Grey area between the Westphalian and the Liberal order

In 2020, the Government of India came up with three new farm acts to improve the market system in agriculture. A prominent agriculture economist, Ashok Gulati, says that the green revolution had addressed the product side issues in Indian agriculture but supply-side reforms have been hanging for a long time. But farmers from Punjab are dissatisfied with the logic given by the Government of India. Amid the farm protest, some international celebrities like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg pop up the protest in an organized fashion through Twitter. The government of India retaliated such targeted and planned acts with hashtags and gave birth to a new debate on the roles of foreigners – as a spectator or player?

Will history repeat itself?: Dr. Ambedkar’s anxiety

Dr. Ambedkar in his last speech on November 25, 1949, warned future generations not to commit the mistakes of the past in order to protect freedom which was gained at a high cost and supreme sacrifices. Quoting his speech verbatim –

“What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. In the invasion of Sindh by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahar accepted bribes from the agents of Mahommed-Bin-Kasim and refused to fight on the side of their King. It was Jaichand who invited Mahommed Ghori to invade India and fight against Prithvi Raj and promised him the help of himself and the Solanki Kings.”

“When Shivaji was fighting for the liberation of Hindus, the other Maratha noblemen and the Rajput Kings were fighting the battle on the side of Moghul Emperors. When the British were trying to destroy the Sikh Rulers, Gulab Singh, their principal commander sat silent and did not help to save the Sikh Kingdom. In 1857, when a large part of India had declared a war of independence against the British, the Sikhs stood and watched the event as silent spectators. Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety.”

Islamic invasion: Regional hegemon during the modern period

Winston Churchill rightly says that “History is written by victors.” In spite of uncountable unethical conduct, victors are praised in history. Following the same footprints, foreign invaders in India during the medieval period get appreciations. The dark days of medieval India unveil the truth that foreigners came to India to exploits and loot for their own interests. Some of them like Nadir Shah looted India and returned back to his home country.

Some of them stayed in India and enjoyed India’s richness and exploiting locals. During these dark periods, native people of India have been reduced to second-class citizens called – ‘Dhimmi‘. Foreign power imposed religion-based taxes on the Indian natives named – Jizyah. Thousands of temples were either destroyed by the invaders or renovated the structure with Islamic architecture by using arc and dome followed by renaming it as they have built from the scratch.

For example, the “Taj Mahal” on the banks of the Yamuna in Agra is standing on a wooden base. The foundation of the Taj is made of Ebony wood which doesn’t decay even in water. Neither ample water nor trees are the characteristic feature of the middle east from where invaders came to India. Similarly, Qutub Minar is built over the premises of plundered Hindu temples. This preposition was even accepted by historians as well since relics of temples are seen on pillars.

The worse situation of non-Muslims can be found from the fact that “There was a restriction that non-Muslim men could not marry Muslim women. Sometimes they had restrictions on their dress, public religious display, professions, and places of worship.” They were not just hunger of land but faith, religious places, and blood too. According to J.S. Grewal, a scholar of Sikh history. “In 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed in Delhi on 24 November under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.” He dared to confront the religious persecution of Kashmiri Hindus by the Mughal officials and refused to convert to Islam.

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A very famous proposition that was made to protect Mughals from being called as ‘invaders’ is that they live in India and contributed to the economic growth of India. Truth is that trade was evident even in the Indus valley civilization. According to the Cambridge historian Angus Maddison writes in his book, Contours of the world economy, 1–2030 CE: essays in macro-economic history, that while India had the largest economy till 1000 AD (with a GDP share of 28.9% in 1000AD). According to Manas Chakravarty in Live Mint, “By 1820, however, India’s share had fallen to 16.1%.”

Economist Utsa Patnaik has estimated India’s loss due to British colonialism. But economic drain due to Islamic invasion is an area for new research. What do the above propositions indicate? Had any foreign power really worked for India exclusively? History appeals to you not to divide yourself so hard that you could able to buy the narrative of foreigners.

