1.The perils of ideological certitude
There seems an order of priorities in place for much of the electorate instead of the bread and butter governance issues
Trend, fashions or ideas float in all societies. When does a trend become an ideology? What motivates an individual to commit itself to it?
An ideology is understood to mean a system of ideas that aspires to explain the world, and at times change it. Some call it the science of ideas aimed at serving people, ridding them of prejudice, preparing them for the sovereignty of a preferred idea.
This would seem to be obvious ever since humans indulged in deductive and inductive reasoning for sheer survival in daily life. This process matured with time and experience down the ages. When simple explanations were not discernable, the phenomena were attributed to superhuman or divine forces. Each of these sought justice between human beings living together. Hence, the dictum that justice is the first law of human institutions. Evidence of it is available in the ancient codes of China, Mesopotamia, India and elsewhere. Overtime, these became religious codes and were duly sanctified. They all held out visions of an apogee of rectitude that humankind should endeavour to attain.
In all cases the purpose was to regulate human behaviour in societies. The unstated premise in most was that the average member of a social group living together was too busy or simplistic or both to discern the full meaning or implications and was, for the purposes of these laws almost mindless in the sense of acting without particular reason, ready and willing to observe the dicta and the accompanying suggestion of punishment in case of disobedience. Obedience was sought to become habitual.
Quest for social order
The political atmospherics of the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in Europe, sought to imbibe ideologies with their focus on change with greater meaning to the public. Hence, the assertion in Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach: The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
The 20th century had a surfeit of these, each addressing an intended audience ranging from local and regional to global and premised on an idealised social order. Each also portrayed a demonology premised on social class or ethnic specificity, from whose tyranny salvation was promised. Thus, communism, with its vision of a classless communist society promising to ‘each according to his/her need’, made sense to the disposed. Similarly, and apart from various versions of anarchism in European worker movements, national socialism in Germany and Italy tantalised its votaries with the focus on the nation and the fatherland. All of these found emulators in colonial lands in India, China and in some parts of western Asia. They were all characterised by what Eric Hobsbawm depicted as ‘ruthless, brutal and command’ versions of socialism.
Freedom, communal ideas
In India, the germination of ideas of ‘communal consciousness’ (in cases with political overtones) on a societal scale alongside the urge for freedom from foreign rule surfaced in a segment of society in the closing decades of the 19th century. The effort by Mahatma Gandhi and his like-minded supporters was countered by many among Hindus and Muslims who deluded themselves as belonging to separate ‘nations’. The rest was done by the Mountbatten Plan in 1947 and the death and destruction that accompanied it.
The past three decades have witnessed the ease with which the Bharatiya Janata Party’s political approach and tactics have made headway in the public mind. Electoral data in recent decades indicates the shift in its vote share, diligently and successfully built upon on exclusive identity in adversarial contrasts to what is dubbed non-Indic, meaning, principally, adherents of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam but politically focused on the latter two. Why and how has this order of priorities been put in place for a good segment of the electorate instead of the bread and butter governance issues? In State elections from 2014 to 2019, its vote share reached or crossed the 50% mark in Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Delhi, etc. Political commentators attribute this and its subsequent spectacular success essentially to successful advocacy of majoritarianism.
Agenda of artificial lines
This despite the dispersal of the minority population in most parts of India and the fact that in daily life, all sections of people, majority and minorities, live in the same or adjacent neighbourhoods, and in daily life work together. Despite it, artificial lines are sought to be drawn for laying the foundations of a majoritarian agenda by categorisation of faiths on the basis of their places of origin. How far back in history can one go when confronted with M.S. Golwalkar’s observation that “Iran is nothing but the base of Aryabhumi” and part of “grand picture of our motherland”? So were the Aryans, and their faith and philosophy. Was it Indic or non-Indic?
It consideredconvenient to recall Swami Vivekanand’s letter of June 1898 in which he said, “I am firmly persuaded that without the help of practical Islam theories of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind”, adding that “for our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam — Vedanta brain and Islam body — is the only hope.”
Also lost in the stated parameters of Hindutva is the constitutional imperative of fraternity.
The Hindutva agenda of viewing matters through the prism of faith has perhaps disrupted or weakened the post-Mandal equations and brought electoral gains; so has the intoxicating impact of the success of the Ram Mandir movement. It, however, cannot explain away the policy and its implementation challenges posed by the ongoing protests against the farm laws, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Population Register, widespread unemployment and a host of other measures resulting in dire distress in most segments of society.
