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Friday, February 17, 2006

Why Is There No Strategic Thought In India?

PM Manmohan Singh's Take on Lack Strategic Thought in India

PM Singh makes an interesting point when he talks about India not having an establishment that thinks about the long-term strategic issues.

“I have often wondered why that is the case and I am led to a conclusion that this is partly because of the absence of a class, which in some other countries can be described as an establishment."

Well, there are lots of establishments in India. But none that have stake in the future of entire country. Not that is easy to come by in a country like India where every region has its own identify. But the main reason for no having establishment in the future of the country is because of commerce, especially suppression of commerce for so long under the guise of socialism. Commerce is what makes things happen. Commerce is what makes other societies interesting. Does anyone want to read about what someone is thinking in sub-Saharan Africa, although they may have the most interesting things so say? Is there anyone not paying attention to China although it has all kinds of censorships and dictatorship?

Sure commerce is about profits and products. But is also creates a group of people that have a stake in the system. If the system goes bad, everyone loses; if the system is refined and made to succeed in the long run, everyone benefits.

“By an establishment, I mean a group of people who have a long-term stake in the system, maybe whose place in their society is secure enough, so they have reasons to worry about the future direction of changes. All modern societies have such a group of people who debate, discuss, who shape and re-shape public policies in diverse fields. We lack that tradition partly because we don’t have an establishment in the proper sense of the term.’’

Until a decade ago, every one in India was trying not get into trouble because of suppression normal commercial activity. Now with renewed freedom, groups of people are freeing themselves up to think strategically and work towards the long term benefit of the system. Think about CII, which is much more than about trade, or Observer Foundation, which is all about strategy - both institutions now have renewed purpose with which they work.

Both, existence of establishments that have a stake in the system, and its improvement, and commerce, go hand in hand.

Update: IE has an editorial on this. Unfortunately it falls into the same old Indian trap that some how only the politicians and political parties are the establishment.

"Political complexity splintered that establishment...It, at the very least, demands of the political and intellectual classes to reach out across ideological divides to debate together important national issues."

Politicians live within election cycle. Only non-politicians who are "secure" - as PM Singh put it, which I agree with, - will be able to engage the debate that is futuristic and strategic, and consul the politicians when decision time comes. Also, ideology is not problem. It actually provide an anchor and a board to bounce ideas of off.