Nehru Really Was not All That Bad

India has had 14 prime ministers in 70 years. The first, Jawaharlal Nehru was a man I saw being hero-worshipped when I was very young. There was a good reason to. When India won freedom, there were clearly two roads ahead. One was the Mahatma’s: The road that led us to our past and yet connected, curiously, with our future. It was the road that took us through the trauma of Partition to the creation of a brave new nation. The other road was Jawaharlal’s, the man the Mahatma hand-picked to lead India.
The roads could not have been more different. The Mahatma’s road won us freedom. But even he knew that the road ahead for a new nation would be different, very different from the one he had chosen. So he picked a man who could not have been more different from him. Nehru took us down a road that created a new India, a modern India, a India better equipped to cope with the future. Nehru’s road has seen us to where we are today. The fact that Nehru believed in a socialist economic model is another matter, and the fact that he borrowed many ideas from the Soviets. Like the five year plan– and the role of the public sector. These ideas may appear anachronistic to you and me today but, at that time, they appeared good for India. And possibly they were, if you look back without anger.
Nehru was good at his job. So good that no one could imagine how India would cope with his absence. The constant refrain in those days, particularly after the Chinese attack in 1962, was who would-or could-pick up the reins after him. There was a book too: After Nehru, Who? Today, five decades and 13 prime ministers later, the question appears superfluous. In fact, Nehru’s relevance still remains in the hearts and minds of those like me who grew up in the sixties and knew the role he played to keep things together. I often hear millennials ask who Jawaharlal was. Who is this guy who our Prime Minister keeps slamming in all his speeches? Was he really as awful as he is made out to be?
If I tell them that Jawaharlal was Rahul’s great grandfather, they say: Oh that explains it! Rahul’s great grandfather was Prime Minister. So was his grandmother, Indira. So was his father Rajiv. And now Rahul wants to be one! Almost instantly, Modi’s accusations hit home– a single family has provided India with three Prime Ministers and there’s one in waiting now. No wonder the dynasty charge rings so true.
But those who accuse Jawaharlal of imposing dynastic rule on us often forget his true contribution. He was one of the greatest leaders of our freedom struggle and the only one who was jailed nine times and spent 3259 days in prison. During that time he wrote some remarkable books that I do not see many people reading today. Frankly, that’s more time than the Mahatma-or anyone else– spent in jail and yet an impression has been created that Nehru was this very privileged guy who got the Prime Minister’s job on a platter, thanks to Gandhi’s indulgence, while more deserving people like Patel and Bose were denied it.
This has led to theories that if Nehru did not get that job, India’s destiny would have been different, in fact better. It was his socialist ideas that held us back, claim today’s Nehru-baiters. Including Modi, who recently argued that if Sardar Patel had been Prime Minister, India would have been a stronger nation and all of Kashmir would have been ours. The Kashmir bit we all know is wrong. Patel was ready to give away Kashmir at the time of Partition and if it was not for Nehru, we would have lost what we have today. And no, I don’t think any unbiased historian can claim that Patel (or anyone else) would have made a better Prime Minister. There is no evidence to support that.
Nehru was good for India in many ways. India needed at that time a wise, thinking leader who commanded respect. Nehru did. He was a world leader even though India was not seen as a great power at that time. Its moral authority stemmed from the Mahatma’s legacy. But the world treated Nehru with respect. Yes, in retrospect, you may question the direction he gave to our political economy, the socialist model of growth he installed. But the truth is whether we agree with his economics or not, we must recognize that the nation’s finest institutions were built by him in the pursuit of that model. The reforms that we talk of today are only possible because we are able to sell what Nehru built.
The reason why Modi attacks Nehru is obvious: he wants to discredit the DNA of the Congress. Actually the first set of reforms was initiated also by a Congress Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao. When Modi talks of a Congress-mukt Bharat, he is not just trying to discredit the Nehru family but also the first prime minister who took India on the path Modi is so keen to follow. And, as we near 2019, when he needs to renew his electoral mandate, his own actions mirror what the Congress once stood for. As his acolyte, former NITI Aayog chief and once Modi’s favourite economist says, the increase in customs duties in this year’s Budget actually signals the return of the infamous Licence Raj that was decried as the worst outcome of Nehru’s policies.
Funnily, despite all the tall talk of reforms what we are seeing today is a return to old fashioned Nehruvian economics and Indira Gandhi’s socialist slogans. Maybe Modi doesn’t believe in them but, 70 years after Independence even the BJP seems to have recognised that whatever we may say about reforms, winning elections involves coddling farmers, industrial workers and the huge army of Government employees. Apart from the politics of hate that he has managed to stir up nationwide, Modi is doing precisely what Nehru would have done if he were around today. Actually, the more things change the more they remain the same

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How Indians Got the Right to Vote

