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Posts Tagged ‘india’

Inclusive One Party Systems Outperform Democratic Counterparts : 1

April 7, 2019 5 comments

In a previous series about post-1945 divergence in outcomes between India and China, I made the point that China is today the world’s largest industrial power while India is a stunted dwarf which cannot even project its power into small neighboring countries. This divergence has much to do with fundamental differences in the type of elites and systems of governance in those two countries. India ended up with a bunch of spineless and incompetent elites who were ashamed of being Indian and constantly sucked up to white guys in expensive suits. Chinese elites, unlike their Indian counterparts, did not hate themselves for being non-white and understood that their fortunes were intrinsically linked to those of their fellow countrymen. In other words, they cared about their own country- even if they did so for pragmatically selfish reasons.

But the much larger difference between these nations comes down to their respective systems of governance. Indian elites retained the super abusive and exploitative colonial administrative system they “inherited” at the time of independence. In contrast, their Chinese counterparts went on quite the house-cleaning spree after 1949. While you may, or may not, agree about the large number of bureaucratic eggs broken by the Chinese elites during the first 30 years after regaining independence, the end product is clearly superior to its Indian counterpart. But why is that so? Is it because the Chinese have a long history of bureaucracy, racial and cultural homogeneity or are the real reasons more straightforward- if rather unpleasant to accept.

In the rest of this post, I will show you how the superior performance of the Chinese system is intimately linked to its design, rather than quality of its employees. So let us begin by asking a few simple questions: Why is the Chinese administrative system far less dysfunctional than its Indian counterpart? Do they have smarter employees or more natural resources at their disposal? Or.. is it something else? Now let me flip that question around. Why is the Indian administrative system so incompetent, short-sighted and generally incapable of getting stuff done. While some idiots might want to assign blame to everything from race, “IQ”, lack of cultural homogeneity or other bullshit explanations- the real reasons behind the Indian system’s poor performance are rather obvious and surprisingly basic- starting with lack of accountability.

Anyone who has ever interacted with the administrative system in India at any length will be aware that there is basically no accountability for its employees. They can cause endless disasters and suffering through their incompetence and stupidity without any of it having real negative effects on their job security. At most, they will be disciplined by being transferred (for a couple of years) to some undesirable locale or position. More importantly, since advancement in the system is determined by age and colonial-era rules rather than performance, there is little incentive for them to learn from their mistakes or change for the better. But why is this still the case in 2019? Why did Indian political leaders never try to reform this shitty system since 1947?

Well.. there are many reasons why Indian political elites kept the manifestly bad administrative system which they “inherited”. As I wrote in previous posts, they never cared about the plight of their fellow countrymen because they saw themselves as brown versions of their erstwhile colonial white masters. But there is another and perhaps more important reason- India went down the path of becoming a parliamentary multi-party democracy. But what is the connection between becoming a multi-party democracy and administrative dysfunction? It comes to the number of competing power centers. In India, and almost every other democracy, the executive branch of power is in direct competition with the bureaucracy. But why is that problematic? After all, don’t “famous public intellectuals” constantly tell us that separation of powers is a good thing?

Though separation of powers might sounds good in theory, its real world performance is sketchy- at best. Some of you might counter this by pointing out regimes led by strongmen, dictators and other types of totalitarian leaders do poorly in the long term and I agree with that observation. There is however another model for totalitarianism- one based in a single political entity which allows for some diversity of people and views. While this might sound like something out of ‘1984’ by Orwell, the real world performance of many east-Asian countries suggests otherwise. China.. you see.. is not the only single-party country in east-Asia. For most of it modern history (1868-1947 and 1955 onward) Japan has been effectively a single-party system. The same is true for South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

There is, therefore, no evidence for single broad-based political party system in power for decades having any worthwhile negative influence on the social and economic well-being of average citizens of said country. In fact, the converse appears to be true- especially when you compare them to India. But didn’t India have something similar under its first prime-minister (Jawaharlal Nehru) from 1947 to 1964? Why didn’t things work out nicely under him , as they did in those other Asian countries? Well.. for two reasons. Firstly, his tenure as the undisputed prime-minister of India quickly became a personality cult and he did not groom anybody other than his daughter to take over after his death. Secondly, all those other Asian leaders used their long tenures to destroy the previous colonial administrative systems.

Nehru and his successors were only interested in maintaining power in addition to appearing deferential and respectable to the ‘whites’. They did almost nothing to upgrade or reform the administrative system, let alone break it down and remake it serve Indians. Nothing was done to eliminate all those pesky multiple competing centers of power and bureaucratic fiefdoms. Almost no new unitary institutions with real power were created by him or his successors. In other words, they retained the same system and mindset which was previously used to exploit and impoverish India during the era of British colonialism- and it shows, to this day. After his death in 1964, things went from bad to worse and the rise of regional parties, formed due to inability of his national party to deliver on promises, made a bad situation worse.. much worse.

