India is among “big brothers” of WTO: Pascal Lamy

The WTO Chief seems to know perfectly well what phrases would attract his audience in India today. This way they feel themselves to be in the company of global abusers.

    “Among the big brothers (in WTO) are the big developing countries. China, India and Brazil (are the) three big brothers,” Lamy told reporters.

    He said the three countries, along with key players like Australia, EU and the US constitute the world of today.


Krugman’s “great illusion”

Economist Paul Krugman in his latest column in NY Times (Aug 15, 2008) entitled “The Great Illusion” expresses his concern at the possibility that “the second great age of globalization may share the fate of the first”. And it is the recent Russia-Georgia conflict that makes him say so. To be more explicit he goes on to explain that “our grandfathers lived in a world of largely self-sufficient, inward-looking national economies — but our great-great grandfathers lived, as we do, in a world of large-scale international trade and investment, a world destroyed by nationalism.”

Krugman’s above statement clearly shows his lack of any historical sense. When was that “world of large-scale international trade and investment” free of (militarist) nationalism – a mechanism to protect that “large-scaleness”? And much of the “nationalism” which destroyed that world was in fact a revolt against that “large-scale” militarism. Yes, it destroyed the Pax Britannica – it was a war against the war monopoly.

On the one hand, Krugman seems to tell that national self-sufficiency at least with regard to “the current food crisis” is at last clearly shown to be not “an outmoded concept”. But he is in fact accusing nationalism of “many governments” for “leaving food-importing countries in dire straits”. He further finds that there is a rise of “militarism and imperialism” as “it does mark the end of the Pax Americana — the era in which the United States more or less maintained a monopoly on the use of military force. And that raises some real questions about the future of globalization”. Obviously, for him, “Russian energy” and Chinese big economy are the real threats as they have the capacity to manipulate world polities and economies to submission.

Then what is the Pax Americana? Is it not militarism, imperialism and manipulation, that we witnessed throughout the 1990s and afterwards? When did war-mongering and militarist build-up end during the “Pax Americana”? Increasing manipulative capacities of other countries and their political economy at the most demonstrate a globalization of “militarism and imperialism”.

Krugman rightly questions those analysts who “tell us not to worry: global economic integration itself protects us against war, they argue, because successful trading economies won’t risk their prosperity by engaging in military adventurism”. He thinks “the foundations of the second global economy” are solid than those of the first only “in some ways”, “[f]or example, war among the nations of Western Europe really does seem inconceivable now, not so much because of economic ties as because of shared democratic values”. So euro-centric Krugman, like Stiglitz, ultimately thinks the West not to be adventurist because of its democracy, but ah! “much of the world, however, including nations that play a key role in the global economy, doesn’t share those values”. So does he think the Pax Americana to which the West has submitted is about peace and democracy, which is now being threatened by the despotic Orient?

Krugman rightly concludes that “the belief that economic rationality always prevents war is an equally great illusion”. But like any other ordinary bourgeois he thinks economic rationality can prevent war when coupled with “democratic” values of the West. Obviously he can’t see the fact that economic rationality is about competition, representative democracy is about competition, and a war is competition par excellence. They are all ultimately the same – diverse moments in the life of “social capital”(1). Krugman refuses to recognize that capital whether protected by democratic regimes or not is at constant war against labour – which needs to be divided and controlled if it is to be exploited – and Western xenophobic megalomaniac nationalisms have always been nurtured for this reason. Where is the country in the West free from state-sponsored Ku-klux-klanesque policies and activism against migrants and “the other”? The neo-capitalist regimes have learned their lessons properly – obviously at the cost of threatening the established monopolies. It is not an end of globalization, as Krugman prognosticates, but a new stage – and a more barbaric stage – of capitalist globalization.


(1) “Here social capital is not just the total capital of society: it is not the simple sum of individual capitals. It is the whole process of socialization of capitalist production: it is capital itself that becomes uncovered, at a certain level of its development, as social power”. (Mario Tronti (1971), Social Capital)

Has “the ghost of an incipient Indian imperialism” grown up?