Does this ‘ideological certitude’ explain away the public distress and its widespread publicity within the country and in credible foreign media? Can it be attributed to a mindlessness of its supporters who are deluded by an uncritical ideological conviction? Would it reflect, public indoctrination notwithstanding, in the forthcoming State elections, and beyond it? Would the lord of Hindutva neither slumber nor sleep?
2.Key U.S. lawmakers bat for CAATSA sanctions waiver
India likely to take delivery of S-400 from Russia soon
Key lawmakers continue to voice their support for a sanctions waiver for India for its purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia. India is likely to begin taking delivery of the S-400 in November, potentially activating U.S. sanctions under a 2017 law, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Senate India Caucus Co-Chair John Cornyn and Mike Waltz, a member on the House Armed Services Committee and vice-chair of the Congressional India Caucus, were among the lawmakers who have addressed the issue this week. Their comments were made on Wednesday evening at a virtually held event, organised by the U.S. India Business Council and the U.S. India Friendship Council.
Congressman Brad Sherman, a California Democrat and Co-Chair of the Congressional India Caucus, also spoke of the strength of India-U.S. ties.
History of procurement
Mr. Waltz said he cognized New Delhi’s history of procurement (from Russia) and India’s desire to have diversity in its weapons systems, noting that the situation is difficult.
He said the U.S. Congress was working through “what the next steps are” — in terms of dealing with CAATSA in the Indian context and that he did not want a Turkey-type situation.
“So I don’t want to get ahead of that. But I’ll tell you what I want to avoid is the situation where we are with Turkey right now,“ he said suggesting that India and the U.S. keep the dialogue open — either at the Congressional level or at the 2+2 level (the next meeting between the Foreign and Defence Ministers will be held in early December in Washington).
Turkey, a NATO ally, was expelled from the American F-35 programme (a consortium to build the aircraft) after it began accepting S-400 shipments in 2019. President Joe Biden said in July Turkey will face further sanctions if it bought major equipment from Moscow.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that yet. But I do think we need to find some off-ramps and find some ways to move in a more positive direction,” Mr. Waltz said. The congressman co-authored, with U.S Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, an op-ed in Foreign Policy earlier this week suggesting that the U.S. enter into a formal alliance with India. Ms. Haley, an Indian American, is considered a possible 2024 GOP candidate for the White House.
The op-ed argued that India could help keep “a watchful eye on Afghanistan” and “keep track of China’s southern flank”. The authors also suggested that a formal alliance with India would enable the U.S. to access Afghanistan via India’s Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan.
India has not publicly expressed interest in a formal security alliance with the U.S. or any other country.
Also on Wednesday, Mr. Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said the possibility of sanctions remained “one of the biggest threats” to the bilateral relationship. He pointed out that India had taken “significant steps” to reduce its reliance on Russian military equipment and had shown an interest in purchasing more arms from the U.S.
- Recently, the USA has reiterated its position and asked all its allies and partners, including India, to stop transactions with Russia.
- It can risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
- CAATSA is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.
- It includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.
- USA’s Stand: The USA has reiterated its position on CAATSA in the context of India’s planned jet fighter deal with Russia at an estimated Rs. 18,148 crore.
- Recently, the Defence Acquisition Council had approved the procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), an upgrade for 59 of these Russian aircraft and the acquisition of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.
- India could also face USA sanctions for purchasing the S-400 Triumf missile defense system from Russia under the CAATSA.
- The USA suspended Turkey from its F-35 aircraft programme and barred it from purchasing the jet, following Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 from Russia.
- However, this was done without invoking CAATSA.
- Major Defence Partner: The USA recognised India as a Major Defence Partner in 2016.
- The designation allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from America at par with that of the USA’s closest allies and partners.
- Issues with Purchase from Adversary: The USA fears that acquisitions by countries like India on significant systems would either expose or put at risk platforms and its technologies to an adversary.
- It has declared that the S-400 purchase by Turkey from Russia has put a risk to its F-35 aircraft system.
- Waiver Criteria under CAATSA: The USA President was given the authority in 2018 to waive CAATSA sanctions on a case-by-case basis.
- However, the USA has repeatedly stated that India should not assume it will get a waiver.