And this how you end up an administrative system full of essentially sinecured employees with zero accountability, no motivation or appetite for any improvement or the ability to think outside the box. That is why India still uses a criminal code written about 150 years ago which often irrelevant to the contemporary world. That is also why Indian cities look like poorly laid-out and crowded hovels. That is also why India was so late and inefficient at building power plants or even using its large coal resources. That is why cities in China look and function in ways which would shame their western counterparts- while those in India, sorta function. That is also why cities, towns and villages in India have far more uncollected garbage, sewage and filth than their counterparts in Vietnam or Indonesia. This is why the public health system in India sucks.

In the next part of this (hopefully short) series, I will talk about why the problem of multiple power centers did not seem to affect western countries from mid 1800s till the 1970s. Here is a hint: the “west” was largely non-democratic during that period and colonial exploitation of other people + post-WW2 growth provided enough surplus resources to paper over deficiencies.

What do you think? Comments?

Quick Thoughts on the Current Situation Between Indian and Pakistan

February 27, 2019 15 comments

While “mainstream news” outlets in USA are focusing on the political theater surrounding Michael Cohen’s testimony and Trump’s latest brain-farts.. I mean tweets.. half a world away something of considerably more potential consequence is occurring right now. It all started about a couple of weeks ago when an Islamic suicide bomber driving a vehicle IED crashed into a bus full of Indian internal security forces in Kashmir, killing 40-42. At that time, the Indian government responded by condemning the attack and promising a suitable reprisal. Many establishment commentators in the west and their gungadin helpers, who pretend to be “India experts”, loudly proclaimed that India would not retaliate against Pakistan or do something small and localized.

As it turned out, they were wrong and after Indian warplanes crossed the international boundary in the early morning hours of 26th February and bombed a few training camps in Pakistan- as opposed to limiting themselves to targets in PoK. The Indian government claimed that about 300 people were killed, while its Pakistani equivalent denied it- as usual. We will find out what went down once pre- an post- strike satellite imagery of those sites is released. However, it is almost certain that they hit the designated targets with the precision guided munitions used during that attack. Anyway.. this penetration of Pakistani airspace made the PAF look kinda incompetent. So they decided to make a half-hearted attempt to drop some bombs on Indian territory.

As it turns out, they were challenged by many Indian aircraft and the PAF beat a hasty retreat after releasing their accordance on apparently uninhabited land. It also appears that there was a dogfight involving a Mig-21 and F-16 in which the Mig-21 shot down the former before being hit my either ground fire or SAM from the Pakistani side. Long story short, the F-16 as well as Mig-21 crashed on the Pakistani side of the border. While we do not know whether the pilot of that PAF F-16 is alive or dead, the Indian pilot was captured. Oh ya.. and there a helicopter crash (on takeoff) about 50 km from the border inside India. Of course, the Pakistani establishment, true to its form, started making up stories which were uncritically published by western “news” media.

So how will this potential conflict turn out? Well.. for starters I am not going to bore you with irrelevant bullshit about how both countries have nuclear weapons. Some might think that this is an odd thing to say, but as you will soon find out- nuclear weapons are, at best, peripheral to how things will turn out. In my opinion, the real factors driving this conflict and its potential outcomes have much more to do with political and other assessments by both sides rather than the dread of nuclear weapons. Moreover, as you will also see, the ground realities are not what people in the west, especially “credentialed” white people claiming to be experts, believe. Then again, why should it be surprising that people who were certain HRC was going to win in 2016 might also be wrong about a conflict between two countries on other side of the world.

So let me begin by stating the obvious..

1] The sheer size of India, its armed forces and resources available to it make any attempt by Pakistan to invade its territory highly suicidal- and this is a lesson which Pakistan has learned the hard way in past conflicts. In a full-scale war, India simply has vastly more people and stuff to throw at the problem than Pakistan. Similarly, India has no real desire to invade and occupy Pakistan, let one integrate it into itself, because almost nobody in India wants 200 million more Muslims within the Indian nation-state. So what do Indian military strategists dream about wrt Pakistan. Well.. they would like to dismember it into smaller pieces and maybe destroy their nuclear weapons- which leads us to the issue of how nuclear weapons might affect this conflict.

2] As some of you might know, India has a No-First-Use policy for nuclear weapons, or at least has said so in 2003. But over the years, things appear to have changed a lot and many senior bureaucrats have creatively interpreted that policy to not covering an imminent attack by another nuclear weapons state- which is a fancy way of saying that NFU policy is NFU in name only. In other words, India has made it clear that it will use nukes first (specifically to target the Pakistani nuclear arsenal) if it feels that Pakistan will use its own weapons. More importantly, India posses both the accurate nuclear missiles and space reconnaissance capability necessary to pull of a preemptive nuclear counterstrike. Will they get them all? No, but they don’t have to.

