Why India Doesn’t Fit in the Great Populist-Liberal Narrative?

India’s Permanent Representative-designate to UN calls on President Kovind
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Populism is the political art of the street: in the Machiavelli-Hobbes tradition of understanding politics, it is the elite v street political syndrome. It can be led by communists and can be even a clickbait of the moderates and the conservatives with due honesty. Even Liberalism, the scion of the hopeful and the open, the constructive and of those who seek wisdom through the enlightenment of mass collectivism, is nowhere different from populism. It would be reasonable to contend that the metaphysical imagery of liberalism (and neoliberal economics) has been appropriately damaged, giving some temperate gains to the populist section of political perception. Still, it does not mean that Liberalism is elitist.

Keeping the Eurocentric roots of the Liberal narrative aside, which honestly the international community should — both Liberalism and Populism — as contended in the proposition — are programmable political and social realms of human civilization. They do not require a semantic identity to reserve their existence. Like the Liberal-Conservative narrative, where the inference of Machiavelli’s works on the Elite Prince is juxtaposed as a correlative opaqueness as political scientists would conveniently intend to impose on anything for centuries to come, they would do the same with the Liberalism-Populism couple too, unfortunately.

Although we must have binary analyses, we must often remember that binary narratives can only exist when within the scores and sections of each binary unit of the narrative spectrum, we embrace diversity and avoid it from being framed as a division, which should be interpreted in political advocacy in a more realistic tone.

Interestingly, populism coupled by adversities faced by the liberal narrative, whether gauged by white supremacy in the West, Slactivism in the Middle East, and cultural rejuvenation in China and Asia-Pacific, all of these developments can be segregated in a proper academic estimate and so, it would make things easier for anyone to understand the whole canvas under the helm of the following research questions:

  • Why did the political phenomenon come into being?
  • Is the political phenomenon a whim, or it does possess some reasonable weightage or propensity or capacity?
  • Is the phenomenon a revolutionary process or something deeply evolutionary?
  • Can the global order change its course in certain aspects?

These questions will be used taking the binary method to deal with issues. However, there will be a political autopsy, to focus on facts, the autonomy of political wisdom and real issues, rather than propaganda and fear.

India’s NeoConservatism and NeoRealism since 2009 (not 2014): Diplomacy — Public and International

This section addresses the following questions:

  • Why did the political phenomenon come into being?
  • Is the political phenomenon a whim, or it does possess some reasonable weightage or propensity or capacity?

Narendra Modi’s Conservatism and Cultural Pluralism (dissecting the Hindutva narrative too far from India’s Diplomatic way of embracing cultural confidence) began to blossom even before the decline of the Indian National Congress, the ICC World Cup in 2011 and even other relative issues. Even the Bhartiya Janata Party’s old stalwart leadership could see some hazy developments, but could not figure it out that Populism will drive India in a new paradigm. The synopsis may seem too brandish, smell like a realpolitik and maybe even too vaguely divergently intersecting, but India’s basic connotations of political change had already started. Dr Manmohan Singh could not wield much his influence in the UPA-2 regime, which is owed to the communal and shrewd approach of the Central Leadership of the INC. One of the most significant events of the trigger could have been the 26/11 incident, which obviously be criticized and appropriately scrutinized if reasonable.

Read India’s Machiavellian Democracy: Need for Cultural Liberalism & Secularism

Dr Shashi Tharoor, Salman Khurshid, Former Ambassador Asoke Mukherji and Syed Akbaruddin, Former Ambassador and incumbent Union Minister Hardeep S Puri and INC Politician Anand Sharma, who was also in the Legal Team representing India in the Jadhav Case, already knew about India’s new Diplomatic frontiers. NAM had become unrealistic despite the fact that Delhi’s many roads have names inspired from various dead and discrete dictators of the 20th Century, surprisingly, Mr Khurshid was invited by Vladimir Putin to attend the Sochi Conference on the Syrian Crisis in December 2013, and even India had started increasing its military spending. Meanwhile, a list of provable and unproved scams hit the nation, the Nirbhaya case and Anna Hazare’s ‘pseudo’ Lokpal movement, the Indian Supreme Court’s delay in dealing with relevant matters related to faith and culture, created a spur of populism among the average Indians, from all sections, the urban, the semi-urban and the rural. A sense of duopoly at the national level had already made Indians bored and monotonous to political trust and resonance. Funnily, Mr Advani, a stalwart of the BJP, did feel low when Mr Modi became the PM (and even when Modi was declared as a PM candidate). Although it can be contended that Modi’s election was shifted in a more presidential manner with many relevant reservations to be kept, it would not be obvious to contend why he wished that maybe a Cong-BJP duo may rotate. The problem was that his conservative politics — which could have been a possible resemblance of the Christian Democratic Union’s constructive, leading (possibly poaching too) and dominating approach could have led to a reasonable possibility. The BJP however changed and revived with new political physic: an ethnic-nationalist pluralism, which does not fear to adversaries and does have omnipotent qualities.

