I recently read this interesting book, whose title itself gives the reader an overview that this book is based on the mafia or as we call ‘The Underworld’ of Mumbai. This book is written by an Indian investigative journalist S.Hussain Zaidi. Previously, I had seen the Netflix series ‘The Bard of Blood’ and the recently released movie ‘The class of 83’, which is based on his book about some of the encounter specialists in Mumbai police force who eventually end up killing some of the most notorious gangsters in the Underworld.Though Bard of Blood (which is spy thriller showing the espionage war between RA&W and ISI agent in Balochistan) is written by Bilal Siddiqui, but he has been mentored by Mr.Zaidi himself.
So, after seeing class of 83, I became curious to read about this mafia story of Mumbai. And while I had visited a book store, I suddenly pounced upon this book written by Mr.Zaidi, and immediately purchased it. I initially wanted to finish this book in one sitting, but due to my job responsibility and some other emergencies, I couldnt finish it for sometime. Finally, I completed reading this book and it has been a wonderful read. The book thoroughly covers the life of the most notorious gangster/terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, his D-company, and how they changed the face of Mumbai at the height of gang wars and terrorist acts. No doubt, still today, Dawood is the most wanted and most loathed person in India. And in a remarkable contrast, the Pakistani ISI and even their government likes and supports him. Indians hate Dawood not only because he killed innocent people in the 1993 Bombay blasts, but also committed the most heinous of the crimes by fleeing to Karachi via Dubai, and becoming a vassal of our arch enemy, Pakistan. That’s why, Dawood’s betrayal of his own motherland, and being close to Pakistan is something Indians will never forget ever for generations to come….
The story of Dawood’s journey from a street ruffian born in one of the lower middle class neighbourhoods of Dongri to becoming the world’s most famous and richest gangster aka mastermind in Dubai ( later Karachi) is almost like a rags to riches story. The author very eloquently has penned down this incredible journey of this man, and his gang. But at the same time, the book also highlights the role played by various famous gangs, or dons in Mumbai from 1960’s till 1990’s. The book is a must read for those who want to know about the Mumbai mafia, and how it all began and ended as well. Many stories and incidents from gang wars, shootouts, kidnappings, murders, terrorist attacks and encounters are covered in this book, which gives the reader a bird’s eye view of the underworld. The book however focuses on the main villain, Dawood and his company, and has covered all the important facets of his life in Mumbai until 1986 when he left this city of dreams for the last time.
I like reading about investigative stories and books, and so I enjoyed reading this book. As I complete reading the book, I often like to pen down my own observations and comparisons with history and the world. That period in Bombay, which later became Mumbai was indeed a dark one. Many conditions existed in those days which led to a huge influx of young boys to become street ruffian and get involved in bad company. After all, poverty was rampant, job opportunities were scarce and favored the elites only, education was costly, and due to which, it was almost impossible for a person without education or being a school dropout to secure a respectable job and gain some respect from society. Coupled with all this, was the consistent uncertainity and large family to support due to high birth rates. Moreever, the then permit Raj/licensing policies was a perfect system for corruption to breed. The common people saw how few politicians, government babus(employees), merchants and businessman formed a close nexus and completely ruled the country without any scope for the common man to get out of poverty. And that’s why, in 1982, there was a great Bombay Mill strike which badly went wrong with millions losing job or thrown at the brink of poverty. That incident led to more influx of young, high school dropouts or sometimes even college educated youths who couldn’t find a job to take the paths of crime and join gangs like D company. All this led to the birth of Mumbai mafia in 1970’s and 80’s which terrorized Mumbai for the next 2 decades or so.
This can even be compared to the America’s crime and mafia terror in 1930’s and which lasted until late 1970’s, mainly because of Great Depression and influx of Sicilian and Jewish people from Europe, which formed their own mafia groups. New York city and Mumbai has often been compared on a similar note for being cosmopolitan cities. Both are financial hubs, and crown as the most populous city in the USA and India respectively. The former has the Statue of Liberty which welcomes everyone to the American Dream, while the latter has the Gateway of India which also welcomes everyone to this City of Dreams. The resemblance is striking!
But unfortunately, for both the cities, it even became darker when both the cities became the capitals of Mafia. If New York had its Five Families, then Mumbai had its own set of five crime families/gangs like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala and its Pathan Gang, Varadrajan Mudaliar, Dawood and his D company, and Chota Rajan, Arun Gawli and the so called ‘Aamchi Muley/Hindu dons’ as per Shivsena supremo. Later, just like NYPD, the Mumbai police force also took strict actions under its various chiefs like Julio Ribeiro, D S Soman and Ronald Hycinth Mendonca. The special task team inspired from SWAT team, was created with elite cops who later became known as encounter specialists. Julio Ribeiro is credited to have started tackling with the brutal mafia with the policy of ‘Bullet for Bullet’ and was continued by all the later police chiefs, and finally ended with police chief Mendonca, until then all the major gangsters were killed and eliminated. Those elite cops included some famous top cops like Vijay Salaskar ( who died in the 2008 terrorist attacks by Ajmal Kasab and his pakistani cowards), Daya Nayak, Pradeep Sharma, Isaque Bagwan, Prafull Bhosle, Ravindra Angre, Aftab Ahmed Khan and Sachin Vaze. Indeed, it is because of these brave heroes that Mumbai is a safe place again.
Finally, I find some sad moments in this book as well. One of the most intriguing character in this book is about the father of Dawood, who was the former police cop, Ibrahim Kaskar. I find it as the biggest irony that the son of a former cop became the most wanted criminal in India. The book shows how honest and upright cop Ibrahim Kaskar was, and with his impeccable honesty and integrity, he was not only respected in the police force, but also equally revered by other gangsters like Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. Ibrahim knew all the gangsters, yet never crossed the lines to join them. Rather, he remained loyal to his salt. But his son bite the hands that fed him. Dawood betrayed his father and his country. No real life example can rival this irony.
Also, I felt immensely angry when a team led by Ajit Doval was planning to arrest or kill Dawood, but the plan was botched by some officials of Mumbai police. They had acted by the instructions of some politician. So the fact that Dawood successfully escaped Mumbai after receiving tipoff from a politician and the plan to arrest or kill him was also interrupted by some political affiliations. This shows why India has been unable to arrest or assassinate him since 1986. Its a shame that India has such few politicians who have sold their soul for money. Else, our police force and intelligence is more than competent to catch and kill Dawood much much before the 1993 blasts itself. Due to some selfish politicians having lack of love for the motherland, India and its innocent people had to pay the price.
Thus, this book has been an interesting and knowledgeable read. I would like to refer this book as a must read to know what happened …Once Upon a Time in Mumbai……
I am a 90’s guy. Not only because I am born during 1990’s era, but also because that phase itself was so special, so different when it came to the movies, songs and culture in India. I am sure many readers who have lived that era would reminisce those times, when life was simple, predictable and beautiful. My parents generation were fortunate enough to have lived that era. This is because of some of the most incredible romantic movies being made during that time. It was as if the breeze of love flowed freely in the 90’s air…..
Usually, Bollywood movies have had predictable love stories, or even the girl or guy next door type love stories ( yes, even 90’s era had quite similar movies, but still they seemed different than all the previous ones) which had some famous actor and he will try to win the heart of his love by performing all sorts of stunts and daredevil acts. I am sure Hollywood have had its own time of such movies too. But before 90’s, people used to flock to see the movies just to see the hero, heroine or even the villain( like Gabbar Singh in Sholay). The 50’s movies had a trio of actors like Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar who dominated the bollywood industry with their exceptional acting skills. The late 60’s had the evergreen romantic movies which showcased that era with Rajesh Khanna as the first superstar. Soon, people got tired of those chocolate hero typed movies, and syncing with the world events, which included the swinging 60’s and 70’s filled with protests against the establishment, the bollywood also welcomed its first Angry-Young Man, the legendary Amitabh Bacchhan, who broke all the typical hero image of just chasing his love. He revolted against the system, fought against injustice, and resonated with then trend of acting to change the system. The bollywood became a serious place for movies, and soon it was followed by a trend of parallel cinema during late 70’s and 80’s which highlighted the reality of the world behind the 35 mm film.
The 80’s were tough times indeed. As I have always written about how the world got changed during the 1980’s decade, when suddenly the forces of capitalism, free market, democracy and liberalism found themselves on the winning side, when not long before, they had thrown down the baton in front of socialism and communism. And by the end of 80’s, it seemed that the world had suddenly become a new place. The old rules were broken down along with the Berlin Wall, nations collapsed and formed overnight, the markets which had been closed for decades opened suddenly, and new rules were laid out.
Just like the world, India saw its own set of vicissitudes. The 1980’s were some of the toughest times, and unfortunately for India, the 1990’s were even worser when it came to national politics, economics and unity of India. As I have written a article on this journey of India, I wont go deeper much. But the fact that India suffered from a series of weak governments during 90’s, and its economy which had been a terrible permit Raj system had suddenly been opened and it later turned out to be the best decision taken during that decade. But this good aspect was soon over-shadowed by 1992 Babri masjid massacre, subsequent riots and Bombay blasts in 1993, ethnic genocide of Kashmiri Pandits and heinous terrorist acts in Kashmir valley by Pakistan and its ISI. That decade ended with the Kargil war in 1999, which India won gloriously and thus began the emergence of a new India in the 21st century.
But amidst all this chaos, the bollywood affair became intense. That era saw a sudden influx of romantic theme based movies and melodious songs. And people not only praised them, but also accepted them as a part of their lives. This might be because after all, people were tired of dirty politics and communal hatred outside, and so they cherished the love and happy ending stories with the intention of having such a good life someday. They preferred to make love, and not war by flocking into the theatres and music concerts, instead of participating in any protests or revolution, which the earlier generation did.
Finally, the day of Jan 20th arrived, which marked a new beginning in American history. Not because of Joe Biden (the oldest President) or Kamala Harris ( the first female vice-president), but because that day was the last day of Donald Trump in acting President. I am sure many Americans must have felt relieved and even happy ( not those 48 million who voted for him) with his departure. His chaotic presidency certainly led to wide scale polarization in the States. Whatever he did was right or wrong, good or bad for America is something historians and political pundits will keep analyzing for the rest of their lives. Hence, I won’t delve into that further, as this is a part of history now, and certainly, those 4 years almost felt like a decade for many of us. Hence, it is better to stay away from choppy waters!
Well, having said that, then what is this post about? I am writing this post to try to understand what made Trump the person he is today. I have always been curious to know about his life, and the experiences he has had which must have moulded him to become what he resembles under his brand ‘Trump’. This is not about how he became president, or why did Americans accept him as their President. Neither would I like to delve into the causes of his winning and losing. Rather, I am writing this post to shed some more light on the ‘Trumpian’ mindset.
The Dictionary.com definesTrumpianas an adjective form for President Donald Trump. The term is especially used by critics to characterize his language, conduct, and policies. To understand the psychology of Trump, I read his biography book, watched Netflix TV show Trump: An American Dream, watched a few documentaries about Trump and read/watched several articles/youtube videos about him. Ofcourse, to clarify, I am not trained as a researcher or even a psychologist to make a statement about his personality. But out of sheer curiosity and with an intention to know this dark side of human personality, I tried to read and know as much as possible about him.
And, based on this, I did get to some facts or events which must have played a definitive role in Trump’s life which shaped him the way the world saw him especially for the last 4 years. Starting from his childhood, Trump was born with a silver spoon. His father was a real estate developer in New York city, and was a millionaire. His father was not only a very smart real estate businessman, but also very ruthless and cunning when it came to profits and competition. He tried to instill this attitude in his sons. Trump had an elder brother, who eventually committed suicide later in life. So, this background of having a strict father, being raised up in New York city and seeing elder brother commit suicide are the key elements which influenced Trump’s later life.
Because, Trump grew up in an environment where competition was considered the only form of survival. It’s almost like the hardest form of survival of the fittest. And this was natural because, living in New York city during the 1960’s and 70’s was not a cakewalk. Those days were some of the tough days when everyone flocked into new york for a better life, and hence, the competition for survival and to grow rich in life was harsh. In such a scenario, the Trump’s were millionaires, and so naturally, they had a natural instinct to protect their wealth, and hence, do whatever that is possible to not only stay in the competition but also come out as the best. Another important aspect of New York city life is the diversity that city imbibes, just like Mumbai. People belonging to different ethnicities and religions lived and worked in the same city. It was not uncommon to see Jews dominating the banking, particularly Wall Street and even to large extent the real estate business in the city. While Italians owned the mafia ( though this does not mean all Italians were a part of it). Irish Americans filled a large chunk of the working class population, while the elite WASP’s( White Anglo Saxon Protestants) formed the cream of banking, education, law firms and business conglomerates. And the rest of the others like Afro-Americans, Spanish-Americans, or even Indians and Chinese were mostly considered as aliens living out of the city.
Now, one of the most important things is that Trump’s belonged to neither of them. Because they had a German ancestry ( original name as Drumpf), and hence the mood at that time was anti-German due to WW2 and Nazi concentration camps which had happened, So, they had not only anglicized their name to Trump, but also lied to everyone that they had a Swedish ancestry, just to avoid the hatred from fellow jews. But the fact that they were kind of a minority in the city dominated by other groups, made them conscious of their survival. And hence, Donald Trump became aware of this and hence, did everything to maintain their richness, which was rather rare in the city. The real estate business consisted of several jewish businesses, and due to their competitive nature, it was rather inevitable for him to even scale further on becoming more competitive in order to survive. Ofcourse, this does not imply that the environment made him competitive. It did play a minor role, but the fact that Trump always feared losing whatever he had, and hence, this fear and insecurity made him become aggressive.
Also, he never got accepted by the city elites, because of many reasons. Firstly, the Trump’s did not belong to any dominant groups like the Jews or WASP’s. Second, Donald Trump was not very educated or sophisticated either. His father was not much educated, but had worked hard to become a millionaire which was respected by the then 1940’s society. But Donald Trump grew up in a millionaire family. At that time in the 1950’s and 60’s, the students were expected to study and go to Ivy league schools. But Donald was not a very bright student, and due to his rebellious attitude, his father sent him to a military prep school to instill in him some sense of discipline. He did graduate and only learnt too well to be disciplined. He later transferred to Univ of Penn, but never got mingled or accepted into the student life. He was more like a loner, and hence never had any good friends. He envied those who went to Ivy league and hence, this later made him despise the eliteness of Ivy leaguers or even higher education. And that’s why we see, his supporters are rarely highly educated people, but those who are just high school pass outs or even borderline illiterates. Because Trump has never been comfortable around those who are more educated or smarter than him. That’s why he despised scientists like Anthony Fauci, who were trying to give him advice on how to tackle the covid pandemic. But his hatred for educated men and women, steamed out because Trump knew he was not smart and could never get accepted into the highly educated circles. But at the same time, he understood, the only way he can beat others is by becoming more rich and famous. And hence, he shifted his attention to family construction business, which was like a cash cow for the family.