3] Here is the thing about having a couple of hundred nuclear weapons. Concentrating them at a handful of storage locations on land makes them kinda vulnerable- especially if your opponent has accurate nuclear missiles which can fly in unusual trajectories. Getting even 70-80% of them or the missiles used to launch them is enough to remove most of the threat. And given the escalation ladder inherent in an overtly nuclear conflict, it is likely that India might decide that a preemptive nuclear counterstrike is worth the risk once the conflict goes past a certain point. But how could this scenario occur? Aren’t Indians supposed to be cowardly lotus eaters who will meekly turn the other cheek and try to sue for peace?

4] A lot of white “credentialed experts” and their faithful brown flunkies in the west seem to think that nothing much has changed in India over the past five years. They are certain that India will respond in exactly the same self-defeating restrained manner it did in 1999 and 2009. But things have changed in more ways than the obvious one. See.. Modi is the first full-term PM of India who was born after 1947. Unlike previous occupants of that office, who grew up before partition, he has no affinity for the idea of dealing with Pakistan in a self-defeating “civilized” manner. Also, there is a general election within next 3 months and the popularity of his political party is not especially high, right now. In other words, he has a strong incentive to escalate this conflict.

5] Some of you might wonder why previous conflicts of this nature (for example 1999 and 2009) did not go as far as this one. Well.. the answer lies in the white-worshiping nature of past Indian political leadership. To make a long story short, previous Indian leaders were so craven for praise and pretend-acceptance from white men wearing expensive suits that they were eager and willing to sacrifice the interest of their people to ‘look good for the whites’. You might remember another series of posts where I described them as brown people who think they are honorary whites. Modi is somewhat different. While he certainly would enjoy being praised and accepted by whites, he also understands from his stuff is illusory. And then there is the issue of how his administration is structured or differently structured from previous ones.

6] For many reasons beyond the scope of this post, almost every politician in that administration other than Modi, Shah and a couple of others has no power over administrative decisions. This is a big departure from previous administration where every half-literate elected political weasel tried to influence every decision they could- usually to make money but often simply to assert themselves- which is another way to saying that decisions in this administration are usually made by tenured bureaucrats and administrators (who while corrupt, are nowhere as blindingly stupid and dysfunctional as the political class). That is why the decisions made by this administration, even the bad ones, are far more coherent than their predecessors.

So what does all of this mean as far as future developments in this conflict are concerned? Well.. for starters, Modi will take this much farther than any previous Indian prime minister. He kinda has to do that and also has the capability. Far more importantly, all major decisions are going to be made by administrators and bureaucrats with almost no interference from the incompetent political types. Now this could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. What it does however mean is that western pressure will have little effect (especially compared to past occasions) on how India escalates this conflict. And ya.. if nukes start flying, they will start flying very quickly- rather than follow some “ladder of escalation”.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Difference in Outcomes for China and India in Post-1945 Era: 3

February 16, 2019 11 comments

In the previous part of this series, I wrote about how post-1949 Chinese leadership put in a lot of effort to improve the conditions of its people, even if their motivations were not purely altrusitic. Then again, the same is true of every government which has every existed in human history and the present. In sharp contrast, the Indian leadershit has remained mired in their self-chosen role as darker white sahibs carrying the “white mans burden” and lording over an allegedly hopeless bunch of subhumans. One commentator in the previous post of this series made a comment to the effect that it sounded like how things work in south and central american countries- where an incompetent whiter elite (with the assistance of dying white countries) mismanage and lord over less whiter people, who they see as less than human. Yep.. that is about right.

In the previous post, I also wrote about how the Chinese leadership took a pragmatic approach to improving literacy through a variety of reforms and programs. They also built, and in some cases rebuilt, institutions and bureaucracies to function for them and their people. Sure.. they had to break a few hundred thousand eggs to achieve that- but you cannot deny that the results are quite impressive and functional. More importantly, these institutions now either do what they are meant to do, or do not interfere in what other institutions are doing. In other words, the Chinese leadership was able to build and maintain a unitary and coordinated governmental system with a pretty decent level of accountability. And all this within first three decades after 1949. So why were they able to achieve something which their Indian counterparts thought to be impossible.

Conventional explanations for this, usually put forth by allegedly “credentialed” white idiots, try to paint this as some sort of exception or aberration. However that is not the case, as some version of this had been previously implemented in Japan and the Koreas. For example, modernization of Japan starting in Meiji era and its rebuilding after WW2 was achieved by implementing a watered-down version of what China started doing after 1949. The same is true of South Korea after the early 1960s. You might have noticed that all these examples have something else common to them- other than being east-asian. Ready.. they were, or are, mostly single-party systems.. yes, even Japan. But didn’t India also have effectively have a single party system for first 2-3 decades after 1947? Yes, they did and the Congress party won most elections as the state and federal level for 2-3 decades after “independence”. So why did it work in east-Asia but not in India?