The country’s first election was an ingeniously indigenous an inventive. The numerous interactions between people and administrators about the preparation of the first draft electoral rolls on the basis of the adult franchise were significant for the institutionalisation of India’s democracy.
Studies of India’s electoral democracy have tended to see it as an inheritance of the British Raj or a product of an elite decision-making and institutional design. In this perspective, democracy and the Constitution were endowed from above. The people had little or no role in making democracy or the Constitution. New archival materials reveal a different, and hitherto unknown, story.
The origin of Indian democracy, in particular, the establishment of its edifice through the implementation of the universal adult franchise, was an ingeniously Indian enterprise. It was no legacy of colonial rule and was largely driven by the Indians, often by people of modest means. The turning of all adults into voters was a staggering democratic state-building operation of inclusion and scale, which surpassed any previous experience in democratic world history. This work was undertaken by Indian bureaucrats between August 1947, when the country became independent, and January 1950, when it adopted the Constitution.
The numerous interactions between people and administrators about the preparation of the first draft electoral rolls on the basis of adult franchise were significant for the institutionalisation of India’s democracy. Making procedural equality central to government formation in a hierarchical and unequal society turned electoral democracy into a meaningful and credible story for citizens. Because people from the margins found meaning and a place for themselves in the new polity based on universal adult franchise, they also understood the potential new power of making group identity claims. The SCs and STs turned into voters and could now, under universal franchise, fully partake in the compulsions of electoral politics. The successful implementation of universal franchise by the time the Constitution came into force enabled the insertion of social identities into the design of political representation. Here lay the seeds of the dynamic caste and identity politics, which have both deepened and challenged electoral politics in India.
Through the preparation of electoral rolls, the abstract language, forms and principles of the democratic Constitution obtained a practical basis. The Draft Constitution provided for one election commission for elections to the central legislature and for separate election commissions for each of the states. The final provision, which was informed by the experience of the preparation of the electoral rolls, stipulated an election machinery that was vested in a single autonomous election commission at the Centre.
The principle of universal franchise was adopted at the beginning of the constitutional debates in April 1947. It was a significant departure from elections under colonial rule, which were based on a very limited franchise and a divided electorate. There was a large gap to bridge in turning this constitutional aspiration into reality at Independence, in the midst of the Partition that led to mass killings and the displacement of an estimated 18 million people, while 552 princely states had yet to be integrated into India. The vast majority of the future and largest electorate in history at the time of over 173 million people was poor and illiterate. Realising that the task would be colossal, a few bureaucrats at the secretariat of the Constituent Assembly initiated the preparation of the electoral rolls from November 1947.
The secretariat designed the instructions for the preparation of rolls in consultation with administrators from the provinces and the princely states. In effect, their task was to operationalise the notion of procedural equality for the purpose of electoral voting. They had to imagine a joint list of all adults in the land — women and men of all castes and classes — each carrying the same weight as equal voters. This task was, in essence, revolutionary. The commitment to procedural equality that was cultivated in the process of the preparation of the electoral rolls was strikingly demonstrated when the collector of Bombay, for example, took in November 1948 proactive steps to ensure the voting rights of vagrants, servants and footpath dwellers.
Unsurprisingly, once the actual registration of voters began, distinct forms of disenfranchisement, breaches in the instructions and difficulties surfaced on the ground. In Assam, for example, the reforms commissioner did not initially regard refugees and immigrants as prospective citizens-voters and he instructed district officers not to register “the floating and ‘non-resident’ population”.
In the face of exclusionary practices in the preparation of rolls, a wide range of burgeoning citizens’ organisations began struggling for their voting rights. They wrote numerous letters of complaints to the secretariat, indicating that the provisions and directions that they issued in the pursuit of universal franchise were being undermined on the ground in the preparation of the rolls. Citizens’ organisations also began to demand linking voter’s registration with the acquisition of citizenship. To do so they made their claims on the basis of the Draft Constitution’s citizenship and other provisions, using the Constitution’s language and aspirations, while it was still in the making. Thus, a complaint against the reforms commissioner of Assam suggested that his attitude “definitely engenders civic and political status of a very large number of residents in Assam who are very eager to have their status as citizens of Indian Dominion confirmed during the course of enrolments votes. Our association thinks that enrolment as voters, ipso facto, invests the person so enrolled with the status of a citizen”.
People understood that a “place on the roll” was the most concrete way at the time to secure membership in the new state. It was their title deed to democracy. The responsiveness of the civil service empowered them to do so. The bureaucrats of the secretariat replied to every letter that arrived at their desk. They took actions to redress the problems that arose. In this process, they mentored bureaucrats at all levels and ordinary citizens into the principles of electoral democracy and universal franchise.
The inventive ways in which Indians made their democracy did not necessarily mean that India would become better than other democracies, nor immune from the problems that have beset democracies elsewhere. Indeed, India’s democracy fell short of its constitutional promises, for example, to promote social and economic equality. The rise of belligerent Hindu nationalism has beset its democratic public life and institutions. In these challenging times, when the values and institutions of democracy are under threat, learning about and gaining a new appreciation of how India became democratic might inspire fresh energy for the challenges of the present

A short history of banned books

In September, Melania Trump donated packages of Dr. Seuss titles to schools across the United States.
One of the schools refused the First Lady’s gift. Seuss’s illustrations were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” said the school in a letter to Trump.
This isn’t the first time that Seuss’s books have caused controversy. But the cartoonist and children’s author is far from alone: some of the world’s best-known books have been removed from schools or the shelves of public libraries.
Back in 1982, so many books were being challenged in the US that a number of organizations came together to start Banned Books Week, both to highlight the fact that literature was being banned, and to celebrate the freedom to read.
The American public – for instance, parents, library users and religious groups – can object to books that they think are unsuitable, particularly for young people, and ask for them to be removed or restricted.
For Banned Books Week, the American Library Association (ALA) puts together a list of the most challenged books each year across the country.
Last year’s most challenged book was This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. The reasons were that it contained LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.
Likewise, almost all the books on the list were challenged over either LGBT themes or sexually explicit content, or both.
A recent high-profile example was Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why, which was made into a popular Netflix series. A Colorado school district official ordered librarians to temporarily remove it from shelves after some critics claimed that it romanticized suicide.
Banned bestsellers
In some countries, bestsellers, from Harry Potter to The Da Vinci Code, have been challenged or banned.
J.K. Rowling’s famous tales about a boy wizard called Harry Potter has fallen foul of some readers’ tastes and made the fantasy series one of the most challenged on record.
A book written for an even younger audience, which narrates the true story two gay male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo, is one of the most challenged books of the last 10 years. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson has been restricted around the world. In Singapore, the book was removed from state libraries and destroyed.
In China, Winnie the Pooh is censored. References to the little yellow bear are now blocked on social media after bloggers compared him to China’s premier.
Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code was banned in Lebanon because it was regarded as offensive to Christians.
An even more famous case is the banning of Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses in many countries including India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and South Africa. Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on charges of blasphemy and called for Rushdie’s execution. After the book’s publication, Rushdie lived in hiding for years, moving from residence to residence and with the constant presence of bodyguards.
Censorship isn’t new
Of course, opposition to books is nothing new.
The burning of books, for instance, has long been used to send a powerful political message. Four months into Hitler’s regime, over 25,000 books were burnt in Munich because they were considered “unGerman”. It was such a seismic event that it is still marked in Germany today, with many of the burnt works read out in public.
Sometimes argument over censorship has ended up in court. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was banned in the UK until 1960 when the publishers won the right to publish the novel after a famous court case. On the first day of publication, 200,000 copies were sold.
Even books that have been sitting on bookshelves for years can come under scrutiny. At Royal Holloway, University of London, Fanny Hill, one of the oldest erotic novels in the English language (which had been taught at the university for a long time) was dropped after a consultation with students because of its pornographic content.
According to Laura Juraska, Associate College Librarian for Research Services at Bates College in Maine, books are banned for different reasons, depending on where you live.
“In the United States, it’s much more about sex and religion, and in other countries it has more to do with politics,” Juraska said. “It’s an interesting difference of what tends to get banned where. It tells you something about the culture that we live in.”
But for every book that is challenged, there are advocates fighting to get others reinstated, says the ALA.
“While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.”

