By Biswanath Saha:
Academically, the political scientists define politics as an act of an individual or a group, which impacts the lives of others. It means, politics does not mean mere contesting elections but any act of an individual or any organisation, which has bearing on public life. For example, if a person shouts out inside the four walls of his/her house, it has nothing to do with politics, but if he/she does the same on the road then it is a kind of politics. Here, we will be concerned with political activities done by nation-states, its political parties and its leaders. What is their role to politics? How do they see politics?
In the historical past of the world, politics was only confined to war, aggression, annexation etc. But, the connotation of the same is changing with each passing day. Now, politics is not only concentrated to ‘hard power’ (military power) but also to the capabilities of ‘soft power’ (capacity to influence the culture of others). Now, in politics, nothing is good or bad, as the realist school of thought of international Relation (IR) says. The only thing guides the principle of action is the ‘interest’ of an individual or a nation and the definition of that interest varies differently from state to state and from individual to individual. Here, I will present some instances about the framing of policies and actions for the sake of interest of political parties and nation-states while acting in the public domain.
Politics of Violence and Conflicts:
Violence, whether on the basis of communalism, casteism or ethnic, we start to believe that those are happening spontaneously and automatically. But, I am not ready to accept the dictum of spontaneity. To my understanding, those are not accidents rather incidents (accidents with intentions) and also are well orchestrated misfortune to the society. The recent ethnic violence in Assam centered on the refugees and so-called ‘infiltrators’ of Bangladeshis with the native ‘Bodo’ inhabitants of Assam, in which, mostly the deceased were Muslims. It is also a well known fact that Muslims are in minority in India along with other minorities, and our society tends to believe that minorities living anywhere in this world are subjected to violence and persecution, as those are their fate. That violence against the Muslims was instigated by communal speeches by the leaders of fascist parties. My point here is to mention the cheap politics of interest. In the era of 21st century, where we can locate an object even as small as a few centimeters in length on the ground through satellite imagery, where we can tap the communications at the mass-level (NSA’s operation ‘Prism’), where the intelligence agencies (domestic or international) of every nation-state is getting more and more sophisticated by the advancement of technology, can we afford to believe that violence is spontaneous and government or state agencies are unable to contain those?
These are well orchestrated incidents to have an issue to fight elections. For example, Muzaffarnagar riot and Assam ethnic violence in India happened ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election to polarise the mass. This is not a unique case to India only, but if we analyse the history of elections in other nations, we will find that every election was preceded by an event of interest to consolidate the mass. United States of America’s President Barrack Obama’s ‘operation geronimo’ in Abbottabad in Pakistan to kill Osama-bin-Laden exactly a year from the scheduled Presidential election is an example. People of US wanted the Obama administration to hunt for Osama and Obama waited for the right time to act. Sources said that Washington had already located the late Al-Qaeda chief few times before the killing. Leaders use their power to execute operations for their interest , so these are only ‘games’ to them. They know the timing to play those games.
Politics of Culture:
Since the beginning of human history, human beings have been very conscious about their history, culture and ethnicity. They were very emotional to their cultures. But, sinceÂ ‘globalization’ has taken place, human beings are exposed to different cultures and they also have enough choices to adopt. They are continuously losing the bond to their cultures. Now, in this century of technology, culture also plays an important role to establish ‘hegemony’. Here, ‘soft power’– the capability to influence the cultures of other nation-state, is as important as ‘hard power’– the military power. To establish hegemony, the hegemonic countries try to promote ‘soft power’Â in other nation-states and their promotions are very attractive to adopt. For example, the kind of spices Hollywood is providing to the mass through it’s movies and the kind of life-style the West is portraying are highly volatile to the young mass of any nation. India is the youngest nation of the world. So, it attracts most of the features from western cultures to create demand for the exclusive products of those nations. Youngstars celebrate late-night parties at discos and bars in the metro-cities of India, having drinks (both soft and hard), celebrating birthdays, christmas and new year etc. All these are the effect of the promotion of ‘soft power’ with delicate attractiveness.
The motive behind this is to crete demand for those products used and manufactured in and by those nations, which promote their lifestyles to the territory of others to be consumed. Only for this reason, globalization has opened the doors of developing and underdeveloped countries to big multi-national corporations like Walmart, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Mc Donald’s etc. to name a few. The outcome of this tool is manifold. First, a system of cultural hegemony will remain intact. It will give the hegemonic nations to feel like a dominant player in international politics. Second, without economic hegemony political hegemony can not be imagined. So, nation-states, anyhow, must thrive to boost it’s economy and the hegemonic nation is following this path. Third, the receiving nations will have to be dependent on the facilitating nations and we know that ‘dependency’ in international politics is a kind of exploitation. Every sovereign states want to exploit the states inferior to them.
Politics of Gesture:
Gesture of a nation or it’s leaders is an important tool of politics. Gesture of nation-states changes according to their interest. For example, before the general election of 2014 in India, and during the election campaigning, the stand of BJP’s policy towards Pakistan was a kind of antagonism to polarise the mass of India, as it was evident by the speeches by the leaders of the same during the campaigning. Now, the PM of India, Mr. Narendra Damodar Das Modi’s invitation to the heads of SAARC to attend his swearing-in ceremony is a kind of message to the world about the foreign policy of India towards her neighbors. In both the cases, the actions of the party were guided by it’s interest. In the first case, they did that to win the election by polarising the mass but in the case of latter, they acted in the interest of the nation to have better ties among the neighboring nations.
Again, when BJP was in opposition in the Parliament during the tenure of Indian National Congress (INC) led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), they continuously opposed similar activities of the then PM of India – Mr. Manmohan Singh to term that as ‘biryani diplomacy’. It means that inviting the delegations of those nations, which are killing the armymen of India at the borders to them is a sign of inaction and incompetance of a government to handle the situation. But BJP is also doing the same so-called ‘biryani diplomacy’. Here, we can say that whatever be the philosophy of a party, when it entrusted with responsibility and authority, the same is bound to act according to the interest of the nation.
If we look at the international level, the ‘gesture’ politics is quite significant there too. Islamabad and Colombo have released some fishermen of India ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of Modi to present a goodwill gesture to New Delhi, after Raisina Hills have invited them to attend the same. In return, they also hope some actions of reciprocity from Indian government. Again, Washington has put some sanctions on Moscow over the action of Russia in Crimea-Donestk-Luhansk region in Ukraine. In response, Russia signed a deal with China to bypass US dollar to show it’s gesture of reciprocity.
Very often, the present superpower of the world, i.e; USA plays the trump card of giving ‘permanent seat’ to India in the Security Council of the UN. The prerequisite condition to have the same is that a country should be a great power in terms of arms and ammunition, economy and population. India is going with a good speed to achieve those criterion. According to a UK think-tank, India is to be the world’s 3rd-largest economy by 2028. Also, she has a huge population with large workforce. The only interest of Washington is to force India to quest for more power i.e. importing arms and ammunition from US to be calledÂ a superpower. It is Washington’s virtual persuation to New Delhi and US does not actually want to give the permanent seat to India at this juncture. By this, the purpose of USA to sell it’s manufactured heavy weapons to India gets fulfilled quite easily.
Finally, we can say that these things are inevitable in politics. This is the heart and soul of politics. By the above discussions, we realised that action in politics is dictated by the ‘interest’ and these kinds of ‘game of interest’ in politics will continue to be till the existence of nation-states.
Writer can be contacted on twitter at @modontanti