Donald Trump’s decision to enter the family business was not just motivated by his desire to beat his peers who were already studying in the Ivy league, or by the New York city environment. But it was also motivated by his father’s wish to launch him into the business, after seeing the elder Trump ( Donald Trump’s elder brother) fail miserably at the family business. His brother did not like business, and hence, the onus to carry on the family business came on Donald. But the crux of this story was not only Donald Trump wanted to become rich and successful in business, but also wanted to get into his father’s good books. Why? Because Donald Trump had seen how his brother had failed to live upto to his father’s expectations, and hence, had been insulted and eventually compelled to move out of Trump’s house. He later became a drunkard, out of regret and depression, and finally committed suicide. This event must have shackled Donald. Because he then not only had the responsibility to keep the business intact in that cut throat New York city competition, but also had to prove his worth to make his father proud. He feared that if he did not succeed, then he would also eventually die being a drunkard like his brother. That’s why Donald Trump became a teetotaler, and also became more aggressive, ruthless, greedy, cunning and selfish.
For him, the only way to survive and grow is to beat the competitors. And that’s why his mantra became ‘the end justifies the means’. He would use all sorts of methods, good and bad, nice and dirty, all ways to climb up the ladder. He made the notorious lawyer, Roy Cohn who used to work for the five Mafia families in New York as his personal lawyer. He corrupted the mayors of New York, filed cases against them if they did not follow his orders, requested for tax breaks etc to grow his business. But the most important and daring act Trump performed is to enter Manhattan. Why? Because his father had constructed projects in other boroughs of New York city, but never dared to enter the elite Manhattan. He had become a millionaire inspite of not having any construction projects in Manhattan, and he was happy and satisfied with it. But for Donald Trump, who always wanted to prove to his father, and also beat his peers, he dreamed big. He wanted to enter Manhattan and build the Trump tower. Because entering Manhattan will enable him to become a billionaire, which his father had not achieved in life. It would also make him get the respect from the Jews or WASP’s which he desperately craved for. It was a risky gamble, but it worked out at the end. Had he failed, it would have been the end of the Trump empire. But Trump got lucky and he excelled.
He not only successfully constructed his hotel in Manhattan, but also later built his iconic Trump Tower. And then he never looked back. But even though he became a billionaire, he still never got the respect and admiration from his other business colleagues or peers. For them, he was the guy who got a headstart from his father to get launched into the business. Also he had corrupted the new york officials and hence, become rich by unfair means. Ofcourse, Trump was not alone. At that time, most of the new york businesses were known for their selfishness and greedy nature. But Trump went much further.
He not only entered the Casino market, but went on a spree of buying golf courses, hotels, yachts, airlines, and even writing books. And then eventually it backfired. He lost a big chunk of it, & became bankrupt. At that crucial time, no one supported him but only his father. Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy not one, not two but whopping four times. And his father poured in his millions to bail him out. Well, what lesson did he learn? Trump learnt it quite a bad way that he was not good at running family owned construction business. Yes, this may shock us because the world knows he has been a billionaire for a long time. But in reality, as many have speculated over his real net worth ( which sparked the controversy due to his denial to make the tax-returns public), the fact is that Trump after the fiasco of becoming bankrupt four times, he switched over to reality business. Yes, and that’s where he earned his millions. It is his entertainment shows like ‘The Apprentice’, speeches, talk shows, books, beauty pageants which garnered him the attention and fame, which led to the rise of brand ‘Trump’. That’s why we see for the last few years, even though his company still manages construction projects, but they only lend their brand name and earn royalty. And going further, it is interesting that Trump even used his presidency to earn money, He did by selling stuff like flags, coffee mugs, shirts, banners etc all with Trump name, thus earning the royalty paid by his foolish loyal supporters. He even made the US government pay the Americans taxpayers money for his stay in Mar-A-Lago, owned by none other than Trump himself!
Anyways, the point is that Trump realized early in life that he is not smart or intelligent, and later in life, that he is not good at his family business as well. So, then what was he good at? And the answer is attention seeking. Yes, he used his display of flamboyant wealth, his personality, his charisma to get the attention he needed, desperately, so that he could earn his millions. Else, there was no way he could have maintained his wealth. That’s why, he talked rubbish, hated the media which ridiculed him, acted like a buffoon, criticized women who disliked him, and made his marriages and family affairs like a prime TV show. He created a brand out of nothing but narcissism, bombasting attitude, pompous, chaos and flamboyant lifestyle. With his books, like ‘The Art of the Deal’ and ‘The Art of Comeback’, he tried to portray being one of the most successful businessmen ever born on the planet. And unfortunately, Americans who could not become rich like him became his loyal followers.
The worst part is that his supporters often came from humble backgrounds, especially from mid-western, northern rust belt and southern USA. And these regions are usually known as being part of the bible belt, with pro-guns attitude, farmers or working class, traditional or cultured, and staying away from California, New York and Florida, due to their belief of atheist or sinful people living in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall street and Palm beach, Miami. But the irony is that Trump, to whom these people supported to win the presidency, has always been a part of that sinful Hollywood, New York and Florida lifestyle. People like Trump as rightly said by,
“I’ve dealt with guys like Donald Trump my whole life, who would look down on us because we didn’t have a lot of money or your parents didn’t go to college. Guys who think they’re better than you. Guys who inherit everything they’ve ever gotten in their life and squander it.”
have always looked down upon these people. But just to prove to Barack Obama ( who had apparently mocked Donald to run for the president, after Trump had falsely accused Obama of being born outside the USA) that he can win, and thereby hit back the insult, he ran for president. Ofcourse, he had the added advantage that running for presidency will get him the attention and fame, and thereby dollars. That’s why he always told he will run for president since the late 1980’s, but never took it seriously, only until his BIG Ego got hurt in 2011 by Obama and other democrats, and that’s when he took it pretty seriously. Why people supported him is altogether a different ballgame, and it will probably take a book to elaborate on that. But the fact that he had marketed his brand and gained the support for all these years since early 1990’s business failure, came handy for Trump. And then what happened on Nov 8th, 2016 is history.
Finally, in this pursuit to understand the Trumpian psychology, the book by Mary Trump, his niece, is exceptionally helpful. Even though I haven’t read the book, but based on reviews and articles, Donald Trump is not only a narcissist but also suffers from anti-social and dependent personality disorder. This answers why Trump is so greedy for being the center of attention. His lack of trust in anyone is due to his antisocial personality disorder which resulted due to his isolation from New York business circles. Trump saw his brother die of suicide, and this made him fearful of his own death, if he fails. And this fear led to him becoming greedy and selfish. He became devoid of morals and principles. For him, nothing is good if it doesnt let him win. That’s why, he believed that the election was being stolen, because people like Trump cannot accept defeat. For them, accepting defeat is equivalent to committing suicide. And that’s why we see why Trump remained in denial of his defeat, and never conceded in person to Joe Biden.
People like Trump suffer from lack of empathy and love for others, and that’s why when thousands of Americans were dying due to Covid-19, or even were thrown out of the USA for being just immigrants, he did not care. Because his heart does not have any soft corner, and is just as hard as rock. His dependent personality disorder makes him dependent on his family only, and that’s why we saw why his closest advisors had been his beloved daughter, and son-in-law only. His reckless attitude, his utter lack of concern for laws, and value system made him fire several people in his own cabinet. Even though he showed that he cared for his supporters, or even for the military, but in reality, all he cared for was his popularity. Because, he very well knew that he would get the unwavering support from these poor people who had never seen the likes of wealth and fame that he had achieved. In other words, he used them for making his brand stronger. But unfortunately, after 4 years, it seems that not only has the brand become weaker, but also it has been labeled as a symbol of racism, narcissism and ultra-right wing conservatism.
So, before concluding this post, my main purpose to write on this topic is to understand what conditions make people like Trump live on this planet. And by knowing this, the good side of humanity will make sure never ever such mentally sick, narcissist, and morally depraved people ever come to power in any part of the world again in future. Else, the world knows what happened in the USA after 2016.
Continuing ahead with this article from part 1, the current Modi government came to power in 2014. But many of the readers in India can recollect how the events before 2014 were at that time. When I recollect that time, I cannot neglect to compare it with the pre-Reagan times. Even though the local situation in both the countries is entirely different, but the underlying conditions were on a similar tone.
India just like USA before Reagan suffered its own set of debacles. If we trace back long before, it all started with 1984. The assassination of the prime minister of India, Mrs.Indira Gandhi sent a shockwave to the entire nation. Actually, it even changed the political scenario of the country. Because from 1947 till 1984, with few years of exception ( 1977-79) in between, India had been governed by the Congress party, under Pandit Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and then Indira Gandhi, single-handedly. Those years were the golden period of the Congress party. But after 1984, things changed overnight. Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi, reluctantly had to accept the position of prime minister. His term even though ushered in a new era of governance, but it also led to split of the party and nation in a deep way. Because it was during that era (1984-1989), that the conflicts of Punjab,Tamil and Sri lankans, Kashmir issue and polarization between Hindus and Muslims widened after Rajiv sided with conservative maulavis regarding Shah-Bano case. After 1989, India saw several governments, some of which were highly unstable and short-term. Unfortunately, Rajiv Gandhi’s unpopular term led him becoming a victim of terrorism in 1991.
The condition of India continued to worsen during 1990’s decade, both politically and economically. With the sole exception of Manmohan Singh and Narsimha Rao’s economic liberlization policies in 1991, nothing much good happened during 1990’s. Even though India tested its nuclear weapons in 1998, but it was soon followed by sanctions from USA, and also within 15 days, Pakistan also tested in response to India’s nuclear test. The Kashmir situation went out of hand, and in 1990, the Kashmiri Pandits had to flee the valley after the fatwah was released by the local conservatives accusing them of being kafirs. On the foreign policy front, India suffered a lot because of the fall of Soviet Union. The USSR had been India’s friend and supporter in international arena, and this sudden loss of support made India foreign policy adrifted. Further, the Kargil war in 1999 brought India and Pakistan almost near to the nuclear attack. India won the war bravely, but later had to suffer from Pakistan sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of the India for the next 2000’s decade.
Even in the domestic side, the situation had worsened. Already the economy had staggered during 1980’s and even though the economic liberalization policy launched the Indian IT industry on a global stage, but other industries suffered. The politics reached the highest forms of decadence, with communal politics actively promoted in many parts of the country. Dictators came to power in states like Maharashtra, while Bihar became known for Jungle-Raaj due to the notorious Lalu Prasad Yadav’s rule. The Babri masjid incident led to riots and Bombay blasts in 1993. Later, this led to Godhra riots and Akshardham terrorist attack in 2002. Even our sacred parliament was not spared from terrorism by Pakistan and its ISI.
Later, even though the government became stable after 1999 for the next 14 years ( 1999, 2004 and 2009), but India still had to face terrorist attacks in places like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore etc. The train attacks in 2006, and 26/11 in 2008 rocked the city of dreams (Mumbai) to its core. Later, the news of corruption flashed everyday in the media, be it 2G scam, or Commonwealth Games corruption, Indian politicians were breaking their own record of committing higher level of corruption. All this made the public angry and just like the anti-Vietnam war, or anti-bomb movement in USA, India started its movement against corruption led by Team Anna . Even the horrific incidence of Nirbhaya rape in 2012 disreputed Delhi as being the rape capital of India. Those times were indeed full of uncertainity. Inspite of all the difficulties, India continued to move ahead. That India did not break up in parts like Pakistan in 1971 or Soviet Union in 1991. India had become weak but remained united.
And so, people yearned for a change, for a strong man to arrive on the stage. As said by Barack Obama regarding Reagan .”..because the country was ready for it…….”. Same happened for India as well. That year was 2014, and after 30 years of long and arduous struggle, the strong man India awaited desperately arrived on the stage. Narendra Damodardas Modi.
Modi’s arrival as a leader of India in many ways resembles the way Reagan changed America. Since 2014, he has ushered in a way of reforms and movements,some of which include Digital India, Demonetization, GST, removal of Article 370, Article 35 and Triple Talaq, Banking reforms, CAA, Farm laws, Swachh Bharat, International Yoga Day, Make in India, Ayushman Bharat, Jan-Dhan-Yojana etc. And in the foreign policy arena, his performance has been spectacular. Because not only has India successfully guarded itself from any terrorist attacks in its major cities ( except Kashmir), but also has retaliated back with a swift response to Pakistan with not one, but two surgical strikes, in 2016 and 2019 respectively. His astute diplomacy has led to elevation in the stature of India amongst western countries. Because of which, USA, Japan, Taiwan, France has become close to India, and at the same time, India has bonded strong relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel, UAE as well.
More than his reforms or foreign policy, it is the positive atmosphere that he has created is what makes him so popular. When I was a kid, I used to hear from my parents and grandparents, about the freedom fighters who fought selflessly against the British for making India independent. The leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Bose spent their entire life for attaining freedom for the motherland. But then few years after independence, the politics got polluted with cynicism and selfishness. Especially in the last 30-40 years, we can hardly find any politician who is not crooked. But Narendra Modi is an exception. Though he is still an politician, and quite adept at playing all the political games. But when it comes to selfish gains, he is simply not a part of it. Most parties including the opposition parties agree on one thing that Modi has not worked for any personal, or family gains. He never showed greediness for power or money. His family lives very simply in the same old ancestral village. This quality of Modi makes him popular and respected. He has spent his entire life for the betterment of nation. His patriotism, his hard work and his down to earth nature made him won the highest power in the country, inspite of not coming from a well off family or even without an elite education.
Thats why, since 2014, a new wave of patriotism, opportunity and pride has been running in the country. Just like the 1980’s when Americans started gaining back the confidence to stand up to the Soviet threat, similarly India is rising up to beat Pakistan at its own game, and to keep China from becoming a dominant power in Asia. India has witnessed a spark of digital revolution, be it financial apps like BHIM, or make in India, or startup India revolution. Not long ago, we could name only a handful of startups in India. But today, many startups have become unicorns and places like Bangalore and Hyderabad are becoming known as India’s silicon valley and genome valley respectively. Indian movies have also come a long way from those old ‘maar-dhad, masala or romantic movies’, and the recent movies have become more nationalistic, social oriented and with a positive message to the viewers. Movies like Dangal, Uri, Haidar, Masaan, Neerja, Shahid, Madras Cafe, Queen, Raazi, Article 15, Pad Man, Udaan, Andhadhun, Udta Punjab and many more highlight the mature side of Indian cinema.