Which brings us to the part about accountability- for elected officials as well as bureaucrats. As I mentioned in previous parts of this series, almost every single Indian politician and elected official came from families who collaborated with the British colonizers of India. They had risen to their positions without facing any real challenge, struggle or conflict. Most had no real skills beyond regurgitating what they learned in British universities and they saw themselves as darker whites rather than Indians. As I said in previous part, they believed anything some white guy in an expensive suit would tell them. The Indian bureaucracy was no better and filled with sad excuses for human beings who enjoyed abusing and screwing over their own people by using rules and regulations written up for that purpose by their erstwhile colonial masters.

Long story short, both the political class and bureaucracy of India was made up of incompetent losers who saw themselves as lesser whites rather than Indians. And there is one more thing.. the bureaucracy and political system continued to exist as two independent and antagonistic centers of power. Contrast that to successful east-asian countries where the political leadership and bureaucracy are different faces of the same system. There is a good reason why I used the words such as unitary and coordinated to describe the Chinese system. But why does any of this matter? Also, does it matter that much? Well.. let me show you with a couple of examples.

Very few of you know that India was first Asian country to build its own supersonic combat aircraft. Ya.. India built the HF-24 Marut and successfully tested it in the early 1960s. While the team leader of the project was Kurt Tank, almost everybody else in the project was Indian and they went from nothing to flying prototypes in about 6 years. So what did the Indian political leadershit and bureaucracy do in response to this success? The sabotaged it in every way they could- from denying funding for better imported engines to crippling the organisation setup for developing indigenous engines. Even worse, they spent a lot of effort trying to make sure that all the knowledge and expertise gained through that project was lost. But why?

The “conventional” explanation for this behavior is that USSR offered them decent inexpensive combat aircraft. However that is not true since the USSR which made such aircraft in multiple thousands was not really bothered by this indigenous effort. Moreover, it filled a role distinct from the aircraft they supplied to India at that time. The real reasons have far more to do with the Indian psyche, especially those of its white-worshiping idiot politicians and bureaucrats. The thing is.. they could not believe that people of their skin color could make world-class products. To make matters worse, they had no ability to understand concepts such as iterative development and using the insight gained in one project to advance others. But most fatally, they believed in what white scammers told them about the nature of money.

Now contrast this to what China did during the same time period. After getting all the equipment from USSR to manufacture Mig-15s, 17, 19s etc they first kept cranking out replicas. While not the best combat aircraft of that era (mid 1960s), they were good enough. But far more importantly, they used that opportunity to train a shitload of engineers who would then go on to improve these aircraft and eventually build far better ones. They did this at a time when they were as poor as India and in politically worse shape. They also did the same with soviet diesel-electric submarines, infantry weapons, artillery etc. Did you notice that they never stopped these projects or disbanded their experienced teams regardless of domestic upheavals and other issues. Why not? And where did they get the money to do all these things?

The answer to first part of those questions is that they, unlike their Indian counterparts, were not incompetent white-worshipping idiots. The second and related answer is that they saw money in a very different way to their Indian and white counterparts. To make another long story short, they implemented a form of what we today call modern monetary theory, which is fancy way of saying that they printed money and allocated resources as necessary to get important things done while making sure that this new money did not enter the general circulation at levels large enough to cause runaway inflation and currency devaluation. So ya.. they pretty much printed money and rigged their system to deliver what they wanted, which they could do because of the size of their country. Their Indian equivalents chose to believe “credentialed” white eCONomists.

In the next part of this series, I will show you (with more examples) how a unitary and coordinated government policy gave China a huge advantage over India in other sectors.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Difference in Outcomes for China and India in Post-1945 Era: 2

January 30, 2019 6 comments

In the previous part of this series, I wrote that India and China started from about the same level, and with a host of systemic problems, as nascent modern nation states in 1947 and 1949. While India might have initially seemed to be the more successful of the two, China slowly but surely outpaced it in almost every aspect from about the mid-1960s. The gap has now grown to such levels that the real difference between these two equipopulous Asian nations now appears unbridgeable. In the previous part, I also said that majority of difference in outcome between the two can be attributed to difference in quality of leadership and administration between them. For starters- Indian leaders, while superficially more erudite than their Chinese counterparts, came from families who had previously gotten rich by collaborating with British colonizers.

