s role in India’s development requires the space of several books. But one would think it reasonable to credit several hundred million ordinary people of India for doing little things right that contributed to their country being where it is. It is also reasonable to blame a small number of people for doing big things wrong that left India much behind what it could have been.

Pakistan’s situation could arguably be used to highlight the importance of democracy. But this is not an issue in India. But Mr Sanghvi appears to use it to justify a lot of things in omnibus. Therein lies the danger of comparing India to Pakistan. Almost anything will compare favourably. The irony is that Mr Sanghvi does this in an article that starts off by saying how the whole world, include Indians themselves, don’t make this comparison anymore.

27 thoughts on “We don’t need no indecisive slobs (2)”

  1. There were only two major Asian countries that rejected the US prescription for development and foreign policy: India and China. And look where they are today.

    that’s utter rubbish.If India and China had continued in the same path that Nehru and Mao respectively had set for them they would both be in the ICU today.

    it was the drastic course corrections of 1979 under Deng in China and under then PM PV Narasimha Rao and his FM Manmohan Singh in 1991 in the case of India that is responsible for where they are today.

    And not to forget that a huge part of this business of both countries is with America and so is most of the investment flowing in.

    this guy’s fact checking is so poor or is he deliberately misrepresenting facts. he is not fit to even be a rookie reporter let alone be the editor of a “big” newspaper.

  2. You know what’s Vir sanghvi’s expertise ?

    He knows how to eat chicken tikka masala after a Kingfisher lager beer.

  3. Except for his saying that India and Pakistan aren’t spoken of in the same breath any more, everything else in Sanghvi’s article is arrant nonsense. Indians are either stoic or apathetic about even the most serious threats to their country. Ask them about Rampur or Akshardham or the bombs in Hyderabad or Bangalore or Mumbai, and they would have been equally unresponsive.The Bhutto assassination will probably be better remembered than all of these more serious incidents.

    He goes on to say “Punjabis may feel a kinship with Pakistan — many belong to families divided by Partition — but the rest of India seems much less empathetic.”

    I suppose the only Punjabis he knows are Kuldip “candlelight” Nayar and I.K(iss Everyone) Gujral. More’s the pity..

  4. …it is wrong to credit Nehru with India’s relative success.
    Nitin, two points. The examples of Korea, Japan or even West Germany as US client states are substantially different from Pakistan. India and Pakistan were hugely similar at independence — the path they took and their consequences are for all to see. Vir Sanghvi has tried to simplify it a bit too much. It is not as simple as being a US client state or not. It is much more. Lot of things are not formalised – they are a part of the “culture”. That is where you have to give credit to Nehru, Patel and others for their role during the years after independence. Obviously, Nehru made mistakes, huge ones, and they can’t be condoned. But let us give credit where it is due. Also, can we name any other country except India, where the leaders who fought for independence from colonial masters didn’t become dictators. And I have personally heard this from guys from all third-world countries, who wish that they had a leader like Nehru. Even Pakistanis and Bangladeshis talk about it in private.

    Second point, which many of us would find unpalatable. There is not much difference between the Indian and Pakistan army, even today. And, it was Patel, more than Nehru, who understood the need to keep the Army under check. He raised the paramilitary forces as a counterweight to the army. When everyone quotes his letter to Nehru about China, Ladakh and Tibet, no one talks about his letter to Nehru on keeping the army under a system of massive checks and balances. Today, a military coup looks far-fetched. But till the mid-60s, it was a real possibility – few cities, a couple of public broadcasting units, a few airports to control, that’s all. This is not my view, but the view of India’s interior ministry under Patel. The lost Chinese war may have been the price to pay for this, but the nation has been saved many times over. I don’t hear anyone talking about this.

    Nitin, we are all articulate enough to punch holes into any argument. But pieces written in a dumbed-down popular media have their own simplistic line and method. There is some value in Vir’s thought, although he could have articulated it better. Unlike Shekhar Gupta, Vir at least takes a historical perspective of issues. We all can draw our own conclusions, but we can’t change the facts.

  5. Nehru “laid an egg” in many areas, to use a Wodehousian expression, but according to Dynasty lovers, he laid the foundation for everything that’s good about us today. They are loath to attribute our shortcomings to him though.

  6. Pragmatic,

    >>Nehru made mistakes, huge ones, and they can’t be condoned. But let us give credit where it is due. Also, can we name any other country except India, where the leaders who fought for independence from colonial masters didn’t become dictators.

    The United States itself is an example.

    I don’t give Nehru credit for our democracy. I’d say that dictatorship does not work on Indian soil — for long, at any rate. Indians might not have understood freedoms as post-Enlightenment Europe understood them, but they resisted oppression for centuries. There is belief and faith in some sort of code. The ruler always had to have the approval of the subjects.