Also, it is worth noting that just as Reagan’s government was known to be a conservative government, with a christian dominance. Similarly, the current Modi government is also known for being right wing conservative with a Hindu pride. Even though it does not mean that they want to make India a Hindu nation, but the fact that Hinduism is being revived is beyond question. The sensitive topics which were ignored for the last 60-70 years such as cow slaughter ban, Ram Mandir, giving citizenships to migrant hindus from neighbouring countries, yoga, ayurveda, ancient Indian history and River Ganga rejuvenation are some of the top priorities of the Modi government. Even though the opposition, Pakistan or even some western countries accuse Modi of being anti-muslims, but this is not at all true. The fact that there has not been a single major riot in any part of the country shows the tolerant nature of both the religions. The only major thing that has happened in the last 7 years is that the leftist forces under the disguise of being secular ( which according to them means anti-hinduism) are being isolated. The left in India had its golden time during the Nehruvian socialism, and even had enjoyed considerable leverage over Indian politics even after the fall of Soviet Union, apparently due to China’s blessings. But since, last 7 years, they have lost the patronage and support of the people. However, few fringe elements of Lutyen’s media ( the self-proclaimed dynastic elite which owns major media networks in India, and has been historically close to Congress party, institutions like JNU and playing the minority card for decades) has still not accepted Modi, as for them he is not like them, who comes from elite background or some dynasty. But Modi and his team have steadfastly tried to form their own media network base using TV channels like Republic TV, and several youtube channels and talk shows. Even the big businesses like Ambani, Adani, Mahindra’s have sided with the government due its pro-business leader and policies. Also, the Bollywood which once upon a time used to be a breeding ground of nepotism, is now being seriously challenged by the newcomers, and even the public are tired of its eliteness, especially after SSR’s suicide. Educational institutions like JNU, Jadavpur university, AMU etc have been in news for either instigating protests against the government. It cannot be denied that there has been polarization in the university campuses, because for many decades since India became independent, these institutions have always carried a leftist or moderate stand. But due to the current government policies, there has been an emergence of right wing influence and the social media like twitter have become a new medium for right vs left fight.
But apart from all the ups and downs, it is quite proven that Modi government has been exceptionally stable, strong and aggressive when it comes to nationalistic policies, military, foreign policy, technology and social issues. And this is going to stay for a while. As said by one of the eminent Indian political scientist said during his talk, that from 1947 till 1989, was the golden period of Congress party with its flagship Nehruvian socialism with a secular pacifist touch. It resembled like the FDR period in America which started in 1933 and lasted until the early 1960’s. The middle period from 1989 to 2014 was a period of uncertainity. It witnessed the gradual decline of the congress party, but at the same time, the slow rise of the current ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP. And finally, since 2014, the golden period of BJP with its flagship right wing, pro-Hinduism, pro-military with a conservative capitalist touch. That’s why, I see so many similarities between Reagan’s USA and Modi’s India. Looking at the way Modi government is taking its giant leap forward, the financialization of the economy ( but through Indian way -Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and Make in India) has begun. Also, has begun the revival of Indian pride along with ancient value system which had been lost during the British Raj, and could not flourish under the Nehruvian ideology as well. Thus, the chapter of ‘Indian’ization of India has commenced.
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.
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..
The conversation highlighted the discussion on the issues which dominated in this year, 2020, and based on the current world scenario, the panel shared their insights about how the world will be shaped in 2021. Frank started the conversation with the impact of Covid-19, and how this pandemic has changed the world, especially considering the ever growing importance of digitization and automation. He also shared his concern about the rise in racial inequality seen in this year. But also the fact that President-elect Biden will soon be in the White House, this will certainly lead to the comeback of multilateralism.
Sundeep Waslekar, however, surprised the viewers by expressing that during 2020, there were three major impacts which dominated this year, and which will impact the coming years as well. In his list, the least severe is Covid-19! Yes, I heard right. The least disastrous is Covid-19 even though it has impacted millions of people and crumbled the economy into recession. According to Sundeep, the second most dangerous event which happened during 2020 was that 2020 was the hottest year in the history of the world. The readers can refer for more info: https://www.carbonbrief.org/state-of-the-climate-2020-on-course-to-be-warmest-year-on-record
So, this has led to an unprecedented rise in global warming. But the good thing is as Trump has lost the election, and President-elect Biden has affirmed to bring back the USA into the Paris Climate Agreement. And Sundeep also stressed the fact that Mr.Biden wants to align the economy to a more energy efficient, renewable source based, and sustainable model. Even Europe and China have decided to make their economies carbon free by 2050 and 2060 respectively. So, in a nutshell, thanks to the defeat of Trump, our Mother Earth is going to be saved from a catastrophic disaster.
According to Sundeep Waslekar, the third and most disastrous event which happened in 2020 is not Covid or global warming, but the race for development and testing of hypersonic missiles. So far, Russia, USA, China and India have successfully tested the hypersonic missiles in this year.
Hence, the race for hypersonic missiles which can carry nuclear payloads coupled with the ongoing cold war between USA-China, and USA-Russia ( which is the new cold war continued after the disintegration of Soviet Union) and rising tensions between India-China has created a perfect breeding ground for germinating this into a burning hot war. The panel raised their concerns about the growing escalation of weapons manufacturing, including nuclear warheads, which the new President would have to give due attention to calm down the rising tensions between countries.
The panel answered questions from the audience, and one of the most asked questions was regarding the role of China in 2021. As per Niranjan and Prof. Venkat, China has risen in Asia as an economic and technological power, and who wants to challenge the position of the USA as the world’s only remaining superpower. China has dug its feet too deep into the global supply chains, that it will be impossible for the world to isolate China. The panel illustrated a few examples such as the dominance of China in rare earth elements which are used in smartphones, wind turbines etc. https://qz.com/1924282/how-china-became-dominant-in-rare-earths/ In short, the world may like or hate China, but cannot avoid China.
The panel discussed the upcoming challenges President-elect Biden will have to face as soon as he enters the White House. It will be interesting to see how he leads America in this multi-polar world, where America has retreated from the world leadership during the Trump Presidency. As Sundeep rightly said, that “Donald Trump looked at the world as a place of risk, and not a place of opportunities” That America’s interests were at risk was the psychology behind Trump’s actions to ban immigrants, sell arms, retreat from world organizations etc. “Even though Biden has favored multilateralism, still it is not clear how his worldview is going to be. Is he going to look at the world, especially at China and Russia from cold war’s perspective, or would have a completely new view?” Hence, Sundeep assured the Indian audience who are particularly concerned that Biden will bring up the kashmir issue again, that Biden will certainly look at India from America’s strategic interest, and simply kashmir, H1-B immigration or any human rights issue would not drive his administration’s agenda.
Another topic which was talked about was regarding the RCEP – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which has been formed among the Asian nations including Australia and N.Z, but dominated by China. For India, this is another organization in the lines of One Belt One Road, CPEC, or AIIB. Prof.Venkat and Niranjan shared their views that even though India looks at China led organizations from the prism of threat to its economic and national concern, but considering the need to revive the economy, India should either think of joining or have a Plan B with US or Europe market collaboration.
Finally, the panel discussed the world economy which lies in doldrums. Even though the world economy will bounce back in 2021, but still it will reach only to the pre-covid level. But the important concern is how the economy will be shaped after this pandemic. Though it is clear that the emphasis on automation and digitization will be preferred, the basic problem lies with the way the economy was functioning. The working class struggled with the low wages, and which led to protests from many parts of the world to increase wages. While on the other side, the CEO’s and BOD’s earned huge profits due to increase in productivity, driven by automation and the internet. But they spent the major chunk of profits in share buyback or giving hefty bonuses to themselves. Hence, profits vs wages will be the main concern in front of many world leaders.
The conversation ended with Frank’s comment that there is hope to rebuild the world based on multilateralism, that nationalistic movements have started to retreat especially with the exit of Trump from the White House, and people can live together again in harmony. While Sundeep concluded his thoughts with a question for the viewers to wonder that the world could not predict about Covid in 2019. So, what will be the next thing/event that might happen in 2021, which will change the world? Let’s hope that whatever happens is positive!
Please do watch this conversation on YouTube as the ideas and worldview from eminent intellectuals and scholars are the perfect food for our thoughts!
Not long before, I had written a post https://abhiknotes.com/2020/09/26/trump-and-2020-elections/ about US elections 2020, and compared the Trump and Biden’s pros and cons to win this election. Though I had not endorsed anyone, but somehow, I felt that the chances of Trump to win this election were slightly more than Biden inspite of the pandemic, recession and systemic racism.
But I was wrong! After seeing the 4 years of Trump Presidency, after having lived in Trump’s America, and even having suffered the unjust immigration policies he had initiated, I had come to an understanding that time has changed, and dictators like Trump are being supported by America. I had misunderstood Trump’s aggressive and autocratic governing to a shift in global political movement, which is also being embraced by many countries like Russia, China, Brazil, India, Hungary, UK, Israel etc. I have elaborated all my assumptions in my blog post.
But as I said, it all turned out to be false. After Biden’s victory, and seeing how America had stood behind the just cause, the righteousness, I am more than happy to welcome a beginning of an era which had unfortunately come to halt in 2016. This event has reiterated the belief in me that truth always triumphs! That honesty, decency and taking everyone along yields a long lasting victory than crooked behavior, indecency and selfishness. I am re-learning the fact that unifying force is always stronger than forces which promote divide and rule tactics.
I had read a book about Trump, and in that book, the author had mentioned that Trump is a person who never backs down, that for him, victory is the end result, and whatever it takes to achieve it. He has no rules, or principles or morals. and that for a narcissistic, self gratifying buffoon like Trump, the end justifies the means. Unfortunately, seeing the new trend of dictatorship governments all over the world, I had come to accept this false and erroneous behavior exhibited by people like Trump. But again, as I say, I was naive, and now, thanks God, I have learnt a lot in the past 4 years.
As all the scriptures in the world say, we cannot escape our karma. That karma hits back, always. Trump might have won in 2016, but it turned out to be a pyrrhic victory. Because he was not fit at all to be the President or leader. The leader who deserves doesn’t divide and rule. He/she doesn’t attack the opponents. So, we can now comfortably say that the phase of 2016-2020 was an aberration in US and world politics. And I hope it remains so in coming years.
But I have also learnt from this political episode that I should not jump to conclusions or speculate any results. Anything can happen in politics, and politics is not everyone’s forte. Many political pundits failed to predict 2016 results, and so did many this time as well. So, I would hesitate to say that this victory for democrats would usher in a revolution for America, and that good days will be back. It wont happen instantly. Trump has gone, but Trumpism might stay. This is because almost 48% of the US voters have favored Trump. The roots of division and ruling which have germinated and sprout in the last 4 years , patriotism at the expense of globalization and liberalization, banning immigration, promoting systemic racism, ongoing threat of China to America isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
But the good thing that this election brought out is that no matter how charismatic, famous or rich the leader( like Trump) might be, if he/she has no morals, no principles, no concern for the people, if he/she does not work for the betterment of the society, if he/she does not take everyone together, which includes people from all races, color, caste and religion, then they won’t last long. It also brings out the importance of experience. That to do anything, experience is the best teacher, and no one can be qualified or become expert overnight. Trump had no experience of politics before 2016, and this has proven the fact that only deserving or qualified can do the job well.
But the most important thing is that Trump failed miserably in combating the pandemic which was the only work he had to do. He not only underplayed the pandemic, but also displayed arrogance and lack of responsibility for the millions of people who suffered and died in US and other parts of the world. Though he did not cause pandemic, but he became a self-inficted victim of pandemic, for which he stands as a culprit in not taking the right decisions for the welfare of the people. For which, he had to pay the price by losing the election. Hence, this pandemic has cost him an election!
One thing quite noting is that this phenomenon isn’t limited to America only, but can be extrapolated to other countries of the world as well. Today, we see many countries having elected leaders with dictatorial mindset or autocratic behavior. Trump’s defeat will be a good lesson for all those to remind them that they have to work for the people, else the same can get repeated in their countries as well. Thus, concluding this post, I wish to say that at the end, truth, decency and justice always triumphs!
How an once united nation has been divided into colored nation!
The US election 2020 is in full swing. In every presidential election, the so called “United” States of America gets divided into the “Red” and the “Blue” states to elect the President. Until 2016, even though the country voted based on its preference, yet the blue and red came always together to form the United States of America. But since the 2016 elections and even this 2020 elections, due to Trump’s division politics, this bifurcation of red and blue has become more apparent and permanent than ever.
So,what are the blue and red states? The Wikipedia article shows the general trend of 50 states going red or blue.
Red states support republican party, while blue states support democratic party. There are some states which are dark red, while some states are dark blue. They are the staunch supporters of Republican and Democratic party respectively. While, there are few states which are either light red, light blue or even purple. They are known to be borderline republican or democrats, or famously known as swing states. Because they can swing the elections.
So, what happens in most of the presidential elections is that only few states decide which president will get elected. Because, the permanent red and blue states have historically remained as they are. So, their electoral votes are considered to be guaranteed. But the swing states are uncertain, and hence, the presidential candidates have to tour those states, conduct rallys, and try to win those states in their favor. So, actually, the US presidential election result is not decided by the majority votes, but only the votes of swing states!
Why is this so? Well, the red and blue states have been loyal to their respective parties or ideologies fairly consistently since many decades. This is because of the type of population which resides in these areas. The blue states, also known as democratic states have the voter base of urban, educated, diverse populations. They are pro-immigrant, support minority rights, women rights/feminism/LGBTQ community, abortion, environmental issues like global warming. are anti-coal lobby, anti-gun lobby or NRA etc. All this is welcomed by people living in cities and those who are well educated, those who work in tech or finance companies etc. That’s why we see states having big cities such as New York, California( Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego), Seattle, New England region such as Massachusetts, Illinois( Chicago), Colorado( Denver) have been traditionally democrats. And that will not change in the near future, unless the democratic policies undergo any change.
Same goes for republicans. Their voter base are rural, sub-urban or small towners, who practice farming, or own a small business. They are not very educated, mostly white, against immigrants or special minority rights, consider climate change as hoax, believe in owning a gun or rifle as a fundamental right, against abortion, regular church goers, despise feminism, and LQBTQ rights. They form a big section of America when it comes to land size. That’s why we see the red states form a part of mid-western america (which is also known as corn belt), southern america( also known as bible belt), and mountainous regions of Appalachia ( Tennessee, Kentucky, N.C), Rocky mountains( Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana) and Texas which are known for their ruggedness. poverty and conservative mindset. They all have remained loyal republicans.
Now, the swing states are those states which have undergone recent changes based on demography, and political preferences. The main swing states consist of Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia. Out of these, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia are in the south, Arizona in the south-west and rest are in the north-central.
Florida, North Carolina and Georgia ( even though a part of the south bible belt) have seen a lot of immigration from wealthy northerners, especially in Florida, and hence, we see big cities like Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham-Morrisville( RTP) etc having substantial immigrants in these states. I had stayed in RTP and Atlanta for the last 5 years, and have seen how immigrants and liberal politics have began dominating the urban areas. That’s why they have become separated into urban and rural division, and which has made them swing states. Even Arizona( Tucson, Phoenix) has a lot of Mexican migrants and the Wall politics started by Trump has further widened the divide between White Americans and Mexican-Americans in this region.
The northern swing states with cities like Pennsylvania( Pittsburgh), Michigan( Detroit), Wisconsin( Milwaukee), Illinois( Chicago,St.Louis) used to be the industrial cities, also known as Rust belt. But since the globalization and financialization of American economy during the Reagan era ( republican), the American manufacturing industry got severely impacted, and hence, it came to be called “Rust belt”, with all its industries being shut down or moved to China.
Hence, with Trump’s criticism of China, these states found a savior and so they swung back to republicans in 2016. But now in 2020, we see they have moved back to democrats due to Trump’s failed deal with China, and civil rights issues( Chicago, Detroit etc having some of the most black dominated areas). Hence, they are known as Swing states.
