I am an avid reader of history. I love history. One of the most important reason is that it helps me to understand the common links between past, present and to some extent future as well. Many historians will debate on this, but as I am not an academic or historian, so I will keep this restricted to a general overview of the similarities between different periods of time.
India and America, the former being the world’s largest democracy and the latter being the world’s oldest democracy. Both these countries have shared many other similarities, besides the form of government. Both had freed themselves from the clutches of British imperialism, however at different times in history. America is known as a country of immigrants (atleast until Trump and its followers denied it under the false notion of being a White Man’s land) and ‘Melting Pot’, while India specializes in its ‘Unity in Diversity’ and also known as ‘Bowl of Salad’ on a similar note. America has the statue of liberty, while India just erected the statue of unity, the world’s highest statue. America started hollywood, while India started its own bollywood. Indians have digested American burgers, pizzas and coke, while Americans have imbibed the Indian Yoga, meditation and spirituality. Thats why, many historians have linked both these countries as being natural allies.
Going further, its interesting to study some similar events in both these countries. Infact. I would say India has always looked upon USA as a country to be worth followed. Most Indians have a positive image of USA. This might be because of its immense wealth, opportunities, technology or even for achieving the ‘American Dream’. But unlike England or Australia, which carry the guilt of British colonialism, United States does not have any such baggage when it comes to relations with India. Infact, Pandit Nehru had envisioned India to be a beacon of democracy, unity and diversity just like USA. Even though he and his Nehru-Gandhi family channeled India towards Soviet socialistic model until 1990’s, but the USA before 1947 was always admired by the Indian intellectuals and political elite. That’s why, we see many of India’s top physicist, nuclear scientists, politicians studied in USA before coming back to serve India.
It was only after the WW2 from 1947 until the end of cold war, that USA earned its notoriety for being a bully, and masquerading human rights with its hidden banner of neo-colonialism. After the fall of colonial powers, England and France in 1945, India and the rest of the world saw how USA continued the colonial legacy by imposing its own set of rules to impose democracy or dictatorship as needed, unfair trade practices and waged violent coups, and wars. Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan and many more have seen the dark side of American superpower. And this policy continues to date with some exceptions and change of policies.
But amidst all this, there was a time when USA also had its own set of problems. If Americans reading this article would recollect the swinging 1960’s and 70’s decades, they would agree with me. Except with the only pleasant surprise of 1969 Moon landing, everything else shocked the nation. Starting with the JFK assassination in 1963, followed by assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy in 1968, Vietnam war and the hippie movement, student protests against war in Vietnam, and thereby closure of many university campuses, Nixon’s shocking comeback in 1969, which further lead to its own set of events such as Watergate scandal and impeachment of Nixon in 1974, Energy crisis due to Israel-Ara war which triggered an oil embargo from the Arab nations in 1973, government corruption, hyperinflation, defeat of USA in Vietnam war by 1975, weak Ford and Carter presidency which caused economic recession and events like Iran hostage crisis in 1979 till 1981. The killing of John Lennon, the champion of hippie movement and Beatles founder, in Dec 1980 can be marked as an end of this swinging decades after which Reagan entered this arena as the President of USA in 1981.
The era from 1981 onwards which officially lasted till 1988 until his term end, but the effect of which lasted for several years to come. It became known as the ‘Reagan era’ or in economic sphere, as ‘Reaganomics’. Ronald Reagan who was the popular republican governor of California won the Presidency with the message to make America great. But unlike Trump’s false promise, he did take actions to restore the lost pride of America. His presidency ushered in wave of economic reforms such as financialization of America, deindustrialization of rust belt, tax cuts, heavy military spending, anti-gay/LGBTQ rights, the ‘Christian-i-zation’ of America by expanding conservative church influence, aggressive foreign policy against Soviet Union, stars wars and the onset of Sci-Fi era, and laid the foundation of winning the cold war by defeating Soviet Union at its own game in Afghanistan and military technology.
As Barack Obama interpreted how Reagan changed the nation’s trajectory:
I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think that people . . . he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.Barack Obama
His presidency led to a conservative America, which was white people dominant. Infact, Reagan’s presidency and victory in cold war can be compared to FDR’s presidency and victory in WW2. Just that the latter was republican while the former was democrat. But just as FDR pulled USA out of the clutches of the Great Depression, similarly Reagan did that during the 1980’s. Reagan electrified America with a renewed energy and enthusiasm, and that’s why we see the movies, TV shows, commercials, music during that era all bustling with a pride of being an American. The Wall street went all high due to the financialization of American business. MBA’s became the most sought out degree, and business/management became the trend over manufacturing which led to the collapse of rust belt. Also, silicon valley started becoming famous with its innovative startups like Apple, Microsoft, HP, Zerox Palo Alto and Oracle dominating the Bay area. Hollywood rode itself on this American ride by making movies which were more patriotic, historic or Sci-Fi such as Indiana Jones, Terminator, ET, Stars Wars, Top Gun, Delta Force, Back to the Future, Full Metal Jacket, Raging Bull, Rambo, Aliens and many more.
Reagan presidency achieved the goal of rebuilding America to beat the Soviets who had challenged them in technology, space race, economy, military and foreign affairs. Thus, Reagan restored the pride of Americans back on the world stage. Here’s the famous Reagan-Bush campaign ad in 1984 which depicts the new change he had brought in America.
But on the flip side, it was this Reagan era which led to the fall of American manufacturing subsequently. It started during 1980’s and continued during the 1990’s and 2000’s until the Great Recession, when later it was realized by the industry. Traditional manufacturing companies like GE went into GE Capital, and this financialization of America turned out to be one of the factors for 2008 sub-prime crisis. The Reagan era policies also led to the rise of China in the manufacturing sector, which led to the emergence of China as an economic power. Also, the Reagan era led to the support of Taliban in Afghanistan as well as providing enormous economic aid to Pakistan, which led to ousting of Soviets from Afghanistan. But this turned out to be just a pyrrhic victory as the same Talibans and Pakistani ISI which were heavily funded with American tax payers money, and weapons from military-industrial complex led to the 9/11 and two Iraq wars. War for oil became the hidden policy from Reagan era onwards which was later vehemently persued by Bush senior in the Iraq vs Kuwait war (1991) and Bush junior in the war against terror, again in Iraq and Afghanistan (2002 to 2007)
Modi’s India to be covered in part 2. Until then, stay tuned..
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