Archive for July, 2019

Note on ICJ Jadav case judgment.

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

I do not have the strength to read, much less to watch the reaction of Indian media on ICJ’s judgment on Jadav’s case. But I can still wager that almost everyone in the media will miss the most important implications (moral and principled ones, if not legal implications) of the judgment.

The Court rejected Pakistan’s argument that because India has abused rights the former does not have an obligation to abide by international standards and treaties. As it will defeat the purpose of these standards.

If we apply the same principle to India it would mean that even if Pakistan has breached international laws and/or rights against India, India must abide by international standards and treaties when dealing with Pakistan. Which means that the Ministery of External Affairs cannot continue to claim that “it will only talk with Pakistan when it stops terrorism”. Individual claims of supporting terrorism might or might not be true but they cannot be a reason to break diplomatic mechanisms and end peace negotiations.

India’s undoing of talks and diplomatic standards is a far graver threat to international peace and human survival than this particular case.

Yes, one might claim that “the grounds in Jadav’s case are Vienna convention but there are no bases for India Pakistan peace talks and de-escalation of tensions”. This only further shows how criminally insane Indian position is that there are no binding mechanisms.

A chat on previous post.

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

[Following is an extract from WhatsApp chat with a friend and comrade, Pratik, about the previous post. Whatsapp spelling and grammar has been retained.]

Pratik:  So this post doesn’t do justice to marx’s ideas about the relation between technology, production, and power.. that the capitalist develops technology to raise productivity is not a law marx is keen to prove.. rather, marx suggests that the capitalist develops technology insofar as it allows the capitalist to weaken the value of the workmen’s labour (so as to throttle their assertions).. once the capitalist is able to overcome the opposition from the workers, there is no reason for him/her to further this development (which can be risky) and productivity then remains at that level.. marx does account for the possibility that the search for profits does push capitalists often to find technological ways to reduce costs of production, but that is not a perennial quest.. rather, large periods of production are times in which the capitalists is extracting absolute value from the workers, even after changes increasing the relative surplus value..

hence, what you say towards the latter end of the article “The company claims increase in productivity and it might partly be due to the co-bots but many workers attribute it to increased work intensity due to the atmosphere of fear and terror from the idea of job loss.” is something which marx is in agreement with.. when technological innovation takes place under one company, which means that the capitalist can extract more surplus from the worker, he/she is also under the greed of maximising the benefit of such innovation, which is why they set workers to work extra time.. the auto industry is a perfect example of this.. since the early 2000s, the inclusion of robots production combined with the inclusion of cheaper temporary workers drove up the hours and intensity of production compared to earlier times.. and when this period of innovation became general across industries, even then these work conditions tended towards increasing because competition drove companies to extract more out of their workers.. this became the basis for the clash between workers and managements in these industries

a third issue with this post is that it’s still critiquing marx’s analyses of capitalism with individual capitalists.. in marx’s time, that was the dominant mode of ownership.. it collapsed by the time of the first world war and subsequent economic depression.. in the third volume of capital, marx argues that these analyses cannot be taken as such in the context of joint stock capital, which do not face many of the limitations of individual capitalists.. but they were yet a small percentage of the total capital.. marx believed that the working class movement was strong enough to take over the means of production and abolish class society with the demise of the individual capitalists.. unfortunately, that did not happen.. so i guess today when we read marx, we should try to develop an analyses based on the joint-stock, corporate, and state forms of capital accumulation rather than critique marx’s individual capitalists critique

i’d say that even today there can be no denial that capitalism has thrived on technical innovation.. from a time when the mass base of consumers used to buy cloth and get it stitched by a tailor in a shop, society is now living on mass produced ready-mades.. or the disappearance of agrarian labourers as a mass category in most places.. in fact, there was a recent report about technological innovation in which india had moved up by many places over the last many years..
of course, these are not new innovations, but rather introduction of already made innovations in a society which was relatively lagging in the use of the same.. and in that sense, capitalism is stuck.. perhaps robotics is the only new development which holds the only possibility of major changes (displacing workers from production altogether).. if marx is correct that value only comes from the worker, then such changes will be the end of known capitalism..

this article takes up these issues quite well i believe

Sarthak: From my cursory reading of Marx I had a sense that Marx shares the view that I am more or less arguing for, that the most important application of technology in production usually is to decrease workers control over the process – by deskilling, by hyper specialization, by surveillance etc. If I remember correctly he called it the “rate of exploitation” as a factor in technological deployment.

I think you are right about the choice of technological design and deployment within a individual capitalist form of firm and a corporation should be studied separately for better understanding.

The use of the term should be more carefully then. The final product, the technology, alternative designs of same technology are all usually clubbed into one – these have different level of influence from corporate capital.

Capitalism does thrive on new technology, so did many non capitalistic societies – states extracting profits from taxes dependent on various new war making technologies and of bureaucracy – the agenda of technology design was set by these interests. They did not had the fortunate goldilock period of abundance of energy resources and scientific development that enabled modern electronic and computer revolutions. But this period is soon coming to an end. The limited energy and mineral resources have all peaked and the ways capitalism disposed off (or sinked) the by products has put the planet on the verge of complete collapse – the possibility of ever reaching a stage of totally desposing off workers looks very slim the really existing world where for the political economy to exist we need habitable plant.

In any case, I am interested in knowing your view about “value only comes from the worker” bit.

Pratik:   Indeed, if the present scenario as far as resources are concerned isn’t worrying enough, we have an army of do-good scientists and social researchers arguing for shifting to nuclear energy. If coal and steam can mess things so much, one can see how nuclear would give us the scale of energy to speed up mass extinction. I was recently looking at statistics, and found that the average daily consumption of electricity is about 500kwh, while the average household consumption is only about 80kwh.. So most of this consumption is geared towards protecting the ways of social organisation. I think the answer lies there. We need a social organisation not built around such mass production, but around small communities making use of technology on a smaller scale merely for use. It just looks like doom otherwise.

I am in agreement with most of what you have said. I indeed agree from marx’s argument that value only comes from the worker. It is a recognition that value is an abstract relation between people, the only social beings capable of using abstraction. Those who look at this from the nature versus culture angle jump to the conclusion that marx is for culture. This is mistaken. Marx is distinguishing a human relation from relation of pure nature, but knowing well that the human is premised upon nature. This he calls one of the biggest contradiction of capital: it seeks to replace nature completely with a new nature built on human creation. Towards the end of the section on modern machinery in agriculture, he talks about the cataclysmic effects this process has. But to come back to his insistence on humans alone producing value, I think he is trying to argue how there is no way to get outside this process until the value producing agent stops producing value.

Sarthak: The whole energy generation and distribution business and the projected boom – mostly based on low grade coal is only to increase misery for already miserable both in urban and rural regions. I agree with you on where the answer lies – the new social organization. And that too within next 10 years – if we are already not too late, that is.

Hmm… yes, this formulation that the abstraction of value is only created by worker looks quite right. None of the other material could produce the final product when put together for one thing. But I also think Kropotkin’s observation that even the workers value is dependent on whole of society – current and past. In a way all the value generated is social value. But yes, at one instance of it the workers input is most important.

Pratik: “But I also think Kropotkin’s observation that even the workers value is dependent on whole of society – current and past. In a way all the value generated is social value.” No doubt.. this perspective which posits the actually existing worker as the only crucial variable is leninist/populist rhetoric.. labour of the past lives as fixed capital or dead labour in machinery, money, etc. and as variable capital or living labour in the working class.. the abolition of capital doesn’t come by the workers taking charge of the dead capital alone, but by generalising it/abolishing themselves as a class, as per marx.. we need to understand what sense this makes today, if it does make any sense

so far all this development has only led to more salaries for the wealthier class.. there has been some absolute wealth trickling down over the last ten years (in terms of wages), but i think it is important to attack the idea that development alone can uplift the poor..