Writing in 1949 N.V. Sovani in his ECONOMIC RELATIONS OF INDIA WITH SOUTH-EAST ASIA AND THE FAR EAST (OUP and Indian Council of World Affairs) talked about the “ghost of an incipient Indian imperialism”:

Indian migration to Ceylon, Burma and Malaya, as explained above, was largely under the aegis of the British. It could take the form it did only under the circumstances that British imperialism created. The withdrawal of British imperialism from these areas – though only half way through in Malaya – has changed the entire background. Indians abroad are likely to encounter increasing opposition. The Indian trading and commercial interests in these countries have evoked stronger and more bitter resentment, and it is likely that more and more restrictions will be placed on their activities. This is not an isolated phenomenon. Foreign elements all over South-East Asia are experiencing a similar fate. The reaction against the Chinese in Siam and lately in the Philippines are cases in point. Such a development is but natural during the transition from a colonial to a national economy. Realizing the new set-up of things the problem of Indians will have to be continuously handled in such a manner as to lay the ghost of an incipient Indian imperialism./page 68/

Now sixty years after, the Indian neoliberalisers and their western promoters are unabashedly boasting about “reverse imperialism”.

On the logic of imperialism – US & India

To say that the US invasion of Iraq “was not all about oil” is nothing novel. The triviality of “all about oil” argument is perhaps most clearly shown in the works of Marxists like Cyrus Bina. When neoliberal economic journalists like Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar criticise this argument, they ultimately circularly reiterate the same argument – not all about oil, but still all about oil. So he in one of his recent gems published on 10 March 2007 starts with saying:

“Many Indians, including respected foreign policy analysts, believe that the US invaded Iraq and ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003 simply to grab his oilfields. “Its all about oil,” they said. Well, it’s now four years since the invasion. Yet, we see no sign of the US grabbing Iraq’s oilfields”.

And ends by:

“The US still has a strong interest… in seeing that oil production in the Persian Gulf is not disrupted or monopolised by any military power. This was one reason why the US forced Saddam out of Kuwait, which he had invaded and occupied in 1990. The US Navy has for decades patrolled the sea lanes to ensure security for oil tankers. So, oil matters. But it is somewhat ridiculous to think that oil alone matters. The US invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake, but it was not “all about oil.”

That’s just “one reason”, but in Aiyar’s write-up it is the only “one reason”.

Definitely, we cannot ask him to comprehend the dialectics of abstract and concrete, essence and appearance etc – the complex relationship between economy and polity, where we cannot reduce any to the other. Also, we cannot expect him to avoid the circularity of bourgeois economics.

However the interesting aspect of his article is the details which he offers to prove his “not all about oil” argument – when he draws parallel between Indian and the US oil interests:

“Those familiar with India’s oil policy will find the Iraqi controversy over production sharing [contracts to foreign companies] mystifying, even comic. India has long signed production-sharing deals with private and foreign oil companies, and nobody regards this as a sellout.

The latest bidding round this year drew 32 domestic and 36 foreign bidders. In production-sharing deals, the foreign or private sector partner bears all exploration costs, but shares with the government any oil or gas that is found. The terms of production-sharing have varied in different rounds of bidding in India.

But typically the winning bidder whether Indian or foreign first gets enough oil to recover costs of production and exploration (called cost oil); then gets two to three times as much as profit oil; and then hands over most or all of the residual production to the government.

For instance, the government’s share in gas at Reliance’s Krishna-Godavari field starts at roughly 15% at the beginning and goes to 85% in later stages.

The most successful foreign explorer in India has been Cairn Energy, which hopes to produce 7.5 million tonnes a year from its fields in Rajasthan. British Gas has also experienced some success.

ONGC itself has entered into production-sharing contracts in no less than 15 countries, including Russia, Vietnam, Sudan, Venezuela, Canada, Brazil, Nigeria and Cuba.

Reliance Industries has also signed production-sharing deals in Yemen, Oman, East Timor and Colombia. Indeed, ONGC and Reliance have jointly signed a production-sharing deal in guess where? Northern Iraq. This is not Indian imperialism. Nor have these Indian oil companies encountered US resistance.

So, Indian foreign policy analysts who think the Iraq invasion was all about oil, need to brush up their knowledge of the oil business. They are living in the past.

There was indeed a time when the US used military power to back US oil companies. When Mossadegh in Iran nationalised oil companies, he was overthrown in a 1953 coup masterminded by Britain and the US. However, that was the last act in the history of oil imperialism.

