Unequal positions

Between the Lines


N

o doubt, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has come to have a voice at the G8, a forum of leading world powers. The very fact that India is invited to such meetings indicates the importance the country has assumed. His words that the financial meltdown was the doing of the developed nations and that the developing world had borne the burden most hit the headlines. But none of the world leaders lost their sleep over it.

The outcome of yet another G8 meeting is that the carbon emission, mainly responsible for climate change, will continue to be discharged by the industry in the West and to the detriment of the world. The attack was on the developing world which had a share but very small. It is the same old story of exploitation. To sustain their standards of living, the developed countries are still impervious to the needs of the developing world.

However, the G8 threw some crumbs of farm aid at poor nations. But it has not struck them that the deadlock at WTO is because of the farm policies they pursue. They subsidise farmers and the inputs and insist on the developing countries opening their markets. Local agriculture produce is at a disadvantage because it does not get even a fraction of subsidy which is enjoyed by the farmers in France and America. Needless to say, the developing world’s large population is that of agriculturists.

Agriculture

It is a pity that New Delhi is beginning to wilt under the pressure of the developed world.

The deadlock at Doha is on the agriculture produce. Former Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, however wanting in many ways, was at least firm about not giving into the unequal position prevailing between the developed and undeveloped worlds. India would let down the developing countries if it were to allow subsided farm products from the West to flood markets in South Asia and Africa.

The problem with the third world is that all the levers of financial power are with the World Bank and IMF, which are dominated by the developed world. The same is the case with political forums like the UN Security Council. However liberal some among them are such as US President Obama and French President Sarkozy they are on the same side when the chips are down.

The way in which G8 passed a resolution in the presence of Manmohan Singh that India would have to sign the unequal NPT if it wanted nuclear energy unfettered was an insult to the country’s dignity and self respect. Obviously, America is at the back of the resolution. This means that President Obama has different ideas about the Indo-US nuclear treaty and is not bound by what President Bush’s administration had undertaken to accomplish.

The NAM, the non-aligned movement, lost its raison detre once the cold war was over and the clash between the two blocs, Western and Soviet, was averted. Its meetings still convey the message that the third world has a platform which gives them an opportunity to raise their voice.

New Delhi has to prove its bona fides. It is the developed country in the region. But it is distant from all its neighbours. Understandably, its differences with Pakistan are political and have crusted into a relationship of enmity. But India is not seen as a friend either in Nepal or in Bangladesh. Our size may be foreboding. But there may also be something in our attitude or behaviour which deters the countries around us.

Fear factor

General Ashfaque Kayani, chief of Pakistan’s Army Staff, has said that he still fears an attack by India, although President Zardari was of the opposite view. But since the army counts the most in Pakistan its fears have to be allayed.

In any case, no power in the developed world will take us seriously if we have not the confidence of our neighbours. Self-righteousness is not a good trait. When some of our neighbours contend that New Delhi has hegemonistic tendencies, they may have something real about which to complain. We should introspect with all the humility, Gandhi’s approach which we gave up soon after his assassination.

However, it is also incumbent on our neighbours to cooperate with India and not create situations to which New Delhi may react adversely. Take the statement by Pakistan military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas who has told the Americans, You deliver on India and we will deliver on the Taliban. Statements like the one by military spokesman on top of slow progress elsewhere do not help. Even if the military commander was hinting at Kashmir, how can Washington be of any help when it’s a bilateral issue?

Still if New Delhi were to adopt steps to accommodate the neighbours and revive the SAARC, sagging at this time, Manmohan Singh’s voice at G8 would be more powerful than today. He would not have to hawk for the membership in the Security Council. Imagine India’s strength if all countries in South Asia were to back it.

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