The Cone of Silence : Maunmohan to Maun Modi

Narendra Modi continues to be an enigma. Here is a leader who wants to go down in history as a great statesman—not only in India but in the world. He cares deeply about how he is perceived. What stands in the way of realising his ambition are continuing incidents of violence and polarising rhetoric by his MPs and supporters. They may not be frequent but they are very widely reported. You’d think a quick, effective tweet condemning them would take the sting out of the story. Eventually, he does denounce some of the incidents, but it is too little and too late, long after headlines in India and around the world have damaged his, his party’s and India’s reputation. The puzzle is, why does he not immediately nip it in the bud by a brief statesman-like statement followed by quick action by the police? He must know that remaining silent or delaying response undermines his legacy.
Modi did eventually denounce violence by gau rakshaks in the strongest language — calling them “criminals”. By the time he broke his silence, however, the impression had been created that the BJP values cows more than human beings. Hatred and hysteria spread in the name of Hindutva has created insecurity among Muslims and Dalits; lakhs of jobs in dairy farming and in the leather and meat industries are at risk; India’s image abroad has been dented; and BJP’s electoral chances weakened. Warm, subsequent tributes to B R Ambedkar have not been able to salvage the damage left by the Una atrocity. Modi should urge gau rakshaks to re-read Savarkar, who wrote the book on Hindutva. He opposed cow worship, saying: “If the cow’s a mother to anybody at all, it’s the bullock. Not the Hindus. If Hindutva is sustained on a cow’s legs, it will come crashing down at the slightest sign of a crisis.”
In recent weeks, the BJP governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat have behaved in a cowardly manner over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film on Padmavati, which was cleared by the censor board and the Supreme Court. The Karni Sena’s attack on a bus carrying schoolchildren filled the nation with disgust. The irony is that the film turned out to be more anti-Muslim and pro-Rajput. In another incident, one of his party leaders, Vinay Katiyar diminished the BJP when he said that there is no room for Muslims in India and the Taj Mahal should be demolished because it was built on the site of a Hindu temple.
Now, Modi is a smart man. So, what explains his strange silence? One possibility is that since he has not delivered vikas, jobs and achhe din, he will have to rely on the message of Hindutva to court the silent majority in the middle. For this he needs the foot soldiers of the RSS knocking on doors to get out the vote in 2019, and he dares not alienate them. But Hindutva is a high-risk, unproven strategy among the aspiring young. He won a landslide victory in 2014 not because of Hindutva but because he persuaded the young with his single-minded promise of ‘vikas’. It is unclear if the average, middle-of-the-road Hindu can be enticed by playing the Muslim card. Some believe that Modi is fanatically anti-Muslim in his heart and would be happy to make India unsafe for non-Hindus. Others feel that he is a front for the RSS. But I disagree. I believe he is a pragmatic politician who will follow policies that maximise his chances for re-election.
Although achhe din have not yet arrived, the fact is that the economy has begun to pick up. The disruption caused by demonetisation is over. Soon the glitches in GST will also be resolved. The long-term benefits of GST and the insolvency law are going to be huge. There is tax buoyancy and progress in the ease of doing business; there is less corruption as the interface between government and citizen is gradually moving online.
Economic growth is bound to rise but achhe din will only come after the 2019 election. Universal health insurance and gas cylinders for rural households are visionary The smart thing would be to present an honest report card week after week on the implementation of his many excellent economic programmes. People voted for Modi for his executional ability based on his success in Gujarat, and they need to see constant progress. This will build credibility and improve his chances for 2019.

Sunday Special: The Story of Sari-The Whole Nine Yards

The sari has seen many mutations, affected by culture, region, and social meanings. It has never lost its sheen or grace. Designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s comment on the sari at the recent Harvard India Conference — “If you tell me that you do not know how to wear a sari, I would say shame on you. It’s a part of your culture… stand up for it” — has drawn people into the eternal debate of what is Indian and qualifies for a national identity.
Both the dhoti and the sari owe their existence to common ancestors. “For a long time, men and women in ancient India just wore the antariya (lower garment) and uttariya (upper garment) — both rectangular pieces of cloth which were draped in various styles,” says fashion historian Toolika Gupta. The Indian subcontinent was a multitude of kingdoms and cultures. “There are parts of the country where people do not largely wear the sari, for example in Rajasthan where there was the lehenga, choli and odhani. Saris were largely worn in Bengal and all over south. But even here in many cases the upper part and the lower part are different,” says Gupta. This is true of Kerala’s mundu veshti and Assam’s mekhela chador.
Even the morality associated with the sari-blouse is a relatively modern idea. A Sanskrit manual, The Guide to Religious Status and Duties of Women, written in Kerala between 400 and 600 BC directs married women of a high social status to wear a bodice, women from the middle strata to not wear a bodice, but cover their breasts with the loose end of their sari, and women of lower status to leave their breasts uncovered. The practice was observed in Travancore until the arrival of the Christian missionaries in the 19th century who brought with them what could be understood as the concept of shame or the freedom of covering oneself or both.
Indian tastes in clothing underwent a massive change in the colonial period, marking the entry of cultural values and fashions of Victorian England. The Tagores of Bengal and the Parsis of Bombay were wealthy, elite classes who frequently interacted with the British. From them, the trend of wearing a particularly kind of sari — with blouse and petticoat — spread downward.
Jnanada Nandini Debi, the wife of Satyendranath Tagore — brother of Rabindranath Tagore — is famously credited with popularising the use of Victorian-style blouses, jackets and chemises and modern style of sari among circles of middle-class Bengali women. She is said to have arrived from Bombay “dressed in a civil and elegant attire” in imitation of Parsi women which was hailed as an “integral combination of indigenousness, decorum and modesty”. Her style was quickly adopted by the Brahmo Samaj women — came to be known as Brahmika sari — and also gradually gained acceptance among Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh brahmos as well as non-brahmos.
Dressing the Indian woman appropriately became a colonial and a nationalist project. Sociologist Himani Bannerji states that while a minuscule among the upper classes started wearing gowns and saris were experimented with — the sari won. The Indian woman absorbed the western (Victorian) morality, without fully embracing western fashion.
The symbol of the sari became further charged under the Swadeshi movement which spurned European clothing. In this period, it got elevated from its diffuseness and variety of its historical origins to a distinct and precise national emblem. In independent, modern India, it has been revived and redefined by modern designers as a garment that is cultured yet highly fashionable, chic, and hence in sync with modern aspirations