The majority of those who came to power in India had also never been tested under real life-and-death situations. In addition to displaying uncritical belief in whatever any white person wearing a suit told them, they had no real interest in improving the condition of their fellow country men and women. Indeed, most of them did not see themselves as part of India.. well at least not ‘that other’ India. They saw themselves as darker white sahibs carrying the “white mans burden” and ruling over a hopeless bunch of subhumans. Some of you might wonder as to how I reached this rather dim view about that allegedly “great” generation of leaders which India had in aftermath of gaining independence in 1947, from the now defunct British empire. Easy.. look at their behavior and actions, rather than their words- because the later is cheap unlike the former two.

1] Both India and China started life as modern nation states with very high levels (over 80-85%) of illiteracy. So how did Indian leaders go about trying to fix this problem? How about.. by doing almost nothing. That is right! While Chinese leaders put a lot of effort and force into projects such as simplifying the Chinese script, ordering translations of everything they could find into Chinese, improving primary school attendance and childhood literacy among its population by any means (including force)- their Indian counterparts gave speeches and raised slogans about removing illiteracy. While it is true that Indian leaders did fund a few elite universities and educational institutions (IITs, IIMs etc) earlier than China, they largely ignored the primary and secondary educational sector. But why? Well.. think about which educational institutions their progeny, and those of their flunkies, would attend. It is that easy.

So why didn’t the Chinese leadership behave in such an utterly selfish manner? The answer is.. because they were pragmatic. While creating elite educational institutions for your own children sounds like a good idea, doing so without creating an equally extensive non-elite educational system would almost certainly lead to them remaining a poor country. Chinese leaders were always interested in true global power and prestige. It is not possible to be powerful and feared (or respected) on the international level if your country is an un-industrialized and materially poor country full of illiterate people. Indian leaders, on the other hand, were incapable of visualizing themselves as anything other than second-rate ‘whites’ in charge of a country predestined to be poor because some white guy in an expensive suit told them so.

2] It is no secret that the administrative system and bureaucracy in India, along with its laws and regulations, had been designed to exploit and abuse Indians for the benefit of the now extinct British empire. Any person with half-a-brain who was genuinely interested in improving conditions in India after independence would have liquidated everyone in the administrative system, except its junior-most employees, and built a new one- if necessary by copying from countries where things worked. That is, however, not the path taken by Indians leaders after ‘independence’. Instead they retained almost every single part of the incredibly abusive and dysfunctional system including its pathetic white-worshiping personnel. And this is how India ended up with a shitty and incompetent bureaucracy which benefits nobody other than its employees.

Their Chinese counterparts, on the other hand, went on quite the cleaning spree after 1949. They started by getting rid of bureaucrats who were, should we say, not sympathetic to the new order or problematic collaborators to previous regimes. They reformed laws, rules and regulations to make them more useful and internally self-consistent. Moreover, they were willing to reform their system as the situation changed- for example after 1971 and 1979. Some people say that it was helpful that China has a long history of competent bureaucracy, unlike India. However, after the ‘century of humiliation’ they had to start from scratch to build a modern secular bureaucracy and so their history is not especially relevant to what happened after 1949. Let me reiterate that the Chinese leadership did not educate their people and build a good bureaucracy because they were altruistic. They did so because they wanted to be leaders of a powerful and respected nation.

In the next part of this series, I will write about how the lack of imagination and ability displayed by Indian leadership over every single decade since ‘independence’ contrasts with the willingness of their Chinese counterparts to take calculated risks, persevere along initially suboptimal routes, keep thinking big and have a viable plan (or two) to get there.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Difference in Outcomes for China and India in Post-1945 Era: 1

January 20, 2019 15 comments

Approximately three months ago, I wrote about my plans for a couple of series on topics which I had either not tackled or done in a less-than-through manner. In case you are wondering, one series would focus on the reasons why China became the world’s largest economy (in real terms) almost a decade ago while India is.. well.. stumbling around in that general direction. While most of the blame for dismal post-1947 performance of India can still be assigned to the first-, second- and third- order effects of the ‘jati’ system, there are clearly other factors at work- some of which are ‘intersectional’ to the continued existence of that wretched system. Let us start this series by examining them- starting with a comparison leadership cadre of both countries.

But before we go there, let me reiterate a few relevant points and spend the next 3-4 paragraphs giving you some background on the topic. As I wrote in a previous post, the majority of informed outsiders looking at the situation in both countries in 1950 would have put their money on India ending up as the more prosperous of two in 50-70 years. Yet in 2019, the Indian economy is still only 1/4th or 1/5th of its Chinese counterpart in real terms, despite containing an almost identical number of people. Did I mention that they started out at almost the same level in 1950. Let us also be clear that things had not gone well for over a century in either country at that time. In the case of India, it was a heavily exploited colony of now defunct British empire.

