In a recently published book—The Truth About Us: The Politics of Information from Manu to Modi—I offer a narrative of how India’s social “truths” were made up over the last two centuries, an explanation for why the narrative has taken the shape it has, and its political and social consequences. Abstracted from the book, here I outline the key to the explanation—the politics of information.
India in Transition
In March 2019, India signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Russia to lease another of its Akula-Class attack nuclear submarines (SSN). The nuclear submarine will join the Indian Navy in 2025, after a major refit of the hull in Russia’s Arctic port of Severodvinsk. India had earlier leased an Akula-class SSBN from Moscow in 2012. Rechristened as Chakra in the Indian fleet, it will continue to serve the Indian Navy until the commissioning of the new Akula submarine, most likely by 2025.
In 2015, member nations of the World Health Organization set about achieving universal health coverage (UHC) as one of their targets when adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). UHC is defined by three components: health care access for all individuals and communities, comprehensive care, and financial protection.
More than five decades after India launched the Green Revolution, its war on hunger is far from won.
India’s most influential NGO, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has grown rapidly, as discussed in my recent book, The RSS: A View to the Inside (coauthored with Sridhar Damle). This book, something of a sequel to my earlier one, The Brotherhood in Saffron, addresses the significant social and economic changes that have taken place in India—and in the RSS—over the past three decades since it was published.
Over the past decade, India has marginally increased its regional trade with its neighbors, specifically Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Currently, India’s actual trade in South Asia accounts for $19.1 billion, which is just three percent of its total global trade at $637.4 billion and around $43 billion below the potential. It has recently been estimated that by reducing man-made trade barriers, trade within South Asia can grow three times, from $23 billion to $67 billion.
India is, today, a country of about 1.35 billion people. United Nations’ population projections of 2017 say that India is likely to surpass China’s population by 2024 and reach 1.5 billion by 2030, making it the most populous nation on the planet. About two-thirds of Indians are below 35 years age. India’s GDP has been growing at around 7 percent annually for the last two decades, and likely to continue at this pace for at least another decade.
Shortly before the 2014 elections, Narendra Modi—at that time practically a novice in foreign affairs—stated in an interview that “my Hindutva face will be an asset when dealing with foreign affairs with other nations.” This statement might have been indicative of a strict ideological, assertive foreign policy posture that put India first in all her future engagements.
Millennials—individuals born between 1980-99—are constantly scrutinized as Generation Me. They are misrepresented, stereotyped, and unappreciated. Millennials—often referred to as irresponsible and lazy young persons—have recently received a lot of media attention in India, from speculations about their spending habits to whether they are the most depressed of all generations.
Amongst the many initiatives to end the Afghan conflict, the one led by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is critical for it has given the Taliban a direct hotline of sorts to America. In fact, the US is doing precisely what it had refused to do in 2002 when the Taliban had assured a “discussion to turn over Osama bin Laden” if America stopped bombing Afghanistan.