Pax-Britannica: Colonial period

200 years of British rule has also been in favor of the British and against the interests of India. It is claimed by some scholars that Britain has given a lot to India. While receiving an honorary doctorate from Oxford award, the then PM of India, Manmohan singh, praised British India for good governance in 2005. But truth is that the British tried to just create an environment that could favor their trade interests. Even the Indian railway was constructed from the Indian money by paying a higher interest rate (Compare to existing international rates) to the British investors.

The drain of wealth was even recognized during the British period by the Dadabhai Naroji in 1867. It was further analyzed and develop by R.P. Dutt, and M.G Ranade. Shashi Tharoor in his book “An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India” claims that In the 18th century, India’s share then of the world economy was 23%, as large as all of Europe put together. By the time the British left India in 1947, it was 3%. An economic study conducted by economist Utsa Patnaik claims that the British took $45 trillion out of India in 200 years.

Exploitation during British India was even not different from the Islamic period. British government exploits farmers and forced them to grow cash crops (Thinkathia system in Bihar). Local artisans received a slow death due to the British industrial revolution. People were used in place of animals to pull the British elites in India. Indian people faced mass killing in Jallianwala. Farmers were forced to pay taxes irrespective of productivity.

Shashi Tharoor in his book “An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India” has explained India’s contributions in men, material, and money, to the wars that the British fought within India and overseas, especially the two World Wars. Tharoor tells us that they also had perfected a policy of divide and rule, breaking treaties at will and making war and looting with impunity (exemption from punishment). For many years, even Britishers were not allowed to be persecuted by the Indian judges.

British India has been able to put cracks in the cohesiveness of our society. Consequently, even a tiny number of British officials and troops (about 20,000 in all) have successfully ruled over 300 million Indians for 200 years ago. The British government has yet been so arrogant that even today they are not ready to officially confess the realities of 200 years. Is it a good idea to buy the narrative of the foreigners by ignoring the position of the government of India which is democratically and independently chosen by us i.e. the people of India.

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Pax-Americana: Post-colonial order

At the end of the first world war, the then US president Woodrow Wilson came with the 14 points speech to bring peace to the world. That was the first visible construct of the liberal order. His liberal idealism failed and led to the second world war. This forced the new budding hegemon to reformulate the rules. Since the end of the second world war, the US took over the world order from the British. Pax-Britannica has been shifted to Pax-Americana. The US tried to institutionalize world governance.

But this liberal institutionalism had given birth to neo-colonialism because it was misused by the US. American sociologist, Immanuel Wallerstein, in his ‘World Systems Theory‘ explained how the drain of wealth has still being continued. Post-colonial states have been reduced to the consumer and developed countries have played the role of supplier and wealth creator. Whenever any post-colonial country dares to come and speak their interests, then, they were either ignored or derailed by adding them into their camps for hegemonic wars. For example, India’s led NAM has been ignored by western academics.

The US had misused the Bretton Wood institutions like IMF and World Bank. When the Government of India was facing a balance of payment crisis (BoP), the US forced India to help the US by allowing to get fueling in India in the Gulf war. The Washington consensus forced India to go for the economic reforms as per their wishes. I am not against market reforms. By the way of reforming the market is a matter of dispute. Its adverse impact can be found in Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in 21st century” in which he gives the statistic that India’s inequality has increased from 6% in 1980 to 23% in 2017.

During the 60s, India used to receive the US’s food program, PL-480. When India criticized the US on the Vietnam war, they put the food shipments on such a tight leash that India literally lived from ship to mouth. It was the Indian government who had shown the seeds of the green revolution. When Indians started doing well, again western elites forced developing countries like India to refrain from farm subsidies through WTO asymmetrically. It was again the Government of India who rescued Indian farmers diplomatically by getting a peace clause till WTO gets a solution.