The race to win the President as of Nov 4, 2020 is still on the way. We are not sure who will win, but this presidential race has further bifurcated the divisions of the states, into red and blue. It is not longer just political divide, but that of ideology( free market capitalism vs govt favored socialist capitalism), religion ( ardent christianity vs religious tolerance/separation of state and religion, anti-immigrants vs pro-immigrants, anti-feminism vs pro-feminism, anti-environment vs pro-environment, pro-gun rights/second amendment vs anti-gun rights/second amendment, anti-obamacare vs pro-obamacare etc respectively. Never in history, America has seen so many diversions and aberrations!
If 2016 US elections results were one of the most surprising and shocking the world ever saw, then on the same grounds, it seems that 2020 will also make a history with its outcome, whatever it may be. Both sides have their pros and cons, and whatever results the political ‘pundits’ might speculate, still no one knows what will actually happen on Nov 3rd. I have lived in US for 5 years ( 2015 to 2020) and having observed the US politics and culture closely, I felt to write a post to add my two cents to this.
First of all, I endorse no party, or candidate, as I am not an American. Hence, the views expressed are completely from an outsider’s perspective, of what I saw in America, and based on those set of experiences, there are certain observations and deductions made about the US politics and public opinions. Also, I like to read history, international relations, and based on that, I often inter-relate certain events around the world, which does influence each other. For ex: one of the significant factors behind Trump’s 2016 victory was the shift towards right wing politics, anti-establishment trend around the world and which was already proven in countries like India and UK, where Narendra Modi had won in 2014 and British had voted in favor of Brexit in 2015, respectively. Such references helps us to understand why Trump could manage to win, inspite of whatever the world media and political analysts had predicted.
Similarly, there are many events and factors which are going to influence this election, enormously. This article analyzes some of them, which will make us understand what is the trend, and what might be the outcome. But at the same time, even a small scandal or event before the elections can change the course, as it happened regarding Hillary Clinton’s email controversy, just few days before the elections. Nevertheless, it did significant damage to her credibility.
The United States as we see today is a very deeply polarized nation. Not only divided are they in terms of political affiliation ( democrats vs republicans), but also on social issues, environmental concerns, women rights, immigrants and minorities, foreign affairs, economic policy, health and education system etc. One set of followers who support republican party, and who are right wingers, pro-establishment believe in excessive patriotism ( or jingoism), less taxes, global warming as a hoax, live in ‘Bible belt’, America first policy, ban immigrants, pro whites and against minority rights, against abortion, against Obamacare etc. While the other set believes in the exact opposite which is the democratic party, with pro minorities and immigrants rights under the banner that America is a nation made of immigrants ( which is true..). They are concerned about environmental issues like global warming, support abortion, do not believe in church or any religion ( or rather religion is a personal matter, that has nothing to do with the state), more taxes on the wealthy, social security and universal health care for all etc. I don’t know any area where both these groups might come together. Such deep and wide has become the nation’s political and social division.
But amidst all this pandemonium, Donald Trump stands as an outsider to all this chaotic politics, who is a rabble rouser, an iconoclast, with his callous and unpredictable behavior. After becoming President, he not only has widened the rift, but also normalized the ‘abnormal’. The way we look towards and expect from the President’s office has utterly changed. He is liked by millions, just as being disliked by even more. But he has become a phenomenon in US politics who cannot be ignored.
Firstly, Trump has benefited immensely from the people’s shift towards right wing, anti-establishment sentiment. This rise of nationalism was seen in 2016, and it continues to this day. We see more and more Presidents and Prime Ministers all over the world being elected, belonging to the right wing party, or ideology. Take India, Narendra Modi won in 2014 and again in 2019, with even more majority. Though Indian politics is a lot different than US, but considering the similarity in political backgrounds as an outsider ( Modi is also an outsider like Trump, as he neither belongs to the establishment of Gandhi-Nehru family, nor he is a part of Lutyen’s Delhi), and their pro country( Make in India, and America First) stand, they both become natural friends. Then, we have PM Boris Johnson in UK, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Bolsenaro in Brazil, and Netanyahu in Israel ( with whom Trump has close relations). This rise of nationalism, all over the world, stands in favor of Trump.
Secondly, Trump has a loyal supporter base, primarily of white voters, who are from rural america, and who have been severely affected by globalization, competition by China, and flow of low cost immigrants from Mexico. They continue to support Trump because of many reasons. They feel Trump has taken steps in favor of them. His trade war with China, banning of immigrants from Mexico, plans to build the wall ( its been 4 years, and there is no Wall yet..). I saw one documentary from DW where the poor people in Appalachian mountains, are hardcore supporters of Trump, inspite of their continued living in poverty. Infact, when I used to travel in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, I saw numerous Trump supporters billboards. They are enamored by Trump, and his persona, for being a white guy, who is billionaire, and close to his family always. The poor and uneducated people in America, are often the fiercest followers of Christianity, and ardent church goers. They find Trump, to be an ideal Christian man, who has been faithful to his family, and exhibits Christian ( which means Protestant) virtues. Besides, he is rich, and white dude, which makes him perfect candidate for preserving the old, white, waspy, conservative America.
Then, we see Trump is fortunate to have formed close alliances with like minded friends, who will render him support to win. This includes being friends with Israel, Saudis and Russia. Israel and its conservative leadership has benefited immensely from the day Trump has been in the Oval office. Not only has Trump endorsed Israel on many issues such as setting up the US embassy in Jerusalem, its stand against Iran by the assassination of Major General Qasem Suleimani, US withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal, and imposing of economic sanctions on Iran, but also Trump being close to Jews, due to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, being Jewish, and his pro-Israel stand. Hence, the conservative Jews in US( Wall Street, Koch brothers) against the liberal Jews in US (New York Times, Silicon valley, universities or George Soros) will fight to support Trump, and make every attempt to get him elected again. Besides, Saudi Arabia favors Trump due to the change in geo-politics in the middle east, where Saudi’s are ever more concerned about the influence of rising Shia Crescent after the disastrous Syrian Civil War, and also with the rise in another competitor, Turkey to challenge the Saudi leadership in the Muslim world. They need Trump’s support to keep Iran and Turkey away from dominating middle east. In case of Russia, it has never been good time for Putin and Kremlin, for having Trump as a President. Russia have always suffered under the democrats( particularly Clintons), under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1990’s and they feared for the same if Hillary had taken the command in 2016. Hence, Russia will support Trump to keep him in power.
Trump is an astute businessman. He knows how to deal with people, situations and comprehends everything in the world as a race, competition to win. Its his winners take all approach, coupled with survival of the fittest which makes him a typical old fashioned american businessman. He has no ethics, values or principles, and never accepts defeat. But also he has not regrets and is always willing to pass any limits to achieve his ambition. He is the perfect embodiment of “The end justifies the means” ideology. This is what enthralled the attention of the conservative American public. For them, he was and still is the right candidate to recover the American economy, to bring back the jobs lost abroad or to immigrants. Though before Covid-19 happened, American economy rose with the highest growth rates, and Wall street was elated with the spectacular performance of the stock market, thanks for Trump’s decrease in the taxes on the wealthy ( thereby increasing the already widened gap between the rich and the poor), but also due to the share buyback approach adapted by most of the companies. His supporters conveniently forget to acknowledge the fact that Trump had already inherited a booming economy from Obama, and it was during Obama years, when the economy faced dire recession, and it was Obama government who made sure the economy be brought back on track. But as we all know, Trump rarely gives credit to others, and so he boasted of making the greatest economy in human history, in a mere span of 3 years! Now, Trump has lost the trump card of leading the greatest economy due to Covid-19, now he is promising the voters to revive back the economy once again like it was before. He even had to discard the slogan “Keep America Great” and retake the first term campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”. For his supporters, Covid-19 and economic recession are external threats brought by China, and hence they would exonerate Trump for the current economic conditions. Infact, the Trump supporters still hope that he is only the man who can do the job of reviving back the economy, just like he had done to his business, inspite of claiming bankruptcy, a whopping four times!. His personal business track record is an indicator for reversing the country’s current dire situation again if he wins.
To understand if he will win, we need to look at the opponents as well. And looking at the democratic party presidential and vice-presidential nominee, many democrats or liberals are not happy. Even though Biden has more political experience than Trump, but he is not inspirational candidate especially when the country needs a strongman. He is older than Trump, and his political record does not raise any more hopes that any thing better will be done if he wins. Infact, he represents the elite establishment, and observing the ongoing anti-establishment trend in politics, he is clearly the wrong guy. But more worse is the selection of Kamala Harris, for Vice-President(VP). The most shocking aspect of American public, especially the white, rural voters is the lack of belief in women at the highest position. Even though America pats its back for being champion of human rights, feminism, #MeToo etc, but when it comes to society, its still a male dominated one, and this patriarchy has been emboldened under Trump regime. That is why Hillary lost in 2016, as many women voters opted for Trump inspite of his proven misogynist history. The Democratic party is desperate to put a women president in the office, and still unable to learn the lessons from 2016, they have again played the women card, only indirectly in the form of VP. People are aware of Biden’s age, and with the considerable possibility of him serving only one term, Kamala has the chance to become the first women ( non-white) president. For the Trump supporters, more than Kamala as a women, the more pressing fact is that she is non-white. I wonder if the white voters did not allow a white women(Hillary) to become President, how in the world can they allow Kamala to become President? And her identity as a mixed Afro-American, and Indian, is not helping her much due to her highly educated parents, and her elite upbringing. Unlike Obama, who struggled in his life, worked hard and went to Harvard to study law, and is an excellent orator and professor, Kamala has unfortunately no such accomplishments to prove her merit. The only chance Democratic party to win ( maybe) was with Bernie Sanders, who could have fought a close battle against Trump, but the Democratic party system does not want a reformer, and a socialist. Hence, a good chance and candidate was lost!
When we look at Trump’s Presidency in the past 4 years since 2016 elections, the one thing everyone acknowledges is the fact that he has done what he told before winning ( or atleast tried to do). He promised for banning immigrants and he did make life difficult for immigrants. He issued executive orders for curbing immigrants from Muslim countries, for restricting H1-B workers from India, or even deporting Chinese students under the accusation of espionage. He had promised to take actions against China, and he did that in the form of Trade war, even though that might not have worked out much in favor for US. He took strict actions against Iran, and withdrawed from the Iran nuclear deal. He made Wall Street happy by reducing taxes on the rich. He hated the liberal news media, and entertained his voter base with comical press briefings and chastised New York Times and CNN as’fake news’. He entered the good books of conservative Texas oilmen, coal lobby by repudiating the Paris Climate Agreement. In a nutshell, he has done what he promised. This makes him an outsider, who is not like a typical crooked politician ( though he is lot more discreetly). His agenda of ‘doing business’ and ‘getting things done’ are one of the core American principles. Hence, this makes him more famous than ever. However, his voters are not aware of the consequences of what he has done. Even though he has fulfilled many promises, but the after effects are going to be disastrous, sooner or later. But unfortunately his followers have become myopic!
Finally, the ongoing racial protests all over America, be it with the tragic and cruel death of George Floyd and many others have become rampant. The #BlackLivesMatter protests are symbolic of the underlying inequality and racial tensions besieging America. The African Americans are tired of this hatred and biase against them by few white policemen or white fascists. They are also stunned by the fact that mere 12 years before, they had seen America electing the country’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, and with his victory again in 2012, they came to believe that the old America who harassed Afro-Americans as slaves was a thing of the past. They thought their centuries long struggle against racism, with the sacrifice of Dr.King, and many more, had come to fruition. But just 4 years before, with Trump’s election, everything changed. The racism and violence against them have exacerbated again. The way Trump has reversed and abashed the Obama era policies and welfare schemes has disappointed the Afro-Americans and liberals. And they now feel that this would escalate even more if Trump wins again. But unfortunately, the division along racial and ethnic lines have worsened so much that these protests, which were meant to raise their voices against inequality and racism have taken an ugly turn. The incessant violence and riots have polarized the american society, and even united the loyal Trump supporters against the BLM protests. This article shows how a white man carrying ‘BlackLivesMatter” placard had to face severe backlash from the white conservative voters. All this is going to affect the upcoming elections in a big way.
Many political thinkers and analysts are saying that America is going through a systemic change, and with reference to all the events and policies as mentioned above, it does seem to be true. Paul Kennedy had famously predicted about the American decline in his book “The Rise and the Fall of Great Powers“, and Neil Howe and Bill Strauss had mentioned about the turbulent years America will see during 2020’s. All this might be labeled as a close coincidence, but we cannot forget the fact that they did explain after researching centuries of human history, wars and empires. Indeed, America had risen to its pinnacle in 1945, and even in 1991, but the current trend shows it to be on the downward turn. BLM protests, racial tensions, Covid-19, economic recession, ineffective healthcare system, expensive education system troubled with huge education loans on students, widening gap between the rich and the poor with nation’s wealth in the hands of few silicon valley tech giants, wall street bankers and military-industrial complex, lack of people’s belief in political institutions, and thereby paving a way to elect an outsider like Trump are all the indicators of the current American decline. Electing Trump is not going to solve them but exacerbate them. The trump followers might hope that electing Trump will #MakeAmericaGreatAgain by keeping it white, patriarchal, isolated from world affairs, but this short term gain will endure in a long term pain of losing the glory of “American Dream”, of losing democratic allies, of losing the trust of the world, and losing the credibility of being the free land where everyone is welcome to work hard, innovate, and collectively progress. The American history shows that America was made by people who were brave, and free and believed in human values. The founding fathers, Andrew Carnegie, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, Elie Wiesel, Henry Kissinger, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Sergei Brin, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more have themselves or their ancestors immigrated to America, due to this faith in America Dream. Even Donald Trump’s family(including his wife) and conservative Rupert Murdoch were immigrants to America! But looking at the current condition in America, that faith has dwindled, and if this continues, sooner or later, time would come to bid adieu to the American Dream!
Looking at the past few years, it is becoming quite evident from the events that have occurred worldwide that the trend of nationalism has risen, once again. History repeats itself, and it has done so for the arena of nationalism. The last time when nationalism was rampant in the world were the turbulent years after Great Depression, rise of Hitler and World War 2. Now, what surprises most of the intellectuals more than this trend is how fast the trend of globalization and liberalization have faced severe backlash in a mere span of 25 years or so.
Lets delve back into history to understand why the era of nationalism and separatism based on country, ethnicity and even to certain extent religious extremism have emerged. Not far back, just 29 years before, in 1991, the world saw the collapse of Soviet Union and its political communism. Today, only handful of countries are communist, such as N.Korea, China, Vietnam, and with the exception of N.Korea, all the others have embraced state capitalism, on the economic front by discarding the socialistic state planned economic model. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and it led to the domino effect of the plummeting of the communist satellite countries in East Europe, and Russia at the end. The world saw this rare, bizarre event and the west proclaimed its supremacy in the ideals of free market capitalism, democracy and globalization. Francis Fukuyama even went ahead with its book, “The end of History and the Last man” with a false, short term belief that with this victory, there will not be any war, or crisis in the world, and hence, the whole world will be one planet with one political system (democracy), one economic system (capitalism). What he actually meant was one planet under one superpower (USA)!