Also, read Modi’s Cultural Pluralism: A CDU-alike Party Politics in India?

Also, you must watch this Off The Cuff episode where Thomas Friedman posits on Global Governance and the role of businesses in the COVID19 outbreak. His statement on India was very interesting with some important reflections.

Now, activities reported by the International Media and the Indian Media — are generally too toxic and polarized when it comes to the communication delicacy they must have. However, nobody cares about constructivism with a sense of propriety. Still, many do not opt ground reporting, and they have a lot of issues, including ideological obscuration. This also was a part of the bigger narrative of communication and social credibility.

Misusing neoliberal economics, manipulating the world’s best-ever neat and impurely, impromptu pure chance (and roughly, a mere bet) to open its hearts to everyone, whether the worse, the best and even the nobody, was divulged and completely defeated and destroyed by the partisanship of the Western Media, especially of the capricious network of people, who believed in the staunch Left-Right politics to divide people. They forgot the humility of a failed Gorbachev, a resilient Reagan, and a fierce but silent APJ Abdul Kalam, which is shoddy and must be condemned with relevant ethical grounds.

The problem with single point heroes or, in this case, “sheroes” is that they usually fall due to their incompetence. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, was never a good candidate for the cause of protecting ‘mother Earth’ because she essentially came across as encouraging truancy in schoolchildren. Her 15 seconds of fame due to her now infamous “how dare you” has spawned a lot of memes, mostly of the kind ridiculing her, even though her views on climate change were fairly nuanced, allowing developing countries space for more emissions while asking for a greater burden on the developed countries. But her ideas are untenable.

Thus, Modi’s rise was neat and had certain similarities with populism in Europe, the Brexit vote and Trump’s election, as short-sighted journalists keep it in a cocoon of their narratives. However, the myopic approach of the journalists failed to realize Europe and the US’ obsession with judgementalism. They also failed to realize that the Middle East is trying to resettle its vices, it had started to consume, since the Cold War. For example — how is it still relevant for Justin Trudeau and Trump to fund the Saudis?

Oh, but we have 3 interesting geopolitical narratives, which can prove why the Middle East wasn’t based on judgementalism: it had deeper issues of resilience, like Asia and Africa. Those three narratives are:

The Oil Narrative as preceded at worst by the West damaged their instrumental capability to be the leaders of the Free world, Syria’s incapabilities and machinic reliance on Putin’s Russia and Erdogan’s Turkey proved how incapable and unreasonable Assad was to run his earlier Europeanized and modern state and the Shia-Sunni narratives (despite their theological and anthropological woes, which nobody should ever deny), have failed the West miserably.

Funding (not supporting) militias is not unreasonable if they can be manipulated for strategic reasons (ethically it is not even a question to argue even. Worse happens when such class of non-state actors and irresponsible state actors are being fed and programmed by the West based on two major fallacies — (a) the Ethnocentric model of liberalism and humanism (based on Eurocentric footprints) — showing the same political symptoms of judgementalism, and lack of aesthetic inquiry done by the leaders, and (b) the misuse and overdose of the Utilitarian model of economics-centric manipulation of armed conflicts and activities. Although Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were not perfect, and so Narendra Modi and Donald Trump are not so experts in ‘realpolitik’, these two pairs, literally have something in common — both focus on a graduated approach of conservatism, in their own fashions.