Philosophy of Marxist Sociology – Part 2

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

[This article was supposed to be about ontology but I dropped that idea because it gradually morphed into this discussion.]

“If the new technology lowers production costs it will be adopted, and if not it will be rejected. In this respect Sraffa and Marx made the same assumption about how individual capitalists go about deciding to adopt or reject a new technology, which is also what other economists have always assumed.”

“Marx was well aware of, and even expressed admiration for, the fact that compared to all previous economic systems capitalism had greatly increased the pace of technological change. He assumed that individual capitalists are hard driven to adopt any new technology that lowers their cost of production because this would give them a temporary advantage over their competitors, who, in turn, would be quick to adopt cost-reducing changes for fear of being driven out of business.”

(Robin Hahnel, RADICAL POLITICAL ECONOMY: Sraffa Versus Marx, 2017)

There is nothing original in what I will be saying. It has all been said before with much more clarity, evidence and rigor by people like Stephen Marglin, David F. Noble and others. I want to say two things:

  1. It is not the case that capitalism has “greatly increased the pace of technological change” or that capitalism necessarily increases “productive capabilities”.
  2. It is also not the case that capitalists necessarily adopt a technique or technology that “lowers production costs”

In point 2, I use the terms techniques, more specifically work organizational techniques and technology interchangeably. This might not work for some cases but I believe and trust most will agree that same principles must apply in choice of production process technique and deploying a new technology in form of a machine. Significant number of the automation techniques and now digitization ones are in fact, mostly change in production process rather than new machines deployment in unchanged setting.

Returning to the first point. In England in the second half of the 18th century the spinning-jenny was one of the first machine to be used in the factory. And as one 19th century historian noted:

“The technology of wool-spinning for many years after the
factory made its appearance was the same in factory as in cottage; in both the “spinning jenny”; was the basic machine well into the nineteenth century.”

Not much technological advance there. So what was different in the factory? One 18th century factory owner commenting on the advances wrote:

“One reason for this extra advance is Mr. Harrison (the
mill manager) bought 4 handkerchiefs one for each machine value about 1/2d p. each and hung them over the engine as prizes for the girls that do most.”

I have not cross-checked but I believe the technology of handkerchief was not novel to 18th century England.

The important advantage of factory over cottage from point of view of the boss was not its “technological advantage” through new machines or harnessing the power of water sources (most factories were not using water generated electricity at all) but the increase in surveillance and discipline.

“If the factory Briareus could have been created by mechanical genius alone, it should have come into being thirty years sooner. It required, in fact, a man of a Napoleon nerve and ambition, to subdue the refractory tempers of work-people accustomed to irregular paroxysms of diligence.”

“To devise and administer a successful code of factory discipline, suited to the necessities of factory diligence, was the Herculean enterprise, the noble achievement of Arkwright.”

Much of the technology was already laying around before industrial capitalism took hold. Even today, this narrow demand for controlling the workers has hindered technological advances. This has been studied by Noble and many other historian of technology after him. And the advances that actually do develop and in the form they develop are not through capitalist innovation or private capital – it is almost entirely through state funded research and development in form of dual-use military technology.

So the whole argument about uniqueness of capitalism in technological realm is unfounded. The uniqueness does lie in the control the boss class has over design of new technologies and the narrowness of reasons of deployment: discipline and control.

These are all human choices, and they are regularly challenged by workers. From the Luddites to the current struggles against robots. These factors too affect the course of change but unless the  control over means of production and dependence of wage slavery does not end major changes are impossible.

2. The following quotes are from a 1994 New York Times article.

“We are also concerned about having only one place where a product is made,” he said. “There could be an explosion or labor problems.” If the Boston workers struck, for example, Gillette would supply the Sensor XL to Europe and the United States from the Berlin plant, and vice versa.

“Some of those workers are making blades at Gillette plants in Poland, Russia, and China, where production costs are less than in the United States. But that is not the case in Germany. “You could ship the blades from here, but you set up there for insurance,” Mr. Vernon said. “And the justifications for this approach are not so clear cut.

The scholar might not be clear about the justification of adopting a costly method of production because maybe he had not grasped the “successful code of factory discipline.”

In the long run this control over the class enemy of the factory owner might give profit opportunity but at the same time it could be argued that the profits only gives possibility of more control – over the workforce and society generally.

Closer to home, in Chakan and  Pantnagar, Bajaj Auto Ltd. deployed 40 co-bots per-plant just prior to a wage agreement in Chakan after 3 years of on and off struggles lead by young contract workers.

The company claims increase in productivity and it might partly be due to the co-bots but many workers attribute it to increased work intensity due to the atmosphere of fear and terror from the idea of job loss.

But the timing and other factors suggest that rather than productivity gain or immediate increase in profit – in fact the robots from Universal Robots might have costed a lot in short term – the reason are more social than economic. It is hitting the class enemy with the boots in order to maintain profits and control over society – that Herculean enterprise that started in the 18th century.

The struggle is against the lack of control and the alienation of wage system. No alienating methods of so called Marxist “revolution” can ever free the working class.

In fact, Engles even said that, “[w]anting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel.” (On Authority.)

There can and should be no end of alienation and discipline for some of the Marxists.

Part of my presentation on climate law at some university:

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

A question has been bothering me for quite some time now. The question is, whether it is better to do something – something that gives only an illusion of reaching a solution to a problem or, to do nothing about it? The paper was an attempt to clarify some issues around this problem.

What do I mean by actions “that only gives an illusion of reaching a solution” – by vacuous actions? I believe any solution that does not incorporate and take into account the core of the problem can never meaningfully solve the problem and hence are only empty posturing.

In case of climate change then, what are the core issues that any meaningful action must incorporate? There are several, but here I have only focused on four – three general and one India specific (but a derivative of a general issue).

The first one has to do with total global carbon budget. To keep global mean temperature below the catastrophic threshold of 2°C there is only a limited amount of greenhouse gases we can emitte. The global carbon budget for 2°C according to IPCC Working Group I is less than 700 GtCO2 and for 1.5°C is around 400 GtCO2.

But the divergence from this fact and core issue starts to appear in the IPCC itself when the Working Group III in it’s modeling assumes that we have a budget of around 1600 GtCO2 – almost three times the actual. All actions to mitigate climate catastrophe must take this fact into account.

The second part of the core of the climate problem has to do with carbon removal technologies. There are many variants of these technologies and the scientific community has been telling us again and again that none of them exist . Atleast they can not be deployed in the scale required in given time. But the IPCC Working Group I assumes these technologies in its modeling – this brings our global carbon budget significantly further down. This fact must also be taken into account in any set of meaningful actions.

Third, the recent IPCC special report on 1.5°C says that what is now required to avoid the worst possible catastrophe is a “rapid and far reaching transition in all aspects lf human activity” which is “unprecedented in human history”. It doesn’t recommend patching up older actions, policies and legislation.

And sadly, I haven’t came across any discussion of these issues in last two days in the conference. There is a limit to hiding behind the language of differentiated responsibility after which it morphs into irresponsibility.

The fourth point – about India. Using some older model I have tried to show in the paper that even in best case scenario, India has the carbon budget of around 40 GtCO2. Which means even if USA and the EU decarbonise rapidly and reach net-zero around 2040, to avoid climate cascade into an inhabitable planet India can only emit for 10 more years at current rate.