Anyways, it didn’t take long enough for the world to see a new crisis in the form of 9/11. Soon, the superpower was at war( as it always has been after every few years or so), and with that event, new conflicts emerged. As early as 2007, it was slowly becoming evident that the world is becoming more and more multi-polar. In fact, in the Munich conference in 2007, Putin famously brought this to the world’s attention. This is because the rise of Putin to the Presidency of Russia, was itself the first blow to the USA led world. Before Putin, during the Yeltsin years, the world saw how Russia suffered immensely under its corrupt government ( which was supported by USA), and billionaire oligarchs. With Putin, who became President in 2000, it all ended, and that was the first rise in nationalism ( in the form of Russian patriotism) in the world.
Then, with the disastrous Iraq war from 2003 to the Great Recession in 2007-08, USA started losing its economic clout, and was soon challenged by China. China since 1979, with its opening up to the world, had been silently making its pockets deeper with the US dollars, and the whole world realized this only in the last decade. The last decade, from 2010, led to the increase in nationalistic fervor all over the world. This is because of many reasons. One of the them is the loss of economic clout, and the moral superiority of USA. The world admired USA for its success and moral responsibility to protect the freedom, and human rights during the two world wars. Then, after WW2, it was its war against communism which made the world choose the former, due to the lack of freedom and democracy in USSR’s Iron curtain. But after the collapse of Soviet Union, there was no enemy left against USA. Suddenly the vacuum which was created made USA arrogant of its supremacy. In political vocabulary, there were no ‘checks’ on its actions. Even the UN, UNSC were dominated by USA and its allies.
But after the 9/11, Afghanistan-Iraq war under the incompetent Bush regime, and the economic recession, the ‘American Dream’ slowly started losing its glory. The world started accepting the fact that USA was not in its best position as it used to be before to protect the other nations. This led to the triggering of the nationalistic sentiments, however small they might be. Even in USA, the people were fed up with the country’s role as defacto ‘world’s policeman’, and they wanted to keep their country away from world affairs. This was a huge shift in the country’s outlook, unlike the years during world wars or cold war, when USA used to take lead in the world affairs, and even frequently interfered in other country’s internal matters.
Then, the Arab springs revolution happened in 2011, which led to overthrow of USA backed dictators in Middle east and North Africa. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 added fuel to fire to the rising nationalism, and the world did nothing about it. Also, worth noting is the fact that during this time, from 2010 to 2013, with the Wikileaks, and whistleblowers like Ed Snowden and Bradley/Chelsea Manning, the world came to know about the spying program USA had been doing on the world for many years. This led to more concern about the sovereignty and integrity of the nations. Even the allies were spied and this led to the further loss of the trust among the nations with United States. Then the next two events turned to be pivotal in the rise of nationalism as we see today. They were the Brexit in 2015 and Donald Trump’s surprising victory in 2016. Infact, such was the effect of these two events over the world, that most of the escalation in nationalism, right wing, alt-right and tensions all over the world can be attributed to these two events.
Since, 2016, we have seen the rise in new Cold aka Trade war between USA and China, USA’s withdrawal from many treaties and organizations, rise in conflicts between countries like India-China, USA-Iran, and even rise in racial and ethnic tensions in USA and some parts of Europe as well. It seems that the liberal order since 1991 is slowly disintegrating all over the world. Today, we see that many countries have either elected right-wing, nationalistic, anti-establishment ( anti liberal and globalization establishment) leaders or the leaders have proclaimed themselves to be the defacto supreme dictators who can rule the country till their last breath. The first group includes countries like India, where Narendra Modi has been elected twice in 2014 and 2019, with huge majority. He is known for his ardent patriotism with ties to the right wing group, RSS. Besides, we see Brazil with the election of Bolsenaro, PM Boris Johnson in UK, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, PM Viktor Orban in Hungary and many more in Europe as well. Even respected liberal German chancellor, Angela Merkel will step down in 2021, and there has been rise in neo-nazism and hatred of immigrants from the middle least, especially Syria and Afghanistan. Only Canada and France remain liberal with their leaders Trudeau and Macron. But even they are challenged by right wing parties in their respective countries.
While the other group includes countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where Putin, Xi Jinping, MBS and Erdogan have become dictators respectively. On one side even though Russia is criticized by the liberal, left media for Putin’s dictatorship and for its killing of opposition leaders ( the most recent being the poisoning of Alexei Navalny), but on the other side, we see the right wing media praises Russia for reviving the nationalistic trend, and even lauding it to the only country to preserve the good old Christianity values. For the right wing believers who watch Fox news, USA has become dominated by the minorities, immigrants and Jews, and the old USA ( white, Waspy, protestant) establishment has dwindled over the years. No wonder Trump and its followers are in good terms with Putin.
But China with its desire of empire expansion and to become the next superpower, has been facing a great deal of opprobrium, especially since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, which allegedly originated from Wuhan. Further, its border tensions with India, after it purposefully incited violence on the Indian soldiers, led to heightened tensions between the countries. China has aggressively silenced the pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong, and annexed the island. It continues to blockade Hong Kong and Taiwan from foreign support, and has led to forced detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. Further, it has extended economic support to third world countries which usually result in ‘debt trap’ or ‘debt diplomacy’ under the disguise of sophisticated marketing of Belt and Road or The new Silk Road . The world saw how Sri Lanka lost the Hambantota port to China, and the same is happening in other countries in Asia and Africa. Hence, the seeds of future conflicts are being sowed.
Finally, we see the conflict in the middle east as the sands and winds of middle east have always been hot and turbulent. Besides, the age old Israeli-Arab and Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict, now we see its getting more and more complicated with the US vs Iran, Iran-Syria vs Israel, and a new player in the form of Turkey, under the dictatorship of Racep Tayyip Erdogan. Recently, he converted the two museums into mosques and has challenged the Saudi led Muslim world with a new hub of Muslim leadership under Turkish banner. Even MBS have consolidated his richest empire and have become the defacto ruler in the family of Saud. Hence, earlier the middle east was divided into three camps, with Saudi Sunni Arabs, Persian Shia Iran and Zionist Israel. Now, the fourth entry is that of Turkey with its ambitions of a Neo-Ottoman empire.
Thus, it looks like this trend of nationalism is here to stay. The geopolitics has already been covered by the differences and conflicts among the nations, and unless, a peaceful and promising resolution is figured out, there seems to be no end to this trend. We hope that this does not lead us to another catastrophic world war, whose chances have been never been higher before. Many liberals, centrist and left intellectuals have been perplexed by this sudden rise of right wing forces, and many of them are burning the midnight oil to understand what went wrong in their liberal, globalized, world order, which seemed to be omnipotent, just 25 years back. Lets see how the world and its geopolitics unravels before us.
2020 will always be remembered in history as a year which changed the geo-political game of the world. Covid-19 has not only changed the way we look at the world, but also transformed the relations between different countries in the world.
Before 1991, the world was roughly divided into three parts. The first world consisted of United States with its allied nations such as UK, Canada, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, Israel, Pacific oceania (Aus-N.Z), Iran( separated after Islamic revolution in 1979) and S.Korea. They formed the capitalist & democratic bloc with various organizations linked to each other such as NATO, Five Eyes etc.
The second world were lead by former USSR/Soviet Union with its satellite countries ( known as Warsaw pact), and other nations like China ( split after 1970), East Germany, N.Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and Afghanistan. They formed the communist bloc with socialist government.
The third world was also known as the Non-Aligned movement (NAM), and while they were not officially part of any group, but still more or less remained close to Soviet Union, due to their history of being colonized by the first world countries ( primarily UK and France),and hence guided by their common struggle against colonization (Africa) or economic imperialism ( in case of South America where USA controlled the economy of these countries). They were India, Egypt, Middle eastern countries including Palestine, few South American nations, and Africa. They were either democratic or ruled by monarchy or military dictatorship.
And everything changed after 1991. The former Soviet Union got dissolved and its satellite countries got closer to the West. Russia lost the superpower status. The third world countries had to align towards United States for economic support. The world became unipolar, with USA being the sole superpower. The 1990’s years were some of the finest years for USA and the West. The world thought that all the conflict in the world had ended, and experts like Francis Fukuyama called the time as the “The end of History”.
But things changed after 9/11. United States became involved in Afghanistan and Iraq ( due to Bush family’s past history with Saddam Hussein), and this involvement changed the entire geo-political scene. Meanwhile, Russia which had seen some of the toughest years during 1990’s decade under drunkard Boris Yeltsin started seeing change under Vladimir Putin. China since Nixon’s visit in 1972 had drifted away from former Soviet Union and under Deng Xiaopeng’s leadership started trading and manufacturing for USA and the rest of the world. It quietly watched the collapse of Soviet Union and America’s involvement after 9/11. Meanwhile, it kept itself busy by increasing its manufacturing share and making its deep pockets deeper. But it also made sure its technology is developed, either by copying or stealing from USA.
And then the next pivotal event happened, which is the Great recession of 2007, and then the election of Barack Obama, America’s first African-American President in 2008. This sent an alarming signal to the world that things were slowly changing in United States, and its stand as a self-declared, undisputed superpower and world’s policeman role no longer stood strong. That is why Putin in Munich conference, 2007 famously remarked about the world changing towards being multi-polar. And during 2008 Beijing Olympics, China displayed its strength by competing with USA and showing the world, that the sleeping dragon had awaken.
The next few years until 2016 were some of peak years for international liberal order. United States became more liberal than ever, and the American public became tired of America’s over-involvement in the world affairs. This marked a new period during 2010’s decade when other powers in the world started to rise up, particularly Russia and China. Russia annexed Crimea, and started yielding its influence in Ukraine. China started becoming more aggressive in the South China sea, and its ambitions flourished with the launch of Belt and Road Initiative, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and surrounding India with ‘String of Pearls’ strategy.
For India, however, the years since 1984 until Modi’s election in 2014 were some of the toughest years in its history. Indira Gandhi Assassination, Khalistan movement and anti-Sikh riots in 1984, Indian peace keeping force to resolve Sri-Lanka conflict and the subsequent assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Shah-Bano verdict, Hindu-Muslim resentment, fall of Babri Masjid and 1993 Bombay riots, rigged Kashmir elections in 1987, expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 followed by Kashmir terrorism for the whole 1990’s decade, Kargil War in 1999, then Godhra Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002, various terrorist attacks during 2000’s decade such as Parliament attack in 2001 and Mumbai blasts in 2003, 2006 and the perilous 26/11 attacks in 2008. In addition to this, there were many corruption scandals in the UPA 2 government, and due to which the mass agitation happened in 2011. India suffered immensely for 30 years, and the only good events which happened during these 30 years were the liberalization of Indian economy by Manmohan Singh and Narsimha Rao in 1991, Pokhran nuclear bomb tests in 1998 and the fact that India survived and did not get shattered or split up like former Soviet Union. This was because of the strong and deep roots of democracy, belief in the idea of India, secularism and brotherhood amongst the diverse yet united people of India.
2014 marked the seminal year in the history of India. Narendra Modi got elected with majority votes, and thus the struggle of India finally halted. The later 6 years have seen tremendous changes. With a strong foreign policy, India conducted surgical strikes, twice!. With many policies like Make in India, Swachh Bharat, demonetization, GST, banning Triple Talaq, resolving long standing Kashmir issue with the removal of article 370, and Citizenship Amendment Act, India has finally made a comeback, however belated it may be. To challenge China’s aggression against String of Pearls, India has initiated ‘Necklace of Diamonds’ strategy. Also, India has become more closer to United States, Germany, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE to boost its trade and strengthen bi-lateral relations.
Just as 2014 marked the year of change for India, similarly 2016 marked the year of change for United States, when the USA and the whole world was shaken with the Brexit and unexpected election of Donald Trump. With Brexit and Trump’s surprising victory, the globalization based liberal order started getting on backfoot, and the more conservative, nationalistic driven approach started becoming mainstream. Trump changed the way the world looked towards USA. He reversed many decisions taken by Obama and prior administrations such as Iran Nuclear deal, Paris Climate Agreement, and pulled USA out of many organizations such as WHO, TPP, UNESCO, United Nations Human Rights council, and threatened to quit from WTO and NATO as well. This is a complete reversal of the superpower role played by USA since the victory in WW2 in 1945. No President has done so much changes during the first term, and this has caused troubles and resentment not only to the liberal order but also to the deep state which exists inside USA establishment.
Finally, the most recent event which years later will be compared similar to 1939 or 1991 is the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which actually spread in early 2020 from Wuhan, China to the entire world. This pandemic (however the origin might be, whether accidentally escaped from lab or engineered one) has crippled the world economy. USA is the worst affected country in the world, with about 170000 deaths as of Aug 2020. European nations like Italy, Spain and Germany also suffered enormously in the early phase of the pandemic, and now, India, Brazil, Mexico are seeing the worst effects of this pandemic.
The pandemic changed the world view towards China. Until the pandemic, China transitioned itself from a poor, backyard communist country back in 1970’s to an economically developed, state controlled capitalist yet politically communist, ‘factory of the world’. But today, it is seen as a nation which not only poses significant threat to the United States superpower status but also is considered to harbor aggressive ambitions to spread its influence over the world, just like USA and former Soviet Union did after 1945. That is why, we see after the pandemic, China suddenly became more aggressive towards India regarding its border issue, and has yielded control on WHO as well. It is rapidly expanding its assistance to African and European countries amidst the pandemic, and looking at its history of capturing key resources in other countries by its ‘debt-trap diplomacy‘, it plans to do more so in coming future.
Today, the geo-political game has become more complicated yet interesting as never before. The world before 1991 was into three blocs, and from 1991 to 2007-08, it was only USA, the defacto superpower. But since 2008 Great Recession in USA and especially with Donald Trump’s election in 2016, the geo-politics started becoming multi-polar. And after almost 4 years of Trump Presidency, we see in 2020, the world is no longer looking towards USA as the superpower.
In the last 12 years after 2008, many events besides Trump and Brexit have also influenced the world affairs. The Arab Spring, killing of Bin Laden & start of Syrian Civil War in 2011 which lasted for the whole decade, election of Putin again in 2012 ( who continues to rule Russia as a new Tzar), Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and the whistleblowing of US spy program in 2013, Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the US-China trade war and killing of Iranian major general of Quds force Qasem Soleimani by US drone strike in 2020. All these events have altered the geo-politics on a large scale. Today, to counter the US and Western influence over the world, a bloc of group of nations have allied together ( some openly while other discreetly). They include Russia, China, Iran, N.Korea, Turkey and Syria.
The history of Russia with US has always been a game of tug of war to exert their own control over the world. Russia under Putin has emerged strong and has positioned itself a powerful leader in the Eurasian region. With abundance of Oil and advanced military technology, it remains a game changer for the events happening in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It is widely considered that Syria was actively supported by Russia, and this resulted in the Syrian victory in the civil war. Russia had seen its worst years under US controlled Yeltsin and billionaire oligarchs, and so today Russia does not trust the West. It looks like the 1990’s debacle with Russia was the repetition of Treaty of Versailles, and even though Putin wont start any world war like Hitler did, but the Russian mistrust of western democracy and predatory capitalism has positioned them to support Putin and a strong yet isolated Russia.