India, Iran & a Divided Middle East

Awareness of Iran’s domestic politics, its involvement in multiple conflicts of the Middle East, must inform Delhi’s engagement, The first presidential visit from Iran since 2003 comes at a complicated moment in Tehran. For the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Iran’s regional influence has never been as expansive as it is today. Yet, there is a huge push back against Tehran from some of its Arab neighbours, Israel and the Trump Administration.
More problematic is the increasing internal and economic and political volatility as the Islamic Republic celebrates its 40th anniversary. The Iranian currency rial is rapidly losing its value, hitting a record low of 48,000 against the US dollar earlier this week. High inflation and large-scale unemployment, as well as widespread corruption triggered protests in Iran’s cities around the new year. Some of the slogans in the protests — “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I give my life to Iran” — questioned the costs of Tehran’s expansive internationalism at a time of internal economic pain.
There are also demands for social liberalisation, with the women protesting the law on the compulsory wearing of the veil in public. While conservatives in Iran trashed these protests, the office of President Hassan Rouhani released the reports of a survey that showed nearly 50 per cent of the population opposes the mandatory hijab rule.
The faultines within the ruling elite are open and the contestation between different factions is continuous. But supreme leader Ali Khamenei has the last word and towers over the elected presidency and all other institutions. Forty years after the founding of the Islamic republic in 1979, Iran’s internal divisions are getting sharper. President Rouhani has, in fact, called for a referendum to heal domestic bleeding. Rouhani did not say what the referendum will be about, but a group of liberal reformers quickly backed his suggestion by calling for a popular vote on the legitimacy of the current political order.
While the focus of the engagement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rouhani will necessarily be on bilateral issues relating to trade, investment and connectivity, Iran’s domestic politics and its involvement in the multiple conflicts in the Middle East must fully inform Delhi’s engagement with Tehran.
Rouhani’s visit to Hyderabad this week was in part about showcasing Iran’s deep historical connections with India. It also provided an occasion for Rouhani to deliver a sombre message on overcoming sectarian conflict within Islam and promoting harmony between different religious communities. This message is directed not just to the audiences in India but also those in the Middle East.
That brings us to Delhi’s biggest current challenge in dealing with Tehran — the sharpening conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. But Delhi’s public discourse on relations with Iran has for long been framed it in terms of Tehran’s relations with Washington. That tells only one part of the story, but masks others.
During the early decades of the Cold War, India stayed away from the Shah of Iran, a secular modernising ruler, because he was too close to the United States. After all, the Shah put Iran into the US’s regional Cold War alliances like the Central Treaty Organisation that also included Pakistan and Turkey. Today, one of the main problem is the unending enmity between Iran and the US.
Delhi was relieved when the US, under President Barack Obama, and Iran in 2015 concluded a nuclear deal and opened up some space for international commercial cooperation with Tehran. President Donald Trump and his Republican party’s hostility towards the deal has created fresh complications for India.
Although Delhi is looking for ways to sidestep the potential expansion of the US sanctions regime, for example, with a reported rupee-rial arrangement, India’s problems with Iran’s regional rivalries is not going to disappear. While the US-Iran nuclear deal was welcomed in Delhi, it was viewed with great concern in some Arab capitals, especially Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Amman and Cairo.
Many of them accused President Barack Obama of selling out its long-standing friends and partners in pursuit of a deal with Iran. Even more important, Saudi Arabia has taken matters into its own hands to confront Iran’s growing influence across the region. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Yemen have provided a fertile ground for the playing out of the rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh.
It is not for India to judge who is right or wrong, but to recognise the reality of regional conflicts in the Middle East and limit their impact on India’s ability to secure its goals in the region. India would certainly want to see a serious effort to reconcile the current tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbours, where Delhi’s stakes have risen manifold in recent decades.
Realism tells us that Delhi does not have the power to mitigate the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. But Delhi can certainly encourage the emerging trends for political and social moderation in the Middle East. India has positively viewed the recent calls from the political leadership in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for reclaiming Islam from violent extremists. India should also welcome Rouhani’s emphasis on ending sectarian conflicts in the region and his praise of India as a “living museum” of peaceful religious co-existence.
While Rouhani may not have the command of Iran’s politics, the moderate forces represented by him are critical for the pursuit of three important Indian objectives in the Middle East. One is the promotion of mutual political accommodation within the region; another is pressing for an end to the export of destabilising ideologies from the region; and finally the construction of a coalition against violent religious extremism that has inflicted so much suffering in the Middle East and the Subcontinent.