This was shown when OPEC countries in 1974 nationalised all oilfields, converting oil multinationals from owners to just buyers of oil. Some US diplomats and politicians wanted military action to regain the fields. But the US Administration ruled that the days of oil imperialism were over, and it was time to deal with sovereign governents.

The US still has a strong interest as does India in seeing that oil production in the Persian Gulf is not disrupted or monopolised by any military power. This was one reason why the US forced Saddam out of Kuwait, which he had invaded and occupied in 1990. The US Navy has for decades patrolled the sea lanes to ensure security for oil tankers.

So, oil matters. But it is somewhat ridiculous to think that oil alone matters. The US invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake, but it was not “all about oil.”

Here Aiyar has given some facts, ignored even by leftists suffering from third worldism. They are relevant for understanding the material base of India’s expansionist, even imperialist ambitions. Private (foreign and domestic) and State capitalist production sharing is nothing new. In recent years, India’s state oil companies like ONGC have been proactively involved in satisfying the energy requirements of India’s capitalist development by their overseas exploration and operation. Aiyar also tells us that now private capitalists like Reliance are increasingly being given space in this industry, where the State had been the pioneer.

However, for Aiyar, if “this is not Indian imperialism” then there is no US “oil imperialism”. But why do we presume that there is no Indian imperialism? In fact, let’s reverse the order of the argument – if all such facts have grounded US imperialist interests in the Middle East and elsewhere (even if not just for oil, but “oil matters”), then the parallel that Aiyar draws between India and the US must tempt us to probe India’s ambitions too, without precluding their possible imperialist nature. Definitely, the export of capital is not sufficient to make a state imperialist, but what makes it so is the state’s capacity and interest in defending that export through international political intervention, of which war is just a part, as Clausewitz taught us. Maybe if “Indian oil companies [in their outward expansion in the Middle East have not] encountered US resistance”, this is just another proof that India is a part of the imperialist coalition led by the US, or the US sees it as as an ally. This would give us a key to interpret the tremendous growth in the US-India-Israel relationship too.

Of course, in capitalism collaboration does not preclude competition – there will be moments when collaborating interests would clash too. But we should not presume that if collaboration between US and India is occurring, it is a patron-client relationship. Likewise, competition too is not liberation, India’s frequent amorous passes to Russia, China and others are not necessarily anti-imperialist or anti-US.

Indian expansionism’s ugly face – Hindu Fascism

For legitimising any imperialist and expansionist design, a State needs a particular ideology of “interests” that can mobilise opinion behind it within its territory, and also identify agencies outside which can justify its “cross-border” intervention. India with its rising economic interests beyond its territory has used all sorts of “identities” to create such diasporic homogeny under the garb of which it can operate. It is not very surprising that this expansionist tenor was firmly and vocally established by the Rightist forces. It can in fact be comfortably said that the rightists became a legitimate force in India only with the rise of neolliberalism, when Indian capital found Indianness, Hinduism etc to be effective in its “free” market consolidation and operation globally. One needs to cursorily go through the widely circulated weekly of Hindu fascists, Organiser and its chatterbox journalism to grasp the confident obscenity of Indian expansionism in its extreme. Recently it invented “The Western-Christian agenda in Kathmandu” and “the Christian leadership of the Maoists”, lamenting the threat to the “Hindu civilisation”:

“The bells are tolling, not just for the Nepalese monarchy, but also for the Hindu culture and civilisation of the nation.”

So embrace your khaki-nickers and oiled lathis to save monarchy, save Hinduism… while the Nepali resources – human and natural – are plundered by Indian interests in the name of “economics above politics”. Similarly, it was the leader of opposition, the instigator of the Babri Mosque demolition LK Advani who first petitioned the Indian government to “save Indians” in Uganda, where the Ugandan people are struggling against the Mehta group’s acquisition of Mabira forests.