In 2020, you would expect some consumerist and populist flavours with a slim fashion of liberal marketeering (at least in the case of PM Modi) in the Modi-Trump pair too. One more example we must point out — Trump’s interest to resolve the Kashmir issue. Despite India’s own diplomatic narratives to be maintained and warmed up, Trump’s interest in resolving the Kashmir issue, could have been a step of raw business-centric wisdom he does have. We have examples of it in 2018 and 2019 — the Helsinki Summit with President Putin, the slim Pyongyang Declaration POTUS had with Kim Jong Un of DPRK, the establishment of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, his smart yet vaguely instrumented decision to limit Huawei’s influence on the US and forcing NATO members to contribute more in the Alliance are certain signs of his Presidency being ugly but decisive. These decisions may not be morally wise, but are wise at some strategic level, with an aesthetic touch.

There is no doubt that Trump has contributed to the damage of the credibility of the democratic institutions of the US, like the US Congress & the Supreme Court of the US and has emulated the US towards a ‘democratic’ technocracy. This is certainly not tyrannical because Trump’s business-centric ethos uses populism in a hazy and unclear fashion, unlike Jair Bolsonaro from Brazil, Ali Khamenei from Iran and Rodrigo Duterte from the Philippines. He leans more to Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison.

It would be however inappropriate to compare the US with India in terms of administrative and judicial credibility because Modi’s bureaucracy has three essential features —

  • That it is Modi-Centric, no doubt, but certainly that centrism does not lack the conviction to make sweeping decisions, which we have seen quite similar in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and certain states;
  • That it is thawing out of the Britishesque-Socialist dilemma, which means that the Socialist influence (excluding the economic part) in the administrative and judicial structure coupled with some antique and dead conventional modalities inspired by the British Raj has to still end and become more connected, responsible and connected if not clearly transparent (this would take a really long time). The Aarogya Setu App controversy and the communitarian-level failure of administrative institutions in the migrant workers’ (meaning that there is no consistency in administrative support being given despite Center’s sweeping reforms) issue due to COVID certainly prove it without any further doubt.

Well, there is an interesting Twitter Thread to share (not to prove anything but to reflect something really deep):

  • That the aesthetic values of Indian Governance are interlinked with its roots of diplomacy at two levels — International and National. Modi’s public diplomacy measures no doubt have mixed colours of political mechanisms — Gandhian Socialism (laughable, but true), Cultural Pluralism, Market Libertarianism and even Capital-incentive thinking. At the diplomatic level, India has already created an interesting narrative to control and gauge the UN and other multilateral institutions as a multi-aligned stabilizing power.

It even appears from the experiential reflection of what TS Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative at the UN — said in some interview:

Even some of the most difficult postings have their own charm. There are opportunities in all challenges. One memorable posting was my appointment as India’s first Representative of India to the Palestinian Authority. I opened the Indian Mission in Gaza and lived there for more than two years amidst very warm and hospitable Palestinians. That was the time of President Yasser Arafat. That was an experience which I can’t forget. The fact that I speak Arabic made it that much meaningful.

Thus, Indian Conservatism is very different. It has no reasonable persona as per the Populist-Liberal status quo-ists.

India as a Stabilizing Power since 2003 (again, not since 2014)

This section addresses the following questions:

  • Is the phenomenon a revolutionary process or something deeply evolutionary?
  • Can the global order change its course in certain aspects?

Let us get this straight. Every nation-state does have ideological balances to retain. They process certain aesthetics to curtail and influence the global order in their own way. For example — the US spans its military and economic presence due to its own strategic reasons, the BRI initiative dreamt by the Communist Party of China is not a nightmare: it has expansionist designs historically lent to the Silk Route ideology coupled with how is it trying to treat the South China Sea issue and the European Union is now shifting to neorealism to prevail its integrity.

India, fortunately, at least for the coming years — is neither Ethnocentric nor expansionist. Its span of cultural confidence, based on diversity and cultural pluralism is sociological and multi-lithic, which no one can deny. India is leaning towards the West in terms of developing some of its post-Britishesque-Socialist technocratic establishments, but it does not mean India is authoritarian. Also, India’s majority Indic (not just Hindu) culture does not believe in Machiavellian judgmentalism and is centric to deliberation, reflection and reasonability. You can find various examples ranging from the Puranas to Shrimad Bhagwad Gita to the Vedas to works written by Buddhists. Here is a thread you must read. This thread focuses on the rise of Vernacular languages.