India Witnesses a Great Floundering Beneath the Foreign policy Bluster

India finds itself increasingly cornered into a strategic cul-de-sac. Even as its diplomacy expands, its political options seem to decrease; even as it reaches out to look east and look west, the strategic space to address its core concerns does not seem to be expanding; and even as its bluster about a strong state grows, doubts about its military capabilities are growing equally louder. So, paradoxically, India finds itself in this position that even as it is globally recognised, it looks more helpless in its own backyard.
These are days where strong propaganda obscures the most basic of common sense. To begin with a simple question. A hallmark of the strategic success of any government is whether it expands the options available that can help you achieve your core objectives. Have the options available to India expanded?
The first core component of having options is raw capability. One would be hard-pressed to find any evidence that India’s capabilities, on any dimension of hard power, have significantly changed for the better over the last four years. The military modernisation programme seems to be still in the phase of arming without aiming; all the grand talk of defence production in the private sector has not taken off. As Vipin Narang has pointed out, a central element of our deterrence capability, Arihant, is still out of commission.
Defence expenditures in real terms have been falling. It is only in the fourth year in office that Cabinet has finally approved a panic buying of assault and sniper rifles. The one element on our strategy vis-a-vis Pakistan is fortifying our bases so that they are not easy targets of terrorist attacks. As the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has shown, we do not seem to have made much success of this. The sophistication in the political establishment on understanding military matters is scarcely more evident. India’s raw hard power capabilities still constrain options.
The second component of having more options is new partnerships and alliances. India has been forthright enough to deepen its partnerships with Japan, Australia and other countries concerned about China. Its engagement with West Asia is impressive. It has announced greater maritime ambitions. These might be worthwhile initiatives in their own right. But these initiatives do not, for the most part, help mitigate India’s core vulnerabilities. It is not clear that these initiatives are enough to get Pakistan to change its behaviour, or secure our long-term objectives in relation to China. It tells you something about the unreality gripping public strategic discourse that our hearts flutter with joy at a term like “Indo-Pacific”. This term may have some nominal rhetorical value.
But the idea that merely by creating a new maritime nomenclature that flatters us, we will somehow outgrow the real strategic dilemmas that face us vis-a-vis China and Pakistan, is wishful thinking. It is good India is deepening its engagement from Seychelles to Oman, acquiring new docking capabilities and logistical support. But with what wars and what interventions, what military objectives will these achieve? It is almost like we will acquire these facilities without any clear sense of the uses to which we will put them. They signal our global intent but do not add much to our capabilities.
This expansive outreach has also, in some strategic circles, created this illusion that India can outgrow its region; it does not have to be tied down to its geography. From Doklam to Kashmir, from the Maldives to Nepal, India has been rudely reminded about how easy it is to put it in a helpless position in its own neighbourhood. The idea that India can do a great power projection without being able to manage its own neighbourhood was a pipe dream in any case. In relation to almost all our neighbours, with the possible exception of Bangladesh, India’s diplomatic, moral and coercive authority stands diminished. In Nepal, it ended up with the worst of both worlds — it did not have the power to follow up its implicit promises to the Madhesis, and no matter how one dresses it up, it has had to eat humble pie and accommodate Oli. India could not exercise any leadership in the Rohingya crisis. In the Maldives, it is looking increasingly more helpless.
To put it politely, our Pakistan strategy is in tatters. The fact that the Americans might be willing to sanction Pakistan is a double-edged sword. For one thing, in the short run it will lead to Pakistan turning the heat on India in the hope that ratcheting up the tensions, and provoking an Indian response, will once again put the spotlight on the risks of the Kashmir crisis. We trumpeted the fact that surgical strikes would be a deterrent; they turned out to be a virtually useless instrument. Worse, the fact that we trumpeted them so loudly has created a domestic expectation of retaliation, every time more Indian soldiers are killed. So we are caught in a political trap on engagement with Pakistan. On the one hand, the NSAs are apparently talking. On the other hand, you have created a public discourse where a chief minister has to explain that she is not being anti-national in calling for talks with Pakistan. There is a simple point: Even if you intend to exercise military options, they have to be embedded in a political strategy. Is there a political strategy on Pakistan at all, or is it all bluster covering up a great floundering?
China’s aggressive posture has to make India wary. But surely the idea of deft diplomacy is that you do not reach a point where literally every single line of engagement becomes a zero-sum game, and you convert a hard-nosed contest of interests into a more publicly-charged, ideologically potent contest of self-esteem. Perhaps we do not have any other options. But the net result is that we are more cornered by China than we were a few years ago.
Add to this the atrocious deterioration of public discourse in India, where Mohan Bhagwat can openly taunt the army, and you have to wonder: Have India’s strategic options in dealing with its core challenges expanded or have they diminished? On any measure, hard power, diplomacy, alliances, political framing, and consistency of domestic resolve, we seem to have fewer not more options. The vigour of Modi’s travels can barely disguise the fact that in terms of India’s security objectives, he is looking very weak indeed. Any other prime minister would have been hauled over the coals if India had been backed into the corner it is now.

Saturday Special: Peace Through Diplomacy: Can It Work?