In the case of China, it was well.. a whole host of other problems. We can start with the various large and highly damaging rebellions towards the end of the Qing dynasty. One of these, known as the Taiping Rebellion, resulted in about 20-30 million deaths over a period of 14 years. Then there was the problem of western countries such as UK and USA pushing Opium in China which resulted in probably 20-40% of the population becoming dependent on that drug. There is some irony about tens of thousands of mostly white people dying from synthetic opioid overdoses, each year, in contemporary USA- given the major source of that drug. Add into that the humiliation caused by numerous military setbacks against 19th century European colonial powers culminating in the Boxer rebellion. And it got even worse in the early 20th century.

It started with the formal collapse of the Qing dynasty and lead to the Warlord Era– which was much worse than it sounds. And then there was that other unpleasant period due to the partial colonization by Imperial Japan, which culminated in events such as the Nanjing Massacre in addition to many millions more deaths due to that invasion, including many thousands due to activities of Unit 731. And we are not even getting into all the problems caused by on-again off-again alliance between various factions of the nationalists and communists in pre-1950 China. There is a very good reason that the Chinese see the hundred odd years between 1839-1949 as the Century of Humiliation. Long story short, China started from scratch after WW2. And we have not even talked about the Great Famine of 1959-1961 and the Cultural Revolution.

My point is that the modern nation states of India and China started at almost the same time (1947, 1949) and from about the same relative situation. Both had low literacy rates (12-15 % and 15-20 %), not much of an industrial base, very few universities and technical schools etc. Both experienced chaotic conditions during and shortly after their formation (India-Pakistan Partition, final stage of civil war on mainland China). Neither country had experienced unitary self-governance for over a hundred years. Most of the lay people in both countries still believed in tons of superstitions and bullshit. Long story short, both nation states started under equally dismal conditions. And yet in 2019, the economy and global stature of India is a fraction of China.

So let us now start talking about the types of people who ended up in leadership positions in both countries, starting with those involved in their respective independence movements.

The Indian “independence” movement, at least its modern form, can trace its origins to the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885. Ironically, it was established by a retired British civil service officer- Allan Octavian Hume. Think about it for a moment, the organisation which came to lead the Indian “independence” movement was not started by an Indian. But it gets better, or worse. Here is something many of you might know about many of the subsequent important leaders of the Indian “independence” movement.. most were the sons of people who had grown rich and powerful from enthusiastic collaboration with the British colonizers of India. Ya.. all those “great” leaders of the Indian “independence” moment were almost exclusively the sons of greedy and treacherous collaborators.

And most did not demand total independence until the early 1940s.. just varying degrees of autonomy from the now defunct British empire. And now you know why I decided to use quotation marks for independence. Sad.. isn’t it? And it gets worse.. if that is even possible. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, most leaders of the Indian “independence” movement were oxbridge educated lawyers with close to zero ability or experience to do anything beyond giving stirring speeches and writing elaborate letters in protest. They had a serious inferiority complex vis-à-vis white people in general and the British in particular. But most importantly, they simply wanted to rule instead of the British and had no real desire to improve the condition of most people in the country, and just wanted to be seen as equal to British on an individual level.

Now let us compare this sorry bunch to their equivalents in the Chinese national movement of early 20th century. Note that I am not implying that their Chinese equivalents were any less power-hungry, double-dealing, generally corrupt and sometimes thoughtless. But there are some very important and relevant differences between the two groups. For starters, most of their leadership did not arise from a group of traitors who collaborated with colonizers. Neither were most of their leaders born in very prosperous families. Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek came from somewhat comfortable but not unusually rich or politically connected families. Even the second and third order leadership of the national movement was largely derived from people born into poor, middling to somewhat prosperous bourgeois families.

Furthermore, they all agreed that expulsion of foreign colonizers, restoration of unitary authority and building a new secular technological society was not negotiable. Compare this to their Indian counterparts who were fine with continuing caste divisions, widespread poverty, little to no economic development, low literacy, semi-independence etc as long as they were in power. Leaders of the Indian “independence” movement.. you see.. just wanted an equal seat at the table of their British masters so they could regale them with tales with how stupid and poor all those “other” Indian were and have a laugh about it. While it sounds harsh, this is how things went after 1947. The leadership of the Chinese national movement, on the other hand, understood that only leaders of powerful and prosperous nations wield true power.

This is why, for example, the government of post-1949 China put so much effort into improving literacy levels, setting up universities, funding research institutes, building their own weapon systems, investing in infrastructure projects etc- even when they technically did not have the “money” to do so. In contrast, multiple generations of Indian leaders used the excuse of “no money” to either not do those things or do them in an anemic and half-hearted manner. That is also why India retained the shitty colonial system of laws and administration which was designed to exploit and abuse Indians rather than build a new one to benefit them. The darkly comic part of all this is that most of them lack the ability to understand their own pathetic behavior.