Any meaningful action in India must take this into account – otherwise it’s just a masquerade for business as usual.

What I have been trying to say is that we cannot negotiate with or fool laws of physics. And if we cannot do that, the only options we have are to either follow IPCCs recommendation of rapid and unprecedented transition in all aspects of human life or to embrace extinction.


Monday, July 22nd, 2019

(First published on Stoke.)

On 5th November 2018, India announced that its (partially) indigenously designed and built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant returned from its “deterrence patrol,” completing India’s nuclear triad of land, air and sea based nuclear delivery systems. Media responded with reporting about it as a “historic achievement” and an “accomplishment.”

I talked with Hans Kristensen of Swedish International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the director of Nuclear Information Project about this development, who recently published the details of Indian nuclear forces in the journal of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The interview can be found at the bottom of the article.

Dangers of thermo-nuclear weapons, from a single detonation to a full blown war are numerous and could be terminal for organized human life on the planet. Even a limited exchange of 4 or 5 warheads between India and Pakistan will lead to millions of deaths, total collapse of agriculture, radioactivity in whatever water resources will be left, countless sick and mimed with severely destroyed medical infrastructure and the collapsed political structures. Nuclear weapons modernization and even a conventional arms race is contrary to the logic of deterrence and increases security risks. Also, the research, production, maintenance and up-gradation of these weapons are projected to take up trillions of dollars in the coming decade. Most human would consider holding civilians of other nations and our own nation hostage for apparent security morally reprehensible and it could soon become illegal under international law.

Despite all these risks and costs involved, missing from the media landscape was any critical voice talking about these anomalies in international politics, at a time when most of the nation states are calling for its total ban and scientific community is sounding alarm about terminal nuclear disaster. All these risks were set aside by the simple act of omission and the weapons of mass destruction that “pose a grave threat to international, national and human security”, in words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, were normalized and in fact praised.

Here are some of the headlines:

“INS Arihant enhances India’s security needs” – Business Standard.

“Sea change: INS Arihant marks a high in India’s strategic independence. But it is just the beginning” – Indian Express.

“India completes nuclear triad with INS Arihant’s first patrol” – Hindustan Times.

“The significance of Arihant”, Indian Express. By Former Naval Chief Arun Prakash.

“India achieved a significant milestone in its strategic nuclear posture” (IE) was the dominant theme established in the national coverage.

In this article I will first look at INH Arihant within the context of Indian nuclear posture and review the relevant risk research around nuclear weapons and war.

Indian Nuclear Forces.

India is one of four nuclear weapon states (NWS) that are not a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a treaty that has support of 190 nation states. India has also not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the treaty has not yet gotten into force because India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed and China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have not ratified it. In September 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) opened for signatures and ratification. 69 states have signed the Treaty and 19 have ratified it – India has so far not taken part in any process. It will come into force after 31 more parties ratify – which is expected to be around 2020. India with handful of other NWSs stands in splendid isolation in a world opposing the bomb. And if the TPNW comes into force it will be deemed a criminal state under international law.

By latest estimates India has sufficient fissile material for 150-200 nuclear warheads and has produced 130-140 warheads.


The Arun Prakash column in Indian Express reminded us that the nuclear modernization project will take up trillions of rupees in coming years, which only a small part of conventional military modernization drive that is estimated to take over 6 Lakh Crore by 2025 alone. India’s budgetary allocation for health, education and other social expenditure is 1.3 Lakh Crore in 2018-19 while we spent over 4 Lakh Crore on Defense. INS Arihant alone costed around 1 Lakh Crore to the Indian citizens. More over the overall social and opportunity costs of military spending include manpower and infrastructures devoted to war related activities rather than towards social needs. Spending trillions on potentially criminal and unimaginably devastating weapons at cost of education, climate mitigation and adaptation technologies, health and public transportation should raise some concerns over the concept of “national pride.”

In January 2018, The Hindu revealed that INS Arihant was severely damaged by a human error that damaged the propulsion system. The authors of the article also made the revelation that “[t]he absence of Arihant from operations came to the political leadership’s attention during the India-China military standoff at Doklam. Whenever such faceoff takes place, countries carry out precautionary advance deployment of submarine assets”. (INS Arihant left crippled after ‘accident’ 10 months ago, The Hindu, January 08, 2018)

This suggests India might have deployed nuclear weapons against China during the Doklam stand-off. This non-war conflict could have lead to a situation of inadvertent escalation and a perception of nuclear threat or false alarm could have lead to a detonation and probably a substantial nuclear exchange.


It is already doubtful whether the national security state provides any meaningful security (even in the limited sense of the word) to its population from external threats – state and non-state, with its preparation of war and disregard for diplomatic and peaceful settlements and reconciliations and cooperation. It also puts into question whether the deterrence “theory” is even tangible within the processes of national security state. Deterrence presumes rational decision making, which includes diplomacy and peaceful settlements – threatening postures and rhetoric run contrary to the deterrence framework. Hans Kristensen in the interview said that, “[t]he Arihant in its current configurations does not enhance India’s deterrent posture in a meaningful way”.

Under the UPA regime, too, there were no breakthroughs in India-Pakistan diplomatic relations but under the NDA the relations have broken-down. The cross-border exchange of mortars and bullets has increased with more intensity between the Indian and Pakistani forces. India Pakistan border remains a major hotspot for potential nuclear war. Kristensen in the interview noted that, “Nuclear parity is not essential but significant asymmetry can deepen mistrust and trigger worst-case planning that speeds up the arms race and make a future crisis very unstable”.

In conclusion to this section, within the international nuclear political arena India is isolated but as all the other rogue states that are also disregarding international norms and consensus are most powerful nations the tension and risks continue to build-up with every new technological development, conflict and missed diplomatic opportunities.

Nuclear Risks.

Risks of nuclear weapons in Indian context can be divided into roughly two categories. First a significant nuclear exchange and second a single nuclear detonation. The first kind of scenario could arrive from a number of possible trajectories. A false alarm, a missing nuclear submarine (there are a number of cases where this has happened) in a war or peace time situation. Technical errors and human errors could also trigger a nuclear detonation. A single detonation could happen by accident during deployment of a warhead or a terrorist attack.

Karthika Sasikumar, in a paper described predictable consequences of a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan.

“Exploding a 20-kiloton bomb (the equivalent of the “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan) over Hyderabad, India, produces around 436,000 immediate fatalities. The fatality estimates depend on, among other things, the time of day that the detonation takes place. If the explosion was to be near the surface rather than in the air, the casualties would be halved, but the bomb would produce devastating radiation over 13 square kilometers.

With an airburst detonation, which would maximize damage to buildings, Hyderabad would lose nearly 150 medical facilities (based on Google Maps designations, which might not be completely accurate).

The famine that would result could affect more than a billion people, according to a 2012 briefing paper by physician Ira Helfand. Using a model of the global economy, the paper found that a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan would cause malnutrition among 215 million people across the world over a decade and would also put at risk the 925 million people who are already chronically malnourished. Helfand’s estimate for the number of people who would be added to the rolls of the malnourished is on the lower side, since it assumes that markets continue to operate normally.

There is less than one hospital bed per 1,000 residents in India and Pakistan (The World Bank Undated). Even in India’s capital, only 1.4 beds are available per thousand residents. Interestingly, the major hospitals in New Delhi are located very near the administrative center of the city, a potential Ground Zero discussed above. Experts believe that civil defense will be extremely difficult to implement in India and Pakistan.