America is beginning to engage its enemies diplomatically. Will this approach be effective? Can diplomacy secure lasting global peace? Mankind’s timeless and dogged pursuit of peace is a tribute to our perseverance and optimism. World leaders dedicate their lives to fostering peace. World organizations such as the United Nations exist to pursue global peace. Countless billions of dollars flow into efforts to quiet the drum of war. When these options fail, nations often seek peace through war.
Lasting peace is the ultimate, yet hardest to achieve desire of mankind. History declares the tragic inevitability of war. Every alternative has been tried, every path walked, but we are still no closer to learning the way of lasting peace. Today, though peace has never been more desperately needed, it has never been more elusive.
The Western world, America in particular, has been waging war to achieve peace for half a decade now. Public discussion in the United States rings with calls for an end to war-making and a revival of diplomatic efforts to achieve global aims. Peace through diplomacy has become a national catchphrase. Many public figures increasingly play down the need for force or military action, demanding that U.S. foreign policy be reconstructed around rhetoric, conversation—diplomacy.
Of course, it is infinitely preferable, whenever possible, to achieve foreign policy objectives through diplomacy. The question is: Is this a time when diplomacy alone can achieve the peace we crave?
It appears the present administration in Washington is coming to believe the answer is yes. After labeling Iran and North Korea as members of an axis of evil and Syria a rogue state and long maintaining a policy of refusing to entertain such nations in direct diplomatic talks, the president has lately shown himself willing to sit down with these same nations at a table laid with negotiation and compromise. In March, the U.S. held high-level talks with Iran and Syria on the future of Iraq, and scheduled a follow-up meeting for April. The same month, the assistant secretary of state met with North Korean officials in New York to discuss normalizing relations between their two nations—steps that could include removing North Korea from America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and opening a trading relationship.
As America launches this diplomatic offensive with its enemies—a foreign policy direction likely to be pursued more intensively in coming months and years—it is worth considering the art of diplomacy. What is the key to effective diplomacy? Is the U.S. in a position to employ high-quality diplomacy? More fundamentally, can diplomacy of even the highest quality secure peace in the long term? What is the way to lasting peace?
The Art of Diplomacy
Furthering national interest through peaceful means is the ultimate purpose of diplomacy. International relations expert Hans Morgenthau wrote, “Of all the factors that make for the power of a nation, the most important, however unstable, is the quality of diplomacy” (Politics Among Nations; emphasis mine throughout). High-quality diplomacy is one of the strongest weapons a nation can possess. Weak diplomacy, on the other hand, can thrust a nation into crisis. What will be the quality of America’s diplomacy with Iran, Syria and North Korea?
Morgenthau explained diplomacy as the “art of bringing the different elements of the national power to bear with maximum effect upon those points in the international situation which concern the national interest most directly.” Effective diplomacy occurs when a government uses the elements of national power at its disposal—its political connections and influence, geographic situation, economic and industrial capacity, military might—to promote its national interests. Intelligent diplomacy, wrote Morgenthau, harnesses these qualities and pursues its objectives by three means: persuasion, compromise, and threat of force.
Effective diplomacy employs the power of persuasion, compromises at the right time and on the right issues, and—when necessary—uses the threat of military force. It requires the careful, well-timed blending of all three of these components.
“Rarely, if ever,” Morgenthau wrote, “in the conduct of the foreign policy of a great power is there justification for using only one method to the exclusion of the others.” The art of diplomacy consists of placing the right emphasis on each of the three means at its disposal at the right time. “A diplomacy that puts most of its eggs in the basket of compromise when the military might of the nation should be predominantly displayed,” for example, “or stresses military might when the political situation calls for persuasion and compromise, will…fail.”
Effective diplomacy requires that rhetoric be underpinned by military strength. “Diplomacy without arms,” as the Prussian king Frederick the Great stated, “is like music without instruments.”
The fact is, history shows that unless a credible military option exists, persuasion and compromise have little effect in dealing with hostile regimes. And whether America accepts it or not, Iran, Syria and North Korea are hostile regimes.
A Critical Case Study
Sept. 30, 1938, was a momentous day in the life of Neville Chamberlain. As he stepped onto the tarmac of Heston airport, he could barely contain his excitement. Clasped in his fingers was the fruit of a long process of hard-fought diplomacy. Jubilance filled the air. The sense of relief was palpable. Standing before the eager public, the prime minister considered the significance that history would award this day. Sept. 30, 1938, would be a glorious testament to the power of diplomacy.
It was on this day that Britain’s Prime Minister Chamberlain, waving the non-aggression agreement signed by Adolf Hitler, declared those infamous words: “Peace for our time.” During the conference in Munich, the power of rhetoric had prevailed and the clenched fist of war was thwarted. Or so it seemed.
Less than a year later, Hitler flouted the non-aggression pact, fired up the engines of his military, and ignited World War ii by rumbling eastward into Poland. France and Britain declared war on Germany, and Chamberlain’s diplomacy was officially pronounced dead.
It is critical we consider the history of pre-World War ii diplomacy in the context of current events, and how American leaders are handling global challenges.
The story of the 1930s is of the failure of diplomacy because Britain did not demonstrate it was prepared to take action. Hitler laughed at the agreement because he knew Britain was not arming for war; he didn’t believe there would be consequences for breaking the agreement he had signed. What’s more, Britain had a track record of ignoring Germany’s aggression. When German troops occupied the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland in 1936, Britain did nothing. When Hitler ordered his troops into Austria in March 1938, there was no reaction. And with the Munich Pact itself relinquishing Czechoslovakia’s Sudeten territory to Germany, what possible incentive did Hitler have to halt his campaign to take over Europe? Diplomacy was rewarding his aggression.
Compare this with what is happening today with the U.S. Notice this opinion piece from Novosti, a Russian news agency: “This about-face [embracing hostile nations in diplomatic talks] of American diplomacy is all the more astounding since it took place in a matter of a month and a half. In middle January Condoleezza Rice reassured the Senate that the United States would not go for any bilateral diplomatic contacts with North Korea, Iran or Syria until they became reasonably flexible on disputable issues. The U.S. secretary of state described the policies of these countries as ‘extortion’ rather than diplomacy.
This ‘extortion’ is still in place, and it is Washington that has become flexible….Nobody could match Rice in the UN Security Council in her demands for tough sanctions against North Korea after its nuclear test in October. In the case of Iran and Syria, she also preceded the invitation to the conference in Baghdad with a package of confrontation-provoking speeches, and accused Tehran of collaboration with the Shiite militants in attacking U.S. troops. To sum up, each time dessert followed the bitter pill” (March 6).
The parallels with British diplomacy in the 1930s are disconcerting. Like Britain’s pre-World War ii appeasement and non-action, the U.S.’s track record instills no fear into rogue nations. For example, bombings of U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Tanzania during the ’90s met with virtually no response. After maintaining that North Korean nuclear capability would not be tolerated, the U.S. took no action when Pyongyang exploded its first nuclear bomb in a test last October. Iran’s ongoing support of terrorists, incitement of violence in Iraq, and pursuit of nuclear capability provoke little real action from the U.S.
Also degrading the deterrent capability of America’s military threat is the nation’s history of exiting a war theater once things get tough. America’s enemies have witnessed hasty retreats from Vietnam and Somalia, and are watching Iraq. In addition, antiwar Democrats and the mainstream media are playing a powerful part in undermining any threat of military force. Other nations know America’s government is isolated and would become even more so if it resorted to force against Iran, North Korea or Syria.
This all raises the question: As America begins to engage its enemies diplomatically, does it have a credible threat of military force? If not, then we can predict that its diplomatic efforts with Iran, Syria and North Korea will crumble and that violence and conflict will eventually prevail.
Unfortunately, it appears this is essentially the situation as it stands. In its enemies’ eyes, the use of force by America is extremely unlikely, hence rendering U.S. diplomacy largely ineffective.
Another Case Study
Theodore Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to see that America had the potential to be a world power. He knew that effective diplomacy was key to realizing this potential—and that threat of action was an indispensable component of it.
Speaking at the Naval War College in Newport on June 2, 1897, Roosevelt said, “Diplomacy is utterly useless when there is no force behind it. The diplomat is the servant, not the master, of the soldier. There are higher things in this life than the soft and easy enjoyment of material comfort. It is through strife, or the readiness for strife, that a nation must win greatness.” He made that comment at the dawn of American greatness. The truth of his statement has never been more evident than in our danger-fraught world.
Iran, Syria and North Korea have a history of exploiting concessions, rejecting agreements and trampling on other nations’ willingness to compromise. Though America may come away from diplomatic talks with agreements in hand, what will it do if and when Iran or North Korea refuses to meet their agreements? If these countries are confident that the U.S. is not prepared to back up its compromise and persuasion with meaningful military action, how effective will the diplomacy be?
Entering into a diplomatic relationship with these nations will be a litmus test of the strength of the U.S. government. Will diplomacy further America’s national interest and secure a measure of peace? Or will it only serve to promote the interests of these rogue states and further ruin America’s power and reputation?
Gathering Dangers
Seventeenth-century English historian Thomas Fuller said, “[I]t is madness for sheep to talk peace with a wolf.” The Middle East seethes with problems for America right now. Israel faces the possibility of a three-front war with Syria in the Golan Heights, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Syria and Iran are pushing for the downfall of the moderate, U.S.-friendly government of Lebanon. Iraq quakes with civil strife between the government and several competing militias. Like Germany in the 1930s, every sign says war is only getting worse across the Middle East.
How does America respond to these clear and present dangers? Yank the troops out, and let’s sit down at the negotiating table with Iran and Syria. Many American and British leaders, like Chamberlain, are sheep seeking negotiation with wolves.
The tragic result of such weak diplomacy is that we are moving into an era when the enemies of Western civilization simply do not fear consequences for their actions. Hence, Hezbollah starts a war against Israel; Hamas continues to launch missiles onto Israeli soil; North Korea tests long-range missiles and nuclear weapons; Iran continues to threaten to do the same; Iraqi and Afghan insurgents brazenly attack Western forces. Increasingly, America’s enemies have no fear!
On that day in 1938, Chamberlain’s style of diplomacy strengthened the enemy and precipitated conflict. The only thing Chamberlain secured for the Continent was time: The people had 11 more months of relative peace—while Hitler had 11 more months of preparation—followed by a bloody and lethal war.
This perfectly illustrates the futility of diplomacy if a nation is weak and unprepared to back up its words. “Diplomacy without a realistic threat of significant action, in the event that diplomacy fails,” said Dr. George Friedman from Stratfor Systems, “is just empty chatter.” That statement summarizes American foreign policy today. When it comes to problems such as Iran’s involvement in Iraq, the policy of the American government is little more than empty chatter—conversations not underpinned by action. Thus, the diplomacy may buy some time, but the time will serve only the aggressor, not America.
The Ultimate Cause of Peace
Seeking peace without shedding blood is a noble aspiration. Sadly, history and human nature show that lasting peace cannot be secured through diplomacy, even if it is of the highest quality.
High-quality diplomacy in many cases may avert war and foster peace temporarily. But history shows it will never bring lasting peace!
Mankind dreams about peace, but lives by war! Why? Nations today cry out for peace; leaders throw time and money at trying to secure it; politicians and statesmen devote their lives to seeking and maintaining peace through diplomacy. But those efforts always fail eventually and war prevails! Man simply does not know the way to lasting peace—individually, in our families, within our nations, or globally between nations.
Mankind’s history of failed diplomacy—evidenced by the multitude of wars—vividly demonstrates the absolute vainness of mankind’s ways. Our history of war and violence declares our desperate need for a relationship with others.
Peace would flow over the Earth today if people understood and embraced the ethics.Wars explode when the interests of nations clash. Consider. If each nation’s interests were rooted in the same law, and if all men put obedience to the law above their selfish desires, there would be no conflict among people or nations. War would be impossible, and lasting peace would flourish!
Mankind’s failed efforts to achieve lasting global peace should not depress us. Diplomatic failures—even wars—need not discourage us. Mankind’s hope for peace does not lie in the hands of politicians and diplomats. It lies not in guns and jackboots. Lasting global peace lies in the hands of the masses, provided they are aware and assertive.