Uganda and global media propaganda

All over the world, the media projected the recent Ugandan agitation against the multinational acquisition of the country’s forest resources as racist. Indian media tout court led the wave by raising the ghost of Idi Amin. It seemed something like the Nazis’ holocaust. This is not for the first time that South Asians have raised similar metaphors. Post-1990 Hindu rightists have time and again used them to stress on the parallels between the Jews and Hindus, the uniqueness of Israel and India. Also, Indian governments have been proactively self-imposing themselves as protectors of People of Indian-origin (PIO) all over the world. World imperialism and its watchdogs which are ever ready to club Anti-globalisation movements, terrorism, fundamentalists – all their ‘evil’ enemies, “bad guys” together have found this Indian expansionism and its rising crossborder interests and concerns handy for their mission. This allows them to corner the ‘third world’ movements and regimes who pose threat to world capitalist interests.

One PIO MP in Uganda, Sanjay Tanna has clearly rebutted such propaganda. He “said it was unfortunate that the media had focused on the death of one Asian and portrayed Uganda as a racist country. He said two Ugandans lost their lives and many others were injured or lost property. He explained that Rawal’s death came from a sequence of events, which included an attempt by some Asians to drive through the demonstrators.” (New Vision, April 17 2007)

Regarding, the global imperialist usage of Indian expansionism, I wrote the following almost a year back during Bush’s India visit in February 2006 (Counterpunch), which might be relevant here too:

On the other hand, India’s mastery of ‘unreliable’, and ‘rogue’ polities, and its ability to forge indigenous clients in those polities make it a worthy partner for other global powers whose recent hyper-interventionism has reduced their own ability in this regard. Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have further attested this inability of the US hegemony, at least–political forces against which wars were waged in these countries were erstwhile US allies. These conflicts are symptomatic of the crisis of the US hegemony more than the unipolarity of the post-Cold War era. Unlike the ideology of the “Soviet threat”, the post-Cold War ideologies of human rights and non-proliferation could not form the legitimate basis for forging international alliances, since the duplicity of the “global powers” on those same accounts are too apparent. In fact, the orientalist bases of these ideologies have further curtailed the First World’s ability to directly manipulate political forces in the “third world”. At this juncture, ‘mediocre’ powers like India could become relevant interfaces between the two worlds, for perpetuating and sustaining global capitalism and its political structure.

Uganda – a case of ‘new’ imperialism

It is sad that a young Indian worker died in the recent popular protests against the sale of Mabira forest in Uganda to an Indian multinational, Mehta Group. The Indian government has also reacted and contacted the Ugandan government for ensuring the safety of the Indian community. However, it has nothing to say about the Mehta deal, as the Ugandan government and business themselves are fully behind it and are ready to secure Indian capitalist interests. The mainstream media in India and elsewhere is trying to equate the scenario with Idi Amin’s anti-Asian drive, which is a clear attempt to sideline the issue of Indian imperialism, how Indian businesses have usurped Ugandan resources. The Mehta deal is not only an environmental disaster, but would also destroy local farmers, by its monopoly. Obviously, the local resentment and growing competition within a saturated local labour market in the absence of an effective counter-hegemonic solidarity make immigrant workers an easy target, providing a pretext to defocus and delegitimise the genuine grievances and legitimise repression.

A report rightly captures some issues behind the Ugandan protests:

It is time Indian businesses stop exploiting native Ugandan people, imported workers from India and, Ugandan national resources

Arun Sen
Apr. 14, 2007

It is shame what the Indian businesses have done in Kenya and Uganda. They exploited native Ugandan people, imported workers from India and Ugandan national resources. The atrocities go beyond imagination. Two Indians were killed and a temple attacked by a mob in Kampala. The mob was protesting against the alleged cutting down of a protected rain forest by an Indian firm.

Business communities in India run these Indian firms. They bribe local Ugandan authorities to do anything they like. They care little about human rights and Ugandan national interests.

According to media reports, Indians in the Ugandan capital Kampala are still frightened and shaken after Thursday’s mob attack in which at least two Indians were killed and a Hindu temple attacked by a mob protesting the proposed expansion plan of an Indian sugar firm by cutting down a protected rainforest.

The mob attack was an act of terror. But what the Indian business community did in Uganda is equally deplorable. The Ugandan Government is responsible. They take bribes from the rich business community from India and let them exploit Ugandans and imported workers from India. If some one tries to protest the atrocities, the Indian businesses bribe the local authorities and put the whistle blower in jail. Many imported Indian workers from India were put in jail because they demanded humane treatment. At the end these imported workers go back to India losing all they had accumulated from savings in Uganda. They can get out of jail but lose their all savings. The mob was protesting at the move by the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (Scoul), part of the Indian-owned Mehta group, to expand its sugar estates by cutting the Mabira rain forest- one of Uganda’s last remaining patches of natural forest. It has been a nature reserve since 1932.