In the event of an attack by Pakistan, India’s sizable Muslim minority (approximately 170 million) could face retaliation from the Hindu majority, triggering communal riots.” (Karthika Sasikumar (2017) After nuclear midnight: The impact of a nuclear war on India and Pakistan, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 73:4)

The consequence of a substantial exchange would be termination of all organized human life and of many ecosystems. (2018 Doomsday Clock Statement Science and Security Board)

In conclusion, the consequences of nuclear weapons are beyond anything justifiable and are potentially terminal for our species. The costs of developing and maintaining these weapons are immense. Possession of nuclear weapons might soon become illegal, which will make India a criminal state. Disregarding NPT, CTBT and TPNW already gives weight to the argument that India and other NWSs are acting as rogue states. When Indian mainstream media chooses to omit all these important fact and praise the weapons, responsibility of nuclear disasters – including end of human life – also fall on their shoulders.

Interview with Hans Kristensen.

Sarthak: How do you see this development? Would you say it is “an achievement”?

Hans Kristensen: For sure, it is an achievement because India has spent decades and billions on developing this capability. We still don’t know much about the submarine actually did during the patrol and whether it actually carried nuclear warheads on the missiles at the time. If it did carry nuclear weapons, it would be a significant change in India’s nuclear warhead management, which has so far avoided deploying warheads on missiles under normal circumstances.

S: Does INS Arihant and conventional modernization generally enhance India’s “deterrence credibility”?

HK: The Arihant in its current configurations does not enhance India’s deterrent posture in a meaningful way. For it to play any role, it would have to sail deep up into the Arabian Sea for its missiles to be able to reach important targets in Pakistan, or sail all the way into the South China Sea to be able to hit targets in China. It is doubtful that Pakistan or China currently have the capability to preemptively decapitate India’s land-based deterrent. Once Indian SSBNs in the future are equipped with longer-range missiles, then the sea-based force will begin to play a really role in India’s posture. For now, I consider the Arihant a technology-development project intended to improve the capability and develop operational and command and control procedures and technologies to be able to operate an SSBN force effectively in the future.

S: What nuclear development do you predict in the coming years in the region?

HK: India and Pakistan both seem intent on continuing their bilateral arms race with development and deployment of more nuclear weapons. While Pakistan is focused on India, the Indian planning is spending more efforts on improving its posture via-a-vis China. In the immediate future, both India and Pakistan will deploy new and longer-range ballistic missiles and begin to field nuclear-capable cruise missiles. Pakistan has already begun to develop tactical nuclear weapons; India not so much although its Prithvi II could be counted as such. Pakistan does not have the capability of building an SSBN fleet but is developing nuclear cruise missiles for its attack submarines. Once Indian SSBNs begin to patrol the Indian Ocean, we will likely see Chinese and Pakistani navies trying to develop anti-submarine capabilities and strategies to find the submarines and be able to hold them at risk in a war. Likewise, India will now have to enhance its capabilities to protect its missile submarines. This will add a new expensive and potentially dangerous dynamic to the arms race and military competition in the region.

S: What are the risks associated with a nuclear submarine like Arihant?

HK: As mentioned above, once a country deploys SSBNs, its adversaries will try to find them so they can hunt them in a war. That raises risks for accidents and incidents in peacetime and for escalation or misunderstandings during a crisis or war. Imagine if a serious crisis or a war erupted with Pakistan and the Indian navy suddenly lost contact with a deployed SSBN. Would Indian authorities conclude that this was a technical glitch or that the submarine had been sunk by Pakistan? Likewise, since Pakistan does not have the capability to build an SSBN fleet, will it now conclude that India is trying to outpace it by building a nuclear force where the land-based weapons are intended to destroy much of Pakistan in a first strike, where India’s future missile defense system would scoop up the few remaining Pakistani warheads that have survived, and the Indian SSBNs would be intended to give India the ability to win a nuclear war? Nuclear parity is not essential but significant asymmetry can deepen mistrust and trigger worst-case planning that speeds up the arms race and make a future crisis very unstable.


Monday, July 22nd, 2019

(First published on Stoke)

The subject of this article is the Indian National Security State. By which I mean those sets of institutions – governmental and private, known and secret, whose primary or major objectives are set around armaments – their production, procurement, research, maintenance, use and; wars – small, big, covert, overt, and preparation for them. I would argue that this National security establishment is Big, it is Dangerous and it is Ignored. It is big in the sense of its economic, political and social influence. It is dangerous, both by its existence and its activities to the domestic liberties and to the victims of the more overt violence of these establishments. And it is ignored by the intellectual class and media because they agree with and profess the basic underlying principles of this security establishment. Hence, they minimize or ignore the influence and harm caused by the national security state.

The basic underlying principles, or in some sense the ideology of the national security state is based on the concepts of Super Power and Modernization. In themselves these terms are quite empty but in historic setting they developed they prescribe a certain set of institutions to carry out certain activities to achieve certain goals.

The historic setting for the emergence of the contemporary ideas of Super Power and Modernization was broadly the West between two Great Wars and post-war de-colonization and the Cold War. By super power I mean the drive of all nation states to achieve a condition of relative and absolute superiority in economic and military terms, in comparison to other national states. This economic superiority does not entail in anyway that the society with the national border will benefit from the supposed economic growth. Inequality, financialization and wealth concentration, as we shall see, are parts of a national security capitalist state. Terms like “modernization”, too, do not have any strict meaning but the set of ideas that most influenced early era of Nehru’s India were those of Walt Rostow and his associates in MIT and John Hopkins in the United States [1]. Walt Rostow, who was a major designer of the Vietnam War and by any sensible assessment was a war criminal, was admired for his theory of Stages of Development. He and Clark Kerr provided the ideological core to the managerial class of de-colonized states. Establishment of the Indian higher education system, with direct help from MIT and Hopkins after the 1960’s is an interesting illustration of this theme and desire.

These modernization theories, with their centralized states and heavy industrialization had their mirror image in the USSR with similar strong powerful state ideology and dependence on big and heavy industry. This setting was quite favorable for Indian managerial classes – the higher offices of the state. The consensus in Indian political and intellectual culture includes a believe in a strong Centre, militarization, and heavy industrialization. This is shared by the communists [2], the congress and the BJP; and with some divergence on strong center, even by regional parties.

Although, a systematic and critical study of Indian post-transfer of power intellectual trends within the political elite circles is of great value, I cannot attempt to produce it here. Before looking at the substantive part of the argument I would like to look at another essential concept.

It is not obvious what the “security” in National security entails. There are hints in the constitution and in other state documents; it talks about “national integrity,” “sovereignty” etc – in essence, the security of the state. For millions in this country the insecurities are at work, of low wages, and wage cuts, of housing, of health and of education, the insecurity from fear and uncertain future. For them security means alleviation of poverty and reduction in inequality, it means good health care and stable job structure, it means freedom from harassment. But for a minority it means more guided missile systems and new jets. And when there is a contradiction between the needs of two classes maxim of Thucydides still prevails, that, “the strong do what they can and the week suffer what they must.”

Security for the national security establishment is very limited and I will argue, below, that the security of the national security state makes the world more and more insecure.

Merchants of Death

We are told that India is a “developing country.” Any impartial observer will conclude that for most of the population the development is downwards. While the legacy of colonialism and subsequent American New World Order have all played a part in hampering the kind of economic and technological development envisioned by Indian elites, Indian National Security State has contributed more than it’s fair share in destroying nations’ development.

From a third world nation India is on the path of becoming, what some economists have termed a Fifth world nation [3]. A country that lacks resources needed for repairing even key industries and that suffers a declining level of living. I have recently written about the declining level of living, here I will talk about the social costs of a national security state. Social costs are costs of an economic activity that are borne in some way by society at large.