Art of Disagreeing Without Being disagreeable: Key to Urban Civilisation

The news that can disturb everyone in any neighbourhood is not about Donald Trump or the state of the world. It’ would be the passing away of thecorner coffee shop.
It sighed its final breath of coffee-aroma. The regulars have their daily routines upturned. For the cafe was the cosy shelter from the raging winds of confusion outside, that ‘safe space’ which so many young folk now demand on college campuses.
Cafes have not always been there in human history. The first coffee houses may have emerged in Damascus and Cairo in the 16th century. The idea of a place to gather for coffee-driven conversation spread from Ottoman Istanbul to Venice to the rest of Europe. But wherever they were they offered a space for people to chat, exchange gossip, float ideas and argue without killing one another, though fatal disputes have been known to happen occasionally.
Cafes form a distinctive feature of urban civilisation. In one cafe now gone, the regulars exuded diversity and bonhomie despite political and cultural differences. Allan, a retired professor of physics from Cornell University, would work diligently on Sudoku over coffee and scones every day lifting his face to greet someone or to crack a joke with a poker face. Turan, a law expert, would be busy writing legal stuff in her native Farsi with books and notepads all over the table unless she’d join an argument over politics. Cyrus, another Iranian-American, would research the history of religions and irregulars would float in and out of freewheeling chats.
The point to note is that we would all observe the rules of non-violent engagement. We wouldn’t call anyone, in the style of the current US president, a ‘son of a bitch’ just because he or she held a different view or had an unfamiliar perspective. We would smile and beg to differ.
How to disagree without being disagreeable is a founding premise of our right to free speech. It means if we don’t like someone’s views we can exercise several options: We could withdraw from the argument; personally avoid that individual; offer counterarguments after letting the person speak; or choose not to engage in contentious debates.
Unfortunately, in many democratic societies the right to free speech is being understood by far too many as ‘my version’ of the right, even if it be at the expense of someone else’s right. Many simply do not accept free speech as a right for all.
In India, the assault is coming mainly from the hardline right. Disagreement over cultural norms or politics leads to frightening outcomes like mass persecution, severe bodily harm and even murder. Free speech is by and large protected by the Indian Constitution despite a qualifying clause or two that make the right less than guaranteed. But few Indians seem to appreciate it.
In the US, clouds of intolerance have begun to gather alarmingly. Bigotry and racism-inspired denigration of dissent comes mainly from the right, disturbingly sometimes from the White House. But the far left, particularly on college campuses, is just as clueless about free speech.
A nationwide Brookings Institution study of opinions of undergraduates finds that a fifth of college students thinks it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker. The revered first amendment of the US Constitution that protects free speech is not understood by 4 out of 10 respondents as covering ‘hate speech’. Not a majority yet, but a far left minority is stirring up violence against free speech on campuses.
Speech spewing hatred is protected by the US Constitution because if speech, as opposed to physical attack, is seen as violent then violence itself can be justified as a response to speech.
It seems many of today’s students, less aware in their high schools of history and civics than they were a generation ago, think it quite okay to shout down a professor with whom they disagree and to stop any outsider from lecturing on campus if the speaker’s views offend them.
Be that as it may, it’s time to go searching for a suitable cafe to fill a void in my life