…The controversy began last year when the Ugandan government ordered a study into whether to cut down nearly a third of Mabira- one of Uganda’s last remaining patches of natural forest.

The government’s proposal had angered many in the country who alleged that the environmental costs of slashing the forest would far exceed the economic benefits of the plantation.

Until 1972, Asians constituted the largest non-indigenous ethnic group in Uganda. In that year, the Idi Amin regime expelled 50,000 Asians, who had been engaged in trade, industry, and various professions. In the years since Amin’s overthrow in 1979, Asians have slowly returned. They continued their atrocities against civilized norm of society after returning back to Uganda. The mob outbreak is sad and deplorable. It is time for Ugandans to take control over their own country.

India as a neoliberal state

The relationship between multinationals and national states is not so simple today. A multinational draws its strength from its “multiple” identities and states compete with one another to ‘home’ it. With financialisation this competition among the states have considerably increased with ‘capitals’ seeking to regiment the ‘arbitrary’ state behaviour with the everlooming threat of flight of capital. However it would be wrong to consider this relationship as totally one-sided, as the proponents of ‘footloose capital’ make us believe. With increasing monopolisation (but never monopoly) the competition among capitals has intensified too, they struggle to establish their production and circulation bases to surpass competitors. This forces them to rely on particular states for protection and representation in negotiations for the acquisition of these ‘bases’. Of course, financialisation has increasingly instrumentalised the state, but this has made capitals increasingly dependent on this instrument too.

A neo-neoliberal state like India in recent years has remarkably shown its efficacy as an ‘instrument’. If something has made the Indian state emerge as clearly neoliberal, it is its proactive reclaiming of Indian diasporic “non-resident” capitals. Unlike the Chinese, which tried to attract the Chinese diaspora to increase the production capacity within its territory, the Indian state has increasingly instrumentalised itself by facilitating Indian capital (NR and domestic) expansion beyond its territory. In fact, the Indian government was proactive in international acquisitions like Arcelor and Corus, and for its many pharmaceutical multinational companies. Many of these companies are not at all dependent on Indian earnings or don’t have any plans to re/patriate their NR earnings. However, they have found in the Indian state a tremendous agency for their bargainings, increasing their ‘political’ leverage in the competitive world market. A dual citizenship to Non-resident Indians (NRIs) and People of Indian Origins (PIOs) was not to attract working class remittances or the grandchildren of indentured labourers, but to provide ‘Indian’ capital all over the world an ‘identity’. It is interesting to note that the initial proposal was to restrict “dual citizenship to PIOs from a select group of countries”, excluding especially the Third World PIOs. But this could have excluded a very fat lot that dominate wealth in many third world countries especially in Africa and Asia.

It would be interesting to see the Indian state’s response (taking into consideration that it has not shown any mercy to such resentment within its own territory) to recent Ugandan uprising against “a government proposal to allow the Mehta Group to clear a quarter of the Mabira forest reserve to grow sugar. The 30,000-hectare (7,400-acre) reserve, east of Kampala, contains some of the last patches of virgin forest in Uganda and serves as an important water catchment area.” (Guardian, April 13, 2007)

Joseph Stiglitz’s “Another World”

Joseph Stiglitz is counted as one of a few dissenting economists in mainstream academia, and for some time now his dissent has been attracting quite a number of activists. He is officially invited by the “Another World is Possible” people to their meetings. Naturally he will think himself authorised to tell people how another world is possible, and what will be that world. He precisely does this job in his March column, “The EU’s Global Mission” distributed through Project-Syndicate:

“Another world is possible. But it is up to Europe to take the lead in achieving it.”

So the revolutionary project already has a vanguard, the only job left for the foot soldiers is to convince him/her/it to lead. How insightful! Any pessimism in this regard is ill-founded as

“the European project has been an enormous success, not only for Europe, but also for the world.”

