Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hit the nail on the head when he charged sections of our political class with adopting postures “out of line with our current interests as an increasingly globalised and globally integrated economy”. This was a barb for Left leaders who have not quite caught up with the fact that it has been 15 years since the Soviet Union was cast into the dustbin of history. Having worked as an economist in an era when the Left dominated the Indian intellectual paradigm, Mr Singh has enough sinew to fight his ideological battles.
What is surprising is how insular and unconcerned other Indian politicians are about this anachronistic mindset. Barring a handful like Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, there are few in the Union Council of Ministers who understand globalisation, leave alone defend it. Move further afield from Delhi and the situation gets worse. Our politicians are interested in a foreign policy issue, only if it affects their domestic vote-bank. Thus Mulayam Singh Yadav has expressed his opposition to the death sentence to Saddam Hussein, and M. Karunanidhi is worked up over Sri Lanka’s policy towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. There are other politicians like Mayawati, who simply don’t care because they are narrowly focused on single issues. The trend in global oil prices, the need to get Europe and the US to cut agricultural subsidies, the wisdom, or the lack thereof, in promoting free trade agreements, are issues that simply don’t matter.
State governments do not normally deal with these issues. But they cannot be unaware that they stand to benefit, or lose, from policies that may be adopted in some other part of the globe. If the economic well-being of their voters is the aim of these politicians, they most certainly need to worry about issues that will create economic growth in the country, and adopt policies and postures that will assist this process.