One of the best definition of social cost of militarism is given by US President Eisenhower:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

This year Arun Jaitley, who illustratively heads both the Financial and Defense ministry, allocated more than INR 4 lakh crore for the military [4]. Combined budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection for 2018-19 is INR 1.38 lakh crore [5]. It was the fifth largest spender on military in 2018, only behind United States, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia. While India ranks 130th in UN Human Development Index. When 42 states submitted report to the UN on their military spending in July 2016, the top 5 spenders, including India did not.


While the so-called Rafael controversy is about “crony capitalism,” “corruption” “over spending,” over few thousand crore, it is overshadowed by the INR 6 lakh crore to be spent just on “modernization” of military till 2025. [see 4] Also, to be kept in mind is that fact that modern attack aircrafts on reaching Mach 1.0 use fuel worth of INR 20,000 per minute, i.e. over INR 1 lakh in 5 minutes [5]. HAL, one of 9 DPSUs employs 9,000 workers and 5,000 engineers. There are 141 Ordinance Factories and 200 major private contractors, plus thousands small private sub contractors under the Ministry of Defence and of Defence Procurment. DRDO has 52 labs and was allocated more than INR 6 thousand crore [7].

One illustration of the bipartisan support of intense militarism in Indian politics is provided by what UPA II did when “the Indian military faced a moment where it has to choose between fighting the debilitating effects of a slow economy after 2011 verses the pursuit of a largely Pakistan-specific military buildup.” [see 4] The report later notes that “India did not face any immediate threat from any neighbor beyond border and water disputes with Pakistan and China. But New Delhi all but closed that door with Pakistan and was not showing any particular urgency to resolve disputes with China”. About the effects on the economy the report continues: “The choices were tough for the country’s financial managers as well. The government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a reformer, chose to give priority to military expenditure over the task of jumpstarting the Indian economy” [lbid].

In addition to the enormous amount of money, infrastructure and man-power devoted to the National Security State (all this is not including the almost totally unaccountable intelligence agencies and their secret budgets [8],) while actively and consciously making lives of millions more insecure, this establishment is consuming more and more intellectual and educational centers.

The recently published Draft Defence Production Policy states that “[a] High Level mechanism with involvement of Service organizations and HQIDS will be set up for identifying capability voids and defining critical technologies required for indigenous research/manufacturing in consultation with industry and academia”. Further, “This mapping will cover DRDO labs, other public sector laboratories, academic institutions and industry”. The negative effect on education and research are easy to imagine but this is in no way a new trend in fact as noted above the IITs, Birla’s BIT and other institutions of higher education were created with the aim of providing social engineer, who will identify the problems for the state and design solutions for them [9].

In recent decades, large swath of think-tanks and Private Security Companies (PSC) have immerged in India. The India Foundation is run by National Security Advisor’s son Shaurya Doval. It has as its Trustee Ex-Commander in Chief of Western Naval Command, Shekhar Sinha; and Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce and Industry of India; Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state in Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha; M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affaris; Ram Madhvan Varanasi, the Member of the National Executive and public relations in charge for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and; Shaurya Doval who is also the Managing Director of a capital marketing company Zeus Capital, on the Board of Governors[10].

The Observer Research Foundation, set up in 1990 has the following Advisors and Fellows: H.H.S Viswanathan, Indian Ambassador; H.K Dua, former MP and Media Advisor to the Prime Minister; J.M. Mauskar, former Central Pollution Control Board chairman; former Vice-Chief of Indian Navy; M. Ashraf Haidari, Director General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan; IAS officer N.K. Singh; Russian politician Sergey Kurginyan; former Deputy National Security Advisor Vijay Latha Reddy and former RAW chief Vikram Sood [ORF Wikipedia page].

These and similar think tanks have a revolving gate between them and the National Security State. They are filled with people from the State offices and they suggest, prepare and shape the policies that are implemented.

Social spaces have also been taken over by the National Security State in form of private mercenary armies of varies strengths and different degree of professionalism. They are both of Indian and foreign origins. The G4S a UK based PSC provides security personals and systems to the Indian government, the coal industry, shopping malls, JNU campus [11]. A G4S employee shot over 100 people, killing 49 in an Orlando nightclub in 2016. They were responsible for torture in Kabul and also worked with Israeli prisons and military checkpoints in occupied territories. [12] There are also indigenous Private Armies. Chief Minister Adithyanath’s Yuva Vahini and Rashtriya Samaj Sewa Samiti alone have about 10,000 soldiers.

Militarization of Police force is in the pipeline with help of private industry. An internal publication of Industry Chamber FICCI reported that “Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, envisions a tech-savvy police force capable of providing security to the citizens even as the physical and emotional needs of a policeman are given the credence they deserve from senior officers. The predictive policing requires modern technological capability and weapons to deal with complex crimes that pervade the society.” Adding that “[t]he private sector is keen to collaborate with the police force to beef-up the security of the country and its citizens.” [13]

All this development and new surveillance systems like NETRA, the fact that internal documents from the national security agencies generally have never been declassified and the external and internal data monitoring and collection agencies like NTRO should be seen in light of the state of civil liberties, censorship, privacy, criminal justice system and how they actually function in the country. The absence of debates on these topics in this context in India, compared to that in the United States, is almost absolute.

In conclusion, internally the Indian National Security State is very big, financially, in infrastructural and in man-power. It is harmful because of its opportunity cost on the people and society, i.e. lack of environmental friendly and climate resilient infrastructure, research in core sciences and primary tool industries, health care and quality education. It is also bad because of its corrosive effect on democracy by secrecy, militarization of society, degradation of educational and research institutions and disregard for civil liberties.

International Dimensions

Some conceptual clarification before looking at the facts. A major part of the national security state is the armed forces. Even if we restrict the discussion of “peace” as defined as the absence of war, and do not include the various forms of institutional violence on individuals, it should be noted that India is a Permanent War Economy. A state where research, production, planning, and training for war is a major on going part of the state, even when the bullets may not be flying at any given time. This establishment and its processes are, at least theoretically, in service of assisting the armed forces. And generally the armed forces are supposed to secure the population from violent actions of other nation states and from attacks of non-state actors, internal and external. Only these two kinds of threats are supposed to justify and legitimize the massiveness of the establishment.

The border and water disputes with China and, conflict over Kashmir and similar disputes with Pakistan are real problems for everyone involved. But a close examination of recent conflicts with China and Pakistan show that the national security logic has only made the disputes worse and have hindered settlements. For example, The Doklam stand-off last year is presented in Indian media as a case of Chinese aggression while less emphasized and sometimes missing are the facts that “[t]his was not a direct territorial dispute between China and India, but India deployed military units on behalf of Bhutan, the only neighboring country with which China lacks diplomatic ties. The stand-off lasted over two months before the two sides extricated themselves from it. The chronic mistrust underlying what was essentially a small and localized crisis flared up again in December 2017, when an Indian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, drone) crashed on the Chinese side of the Sikkim section of the China-India border.” [14]

Bhutan few weeks after the standoff began was against Indian military involvement, it deliberately did not deployed its Royal Bhutanese Army troops side by side Indian soldiers and, China and Bhutan was interested in resolving the matter bilaterally. And it was noted that, “Bhutan, it seemed, has nothing to gain and everything to lose in this standoff,” also, “the question that was increasingly being asked was on why Bhutan was being dragged into the rivalry between India and China”. [15]

The Global Security report quoted above also didn’t fail to notice that “New Delhi all but closed that door with Pakistan and was not showing any particular urgency to resolve disputes with China.” I also believe that India’s official stance with Pakistan that talks can begin after Pakistan deals with “its terrorist problem” is unnecessary and unhelpful, but given the limited space I will not deal with the issue here.