Democracy & India

Were ancient Indian polities democratic, democracy thus representing India’s enduring culture? And what was Jawahar Lal Nehru’s role in institutionalising democracy?)
In his widely noted parliament speech on February 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the following claim about India’s democracy. “India did not get democracy due to Pandit Nehru, as Congress wants us to believe. Please look at our rich history. There are many examples of rich democratic traditions that date back centuries ago. Democracy is integral to this nation and is in our culture.” Modi called attention to the ancient Indian polities, especially those inspired by the Buddh paramapara (Buddhist tradition). He concluded that “loktantra hamaari ragon mein hai” (democracy is in our blood).
How valid are these claims? Two analytically distinguishable issues require discussion. Were ancient Indian polities democratic, democracy thus representing India’s enduring culture? And what was Nehru’s role in institutionalising democracy?
To answer these questions, we need to start with a conceptual question: What is democracy? For at least two and a half centuries scholars have debated democracy. Two conceptions of democracy have emerged: A narrower concept, and a broader one.
The narrower concept is purely electoral. It focuses on (a) contestation and (b) participation. The first means the capacity of political parties freely to contest the incumbent government in elections. The second points to adult universal franchise. The right to vote should not depend on caste, creed, race, ethnicity, income, gender or religion.
The broader notion of democracy goes beyond elections. It also speaks of politics between elections. Special note is taken of three freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of religious practice, and freedom of association — without which everyday politics can become authoritarian, despite free elections.
In what sense were ancient Indian polities democratic? Did they satisfy the narrow conception, let alone the broader one? Did they have elected governments? How widespread was the franchise? One can indeed find polities in ancient India where kings bound themselves to assemblies and debates. But kings were unelected, and very few subjects had the privilege of participating in political debates.
That there was discussion and debate (charchaa and vichaar vimarsh, as Modi put it) in several ancient Indian polities is beyond doubt, but democracy goes beyond such constrained contestation. Some scholars have used terms like “oligarchies” for systems that encouraged limited assembly and debate, but didn’t have elected governments or broad citizen participation.
The “democracies” of the ancient city-states of Greece also had this problem. While going quite far towards popular constraints on governments, they excluded women and slaves from their assemblies.
Indeed, as late as the 19th century, the idea that everyone should have the right to political participation had few takers. Europe accorded the right to vote on the basis of property, education and gender, for it was believed that only the propertied and educated men had the rational capacities to vote. Women and the poor did not. Nineteenth century democracy satisfied only one half of the narrower concept of democracy: Contestation. Universal participation was an anathema.
Consider, also, the claims of John Stuart Mill, arguably the father of modern liberalism. In the 1860s, he wrote that (a) for their political enhancement, the Scots and Welsh in Britain required England’s tutelage, and the Basques and Bretons in France would benefit from Parisian cultural tuitions, and (b) while white British colonies deserved democratic government, non-white colonies did not. As Uday Singh Mehta argues in Liberalism and Empire, Mill viewed white colonies as “of similar civilisation to the ruling country, capable of representative government: Such as the British possessions in America and Australia”. And non-white colonies included “others, like India (that) are still at a great distance from that state”. The latter deserved colonial tutelage, not democracy.
Claims about differential worth of human beings were also present in India, especially taking the form of the caste system. To talk about India’s ancient democracies, as Modi did, and ignore the caste system, legitimated by the Manusmriti dating back to the 2nd century BC, a text that heaps indignities on the “lower” castes, can’t be called a plausible claim about democracy being “integral to Indian culture”. Caste inequalities were also in India’s blood. There is much to be proud of in ancient India, especially its scientific discoveries such as the decimal system and the heliocentric view of the planetary system, but democracy was not one of them.
Nehru departed from the old prejudices. He contended that universal franchise, including poor and rich, educated and uneducated, men and women, upper and lower castes, was based on the great 20th-century premise that “each person should be treated as having equal political and social value”. Nehru also endorsed the broader freedoms: “Civil liberty is not merely for us an airy doctrine or a pious wish, but something which we consider essential for the orderly development and progress of the nation”. This was the reason why, despite admiring the Soviet Union for its economic achievements in the 1930s and 1940s, he would claim that “Communism, for all its triumphs in many fields, crushes the free spirit of man”.
Modi is right to say that Nehru alone did not produce India’s democracy. In the Constituent Assembly, there was no great resistance to the idea of universal franchise. But Nehru and Ambedkar led the argument about citizen equality as a foundation for the new polity. Despite his differences with Ambedkar, Gandhi also believed in such equality, but his life’s energies were focused on securing India’s freedom, not on the post-Independence constitution or polity.
Consider an analogy. If Modi is able to give the gift of a swachch Bharat (clean India) to Gandhi on his 150th birthday in 2019, as he promised from the Red Fort in 2014, he will be called the architect of swachch Bharat, though thousands of his colleagues have worked on the project. Leadership matters.
Nehru has a similar relationship with democracy (as does Ambedkar with the Constitution). Without the first three universal-franchise elections — 1952, 1957, 1962 — under Nehru’s leadership, when democracies were collapsing in developing countries, it is hard to imagine the institutionalisation of democracy in India. Ancient polities did not create, or sustain, India’s post-1947 democracy.