China on the other side is becoming like the next Soviet Union. With its consistent belief in communist ideology among the top political party cadre, and a burning aspiration to make China strong, and to never again face humiliation from the western countries and Japanese, China has risen up to make itself an aggressive nation. Even though it is true that China did face a lot of humiliation and persecution for almost a hundred years until 1949, and even after that, for another 30 years or so, the Chinese suffered hardships during Mao’s rule. But after 1979, China has reversed its fortune and made a stunning comeback with a strong economy. The western world silently supported China when it embraced capitalism, and they hoped that eventually China would accept democracy as well. But this never happened. Just like Russia follows a managed democracy, so does China follows a managed capitalistic model. But what makes China aggressive like former Soviet Union was against USA, are the stronghold of Chinese Communist party over economy, people, and its spread of China led institutions such as BRI and AIIB, which pose a threat to USA and western led institutions. Also, China fares worst when it come to humans rights and is known for spying and stealing from US, just like Soviet Union did. China’s support for terrorist nations like N.Korea worries the world, and it is because of China that these two nations have nuclear bombs. Further, China has supported Iranian regime, and this poses a threat for Israel, Saudi Arabia and US. Finally, the recent Covid-19 spread from China and its futile attempt to hide it from the world, have exacerbated the rift between China and the rest of the western world.
Iran, is another country, whose ideology and leadership makes the geo-politics more complicated then ever. Considered one of the best friend of USA until 1979, when the Islamic revolution happened, today, Iran continues to remain on the enemy list of USA. This is also because of the inter-dependencies of the middle east politics. The middle east as we today, was never united in history. The British and the French made attempts to unite this region on the grounds of religion. Later, the formation of the state of Israel gave another boost for unity of the Arabs. But Iranians are not Arabs, they are Persians, historically. And due to the practice of Shia Islam, the Sunni countries have never accepted Iran and its adherents/kafirs. Even among Sunni Arabs, there are many spheres of influence. But mainly they are three, which are Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. All these three nations compete to yield their influence over the region. Once upon a time, it was the Ottoman Turks who ruled through their Ottoman Caliphate, centered in Istanbul. But after the fall of Ottoman empire after WW1, Turkey became secular under its ruler Kemal Attaturk. But today, there has been a marked reversal in the Turkish policies. Turkey under Erdogan have championed itself as the new Caliphate and leader of Islam. That is why the Church turned Mosque turned museum Hagia Sophia and Chora Church is turned back to Mosque.
Egypt which had been influential during the British rule and due to Suez Canal, now does not yield much power, as it did back during its war against Israel. And after the discovery of oil and gas in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi royal family have become one of the richest in the world. But unlike Egypt and Iran, Saudi’s have not waged any war against Israel and due to its opposition to Iran, it continues to support Israel against Iran. Iraq under Saddam Hussein had become a trouble for middle east and Israel, which was duly taken care of by US, Israel with the covert support of Saudi and Iran as well (Iran and Iraq were enemies on grounds of religion). Hence, today in the middle east we see a Shia belt from Iran, Yemen, Syria to Lebanon ( with support of Hezobollah), which is against Saudi and its allies such as UAE, Israel, Bahrain, Egypt etc. And to counter Saudi influence, Turkey have started its own campaign to take back the caliphate it had lost to Saudis. The Syrian Civil War re-aligned the relations between middle east countries, and Syria with the support of Iran and Russia, won against the alliance which comprised of Saudi Arabia, USA, Israel, Turkey.
Thus, the world has become more complicated than ever. To understand middle east geo-politics itself is like finding a needle in the haystack. But just as the European affairs back in 19th and 20th century resulted in two catastrophic world wars, similarly this Asian conflict which covers from Russia, Syria, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia has the potential to evolve from being an Asian conflict to a world conflict. More to cover in next post. Stay tuned!
Being an avid reader of history and current affairs, I have often seen few questions being raised on the idea of India as a unified nation. Many so called self-elevated experts from our neighboring country (on the west) hold on to this by saying that India was never a unified nation in its history, and was often a country ruled by kingdoms. Also, they go ahead claiming that it was the British who unified India as a nation. Besides, this also goes along with the question of any similarity between different parts of the India due to their distinct culture, language, tradition, food etc. Hence, I decided to write a post about this to elucidate my opinion on why India is being India? How has it withstand as a united country for the past 73 years after independence? And when we say “Unity in Diversity”, what does it actually mean?
India is a unique nation, and it has been since 5000 years. The epic tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata have happened here, then known as Bharatvarsha. The present boundaries though are limited to the Himalayas in the north, and surrounded by Indian ocean in the south, Arabian sea to the west and Bay of Bengal to the east, but centuries back it was stretched far away from today’s boundaries. The present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bali, Thailand, Tibet all were a part of India. The names in this region are synonymous with Indian heritage such as Kandhara from Gandhara, Kashgar from Kashyap, Hindukush meaning the land where the last Hindus lived, which is located in the present day Afghanistan. It isn’t strange that the Maratha-Peshwa empire was stretched till Attock in present day Pakistan.
Even though many invaders from Afghanistan, and later Mughal rulers established their rule in India, with Delhi being the center of power, but there were always regional powers who had firmly established their kingdoms. The Mughal rule lasted for more than 500 years, and hence during this time there were rulers like Maratha empire, Peshwa empire, Rajputana, Vijaynagara empire, Gajpati kingdom etc who continued to influence in their regions. Later when the British came, they had to collaborate along with the regional kingdoms like Rajputs, Nizam, Travancore, Mysore kingdoms to establish their rule in other parts of India. And so it was not the invaders or British who united India, but it was always united before, though ruled by different kings.
The geography of the country makes it unique to stand united. As it is surrounded by sea and oceans on its three sides, hence it is natural for it to stay together as a province. Even the north is surrounded by giant Himalayas which have always restricted the invaders from China, Mongolia to come to India. Only the north-western part of India comprising of Punjab, Rajasthan, Sindh is open and hence, historically, all the invaders except Europeans came via land route. Even the monsoon affects the whole region and so it is natural to consider the whole sub-continent under one umbrella, India!
India has a diverse set of religions. Even though Hinduism is the majority religion but the tenets of Hinduism suggests it to be more so a way of life. There are many gods and goddesses in Hinduism, but the main four practiced are Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Durga Mata and Ganpati. Ram and Krishna are considered to be a avatars of Vishnu. They are called as four denominations in Hinduism such as Vaishnavism, Shaktism, Shaivaism and Smartism. When we see the temples in India for these Gods, they are also located & worshipped uniquely in different parts of India. Ganpati is worshipped largely in the western ghats region of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, while Krishna bhakti is more so in the northern land of Mathura, UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat. We often hear “Jai Shri Krishna”, “Radhe Radhe” from people saying to each other in those parts as a greeting. The famous Ram temple is in Ayodhya, UP and the region of UP, Bihar, MP is known for its Ram bhakti, and “Jai Ram Ji ki” is the common greeting there. The epic “Ramayana” shows the vanvasa for Ram, Sita and Lakshaman started from Ayodhya till southern land of Sri Lanka, all the way through India’s heartland, north to south, passing through Chitrakut parvat in Madhya Pradesh, Panchavati in Maharashtra etc. This shows the continuity of Indian history from north to south, even during those times.
Then, the northern most and southern most areas for known for their Shiva temples. The Himalayas have been the most sacred mountains for Shiva temples such as Kailas Manas-sarovar, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Amarnath etc, while the South India is also equally known for Shiva worship with numerous temples such as Rameshvaram, Srisailam, Meenakshi temple etc. Infact it is wonder that all the Shiva temples in the north ad south are located on the 79’E longitude. This again shows the unification of the country on grounds of religion and faith.
Also, it is worth noting that worship of Durgamata is heavily practiced in two provinces in India which are Gujarat and West Bengal, which are located on the two corners of the country. Even other religions have found their places of worship all over India. Sikh Gurudwaras in Amritsar and Nanded are very famous, so are Buddhist temples from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath, Jain temples in Mt Abu and Shravanabelagola, and Islam from Jama Masjid till Haji Ali.
That’s why, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during his speech in Ayodhya, “Across the length and breadth of India, from Kanyakumari to KsheerBhawani, from Koteshwar to Kamakhya, from Jagannath to Kedarnath, from Somnath to Kashi Vishwanath, SametShikhar to ShrawanBelagola, from Bodhgaya to Sarnath, from Amritsar to PatnaSahib, from Andaman to Ajmer, from Lakshadweep to Leh, the entire country is encompassed by and for Lord Rama!“. This is the length and breadth of India, with a unique mixture of unity and religious diverseness.
Regarding diversity among the different states in India, it is often compared to be like European Union. For ex: Rajasthan is the previous Rajputana kingdom, Gujarat includes the previous Saurashtra, so is Maharashtra state from its erstwhile Maratha kingdom. Though it seems to be like that, but it isn’t. This is because even though the states were a part of some previous kingdom or empire, having their unique culture, tradition, cuisine, clothing style and have been created on linguistic basis, but unlike European union nations, they all have a common historical reference and spiritual identity with each other. Let me throw some light on this.
Historically, Europe has always been a distintegrated union. The various countries such as Germany, France, Holland, Poland, Spain are all part of Europe, and share some common traits such as Christianity( though its again split up into Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox etc), Caucasian ancestry and later colonization over the world ( though England, France, Dutch and Spain dominated the most) but they also differ a lot with each other. They have waged wars against each other, inspite of the commonalities of religion and ancestry. The two world wars have been caused and played mostly in the European territory. The countries in Europe never shared the common historical identity with each other. We see that Napoleon and Hitler tried to dominate Europe through their own empires, but it never got succeeded. They also never exhibited the spiritual tradition, like we see in India. The nations in Europe have always maintained their own identity, and often it over-rides the mutual bonding. Even though historically, there had been Greek and Roman empires which had occupied the entire Europe, but they also had to disintegrate due to attacks from other regions of Europe. The continuation of Monarchy in many parts of Europe(UK, Denmark, Spain, Norway etc) is a prominent example of why Europe is not united as one. Even though they have modernized and accepted democracy, but still the presence of monarchy conveys that nations are propelled to maintain their own identity, however titular it may be.
In India, however, things a somewhat different. India shares a common historical identity. Even though there were many different kingdoms in different parts of India, but they have always maintained the notion of being part of a larger India ( or Bharatvarsha as it was called then). The kingdoms fought with each other but never did they form a nation on its own. Further, India have always had Muslim invaders from North-West frontier, and later Europeans from the sea, and this proved a common thread to bind the different kingdoms together to fight against the invaders to protect India. The invaders came to proselytize with their own religion, and hence this was firmly resisted by most of the local kings. However, due to internal frictions and unable to keep up with the modern weapons, most of the kingdoms in India had to accept defeat under Mughals and later the British. Infact, in 1857, the descendents of Mughal empire and other kingdoms had came together and fought against the British, known as the “Uprising of 1857”. So, this idea of India which had been invaded by external forces have always remained and binded us together.
Further, India shared a common spiritual heritage as well. This is in no way restricted only to Hinduism. Infact all the religions have been accepted and assimilated. Only the forceful proselytization and violent nature of invaders have been fiercely resisted. Hence, we can see all the religion and its adherents have flourished in India. The Muslim invaders eventually got settled and built their mosques and Darghas all over India. They also learnt from the local Indian tradition, and with this fusion, a unique blend of ‘Sufism‘ emerged which is extremely popular and confirms the unity between Hindus and Muslims. The Zoroastrians who had fled from Persia, came to India and later India became their permanent abode. The religion not only survived but also remains as the only religion which has never suffered from any violent conflicts. No wonder the Parsis today are one of the most respected community in India. Even Jews who had to undergo centuries of persecution in Europe and Middle-east, never have suffered any oppression in India. Hence, Jews proudly say that India is the least anti-semitic country in the world.
Adding to this universal acceptance of all religions, is the unique spiritual tradition being passed on with generations. It is common for people in South India to come to north to visit temples. Infact, many of the temples in Northern India have had the religious priests from Southern India. The sadhus and rishis from all parts of India often go to Himalayas for transcendence and enlightenment. The Kumbha mela which is conducted every 12 years/1 tapa invites hermits and pandits from all parts of India. The teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Swami Prabhupada originated in Bengal, but got accepted in all parts of India. We see the Vivekananda Rock memorial in Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of mainland India, and not in West Bengal. Even the modern day spiritual organizations like Art of Living and Isha Foundation which have originated in Bangalore, have spread and acclaimed in all parts of India. This is the spiritual tradition which binds India together, inspite of the different states and territories.
Finally, the modern history tells us that India’s unity had strengthened several folds after the advent of British Raj. However this does not credit that British united us. But the incessant invasion from North-west India did stop after British came, and this led to the end of wars which used to happen between kingdoms and invaders. Hence, what happened after that is the coming together of all Indian diaspora to fight against the British rule. Later, the legends such as Gandhi, Bose, Bhagat Singh, Nehru, Savarkar all united the people. It is as if the unity was already there, but just got bolstered together by a common cause.
Today, this unity still remains intact. We call it by different names like “Unity in Diversity”, but the underlying reasons are not known to all. People from other parts of the world often get confused with this, and believe a false notion that India will become like Europe someday. Sorry folks, but this isn’t gonna happen. If it did not happen in 1984 or 1992-93, when the roots of our foundation were severely shattered by the ongoing riots between different religions, then it certainly is not going to happen now. The Lutyens media and the communists might be adhering to this fallacious theory, but it seems they have never understood India.
Hence, the song which still lives in the hearts of millions of Indians, is a tribute to our unity!
Today, China is known as “the world’s factory”. China accounts for more than 28% of global manufacturing output. There are many economic reasons to explain this such as illustrated in this article. https://blacksmithint.com/how-did-china-become-the-worlds-factory/ But, the rise of China has also been led by a lot of other factors, few of these events did play a vital role which has resulted in today’s global scenario.
Nixon-Kissinger’s visit to China, and adopting the policy to create a wedge between Soviet Union and China
Japan’s rise in late 1970’s and 1980’s as an economic giant, based on the capitalism and unique Japanese industrial model.
Globalization and financialization of America after Reagan’s win to Presidency
Fall of Soviet Union in 1991, leading to the complacency towards China after winning the cold war
Tech revolution in silicon valley, California
Bush accidental election in 2000, 9/11 and the subsequent dragging of America in Iraq-Afghanistan war
Finally, the global recession in 2007-08
It all started with Nixon and his cunning advisor Henry Kissinger. In order to defeat the Russians in the cold war, they thought to create a wedge between the communist powers, USSR and China. This is because America had already suffered severe setbacks in Vietnam war ( due to the covert assistance of Soviets and Chinese to the Vietnamese communists). Then, India had defeated the US supported Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, and to the very disgruntled Nixon, it was like a punch in the face. Besides, civil protests, anti-war movement against US involvement in Vietnam and new age movement had ravaged the public perception of Nixon ( though Watergate scandal surpassed all the limits later). Hence, this move to befriend China was initiated to create a diversion in US foreign policy which until had been vehemently focused on Soviet Union and Vietnam during the 1960’s decade. Though this did work later, but in the long run, as we see, this decision acted as a trigger for a whole new conflict, erupted today.