There are workable suggestions being provided by peace activists and scholars. It includes strengthening already available international legal and institutional frameworks, while creating new regime of disarmament inspection and verification. And mechanisms of dealing with violations of these agreements. Also, a conversion from a permanent war economy to a civilian economy [16].

Terrorist Groups

In case of non-state threats, or “terrorist” threats [17], there too is considerable evidence showing that minimizing this threat is not a priority for the national security states world-wide and in fact, that they directly and indirectly intensify the terrorist threat [18]. I will argue that the Indian National Security State has only made this threat worse in India by its sledge-hammer approach of dealing with political problems and actively committing acts of terrorism itself.

A small group of researcher, led by anthropologist Scott Atran, has provided framework for looking at non-state radical terrorist groups and the empirical evidence supporting it. They conclude that, a sense of “Look, you’re on the outs, nobody cares about you, but look what we can do. We can change the world.” attracts the young individuals who are willing to take up arms for their “sacred values.” Most of these young men come from societies that have excluded them from economic, social and political participation and where they see no future. An objective reality of oppression and subjective sense of humiliation and feeling of alienation forms the backbone of a terrorist [19].

In Kashmir, too the acceptance and strength of terrorist organizations directly correlates to the amount of political and violent repression by the Indian State. The genuine grievances of Kashmiris have never been addressed by any state party and Indian state has taken away the platforms of peaceful settlement – as it rejects any need for a settlement. All this creates a sense of alienation and the reality of “you’re on the outs, nobody cares about you,” without which the terrorist organizations and groups cannot emerge or function. In addition to not addressing the real grievances, Indian state has committed major crimes in the region that in eyes of the terror groups, with some justification, legitimizes their own use of violence [20].

In 1996 Human Rights Watch reported that “Indian security forces have intensified their efforts against militant groups, stepping up cordon-and-search operations and summarily executing captured militant leaders. Alongside them, operating as a secret, illegal army, have been state-sponsored paramilitary groups, composed of captured or surrendered former militants described as “renegades” by the Indian government. Many of these groups have been responsible for grave human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture, and illegal detention as well as election-related intimidation of voters.

“While attempting to reassure the international community that they have taken steps to curb human rights abuses in Kashmir, Indian forces have in effect subcontracted some of their abusive tactics to groups with no official accountability. The extrajudicial killings, abductions and assaults committed by these groups against suspected militants are instead described as resulting from “intergroup rivalries.” But civilians have also been their victims, and the militia groups have singled out journalists, human rights activists and medical workers for attack. They have been given free rein to patrol major hospitals in Srinagar, particularly the Soura Institute, the Sri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital and the Bone and Joint Hospital. They have murdered, threatened, beaten and detained hospital staff; in some cases these abuses have occurred in full view of security force bunkers or in the presence of security force officers. They have also removed patients from hospitals. These abuses constitute clear violations of medical neutrality.” [21]

And recently UN High Commissioner for Human Rights brought out a report stating that, “[i]n responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security  forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number  of injuries. Civil society estimates are that 130 to 145 civilians were killed by security forces between mid-July 2016 and end of March 2018, and 16 to 20 civilians were killed by armed groups in the same period. One of most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun, which is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that fires metal pellets.”

“Over 1,000 people were detained under the PSA (Public Safety Act, 1978) between March 2016 and August 2017. Human rights groups had warned Jammu and Kashmir authorities that minors were being arrested under the PSA in 2016 and 2017.”

“During the 2016 unrest, there were numerous reports of attacks on, and obstruction of, basic medical services that had a severe impact on the injured and general civilian population in Kashmir. Human rights groups claimed that days-long curfews and communications blockades also had a major impact on people and their access to medical care in Kashmir.”

“Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.”[22]

For killing of civilians, use of human shield, attack on medical units and disproportionate use of force, the Indian state actions constitute crime under Protocol I of ICC, Common Article 3 of Geneva Convention, Article 18 19 21 and 21 of Geneva Convention and constitute war crime under 1998 ICC Statues Article 8(2)(b)(ix) and (e)(iv).

Acts of terror are crimes. And they must be dealt as such. The perpetrators must be arrested, given fair trial and sentences. Lack of such action is itself a crime and increases terror activities.

Any real attempt of stopping terrorism must include these steps by a nation state. 1) Serious attempt of addressing genuine grievances of the groups, 2) fair arrest, trial and sentence in case of non-combat captures, 3) stopping state terrorism. Indian and other national security states have so far failed to do this and have moved in the opposite direction of spreading more terror in name of stopping it.

In conclusion to this section, though the justification of National Security State is derived from security from internal and external non-state and state threats it is not clear if the institutional logic and practices of this establishment can ensure such a security. In fact, as I have tried to show, these institutions hinder actual peace processes by choosing more violent (and at times criminal) course of action. Hence, there is a need for strengthening and creating international institutions and mechanisms with aim of de-militarization, disarmament and economic conversion.

A Congealed Auschwitz

On January 13 2018, this message appeared on the screen of mobile phones, television sets and was heard on radio in Hawaii:


38 minutes later it was announced to be a false alarm. But overwhelming evidence of nuclear accidents and false alarms suggests a similar and real alert might appear on our screens anytime [23].



In Bhopal 1,22,520 deaths and 2,49,340 injuries, from a single ground explosion of a 45 kiloton yield nuclear warhead can be expected – not taking into consideration the fallout effects. This could happen due to a provocative strike, because of miscalculation or warning system error or could happen in Gwalior due to an accidental explosion of our own warhead (in which case the casualties will be much greater as the yield of our warheads is 60 kt.)

The threats of nuclear explosion, “limited nuclear wars” or the final total war are far greater than those from any terrorist organization. But Indian National Security State is making its own population insecure and is holding the world’s population a hostage by its nuclear weapons. Indian’s disinterest in Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year shows our unwillingness to move towards eliminating these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction. Instead the planners of the national security state, the think tanks and the academia try to legitimize the weapons.

Marcus Raskin, who was a nuclear war planner, in an interview said:

“My view was that this did not separate us from those engineers and technocrats  who worked on figuring out how large boxcars should be for sending people to  concentration camps, to Dachau and Auschwitz, and indeed measuring or figuring  out how large the gas ovens would be, because indeed, nuclear weapons had become,  in my mind, then, and certainly there’s no cause to change my view on this, that  each nuclear weapon of a large size was no different than a congealed  concentration camp, a congealed Auschwitz”.


The national security state, the institutions and its political economy are a massive burden on nation economy, resources, technology and man-power. It degrades civil liberties and rule of law. It makes the world insecure by taking more violent stances on issues that could be peacefully resolved under alternative set of institutions and it aggravates non-state terrorism. The security it claims to provide is very limited and comes, if it does at all, at very high social cost. The peace it promises is a far cry from its prescribed line of action.


Notes and References:

  6. HTTP://WWW.G4S.IN
  9. SIPRI YEARBOOK 2018, PG. 13.

The Indian State: Its Origins and Function

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

(from 2017)

The title of this article is a reference to, not one, but two very important studies on state formation: Kropotkin’s The State: Its Historic Role and William Paul’s The State: its Origin and Functions. The general understanding of the State which these and many other studies provide are well known and therefore, I will only state the thesis in brief and carry on with the main part of my article that has to do with the idiosyncrasies of the Indian State and argue that the most systematic ills in Indian society and governance are result of the Feudal-Capitalist-Colonial arrangement of this State and; how the myths that still underpin many liberal discussions about the beginnings of  post-independence India still continue to  contaminate the Indian society.

