Picture India in 1950. The British have exited, and Jawaharlal Nehru and his team have taken over the management of an India ravaged by nearly 200 years of colonial rule. Nehru stands tall with no equals after the deaths of Mahatma Gandhi and then Vallabhbhai Patel. He can do anything he wants. What does he do? Socialism. His daughter Indira Gandhi takes over in the late 1960s. What does she do? More Socialism. More economic controls. And precisely as could have been predicated, the socialist control of the Indian economy leads to more poverty. And so it goes on through the 1970s and 1980s. Even after seeing what China is doing, India’s leaders do not open up the Indian economy. Half-hearted attempts are made by Narasimha Rao in 1991 followed by Atal Behari Vajpayee a decade later. Both miss the Deng-like transformation opportunity.
It doesn’t end there. The policies that have created perpetually planned poverty are now seeped deep into the psyche of the political leaders because in their minds that’s what helps them win elections. Manmohan Singh has 10 years in power, and Narendra Modi has had 6. Have they changed anything? Nothing substantial. It is the same old socialist stifling of the economy. Every Tokenism here and there goes by the name of second-generation reforms.
By and large, Indians stay poor. The gap between China and India keeps widening. India’s leaders still don’t see the writing on the wall. China’s power keeps growing and India does demonetisation. As if the economy wasn’t damaged enough already.
Every Indian leader has failed the people. And almost everyone has won re-election, validating every bad policy. So, why should the leaders wish to change the failed socialist policies?
And then one day, 20 Indians are killed and there is outrage. We realise that we cannot really fight back. All we can do is to mourn our dead soldiers, make a few grandiose statements, threaten to uninstall Chinese apps from our phones and put some trade restrictions on China (which will impose costs on Indian consumers by increasing prices of locally made goods). We are angry. But at whom? China is doing what the bully does – hit the weak. The question to ask is – why are we weak? Who made us weak? Did the Chinese make our policies? Did the Chinese elect our leaders? Did the Chinese re-elect our leaders? All we need to do is to look into the mirror for the answer.
Tomorrow: Why China Can Kill and India Cannot (Part 4)