Debates around farmer protest in India

After centuries of humiliation at the hand of Mughals and Britishers, India re-started its journey in the 1950s. Pundit Nehru, an architect of post-colonial India, favored focusing on food and clothes. India imported grains to ensure no empty stomach. It continues till the 1960s. After that, India became self-sufficient through the Green revolution with the help of the national government and not global governance. It addressed the production side of agriculture but the market had been untouched by and large. Following the same trajectory, the government of India came with new farm laws to address farm laws.

Since Punjab has been successful with the Mandi system, farmers started protesting over their concerns. The government of India brought farmers to the table to discuss issues. All these are fine because all were happening in a democratic capacity. But in the meanwhile, foreign celebrities from Rihanna to Greta Thunberg started paneling a set geopolitical narrative through toolkits. Ministry of external affairs as well as Indian celebrities condemned such moves. Logically they are right because foreigners can be a spectator and not participants because they are not part of Indian social contract.

Similarly, in the first week of March 2021, a debate was held among some British lawmakers, in Westminster Hall, over the “right of peaceful protests” and “freedom of the press in India” amid the ongoing farmers’ agitation. Consequently, the Indian High Commission in London has condemned such activities. Logically they are also overreaching their domain because British lawmakers have no role in the Indian social contract. They have been chosen for the people of Britain and they should mind their own business. It will be better if British lawmakers would hear the voices of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

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Should the world return to the Westphalian system?

The classical approach based on the Hobbesian model says that State is a sovereign and it has an exclusive right to take any action it thought fit to deal with its nationals. This approach is regressive in the context of modern times. Laski rightly says that every thinker is a child of his time. Thus, this approach has become outdated because it might be suited for Britain during Hobbesian days. But it doesn’t mean that any bigger player has the authority to violate the sovereignty of the weaker state as the US and China do.

There are some conditions if one obeys, can enjoy the sovereignty. International scrutiny and interventions will be restricted if one country has an independent judiciary, free media, and an active civil society. For example, in the context of the Rohingya crisis, Myanmar has failed on these parameters. Thus, international intervention is justified. But these things are strong in India. Thus, the international community, as well as people outside the state, can’t intervene in India.

It is due to the disorder in the international institutions, the world has failed in protecting human rights and civil liberty where the judiciary is not independent and civil society is weak – Pakistan, Myanmar, Syria, and China, etc. Consequently, a comparatively stronger state uses its own efforts like Surgical strikes. For example, If the international community has able to contain Pakistan from the terror activities then India would have not gone for strikes in Balacot. But due to lack of capacity, weaker states stand at the receiving end due to the non-functioning of the world governance.

Explanation of the above concerns doesn’t mean that I am against the liberal institutions of the world or supporting any fascists ideas. Mussolini used to say that there is nothing outside the state and nothing against the state. It’s not like that. India can cooperate with the world’s governance based on the interests of Indians. But Indian people should not buy any foreign idea which is fabricated against the interests of India as well as against the democratically elected government of India. India is the largest democracy in the world with a strong and independent judiciary and strong civil society. India stands strong. India stands united against any foreign propaganda.

Footnotes

  1. Times of India | Rihanna’s tweet on farmer protests: How it started and where it went
  2. Scroll.in | Why BR Ambedkar’s three warnings in his last speech to the Constituent Assembly resonate even today
  3. DailyO | If Mughals did not loot India, what exactly was their contribution to India?
  4. Livemint | World history by per capita GDP
  5. Outlook | BJP objects to PM ‘praising’ British rule in India
  6. National Archives UK | Living in the British empire: India
  7. The Guardian | ‘But what about the railways …?’ ​​The myth of Britain’s gifts to India
  8. Financial Express | British took $45 trillion out of India in 200 years
  9. ResearchGate | World system theory by Immanuel Wallerstein 
  10. The New York Times | India in an Uproar Over Refueling of U.S. Aircraft
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