Will write more about this issue in the next part of series.

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 10

November 30, 2018 4 comments

In the previous post of this series, I mentioned that Indian kingdoms had no problem repelling and defeating foreign invaders upto the beginning of the 12th century AD. Yet somehow, in the absence of any technological or tactical breakthroughs on the other side, their record of success against foreign invaders becomes really bad between 1192 AD (defeat of Prithviraj) and around 1650 AD (dawn of Maratha empire under Shivaji). And then the (initially) materially poor and numerically far smaller armies of that emergent power somehow end up systematically destroying most Muslim Kingdoms in India and prevailed in a two decade long war against the much larger and prosperous Mughal empire to become the predominant power in India.

Have you ever wondered why the Maratha Empire succeed in doing what had eluded other groups and aggregations of people in India for almost half a millennium? For starters, it helped that they had an extremely competent and visionary founder in Shivaji. But it was his successors (and those who believed in the cause) who kept fighting and winning till they reached their goal. After reaching that point, the empire slowly came apart due to infighting and other bullshit- but they did achieve the initial goal of permanently erasing almost every single Muslim kingdom in India. So we come back to the question as to why they almost completely succeeded where many had failed before. What made their efforts different from others who had tried before.

To understand what I going to talk about later, let me introduce you to a seemingly unrelated historical fact. Ever wondered why a region so divided and engaged in almost constant low-level warfare such as the Italian peninsula between 1494-1559 was never successfully occupied by the much larger and prosperous Ottoman Empire- even when the later was at its height of power in the early 16th century? Also, why was the Ottoman Empire never able to effect worthwhile levels of religious conversions in most of its erstwhile European territory with the exception of tiny pockets such as present-day Albania and Kosovo. Why was its grasp on the Balkans always so tenuous and why did it choose to govern indirectly in most of those places?

What makes this inability of the Ottoman Empire to successfully invade and occupy Italy even more peculiar is that, as early as the 1480s, north-western boundaries of the Ottoman Empire were less than 200 km from Venice. And yet, for a number of reasons, they only got a bit closer to that city over two hundred years- after which the Ottoman Empire slowly shrank and went into decline. Why was such a rich, dynamic and populous Empire (at least between late 1400 and mid-1600s) unable to occupy a region full of small-ish kingdoms and duchies who were in almost constant conflict with each other? Why was no kingdom on the Italian peninsula unwilling to cooperate with an external invader from the east in order to prevail against its rivals?

Some of you might be aware that the extreme eagerness of Indian kings (and most Indians) to cooperate with foreign aggressors to screw over local competitors was one of the major reason behind why it was so easy for the later to succeed in spite of having far smaller armies. And let us be clear about something, this also occurred on the Italian peninsula- but with one major difference. See.. during that period, various small Italian kingdoms and city states did sometimes seek assistance from the French, Spanish and Hapsburg kingdoms to prevail over their rivals. But they never seriously considered doing so from the Ottoman Empire, even though many Italian kingdoms had pretty good trade relations with it. But why not?

It comes down to religion, specifically how monotheistic religions work. Though France, Spain and the Hapsburgs were frenemies to Italian kingdoms, they were (religiously and culturally) on the same side. The Ottoman Empire, though more religiously tolerant than contemporary Christian kingdoms, was fundamentally a Muslim Empire. It also helped that the Italian kingdoms were aware that other European kingdoms were not capable of occupying and ruling Italy indefinitely. Furthermore, there was a massive social stigma and fear of popular revolt if they were seen to be collaborating with Ottomans. In contrast to that, the lack of a real monotheist religion in India as well as massive internal social divisions caused by the ‘jati’ system made it trivial for Indian traitors to collaborate with any foreign invader. And there was no shortage of them in India.

Moreover, any serious attempt by Ottomans to invade Italian peninsula would have resulted in many disparate kingdoms within Italy and western Europe joining up to fight them. And then there was the effect of the ‘jati’ system on social cohesion within military ranks. In previous posts, I have mentioned how the ‘jati’ system resulted in Indian armies being deeply fragmented and non-cohesive. The various Italian kingdoms and other European powers of that era did not suffer from this handicap, because in spite of class divisions, they were all on the ‘same’ side. Furthermore, they had no issues with developing and fielding newer weaponry as well as adapting their strategy in response to their adversaries.

It is already close to 900 words, so I will wrap up this post now. In the next part of this series, I will explain why the Maratha and Sikh Empires were finally able to erase almost every single Muslim-ruled kingdom In India. You will also see why they, and not some other groups, achieved that objective. Hint: it has far more to do with the social organization of both communities rather than martial valor. And yes.. both communities had far fewer internal divisions due to the ‘jati’ system than other contemporary groups around them.