  7. By the way I agree with you that Vir Sanghvi is a far more intelligent and sensible writer than Gupta.

  8. Pragmatic,

    Post-Independence India’s not ending up with a dictator—how much of this is due to Nehru and how much due to others? From a historical perspective (not least from my limited one), there is no simple answer to it. As to your question “can we name any other country except India, where the leaders who fought for independence from colonial masters didn’t become dictators”. Which other country had an independence struggle that paralleled India’s? Could the political establishment at that time allowed anything different? Indeed, I think minus Nehru, the likelihood of India having a coalition-type muddling government would perhaps have been the same as it lapsing into a dictatorship. As I wrote, we can write several books on this issue. And it’s possible for reasonable people to disagree on Nehru’s place in history.

    It is entirely a different matter to use it to accept wrong-headed and muddled priorities. Such priorities inevitably have human costs—a single percentage point in annual economic growth has immense human consequences in a country of hundreds of millions of people. The choice Mr Sanghvi and Mr Gupta present—even in oversimplified terms—is false. It is not so much about dictatorship vs democracy. It was about clear-headed, purposeful policies vs wrong-headed, muddled ones. Democracy shouldn’t be used as an excuse to condone bad leadership.

  9. I think it can be safely concluded Sanghvi is in the payroll of the the shore up Rahul Gandhi campaign. You can see a subtle pattern here. Last week was on age. This week was on genes. Any guesses what comes next ?

  10. Democracy shouldn’t be used as an excuse to condone bad leadership.
    I agree. But the actual question as Shekhar Gupta put it was — “Is an imperfect democratic leader better than a military dictator?” Any day.

    The message that I drew from Vir’s article is that it is fashionable to criticise Nehru for everything that is wrong with the country. What about crediting him for things that are right? And contrasting India with Pakistan over their journeys of last 60 years — as both the nations started at the same point — strengthens his argument.

    And none of us is saying that Nehru was perfect. Yes, there are actually tomes devoted to studying his legacy. To dismiss him outrightly is as bad as eulogising him unabashedly like the Indian establishment does. Compared to Pakistan in the political and democratic front, he made better choices. In economic sphere, he did much worse than Japan or Korea.

    India could have done with a much better leader. Yes, as we could have done after 1962 or at various other points after that. The whole trajectory of Indian democracy belies the argument about Indian democracy flowing from the people. In 1947, an average Indian was as democratic as an average Pakistani. Gandhi and Patel had gone by 1950 and Nehru was the tallest and the most popular leader in India then. There were a lot of choices that he made then — we as a nation are either reaping the benefits or paying the price of those decisions.

    Nitin, I absolutely endorse your standpoint on clear-headed and purposeful policies by the government. But at the cost of repetition of my earlier stance, I’d rather have a democrat make them “imperfectly” rather than a dictator do it “perfectly”!

  11. Agree with yossarin. I think, people are reading too much into V sanghvi. He is just being the usual sycophant that he is (Always was). All he want to say is that Nehru is the best thing that has happend to the post independent India, and we the people should continue sucking upto the nehru gandhi clan (Even though they will continue screwing the general public) and vote for Rahul gandhi (Even after showing repeatedly that he has the political maturity that of a kitchen knife) in the coming elections.

  12. I’d rather have a democrat make them “imperfectly” rather than a dictator do it “perfectly”!

    Oh me too. You won’t find most Indians disagreeing with this view. That’s why I say this conclusion is ordinary and irrelevant to the current context. It’s all very nice that we chose correctly and all that…but we should resist attempts to lower the expectations we have from our leaders. (btw, I don’t agree that India and Pakistan were at the same starting point in 1947. But that’s another topic.)

  13. I see in some of the recent posts, a tendency to evaluate MSM articles. I think this is an unnecessary indulgence.

  14. Nitin,
    Thanks for posting this article – i had no idea that Sanghvi was a socialist with special appreciation for Nehru.

    What a poorly written, argued article by Vir Sanghvi !! Its full of so many glaring holes that i dont know where to start with – may be he dozed off after watching the pakis arrange the meeting between Nixon and Mao in horror and has woken up after 3 decades.

    If this is what passes of as “analysis” in Indian MSM, i think it rightly needs to be criticized. It’s a painful reminder of how pathetically idealogical the Indian media is.

  15. Symptomatic of the rot that set in a long time ago in Indian media. TV has just accelerated the downward spiral that looks set to continue at least in the near term. Amit Varma once pointed out that our media is full of generalists. More accurately, they’re generalists with barely a brain.