It is beneficial to state on the outset that there are a few genuinely liberal strands in the formation of Indian State and to say that the countless struggles in India since the beginning of the 20th century and also post-independence have not left any mark would be utterly stupid and untrue. And although these little victories must be cherished and defended we must not forget the essence of this beast – the Indian State.


Like all other descriptive categories of social sciences the term “State” is not well-defined and within the Enlightenment-Libertarian framework it has a tendency to “make man an instrument to serve its arbitrary ends, overlooking his individual purposes, and since man is in his essence a free, searching, self-perfecting being, it follows that the state is a profoundly anti-human institution.” i.e. its actions, its existence is ultimately incompatible with the full harmonious development of human potential in its richest diversity and, hence, incompatible with what Humboldt and in the following century Marx, Bakunin, Mill, and many others, what they see as the true end of man.” (Chomsky, Government In The Future)

For Bakunin, “The State is the organized authority, domination, and power of the possessing classes over the masses the most flagrant, the most cynical, and the most complete negation of humanity. It shatters the universal solidarity of all men on the earth and brings some of them into association only for the purpose of destroying, conquering, and enslaving all the rest. This flagrant negation of humanity which constitutes the very essence of the State is, from the standpoint of the State, its supreme duty and its greatest virtue Thus, to offend, to oppress, to despoil, to plunder, to assassinate or enslave one’s fellowman is ordinarily regarded as a crime. In public life, on the other hand, from the standpoint of patriotism, when these things are done for the greater glory of the State, for the preservation or the extension of its power, it is all transformed into duty and virtue This explains why the entire history of ancient and modern states is merely a series of revolting crimes; why kings and ministers, past and present, of all times and all countries—statesmen, diplomats, bureaucrats, and warriors—if judged from the standpoint of simple morality and human justice, have a hundred, a thousand times over earned their sentence to hard labor or to the gallows. There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: “for reasons of state.”

Nation of Nobelities

The set of relations that exist in a feudal society makes it very difficult for the people living under it to conceive of a democratic society. This Feudal-Democratic binary fused with and was part of the reason for the chaotic bureaucracy and distribution of power in India post-independence. The landed minority, which most of the time also formed the “military class” of the nation, were/are a cause of rebellion but such rebellion almost unequivocally takes the form of sectarian and communal violence rather than a revolt against a social class. These psychological dispositions still underpin within a large section of Indian population – urban and rural alike.

We will return to this theme in the section on bureaucracy.

Class Allies: Indian National Congress and The British Empire

Indian nationalism and the associated movement started as the struggles of the various social classes – the national bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the peasantry, urban and rural middle-class, artisans, feudal princes, and semi-feudal landlords, etc. But during the buildup to the Second World War and during the War the Congress virtually took over the Nationalist movement. A large part of the reason for this development is the appreciable economic and social gains made by the capitalist class due to the wartime industrial boom. Also, this class was lead by groups of politicians who possessed great experience and were well organized contrary to the awakened lower layers of Indian society.

Some feature of this development was the introduction of ‘Concessions and Counterpoise’ policy by the empire to win over the vested local interests and stimulating bitter communalism and inter-provisional antagonism and; the opposition of mass movements of the lower strata by the leaders of the local capitalist class. The principle strategy of the INC became the transformation of all anti-imperialist discontent in the country. They realized that the revolutionary mass movement would not stop at ending British imperialism but also would end the Indian propertied classes.

The Bombay Plan

A small group of influential businessmen (including TATA and Birla) in Bombay drew up and published in 1944 (second edition in 1945) a plan for the economic development of India. It had the general outline of the post independence Indian economy.

To understand what the plan called for and how it’s implementation was presented – and continues to be presented, we must take a brief look at the Indian economic condition of the time.

As mentioned above the capitalists class strengthened itself politically during the War. But it was nowhere near the required sufficiency for creating Developed Capitalism in India. To overcome this formidable difficulty they had to rely on foreign financial aid in form of capital, goods and technicians. State planning, partial nationalization, state-owned enterprises were necessary since the private capital was weak. Also due to the limited foreign market and the shrinking local one they had to adopt a number of agrarian reforms to create a consumer class.

This was the gist of the Bombay Plan and it had a ready-made camouflage of “Fabian Socialism” to conceal its true class character. The fact is that Indian Economy was never socialist. In fact, Fabianism is very counter-revolutionary and dubs the most essential things necessary to the development of capitalism as Socialism, Muncipalisation, Nationalization, Trustification.

It must be noted that the marriage between the big business and the political class was not altogether happy. But they cooperated like all nation-states and corporations do all the time to fight the class enemy. But these conflicts created institutional issues that haunt us to this day. Procedural delays, unrealistic controls, reservation for small sectors fertilized the corrupt system of administration that the capitalist class created and claims to detest.

State Officialdom

Indian investigative journalist Josy Joseph after years experience with and understanding of the Indian administration concludes: “Everything in India could be bought if you could find the right middleman.”

This is a systematic result of the way Indian administrative services were structured. One of the biggest reason was the caste and religious composition of the administration. The thing that made Indian state more stable then most other post-colonial ones was almost a century of experience with electoral and administrative institutions but the practice of Ethnic (im)balance shaped these institutions heavily.

In addition to this, the result of Fabian-Capitalism on Indian Administration was the of bureaucratic despotism. To the middle-classes the extension of state ownership showed a way out of their difficulties. Due to the Civil Services Ideology “the middle-class looks upon the state as the glorified institution, as something destined to save the world” (William Paul)

Although the language of the constitution shared the language of Human Rights, in practice it could achieve little. Partly because of the reminiscence of the colonial legacy of legislation that the ruling class finds useful and under the above mentioned feudal-colonial and Fabian-Capitalist institutions it has been of marginal utility.

The Immense Cemetery of Hopes & Living Forces of The Country.

In conclusion, the Indian State like all states was created on the foundation of class, caste division, potentially fascist-totalitarianism* and capitalism that coupled with feudal-colonial institutions still continue to erode personal and social freedom of the nation.

*"The war has revealed [INC]'s true colors as the ally of fascism and reaction" 
Pillai to Maxwell, Home-Political File, NAI

The Propaganda Model for India

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

(from 2017)

“The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy”, wrote Australian sociologist and historian of American propaganda Alex Carey.

To ensure protection of “corporate power against democracy,” the concept of Democracy and Media were reconstructed. This morphing went completely unnoticed and was subsumed within the culture, legal framework and is now accepted without any challenge by most of us, the world over. As Thomas Paine observed “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of the custom.”

A democracy to be functional requires citizen equipped with all relevant facts and complete spectrum of opinions to take informed actions and to furnish this value is the job of the media. This is a normative and descriptive definition of the two concepts. The other concept that is less spoken about but the one actually practiced in the real world is this: People are not the best judges of their own interests and that of the society, believing that they are such is considered to be “democratic dogmatism.” Therefore, “responsible men”, recognizing the “ignorance and stupidity” of citizens must tell these “meddlesome outsiders” what to believe.

And this ought to be obvious to any serious observer of world affairs that in any society where economic, social and political gap exist the powerful will ensure that they continue possessing their power. In a totalitarian society this security could be ensured by the bludgeon, but in more civilized societies it takes the subtle form of molding opinions.