But as US needed China against Soviet Union, so did China needed USA as well. This is because of the rise of Japan as an economic power. Japan had started dominating in industries such as electronics and automotive, with the capitalistic model blended with Japanese work ethic. As China and Japan had been rivals for a long time, and China had not forgotten the brutal massacres and genocides committed by the Japanese forces during world war 2, it was natural for China to fear about history to get repeated again. Though, post WW2 Japan had been significantly different as compared the pre WW2, but the economic model of manufacturing, self-reliance and capitalism with unique Japanese culture acted as a symbol of Japan’s resurgence in the Asia, and thereby becoming once again the dominant power as it was before. Japan took less than 3 decades to transform from a poor, devastated country after WW2 to become a rich, industrial superpower. On the other side, China also had been ruined by the WW2, and on similar parallel, they had still remained a poor, backward country as compared to Japan. Due to Mao’s embrace of communism, China neither became an industrialized nation, nor a self-reliant one. Of course, there were vast differences between both the nations in terms of population, size, resources etc. But the fact that a resource deficient, small country like Japan can rebounce in such a small duration, with the capitalistic, manufacturing model compelled China to drift away from USSR’s communism and embrace capitalism in order to lift its humongous population out of dire poverty. Hence, finally, China under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, opened up in 1979.
The next factor which accounted for the rise of China as a manufacturing hub is the globalization and financialization era which had started after Ronald Reagan got elected to become the President in 1980. It was during his presidential two terms, that the theories of Milton Friedman http://umich.edu/~thecore/doc/Friedman.pdf, https://medium.com/@jonmertz/on-business-milton-friedman-is-wrong-about-social-responsibility-9fef2c749643 and other conservative republicans got implemented in the American economy. The companies started manufacturing in other parts of the world such as China, Taiwan and Korea, and companies in US got more involved in simply making profits as per Friedman’s theory. By manufacturing abroad, laying off local employees, shutting down local branches and disbanding trade unions, USA handed over a large chunk of manufacturing to China. As China provided an ideal condition of cheap labor, along with long hours, lack of regulatory compliance, low taxes and fast production, American companies ( which means shareholders and investors) were more than happy to mint dollars. Even Japanese competition compelled Americans to manufacture in China to reduce cost of production and labor, and thereby compete with the Japanese. Due to which, many American SME’s got shut down or eventually went bankrupt amidst this. One of the famous examples for a successful manufacturing company to transition to a financial firm is GE to GE Capital, under the leadership of Jack Welch. The company not only lost its manufacturing share, but also suffered from bankruptcy ahead in 2008 crisis. Here is one insightful article on GE’s failure: https://chiefexecutive.net/who-killed-ge-not-jeff-immelt/
Then, the fall of Soviet Union and the end of cold war in 1991 proved out to be another factor for the continuation of US reliance on China for manufacturing. Due to the unexpected disintegration of former USSR, USA suddenly became the world’s only remaining superpower. This led to complacency in US outlook towards the other countries of the world. As no nation after Soviet Union (Japan did so only economically, but suffered stagflation in the beginning of 1990’s) had the capability to challenge USA ( USSR had confronted and even exceeded USA in many fields. Refer to my post for more info on this: https://abhiknotes.wordpress.com/2020/07/15/why-did-soviet-union-lose-the-cold-war/) Hence, USA continued the scaling up of the manufacturing in China and even naively assumed that like Russia, China would also embrace democracy as Russia had done so in 1990’s ( which failed on an epic scale). Also, as China’s economic model was based on capitalism, and having allowed American companies to manufacture and invest in China, the industrial lobby did not want for another conflict to arise in Asia. Thus, wall street led economic interests led to the continuation of the “Made in China” policy.
The fifth factor to add in this is the tech revolution in silicon valley. The 1990’s decade was the dot com era and internet was the buzz word in the valley. Hundreds of startups were opened everyday, and today’s tech giants such as google, ebay, paypal, amazon were started during that era. Later, facebook, twitter, snap, whatsapp dominated the 2000’s decade of tech revolution. Due to this tech boom, the traditional manufacturing dependent US economy was replaced by the software revolution. Manufacturing became out of fashion, and with the sole exception of Elon Musk, everyone was busy starting companies and funding the software and social media startups. Hence, this also proved detrimental for the US to cut down its manufacturing, and embrace service based model. Even hardware giants like Apple and Dell switched over to manufacture their Iphones and PC’s in China. As famously said by Peter Thiel, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters” https://som.yale.edu/blog/peter-thiel-at-yale-we-wanted-flying-cars-instead-we-got-140-characters Only Elon Musk stood out of the silicon valley’s internet savvy crowd with his bold attempts to get his hands dirty in manufacturing by starting Tesla and SpaceX. Today, fortunately for America, Elon Musk stands as an inspiration for “Make in America” movement ( though he came in US as an immigrant…unrelated to this topic, we can cover later someday..)
Then, Bush election, 9/11 and US involvement in Iraq-Afghan war led to tremendous military expenditure and drifted US away from looking into the flaws it had created by its dependence on China. Bush and his team boasted over-confidently about US superiority and due to the Bush & Family obsession with Iraq, Saddam Hussein & oil, China took advantage of the US policy, copied US products, and violated the trade agreements by the continued IP theft. On the other side, China started its own companies to compete with US ( such as Alibaba against Amazon).
Finally, the global recession and sub-prime crisis in 2007-08 led to the eventual collapse of many US firms ( financial as well as manufacturing), and which thereby led to increased dependence on China for imports. In 2010, China’s global manufacturing exceeded more than USA. Since 2008, Chinese dragon has transformed itself into a giant, and unlike the passive Chinese policy before 2008, China today has been very aggressive in pushing its policies across the world. It has achieved”World’s factory” status and with its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), it has challenged USA and the western world (+Japan) with its gigantic construction projects of railroad, bridges, ports, highways, pipelines in different parts of the world. Having world largest US Dollar reserves apart from US, China’s strategy to loan money to poor countries and then forcefully acquire their strategic resources under the pretense of loan repayment default has widely gained notoriety (Sri Lanka had to handover the Hambantota port https://www.csis.org/analysis/game-loans-how-china-bought-hambantota
Starting from 1979 with the opening up of China to the world, until 2019, when the trade war between USA and China had boiled up, and by the end of year, coronavirus from China made the news, it took 40 years for China to rise to the current economic superpower status. The dragon has risen, and its ambitions are like expulsion of fire to engulf the world. That fire has burnt ( still burning..) the world in the form of coronavirus. Also, there are many other reasons besides economic one to get concerned of chinese ambitions.
China, has border conflicts with most of its neighbors such as India, Taiwan Vietnam, Hong Kong etc.
It has consistently supported North Korea, a terrorist state and assisted its nuclear programme.
With its “String of Pearls” theory, it plans to block India and thereby control the Indian ocean. This is of high security concern, not only for India, but also for the other QUAD nations, including USA, Japan and Australia.
China has committed human rights violations against the Xinjiang province Uighur muslims
China uses face recognition and AI technology to spy on its own citizens and has transformed the country into a “ironwall”
China manufactures and exports products ( and virus as well..) to other parts of the world, but does not allow other countries imports to compete with its own products. We can see google being banned in China, and replaced by Baidu. Similarly, Wechat, Tiktok, Alibaba, Huawei have replaced its US and other customers, with the assistance of communist government.
Most recently, the suppression of information regarding coronavirus, and its delayed acceptance of the existence of virus, coupled with yielded influence of China over WHO has alarmed the world of China’s menace.
Thus, it has become imperative for the world to adopt a new policy towards China, and actively confront in the realpolitik game.
I am from a millennial generation, born the year after the Soviet Union got dissolved. So, I was not aware of a country called Soviet Union until I read about it in school history books. It was a past thing for the world, and no one talked about it. It was replaced by Russian Federation, or simply Russia, that is the historic name it had before the Soviet Union was formed in 1922. Due to my interest in history and wars, I have always been wondering why would a former superpower like Soviet Union disintegrate suddenly, without any war or conflict. This was a surprise(shock) for the world then, and has been a topic of debate for the past many years. I would like to elaborate few reasons and try to explain why it must have happened.
To begin with, Soviet Union at its peak was the largest country in the world, occupying a sixth of the planet landmass. It consisted on present day Russia, and 14 other neighboring countries in East Europe and Southern Russia. Its indeed surprising to dig into history as to why such a sudden collapse of a huge nation did happen. In the words of Vladimir Putin, who at that time served in KGB, said the Soviet fall was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe”.
The story of Soviet Union begins with the red communist revolution in 1917, during the World War 1 times. The Czars were abducted, and the Bolsheviks fought with the white external forces to form the Soviet. Finally, after a brutal war, the Soviet Union was formed in 1922 by Lenin, along with six others, one of them was Joseph Stalin. Soon Lenin died and after a brief internal power struggle with Trotsky, and few members of the communist party, Stalin took over the leadership and Soviet Union became a dictatorship state. Millions died under his brutal rule, but the nation also rigorously implemented state socialism plans with emphasis on land reforms, state ownership of factories, and strong military. This paved off and Soviet Union could face Nazi Germany ( though it did suffer huge losses, both human and material). By 1945, it had successfully defeated Nazi Germany ( with USA and allied forces), and came to be recognized as a power in East Europe.
During the World War 2, United States(USA) had been an ally with Soviet Union, for the sole purpose to defeat Nazi Germany. But as soon as the war was over in 1945, the mutual partnership turned into a competition. During the war, USA had come out of depression and became the largest economy in the world. It had the strongest military, and became a natural self-proclaimed leader of democracy, capitalism and free world. The rest of the western nations such as England and France had suffered huge losses during the war, and were not in a position to lead the world was they did before. Hence, the only nation which could compete with USA was Soviet Union. But the cold war did not start immediately in 1945. At that time, Soviet Union, though having won the war, had suffered tremendous loss and wanted to rebuild the nation. Soon, with their 5 year plans, Soviet factories, farms and industries started booming the economy. One thing to note is unlike pre-WW2 colonial empires like England, France and Japan, USA and Soviet Union both were self-reliant, with enormous material resources rich in coal, oil, gas and minerals, fertile land for agriculture, huge population, strong military and established industries. Hence, both of these countries were not dependent on each other for any goods or resources. Also, having captured Nazi Germany from opposite sides, both of them occupied half-Germany, and hence the German scientists, engineers and intellectuals were captured by both and taken away to their respective countries. This would help both of them in near future to use their talents for new discoveries.
Then, in 1947, Soviet Union developed AK-47, designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov. The Soviet Army accepted it in 1949 and soon it became the world’s most famous assault rifle. Then, during the same year, Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test, and this officially started the cold war between USA and Soviet Union. The 1950’s decade saw the cold war between both the countries, especially in the nuclear bomb development. Both the countries conducted several tests, started building up nuclear stockpiles and this led to a possibility of nuclear holocaust.
Then, in 1957, Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. In the same year, it also tested the world’s first Inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). This started a space race between USA and Soviet Union, with the latter having taken the lead. The next few years were the most glorifying years for Soviet Union, with many first in its name. The world’s first human in space (Yuri Gagarin), first female in space ( Valentina Tereshkova) were sent successfully in 1961 and 1963. Sergei Korolev was the leading Soviet rocket engineer who lead this victory for Soviet Union.
But USA, on the other side, was not successful in any of these developments. It had fallen back in the space race as well as missile development. So, NASA was formed in 1958 and later JFK initiated the mission to make USA the first country to reach moon. Though the subsequent moon landing in 1969 is been considered a hoax by some experts, though both views exist. However, worth noting is that Soviet Union did not try for moon landing. A nation who had started the space revolution would not go for moon is strange.
Anyways, so 1960’s saw Soviet Union as a established nation on all the fronts. As mentioned before, it had all the resources for agriculture, industries etc and hence was self-reliant. It did not use US dollar as a currency for international transactions, just like the whole world does today. Such was its economic clout that it had given economic aid to multiple countries in eastern Europe ( under the Warsaw pact). It had also provided assistance to third world countries like India, China and Vietnam. Besides, the economic aid, now it had become a leading power in nuclear arms, rifle weapons, ICBM’s and satellite’s. No country had done this before in a such a small period of time ( after 1917), and with its umbrella communism and socialistic economic model, it had showed the world that by following their political and economic model, any country can become developed and self-reliant. Soviet Union stood as a fine example of separation of religion and the state. Atheism was the official policy and Soviets were united as a group of diverse religious and ethnic people. This was contrary to the homogeneous western society in countries like England and USA. Though they were democracies, but minorities did not possess any rights, and even though church and state were separate by law, but in reality, Christianity was the unofficial religion and most of the western countries had been quite active to proselytize the third world countries. Hence, the Soviet Union’s model appealed to many countries all over the world during 1960’s decade.
Just as 1960’s were some of the finest years for Soviet Union, they were one of the worst years for USA. The decade saw so many ups and downs in western countries, that it later came to be known as “swinging sixties”. With the victory of JFK as a President of United States, and being a first catholic president, a new era dawned in USA politics. As mentioned, JFK envisioned an American moon landing, and urged fellow Americans to ask what they can do for the country. Patriotism ran rampant, the country was seeing some of the most prosperous years after world war 2. The middle class was happy as their American dream had come true. The country had been producing some of the finest products including cars by Ford, GM and Chrysler. But the ongoing race with Soviet Union had become an obsession for politicians. Communists were hunted down in 1950’s under the notorious McCarthy’s witch hunt, and soon the missiles were installed in Turkey as a defense against Soviet Union. In response to this, Soviets installed their nuclear missiles in Cuba, right under United States nose. This lead to Bay of Pigs fiasco, which led to the disappointment of the military industrial complex as well as mafia lobby. For more info, I would recommend to watch the movie “The Irishman”, which beautifully displays the subsequent events happened which lead to the death of their beloved JFK. Before that, to add insult to injury, USA had also failed in the diplomacy over Berlin, and Soviets started building the infamous “Berlin Wall”, which would become the symbol of cold war and divide between the so called free and communist world.
In addition to all such events, USA was being dragged in the Vietnam war just like they did in Korea back in 1950. Due to over-confidence on their ability to win wars, USA under estimated the weak Vietnamese forces (though they were clandestinely assisted by Soviets and Chinese). So, USA kept on getting dragged deeper and deeper in the Vietnam war, and lost many innocent American lives. On the domestic front, a new generation had grown up ( later to be known as baby boomers), who had born past world war 2, and not having seen any war or depression effects. They became disenchanted by the crimes committed by their military in Vietnam. Also, black rights, minority rights, sexual freedom were supported by this new generation and this started a new counter culture revolution. This so called hippies turned on to make love and take in psychedelic drugs, tuned in for rock & roll, and dropped out of college and family life in persuit of sexual freedom, liberation and utopian world. The Beatles rocked the world and their cult was revered by the young generation. This was a time when many young dropouts started traveling around the world to places like India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Indonesia for peace and spiritual curiosity. One of them is famous Steve Jobs, whose later achievements romanticized their generation. But not all of them became like Steve Jobs. Many followed the “Hare Krishna” movement in search of God, while rest got stoned in Afghanistan. It was indeed a swinging decade.