Considering the Indic Culture’s anthropological realities, here is an interesting quote to share from an Article by MS Sreenivasan:

But the orthodox exponent of Indian culture asks us to accept this fact on the basis of a blind belief in the greatness of our ancient Rishis and wants to revive the old ideals and values as they were without any remoulding and modification. Such a static and inert approach to Indian culture can never be progressive and creative. If the insights of our ancient Rishis are to be brought back to life and made creative for the present, they have to become our own insights. We have to rediscover them through spiritual experience, vision, intuition or reasoning and make them our own. And if these insights have to become live and creative for shaping the future, we have to re-examine their applica­bility to the contemporary and emerging society.

There is no doubt that India does have some issues with respect to fringe elements from various edges of politics, who malign the progressive vision of India and are radical enough to misuse the good side of populism: need of some mass humanism to gauge change. They think Mass Humanism is programmable. In fact — they are correct. Populism by nature is programmable and so does the mob mentality. Nevertheless, the Indian vision is conservative, which would always focus on a wiser yet inertial approach to deal with problems, without the judgementalism issue. Indian Diplomats and Leaders do not get influenced by populism easily except in certain issues of antique propensity and concern in politics, economic welfare, free trade and social harmony. Instead — it is a resolve that is created by India to the world and its people that keeps itself intact to understand various issues of concern. A good example is the Vande Bharat Mission by the Indian Government, which has mixed reactions.

The question of whether the Global Order will be affected can be reasonably answered by understanding how the Global South will change its course. Please read the Recommendations provided by the Research Team at the Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law in the COVID19.AI Report Policy Paper (Recommendations and Inferences on Diplomacy and Multilateralism).

There is also a work written by Nilanjan Ghosh, “Time for BIMSTEC to Realize Potential”, which is worth reading. Also, Pratnashree Basu in her paper written for the Observer Research Foundation with Mr Ghosh, have pointed out striking points on India and BIMSTEC:

In order to balance China’s growing involvement, many countries have signalled their intent for deeper cooperation with India. India has been engaged in naval modernisation programmes in Myanmar and Sri Lanka as well as connectivity and infrastructural engagements with all BIMSTEC member countries. The re-emergence of the BIMSTEC therefore is indicative of “reactive regionalism” as it has come as a response to the growing influence of China in the region as well as the recognition of the futility of SAARC. As opposed to this, “proactive regionalism” involves tapping dormant opportunities through cooperation or joint endeavours. If the renewed interest in the BIMSTEC is to be sustained, then member countries should play a more proactive role by investing in essential resources. Otherwise, the organisation will once again recede into the background. Indeed, SAARC and BIMSTEC should not be viewed as alternatives to be picked up only when the circumstances prompt, but rather as separate entities with scope for both to function complementarily. The success of regionalism has largely depended on proactive steps driven by political will. What pulled BIMSTEC back for a long time was lack of political will; even today, little resources have been invested in this institution to make it a formidable success, despite the noise being made around it of late.

Read The Fast & Furious Multipolar, Economic and Political Global Order

India — unlike Europe and the US — would change the Global Order by balancing the communitarian Global South and expansionist China, which in its veriest of limitation, would be a smart step. India will lead the WHO Executive Board for a period of 3 years, and despite its ‘One China Policy’, it would not ignore Taiwan’s role in combating COVID19, but would also not explicitly intend to provoke the Chinese like POTUS Trump. It is hopeful that India is at least for now, too innocent to have a pro-control influence in the world, because, for years, it has been an advocate of pro-choice in many of its diplomatic issues with specific reservations. Its reservations to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as submitted in September 2019, show the same story. The most interesting reservations in the declaration are provided as follows:

(4) disputes relating to or connected with facts or situations of hostilities, armed conflicts, individual or collective actions taken in self-defence, resistance to aggression, fulfilment of obligations imposed by international bodies, and other similar or related acts, measures or situations in which India is, has been or may in future be involved, including the measures taken for protection of national security and ensuring national defence;

(7) disputes concerning the interpretation or application of a multilateral treaty to which India is not a party; and disputes concerning the interpretation or application of a multilateral treaty to which India is a party, unless all the parties to the treaty are also parties to the case before the Court or the Government of India specially agree to jurisdiction;

It would always be worth nothing to see how a pro-choice India would influence the World Order. However, it is way clear that India is never, and should not ever be included in the Populist and Liberal Narrative. If the International Media does that, it would certainly be deplorable and misleading.

Founder and CEO, Internationalism™ | Founder & Chairperson, ISAIL | AI-Law Futurist | YouTuber | Researcher | Poet

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