At the recent G7 awareness-raising summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pleaded for “One land, one health”. This is ironic since he has long refrained from guaranteeing Covid-19 vaccines at an equal price for the population of his country. But what explains his desperate attempt to portray India as close to the richest countries and to claim visible bonhomie with the right-wing leaders of the Western Hemisphere? This question is important since the Prime Minister was conspicuous by his absence at the summits of the Non-Aligned Movement. He only attended a virtual meeting of the NAM contact group, in 2020, after his government was criticized for human rights violations, failure to protect minorities, abolition of the article 370, the use of sedition laws, etc.
The answer to this question is twofold. One stems from the Prime Minister’s demagoguery which drove his supporters to propel his unsustainable larger-than-life image. The second and most crucial reason lies in the global structural crisis of capitalism. The crisis is inherent in the nature of capitalism. Since the 1970s, monopoly capital has produced only nominal returns in advanced economies and this has been the main concern of the rich and their supporting ecosystems such as the IMF. In search of higher returns, capital investment in the developing world has increased. As a result, privatization and exploitation have accelerated and lives and livelihoods have become even more precarious. The crisis manifests itself in unemployment, poor wages and working conditions, lack of social security, etc. The anxiety of the working classes is used to lure them towards the divisive rhetoric displayed by demagogues such as Modi and the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro.
The ideological recourse to the “free” market was an integral part of neoliberal doctrine. The lofty claims of globally integrated free markets from which prosperity would flow could hardly mask the increase in economic inequality over the past five decades, now quantified by economist Thomas Piketty. Alarming levels of concentration of wealth at the top and increasing deprivation at the bottom are hallmarks of neoliberalism. The problem is particularly acute in developing countries which have become islands of relatively higher returns from monopoly capital in an otherwise uncertain free market.
The Indian state under Modi has been more than happy to aid the capitalists as they rack up super profits. The marching movement of the interests of the Indian people behind the Western economies has not only increased economic hardship, but also reduced democracy. Access to public health, education, housing and employment has become elusive as the campaign to privatize PSUs, sell domestic assets, and weaken financial buffers like the RBI and LIC continue. Everything we see around us – sickness and death, inflation, poverty, unemployment – follows a unique logic, which is the protection of capitalist interests.
The tilt of Indian policy towards advanced capitalist economies is obviously detrimental to the rights and interests of the Indian working class and farmers. The subjugation of Indian interests to the United States in foreign affairs is increasingly pushing India to become an instrument and guarantor of American interests in the region, straining our relations with neighbors like China. and tried allies like Russia.
The recent G7 meeting agreed on a plan to “Build a Better World” (B3W) to reduce Chinese influence and its “Belt and Road” (BRI) initiative. Even under a realistic prism, the G7 and G20 are not representative of the dynamic development of the world economy over the past decades. The narrowing of the economic divide between China and the United States has made the Western world uncomfortable as it is the first serious challenge to Western domination after the disintegration of the USSR. Provocations and trade wars bring the world closer to a new cold war. In this context, India should adopt an independent foreign policy and defend the concerns of the countries of the South instead of succumbing to the agenda of the United States and other Western powers.
This column first appeared in the print edition on July 3, 2021 under the title “In the West Orbit”. The writer is secretary general of the CPI.