Though the hippie revolution changed the American and Western society, with civil rights to be granted to African-Americans later, but as a nation, it did shatter the American way of living. The events were seen by the rest of the world, and the image of so called democracy and free world leader portrayed by USA shattered. Family values changed, Vietnam war was lost, returning veterans were insulted and shunned by the American society. The decades old traditional and conservative american society started becoming more liberal and open. The people no longer saw the Soviets to be a threat, as domestic-social issues were more appealing. Hence, for military industrial complex and political establishment, this was a serious threat. The return of the American soldiers from Vietnam, Indian victory in the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 (India was supported by Soviet Union), then the leak of Pentagon papers by Daniel Ellsberg, Watergate scandal, and subsequent impeachment of crooked Nixon all made the problems more worse for the military and government. The Soviets had once again won the cold war in 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The 1960’s and 70’s era made James Bond famous globally. Similar to movies, there was a spy war between Soviets and USA. And even in this field of expertise, Soviets were far far ahead than the Americans. Already the Soviets had used the Manhattan Project spy ring ( Rosenberg & Fuchs) to spy over the atomic bomb project details, which led to Soviets building the bomb. Later the ideological Cambridge Five were exposed in England, and many more moles would work for Soviets in the American military and government.
Besides, even in the sports arena, Soviets had not only challenged but also defeated the Americans in Chess and Olympics games. From 1948 to 1993, with the sole exception of Bobby Fischer in 1972, Soviets had won all the World Chess Championships. Mikhail Botvinnik, Mikhail Tal, Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov all became world famous. Even the women’s World Chess was dominated by Soviet women. Except the Olympics of 1980 and 1984, Soviets and USA fought in the Olympics games, and in terms of medal tally, Soviets(USSR) emerged victorious. Though every team had its own speciality, just as USA dominated the swimming and athletics, similarly Soviets dominated weight-lifting and gymnastics.
So, by mid 1970’s, USA had accepted the Soviet superiority in many fields, and this even leads to complete exit of Americans forces from Vietnam in 1975. The next years saw a recession in the American economy, with the Carter Presidency in rule, it was considered to be a weaker administration. Since FDR’s 1933 New Deal until Carter’s end of 1970’s decade, USA had been following a controlled form of capitalism, with adequate fiscal and monetary control with the government. But with the far right policies promoted by Milton Friedman and with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, a new “Reaganomics” trend emerged and with it, began the policies such as reduced government regulation, globalization, strong military funding and far right religious conservatism.
Before Reagan got elected in 1980, the Iran fiasco had tanked the support of the American people for Carter’s re-election. At that same time, an event happened which would change the geopolitical scenario of the world in coming years. That was the entry of Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1979 to support the communist government from the Islamic revolution which had happened in Iran. The then national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, elated after this incident and considered this to be Soviet Union’s Vietnam. Soon, he signed a deal with the Pakistani General Zia-ul-Haq to raise up Taliban & Afghan Mujhahideen to counter the Soviets in an insurgency and guerilla warfare. As it is said about Afghanistan, that no external force has been able to control or rule Afghanistan. Just as the saying went, in few years, Soviets realized they were being trapped by the never ending war in Afghanistan, allegedly assisted by Americans on the backstage.
The 1980’s was a plummeting decade for the USSR. Not only was the war lost in Afghanistan, but USA had challenged the Soviets for developing a star war based weapons to counter the future space war in 1983. This was classic Reagan ( after all he was an actor in Hollywood), and several Hollywood movies such as Star wars, ET, Terminator and Indiana Jones made the decade a sci-fi fantasy. The Americans after decades of internal conflict, vietnam war and recession started seeing hope and bright future during Reagan’s Presidency, just as Indians are seeing this in Narendra Modi government today. So, all this sci-fi movies and fantasy, convinced the Soviets that Americans were indeed working on developing such technology. This required enormous money and this was the real catch. Reagan knew that the Soviets cannot be defeated militarily, but only economically. Hence, by making USSR invest their already dwindling pockets, would entail the eventual collapse of the Soviet Empire. Maybe Reagan did not realize this would happen in a mere span of 8 years!
Besides, the Afghanistan and Star Wars trap, Soviet Union lost its leadership one by one in 1980’s decade. Many old timers and top leaders died, and the politburo in Kremlin suffered from lack of effective leadership. Actually, Soviet Union was known as the “Iron curtain” of the world. But inside this iron curtain, apart from marvelous achievements by the people, the leadership had been led by the old communistic ideals, with dictatorship by a single ruler like Stalin. But after Stalin, none of the leaders showed the strong control over the politburo, and due to this developments in economy were not enacted. The world had been changed a lot since 1950’s, but the leadership remained in the old glory of the Soviet economic progress of 1950’s. On the other side, though USA had followed a state controlled capitalism until mid 1970’s, but the entrepreneurial spirit of the Americans did not die. New companies were formed by college dropouts like Gates and Jobs, and soon these techie wizards became the new giants in the technological revolution. Parallelly, the research institutions such as MIT, Harvard and Stanford had developed the computer, wireless communications, lasers and semiconductors. They started the third industrial revolution with developments in these fields. Just as the Soviets had been the pioneers in the space and missiles technology in 1950’s and 60’s, so as this new generation of Americans became the pioneers in computer and telecom revolution in 1970’s and 80’s. This later turned to be a game changer as Soviets did not invest much in these technologies. One of the reasons could be that they were known for their exceptional spying ability, and had been quite successful in the past during the atomic bomb developments. So, they must have relied on the Americans to develop, and later seize the technology for them to be copied. Also, as the USSR had state sponsored industries, unlike the private-venture capitalist funded companies in USA, the amount of funding provided for conducting the research & development was often decided by the politburo council. As they were old timers since Stalin’s era, they must not have appreciated this new computer/semiconductor driven technology. Also, USSR’s involvement in the foreign wars such as Afghanistan, the economic aid given by USSR to the third world countries such as Cuba, N.Korea, and to the Warsaw pact nations often limited the funding to the R&D. This was even more reduced as the cash inflow reduced due to over reliance on the agro, manufacturing and oil & gas industries. There had been many competitors in agro and oil-gas trade by then, and the dependence on USSR did evaporate some of the cash inflow from Soviet’s treasury.
Also, it is worth noting that the entrepreneurship and free market driven policies in USA did generate a lot of jobs for the American people. The system allowed anyone with their skills and talent to start a company and become rich. This freedom was not present in the Soviet economic model. The common people continued to live under the American threat ( as conveyed to them by the government). But at the times, when ordinary Americans could work in blue collar or white collar jobs with decent pay, dine in McDonalds, shop anything, anytime in Walmart, buy Ford Mastang, go on vacation to Disneyland, FL and buy their dream home in suburban US, with a fence, garden at the front fulfilling the American dream, on the other side, people in Soviet Union were being restricted to state controlled jobs, had to wait outside ration shops to purchase the state allotted food quota, could not save extra money in banks for future investment, and were not even allowed to leave the country, if done so would be indicted on account of spying or high treason. The world was following globalization, with internet, networking and wireless communications being launched in western countries. While the Soviet union was enclosed in its iron curtain, which the people eventually started resenting.
Perhaps, another major cause of concern for the people of Soviet Union was the Chernobyl incident in 1986. Many experts claim that this failure did significant harm to the image of Soviet Union as a powerful nation. The Soviets had the largest stockpile of nuclear warheads ( around 10000), more than USA and any other country on the planet. With the Chernobyl fiasco, grave concerns were raised regarding the safety of the those nuclear warheads. Due to the government’s strict policies on not conveying the information to outside world, fear and uncertainity became paramount.
Considering the partnerships Soviet Union had with many other nations in the world, it could be seen that during 1950’s-60’s, the partnerships strengthened due to dependence on Soviet Union for the economic and military aid. But during 1970’s and 80’s, the relation between Soviet Union and its friendly nations started dwindling. First was China in 1972, who welcomed Nixon to visit China along with his clever national security advisor “Henry Kissinger”. Both had come up with this intricate plan to create a wedge between Soviet Union and China ( Americans have always been good at this, and this policy to create a wedge continues as of date). Even before that, the relations between China and Soviet Union had started deteriorating as Mao influenced China felt that Soviet Union was not doing enough to spread communism. Perhaps, USSR’s support for India in the Bangladesh Liberation war had raised eyebrows in Beijing, and this might have concerned the Chinese. China and India had fought in 1962, and even though China had won, India continued to support Tibet, sheltered Dalai Lama and emerged a game changer after the 1971 war. Another reason was the emergence of Japan after WW2. Japan had bounced back with its capitalistic-industrial approach(with USA assistance), and considering the enmity between them during WW2, China feared the revival of history again with the exploitation and torture the Japanese had done on them. Also, the long march and cultural revolution of Mao had failed miserably ( hidden inside the bamboo curtain). The Chinese had the largest population and poverty had become a systemic problem. After years of experimenting with socialist policies, they realized it was time to adopt the capitalist economic policy to drive out the poor Chinese out of poverty, After the split up with China, USSR’s influence in East Asia degraded a lot.
Similarly, the Eastern Europe bloc and East Germany also got more concerned with the Soviet policies. The common people wanted more freedom and prosperity. They observed how West Germany and other Western countries had prospered after WW2, with their free market policies and individual freedom. All this created a simmering unrest amongst the people in USSR’s satellite countries.
To address all these problems, Soviet Union appointed Mikhail Gorbachev as a young leader who would overcome this concern among the people and keep Soviet Union a strong communist nation. But to the surprise of many, he advocated reformation within the communist party and promised to bring in openness and transparency. Known as Perestroika and Glasnost, soon, this created a series of events which would end with the single greatest event ever happened in the world history.
As mentioned, Soviet Union and its people were going through several problems on the economic, military, scientific, leadership front, and after bringing in these two policies, the people saw a leader first time in the history of Soviet Union, who advocated openness and transparency. The world until then had seen USSR as being a Iron curtain and dictatorship driven communist country. So, as soon as this new wave of policies swept in, people demanded freedom to separate from Soviet Union. Then, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and in 1991, all the satellite countries in the Warsaw pact separated from Soviet Union one after another. To the world’s surprise, all this happened without any major conflict or war. This was indeed the beginning of a new world order as said by George H. W Bush.
Hence, several difficulties faced by Soviet Union which led to this demise are loss of influence in other parts of the world, loss of faith in communist-socialist policies, degrading leadership in Kremlin, unable to keep pace with United States in field of computers, robotics and telecom, Star wars, cash crunch and unable to help other communist countries, unending war in Afghanistan with the loss of soldiers, Globalization and Liberalization wave throughout the world, Chernobyl fiasco, having 10000 nukes and no money, breakup with China and unable to convince the people in Eastern Europe for future prosperity and bright future. Besides, it could be said that United States must have influenced Gorbachev to adopt these policies, and having not realized this trap, Gorbachev did just what the Americans wanted.
Finally, the world not only lost a superpower who had challenged United States in every domain from nuclear technology to space, from weapons to sports, from political ideology to economic model, but also lost a nation who proved to the world that it is possible to become a superpower without following the western capitalism. USSR’s story is truely a rags to riches story. Coming humiliated out of war in 1917, and ascending to become the world’s superpower by 1957, in a mere span of 40 years is astonishing achievement. The world forgets that it took USA more than 100 years to become a developed nation.
To think what should they have done to prevent this is quite debatable. Some experts say this was a systemic problem with communism-socialism. UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously said that “The trouble with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”. It is even said that Soviet Union was never a ideal communist nation as per Marx’s or Trotsky’s theories. But it was rather more of a former Czar empire except the new Czar was the communist party, and not the Romanov royal family. Stalin had become the new Czar and today, as we see, Putin is following the same footsteps. Russia had always been governed by their own unique policies, unlike the Western Europe. So, it is hard to comprehend what they might have done to avoid a breakup of the empire. Perhaps, too much isolation in terms of strict policies, lack of economic freedom, lack of individual liberty given to persue his/her own life to their fellow people all brought in troubles for them. Also, to much investment in nuclear weapons and not investing the money in constructive activities like industry, research in new technologies like computer and internet hampered their progress in science and technology. As USA welcomed more and more talented people from all parts of the world, Russia did not do so. Also, their model lost the following it had once. As the world was embracing more and more of western led economic model, had the USSR also changed its economic policy to give more economic freedom to people to persue jobs, start companies, save, invest etc might have been helpful.
But the good thing is they had developed a system which did not go after money( to certain extent). Though individual opinion did not matter or freedom was curtailed, people worked for the ideology, for the love of their motherland, against imperialism, against mercantalism, against colonialism. Education and health was one of the best in Soviet Union, and as state took care of all the financial needs, people could divert their energy and hard work to the field of science, technology, sports and music. Even though the country faced dire economic problems during late 1980’s, still in 1988 Seoul Olympics, Soviet Union was the top performer with the highest medal tally. The strong sports psychology coupled with love for country brought them to the pinnacle of success.
For India, we lost a very good friend. Soviet Union had been our supporters even before India was independent. They had recommended us for the permanent seat to the United Nations Security Council, which our PM Nehru had foolishly rejected. They assisted with our 5 year plans, provided economic aid to build dams, factories and agriculture equipments. They made us strong by giving weapons, aircrafts ( Sukhoi Su30-MKi, Mig-21) and even nuclear technology. During the 1965 and 1971 war, they had made sure USA did not attack India, and had played a major role to make India win the Bangladesh Liberation War. Even our ISRO was heavily assisted by the Soviets, and till today, the only Indian to be in space, Rakesh Sharma, had been a part of Soviet Interkosmos programme. All this speaks highly of the deep friendship we had with the former Soviet Union.
Coming to conclusion, now its a thing of the past, and the current world events have drive far far away from those old days. It will remain a topic of debate and research for my generation and coming generations to come.
How do we assess if a country is developed or developing?
There are many countries which are developed like USA, Germany, Japan, while there are many other countries like India, Brazil, Poland which are developing. Usually, the GDP, GNP, PPP are some of the most important factors to check the economic health of the country. But, I find developing and developed in terms of GDP or GNP alone to be a very narrow approach to assess nation’s wealth or state of economic health.
Also, it would largely depend on the type of country as well. For ex: South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore are largely tourism based ( Singapore also a major business hub), and being relatively small nations, it is relatively easy to develop certain industries like tourism, hospitality, banking etc and attract foreign capital. And so they can get developed quickly. While some countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai are oil & gas rich and again due to small size and population, it was easy for them to get developed. But it is hard to label them as developed like USA because USA is developed in many sectors like Agriculture, Industry, Software, Technology, Defense etc, while other nations are quite dependent on USA and other western nations for technology and other services.
Rather, the world should adapt some parameters to assess whether a nation is developed or developing on the following basis:
-> nation’s contribution to world in technology, arts, culture
-> literacy rate of the population
-> happiness index among the people
-> wealth gap between rich and the poor
-> basic access of the goods and services for all the people such as food, housing, clothes, internet etc.
-> divorce rates and family bonding index
-> availability of health care facilities to all and the quality of services provided, including the cleanliness and hygiene practices in the society
-> scientific temper amongst the population
-> preservation of environment in the country including forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife, air, soil & water quality etc
-> availability of universal education, internet and sports activity to all kids and teenagers
-> safety of children, young girls, women and LGBTQ community, and rate of crime in the country.
-> tolerance level amongst the people for all religions, race, color, gender, caste etc
I think with the above parameters, we can assess if the nation is developed or developing. Considering these parameters, I don’t think any nation in the world is developed, maybe the Scandinavian countries fare the best in this respect ( Norway, Sweden & Denmark)