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By Michael Hartfield
On Monday 19th September Professor Madhav Das Nalapat began by discussing the paramount importance of improving India’s human rights and entrenching liberal culture, in order to advance India’s knowledge industry. In addition to the importance of a culture of liberalism and democracy. Professor Nalapat mentioned the history of the relationship between India and America, prior to the Bush Jnr administration. In contrast to Britain, which has always seen India as a close partner, America under the Clinton administration was unsympathetic towards the notion of India as a strategic partner. However Nalapat argued that neo-conservatives have always had a natural affinity with India and therefore India’s relationship with America grew under Bush Jnr, who accepted India as a worthy partner.
After Professor Nalapat’s introduction, he discussed the effects of British colonial law and how aspects of it are still a problem in India today. Professor Nalapat discussed how Prime Minister Modi, through his advocacy of a policy of “minimum goverrnment and maximum governance”, represents a departure from previous Indian leaders. However Professor Nalapat argued Indian society still harboured illiberal tendencies and requires further liberalisation and a greater level of freedom of speech. For example it remains “absurdly easy” to imprison someone or seize their property. For Nalapat, the need to improve liberty and supress the arbitrary power of the state remains a high priority.
When discussing America’s relationship with India, Professor Nalapat first spoke of India’s expertise in fighting terrorism. Barring Israel, Professor Nalapat argued that India was doing as well as any other country in the field of counter-terrorism and that it was only a matter of time until India had boots on the ground in the fight against terrorism. For Professor Nalapat, a natural alliance has emerged between America and India under Modi in the fight against radicalisation.
In contrast to India’s relationship with America, which is characterised by shared security concerns and liberal culture, Professor Nalapat argued that China was a natural commercial partner for India. When discussing China, Professor Nalapat first spoke of the Mao regime, which saw China play a “game of bluff”. The 1970s saw the US accepting Mao at face value, which consequently led to China developing at a fast rate. Although Mao destroyed the Communist Party leadership, Professor Nalapat discussed how current Chinese president Xi Jinping is trying to emulate Mao in attempting to make China the ‘world’s number one power in the globe’, to the extent of even demolishing his own caste to achieve this. Professor Nalapat believed that Jinping’s vision entailed boosting Chinese entrepreneurship and improving the link between Asia and Europe. However, Professor Nalapat claimed that the success of Jinping’s vision will only become clearer in 2018 and predicted that the Jinping’s power faltering would only lead to instability and the plummeting of economic growth in China.
Ultimately, Professor Nalapat believes that Modi wants to achieve a balancing act which consists of good commercial relations with China but an equally good security relationship with America in the fight against Wahhabism. Professor Nalapat also spoke of China being astute in calculating risks and China’s hopefulness of prizing India from America. However, Professor Nalapat still reiterated India needing America as a means of preserving freedom and democracy. In conclusion, for Professor Nalapat, many of his views depend on India being finally liberated from colonial culture.
To read a full transcript of this event click here