  16. And how is this different from the triumphalist India Shining stuff? We have a long way to go as a nation and society, let’s look after ourselves. If there is to be but one restriction of free speech in India, it should be to ban anyone saying “superpower”.

  17. There could be deeper problem with the media actually. The rate at which electronic media has ramped or scaled up its operations over the last few years would leave the best of the organizations gasping for talent. The low quality stuff, in terms of brain-work, could just be a symptom of this underlying problem.

    Besides, we just dont differentiate between journalists and anchors/newreaders. I think one needs more intellectual capability for the former.

  18. I do not totally agree with your arguments. Yes, India under Nehru followed a socialist path, which would not have worked for long. But his ideas were on the lines of industrialization, which itself were not completely flawed. I believe it was during the time of Indira Gandhi, when India flirted with autocracy, and congress party romanced with high handed cronism accompanied with mass corruption, where India lost its way. As for the Asian tigers, Korea or Japan for that matter, Their subservience to USA was adequately compensated on the economic front, where as Pakistan, a country born out of opportunistic ambitions of a few people, were happy to receive military and financial aid, which was simply washed up in deep corruptive bureaucracy and military of the country. So, I do not see a reason why Vir Sanghvi is so wrong when he says Why it is so obvious that India is on its way to embrace a more central position in the world economy, and Pakistan is on the verge of collapse.

    I am not a congressman. I hold a deep grudge in the petty politics that Congress and its “allies”, or for that matter BJP indulges in. But in my opinion, Nehru does deserve a lot of credit, for he seems to be the man, along with Sardar Patel, to have given India democracy and free speech. His role in separating military from the civilian state, is a contribution which is invaluable, according to me. Even economic statistics say that India didn’t do well under Indira Gandhi, who, having received the green revolution as a coronation gift, soon put the country in a heavy slumber for the next 15 years.

  19. Agree fully with you – had noticed this piece of “arrant nonsense” from Vir Sanghvi – who loves to try and find different means to appease the Nehru Gandhi dynasty.

    The difference between american and russian client states is extremely well known – just compare West and East Germany, South and North Korea or for that matter Taiwan and China (under Mao).

  20. so, Nehru was not a dictator?

    when it came to paying 40 Crores to Pakistan after partition, he listened to Gandhi, and not his own constituency. all MPs objected paying money, and Nehru signed the bills.

    when it came to China, worst mistakes were made. when he was asked by many to upgrade army, he resisted. when he was told about silent preparations, he ignored. when we lost the war, he was indignant even to the point of defending his idiotic defense minister.

    when it came to economics, he did not listen to any economist. rather, he worked on his ideas, and with Birlas and Tatas. Crony industrialism.

    Being romantic and intelligent is fine. but, that alone do not make a good leader. Hu Jintao is not known to be much so, but his admin is after practical problems of China: economics, pollution, population explosion, etc.

    Nehru should have been replaced. he knew he was beyond his expiry date only when we lost China war. by then India was in trouble already.

  21. Nitin,
    I have a question for you.While fully agreeing on the inefficiency and the moral corrosion of state socialism and nehru’s fetishes,i have this question for you.Has there ever been an utopia.Will there ever be an utopia which satisfies everyone.Can one divorce the economy from the political and social context.The great creative bursts of energy in the West coincided with aggressive nationalism.A better deal was struck for the common man after many bitter struggles.Capitalism is not inherently moral,it is just more transparent.

    Perceival Spear points out that there has always been an urge towards indian unity without the power to achieve it.India has not expressed herself as a monolithic empire like China nor as compact nation states as in Europe.The reason is her cultural,ethnic and linguistic hetrogenity.As Hindus,we have multiple creation myths and traditions.In the Hindu scheme of things,the Vaishya occupied the third tier.Political institutions were under developed.In the Brahminical narrative,the thrust for land,power and wealth were ephemeral from a perspective whose reckoning of time was different.The varna-jati system placed emphasis on stability and continuity.

    India was rudely awakened by British imperialism which brought with it ideals of post-enlightenment Europe,geographical discoveries,science,sanitation,comforts,communication,accurate maps,industrial revolution and above all superior organisation.The Congress liberals were no match to the British colonial power.It was Gandhiji who brought the masses into the picture.But the masses have incredible hetrogenity.These are the jats,jat sikhs,yadavs,obcs,thevars,gounders,naickers,vanniyars,vokkaligas,kurmis,dalits.The British policy of divide and rule was in full throttle.Ancient identities were reinforced and sharpened.Incentives were given to maintain rough edges and make inflated claims and even advance fantastic dangerous slogans.