What do you think? Comments?

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 9

October 2, 2018 8 comments

In the previous part of this series, I said that the jati system was the principal reason why group cohesion among Indians is, and always been, so poor and why tiny foreign armies could conquer and rule large parts of India without any resistance from local population. Part of the reason, as explained in yet another part, was that the jati system destroyed the ability of Indians to imagine an objective reality or care about history which was not somehow part of some sad lie about the relative position of their jati in the overall social system.

Some readers might think that all of this is a bit confusing. What does, for example, the inability to imagine an objective reality, focus on rote learning and mindless obedience have to do with consistently losing wars against tiny foreign armies for multiple centuries. Traditional Chinese culture was also focused on rote learning and mindless obedience, but somehow China never got invaded and colonized to a level even remotely close to that of India. And weren’t the Chinese a famously insular society- at least since middle part of the Ming Dynasty.

And this is a good place to introduce something which I will talk about over next couple of posts. It involves comparing India to post- Roman Empire Italy (5th Century AD onward) and China (Song dynasty onward) to highlight what made the former much more susceptible to successful foreign invasions than the later two. We shall also talk about why successful military campaigns by Mahumd of Ghazni occurred almost 300 years after the initial rapid spread of Islam in Middle-East and Persia. Why didn’t successful Muslim invasions occur in the 7th or 8th century AD?

One thing I often wondered about, many years ago, concerned the delay of almost 300 years between the initial large-scale Muslim conquests in late 600s and early 700s AD and the first successful Muslim invasions of mainland India. Why could Arab and other converts conquer most of modern-day Spain and a good part of coastline of Black Sea 300 years before conquering even a small part of India? Why were they able to steamroll the Sasanian Empire of Persia within a few years but not make any progress in India though they reached present-day Sindh in 710 AD.

One might think that given the dismal performance of later Hindu rulers against Muslim invaders, they could just have walked over and conquered the whole of North India within a few years. And yet.. they could not. But why? The short answer is that they tried repeatedly and got their asses kicked, also repeatedly. Long story short, by 776 AD the Muslim presence in the Indian subcontinent excluding Sindh had effectively ended, and even there it was treading water by end of that century. So how could local kings of that era do, with ease, what multiple generations of later Hindu rulers could not?

Once again, a scarcity of written records from that era hampers the quest for a more thorough understanding of events. It is however clear that the Muslims invaders of that era encountered large-ish Indian kingdoms with very large armies, and in some cases navies, which proved more than a match for them. The Indian kingdoms and armies of that era were able to successfully counter the invaders and drive them out pretty quickly. Nor was this the first time, India faced invaders from the west. The Huna people (Indian version of Huns) tried to invade India in 5th and 6th century AD. After initial success and territory gains, they too were defeated and assimilated.

My point is that there are multiple instances of Indian kingdoms being able to successfully fight determined, numerous and well-equipped foreign invaders prior to 11th century. So why is the record of Hindu kings against foreign invaders between about 1200 AD (Prithviraj Chauhan) and 1600 AD (Shivaji) generally dismal? To be fair, Hindu kings in peninsular India did far better against Muslim invaders than their Northern counterparts- even during that period. But why?

The conventional explanation, as provided by “credentialed” losers.. I mean experts, is that use of mounted archers by Muslim invaders after 11th century AD against the supposedly elephant-centered army of Hindu kings resulted in the later losing battle after battle. While this might sound like a good explanation to the layman, it is hilarious bad. For one, using mounted archers or cavalry of any sort to invade kingdoms that are not small requires a pretty significant logistics chain and planning. Since Indians knew the lay of the land far better than invaders, foreign invaders would have faced serious problems if the local population resisted.

But there is much more. Composite bows and horse archers are not wonder weapons, especially in countries with a serious rainy season (excess moisture fucks up natural composite bows) and less than optimal conditions for horses. The rate of death of imported horses from diseases such as Babesiosis has always been pretty high in India. To put it another way, there are only some parts of India (NW plains) where one could use Calvary with abandon. Also, the mounted archer theory does not explain how Muslim rulers were able to keep ruling the areas they conquered.

And there is always the question of why massed longbow archers were uncommon in armies of Hindu kings after 8th-9th century AD. It should also be noted that there were not many large or even medium-sized kingdoms in India (especially Northern plains) after 7th century. Why? Since we are already at over 900 words, I am going to write about my explanation for why things went that way in India after 8th century AD by comparing it an equally divided ‘nation’ known as Italy.

Specifically, I will go into some detail about how a highly divided and medium-sized region such as the Italian Peninsula could successfully defend itself against multiple attempts at invasion by foreigners professing a different religion, including the much larger Ottoman Empire at its peak. What did they do differently to succeed at something which evaded India for almost 500 years?

What do you think? Comments?