Of course, like our Indian monkey-god Hanuman, Europe lacks ready self-confidence and needs a bear bard for encouragement. Stiglitz’s article does that job. Questioning the economistic common sense, he tells Europeans not to feel unconfident before the warlords in the US, as their competitors’ supremacy is baseless and phoney –

“…while GDP per capita has been rising in the US, most Americans are worse off today than they were five years ago. An economy that, year after year, leaves most of its citizens worse off is not a success.”

Moreover, the European Union’s mission is distinct, which are not laws, regulation, or phoney prosperity, but “long-lasting peace”, “greater understanding, underpinned by the myriad interactions that inevitably flow from commerce”. And “The EU has realized that dream” – “neighbors live together more peacefully”, “people move more freely and with greater security”. Stringent immigrant laws for and policing of the people from the South (this identity is very broad since it includes Black and Arab French, Muslim Europeans…) etc are perhaps aberrations, or may be the Southerners are racially ‘uncountable’ “within a new European identity that is not bound to national citizenship”.

Furthermore, Europe has mastered the competitive art of giving, and has surpassed the US –

“Europe has led the way, providing more assistance to developing countries than anyone else (and at a markedly higher fraction of its GDP than the US).”

Do we need to tell our Nobel laureate the economics of Aid, even AIDS?

Stiglitz too feels (not unlike Bush) that the world has changed during the past six years. However, he finds “democratic multilateralism” being challenged, human rights abrogated. Obviously he ignores all the contributions in grounding Bushism that earlier US governments made, especially Clinton’s, of which Stiglitz himself was a part. What if NATO was not less active earlier, Iraq too was continuously bombarded…

Stiglitz feels the need for multipolarity, and that Europe

“must become one of the central pillars of such a world by projecting what has come to be called “soft power” – the power and influence of ideas and example. Indeed, Europe’s success is due in part to its promotion of a set of values that, while quintessentially European, are at the same time global.”

Does it really matter if this whole discourse of “a set of [quintessentially European, but universal] values” seems hardly any different from Bush’s? Moreover, what are these values? First is “Democracy” – not just elections, “but also active and meaningful participation in decision making, which requires an engaged civil society, strong freedom of information norms, and a vibrant and diversified media that are not controlled by the state or a few oligarchs.”

Which formally democratic country officially denies these, and how many countries, including the EU members, provide safeguards against corporate-state monopoly over information and media? Further, the whole logic of the European monetary integration was to insulate strategic financial and economic institutions from any “active and meaningful” democratic influence, as it was considered external and an economic nuisance.

“The second value is social justice”, which is just individualism, however realized “only if we live in harmony with each other”. Does Bush deny this? The issue is rather who will establish the rules for that “harmony”.

What else?

In Stiglitz’s dream, the White Man’s burden definitely changes shoulders, but it remains the white man’s burden all the same –

“For the sake of all of us, Europe must continue to speak out – even more forcibly than it has in the past.”

Back to the old world – while the “world” remains the same – a white man’s world.

36 Billionaires in India, what does it mean?

36 of the 946 billionaires featuring on the Forbes’ list of richest are Indian citizens. This is being posed as India’s march forward. But is this so?

They are stinking rich. Their richness, wealth stinks. Is this a complement? But still identity-hungry Indians toiling in global sweatshops – academic, industrial etc, are asked to rejoice in the growing capacity of a few to stink. This world is really a PORCILE – with the number of Indians stinkers being only next to Russians (another group of gangster capitalists, who emerged during the post 1989 loot of public property), with the US and Germans, being front-runners.

I killed my father. I ate human flesh and I quiver with joy.” Farmer suicides are increasing with a growing number of underemployeds being ravished in the panopticon world of new industries, call centres and peripheral informal sector units, while we are asked to quiver with joy.


Absolute Poverty (not just relative poverty with growing divide between rich and poor, which is generally recognised) is increasing, as people are more and more dispossessed, alienated from their means of production, losing control over their conditions of production. Even if we find consumerism rising – with new gadgets cropping up in the home of the new poor, it only increases her material and mental destitution and dependence – this is not a sign of enrichment. The secret of the billionaires’ wealth too is not more gadgets and things at home, but their ability to control over the majority’s means and conditions of production. Then why more gadgets and things at home be the parameters of judging the poor’s poverty?