    In such circumstances,nehru took control.I risk offending you.Only in the Konkan coast and Uttaranchal were Brahmana landowners the pioneers of the agrarian structure.They could shift to industry without offending others.In other parts of india,the relationship with land was much more nuanced based on ancient traditions and relationships which were buried under layers of labrynthine social contracts.Any shift would have had repurcussions on a social level with other castes like vokkaligas,thevars,mudaliars,jat sikhs,rajputs that underpin the Hindu Universe.

    Indian business groups were 300 years behind European capital in scale and organisation.The landed groups had no interest in industrialisation.The Brahmanas had an ancient literary tradition but little experience in modern technology and management.Under the circumstances,Nehru’s options were more or less cut out.Land reforms provided land to the tiller.It emphasised scientific and technical education for the savarnas at the apex of the pyramid.The landed castes(a hetrogenous lot ranging from gounders to jat sikhs) had access to poltical power and jobs at the state level.While planning ensured economic integration and development of the sub-continent.It is not easy to integrate the political aspirations of jats,rajputs and mudaliars.Before being too harsh on nehru,one must unserstand the predicaments and predilictions of a liberal pundit nationalist.

    I hold no brief for the likes of Vir Sanghvi.These lightweights are just mouthing some nonsense for a living.The world has changed remarkably now.

  22. xyz, whatever. But please for the love of pqr learn that you have to have a space after a comma, or after a period. That makes text easier to read. Otherwise it,something like this,it gets bunched up.Thiswayitgetshardertoread.

  23. Part of the problem arises out of our ideas about leadership. For most Indians, a leader is like (or attains a position similar to that of) a hero. He can do nothing wrong. This applies at all levels of organization. In a few months after getting the leadership, every smart person makes out how to play the hero card. The voice of the dissenters gets muzzled. The second rung leadership takes care of that. Slowly but surely, the leader gets isolated from the public opinion. The powerbrokers become strong and they begin to rule under the name of the leader. After that, the leader is condemned to follow the advice of mediocre advisers.

    Check the leadership of J L Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Vajpayee and many others. Ask yourself how an erstwhile communist ended up being Vajpayee’s adviser. You will find examples of developements mentioned in the first paragraph.

    I am doing a small experiment to prove that this is so on the blog rajeev2004.blogspot.com For years, I posted comments that were my opinions, presented in a decent language, and often as questions. The owner of the blog sometime decided that he will summarily delete my comments and he is doing so for last two years. Even otherwise, he is following a policy of silencing diseenting opionion. All the readers seem to agree with the censorship, some even revel in using foul language against dissenters.

    I sincerely believe that J L Nehru was a victim of the circumstances. He did many good things, perhaps merely because of his romanticism. He made big mistakes, possibly because he cut himself off from dissenting opinion and the society at large never supported the dissenters.

  24. Well im new to the debate, so may not be able to reply to points raised by all you guys [[you r all doing a great job , congrats]

    to start with , please do not think im a congress support . I hate abhor , detest , abominate loathe them , their policies regarding to Minority affairs, failure of current govt in terms of economy etc .. with regards to Nehru , my blood boils with the mention of how blundered in China , of how soft he was towards Pakistan , & the manner in which he sidelined Sarda Patel for satisfaction of his ego. BUt then at times,even the devil must be given his due .

    So lets start frm 1974 itself. Nehru along with the congress could not hold the country together resulting in mass killings . The new country was suffered to many wounds which havent healed yet . On terms of economy , we were worse than many african nations [ some regions still are ..]. infact pakistan [both east & west ] received the more fertile areas of Punjab & bengal. So then how did INdia ended up being wher it is , so different of the british commonwealth . thats where we need to credit nehru for “certain decisions” he took in those days . Nehru could never bring about an economic revolution in his days , but what can you expect of him with the circumstance he had?? But he did take steps which in retrospect turned out to be the foundations of our strong economy today . Like Vir said rather than flirting with American capitalists & encouraging crony capitalism , the focus was developing public sector institutions which though not efficient ensured fair distribution of wealth [atleast relatively] . Private enterprise was limited but atleast wasnt banned like in the Ussr; operation in a strict environment prepared them to perform efficiently which gave them a edge once reforms were introduced in 91 . BUt the most important contribution hasnt been talked about much over here . It was nehru who laid thr thrust for promoting education as thhe most important asset in nation building . The first IIt was establised in 1951 & many other institutions & universities [includin IIs IIms] of all tiers were established subsequently. Morover it was made accessible to the poor & middle class unlike the american ivy leagues which are an elite preserve . Today when the world sees India as a emergin power on virtue of its Manufacturing, Knowledge , IT & many other things it is evident that its all because of nehrus contribution towards education..
    so much for now, ill post later IF some1 bothers to respond

  25. a correction :–

    “so lets start from 1974 itslef……………….”

    it should have been ” so lets start from 1947 itself ”

    sorry for the typo

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