Propaganda in India can roughly be divided into four phases: first, the freedom struggle. Then the Second World War. The Independence and the Cold War period and finally the Post-liberalism period. Though the study of first phase has immense importance for many reasons, it does not concern the topic under question.

The Indian elites, who were relishing with profits from WW2 economic boom for a small sector, also appreciated the propaganda effort of the Allied Forces and actively learned from it. But larger changes started after the Independence. The XP division (a propaganda agency, primarily aimed at global audience) was set up, which though largely inefficient due to Nehru’s uncoordinated and self centered propaganda methods. Nehru also sent a team to hire Edward Bernays for the XP division and to help setup the propaganda apparatus in India. This was never realized for unknown reasons, but this much becomes clear that although Indian elites found US propaganda system to be ineffective for Indian purposes, they shared basic ideological tenants and commitments.

After ‘Emergency’ Indian press became lot more serious and investigative journalism was at its peak in the country. But actions to bring this under check were quickly taken by government (usually state governments) and corporate sector. In 1977 Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity issued circulars asking public sector organizations not to advertise in The Statesman and Express. The organized propaganda effort in India did not penetrated as much as it did in more industrial societies like US, UK and Australia for multiplicity of reasons. But as observed above, the power holders believed in the ethos of “controlled democracy”. And in post-1990’s India and after corporatization of media the dream of Bernays, Lasswell and the likes have been realized in India as well.

The Propaganda Model (PM) is a conceptual framework (created by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky) based on empirical understanding of media institutions. It provides five Filters to help us understand how and why media is forced by institutional restrictions to create content which is expectable within ideological confines of the political-corporate class; and why media cannot question the dominant power systems – as it is part of the same system.


  4. FLAK.

For a scholarly treatment of the Filters readers are advised to read Manufacturing Consent (edition 2008.) The first two filters are based on the type of political-economic institutions in the society in question. Third filter is a derivative of the first two and in India these take form of corporate PR agencies and government sources. Fourth filter is a negative response to a media statement or program. It may take the form of letters, lawsuits, speeches and other modes of complaint, threat, and punitive action. It rarely takes the overt form of censorship, but it can and does from time to time.

Fifth Filter is exercised primarily in two ways. One: providing an enemy to fear and/or hate (or turning the already present hate and fear towards them.) Two: A fanatical belief in the “market.” Beyond and within these are also some beliefs that enjoy non-partisan consensus in this nation among all parties and corporate sector. These include “a strong Centre for stability”, “security” and “liberalism”.

Media capital is highly concentrated in India. According to ‘The Press in India 2015-16’ report 8855 newspapers are owned by Common Ownership Units. By some estimates less than 100 corporation and individuals own most of the Indian media. In this respect the ownership variable acts similarly in India and in the USA.  Even as the advertisement revenue system is failing, it still continues to be the primary source of profit for Indian media houses.

The limits of the PM should be stated clearly. It is a model of media content, not of audience response to this content. It does not claim propaganda campaigns always achieve what they set out to. This is crucially dependent on knowledge and interest of the audience over the specific issue. Also the dominant ideology is not monolithic. Except some basic political-economic commitments it could change, morph, and diverge over time.

In conclusion I would urge that Indian media analysts and practitioners take the institutional view of the media production system seriously, like many of their counterparts in USA and UK. Also the implication of such analysis and critique should be recognized. If it is true, as I believe it is and as the PM shows empirically, that serious democracy cannot be achieved within these institutions and they need to be replaced; mere “journalistic objectivity” cannot do much – as P. Sainath has claimed journalistic objectivity has become a synonym for reporting for the powerful.


*Propaganda here is used in its classical sense, as understood before the Second World War. The term “media” throughout the article is used for ‘news media’, unless clearly stated otherwise. Article was originally written for a journalism magazine, which did not publish it.

The Feudal Mind

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

The latest (2017) PEW survey gives weight to the thesis that Indians (mostly educated but not exclusively) tend to be very authoritarian. No other nation with comparable economic indicators comes close to Indian support for autocracy and technocracy.

With 65% support of “rule by experts” 55% for Strong Leader and no less than 53% for military rule, Indian elites should be proud of their education system which has inculcated such tendencies: meritocracy, competition, context-less thinking. This plus the patriarchal family relations and modern caste structures, I believe, are the most important factors that make India any commissar’s wet dream.

85% of Indians believe that the institution of government by its nature, more or less, always works in favor of its citizens – a view in exact opposition to the views of individuals who formulated the theories and institutions of modern representative democracies. Indians are well trained and “conditioned” to lust for political authority. The apparent complete lack of enlightenment values leads people like Chomsky to call, I believe correctly, the Indian mindset feudalistic. Any anti-authoritarian movement in India first needs to challenge this mind set and relationship and institutions that maintain it and form libertarian alternatives.

Uniting the Black and the Red? – Anarchism and Marxism.

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Otto von Bismarck remarked, upon hearing of the split at the Hauge congress of the First International and formation of the anti-authoritarian international at St. Imier, “Crowned heads, wealth and privilege may well tremble should ever again the Black and Red unite!”

Tons of ink and kilobytes of memory has been devoted to very important analysis and criticism of authoritarian “socialism”, most notably of Marx and his disciples by anarchists and left communists. Can Marxists and anarchists find some common ground – theoretical and practical – to unite? Is it desirable?

The answer to the latter question I believe is affirmative and for simple reasons that I won’t comment on. I would make a short and simple case for how a unification is possible.

1. The Primacy of Libertarian Marx and Anti-Authoritarianism.
Many Marxist scholars, most notably Bertell Ollman, has pointed out the distinction Marx made between analysis and presentation. The works where Marx analyzed capitalism, state and religion are in his unpublished works where he developed the concept of alienation, commodity fetishism and also his dialectics. These take a secondary place in his Capital and are at time missing for reasons both of presentation and personal.

If we ignore the incidentals of his personality and focus on his analysis of domination – especially by and under capitalistic relations – that is rooted in a universal struggle against all form of domination and restriction on creative, collective activity of humans, anarchists can find an ally and Marxism can become more humanistic.

Marx’s views on the transformational role of the State also changed after the Paris Commune as noted in his Address of 1872. He no longer believed holding state power was necessary for moving to a communistic stage of society – and that a federalist and democratic alternative was possible. A view consistent with early humanistic Marx. He might or might not have given up his determinism of social stages but at least he no longer saw the state apparatus necessary for this transformation.

If we again, ignore the personality and the fact that he was at the same time lying and planning very hard to kick Bakunin and federalists out of the International and; the Marxist realize the correctness and utility of this position we can find a common platform.

2. Revolutionary Practice.
When a monopoly of technical expertise accumulates in a class and they are in power to influence and direct the masses, they themselves kill the collective, creative urge of the individual over her life that was the point of departure for the socialist project and alienate the workers and forms a new form of oppression with new institutions and new myths to numb the misery.

The second point that Marxists need to consider is that when the State is not a means of transformation, the power again falls back in hands of the workers and the masses. Only they alone through autonomous organizations make the revolution and wage the struggles. These organizations will become the seeds of the future society. Autonomous workers and community groups of some and of various sorts, not any Party must be the focus for transformational and revolutionary practice.

If the Marxists can completely detach away from their authoritarianism in analysis and in practice and; embrace the Black, only then can a meaningful synthesis, that looks forward to and participates in a true revolution take place.

This appeal (or maybe just a mere suggestion) is not aimed towards the people who have given up any hope of revolution or see their place in the status quo – as the vanguard of the oppressed – no longer even the vanguard of some “revolution.” They may very well find plenty of useful stuff in Marx’s authoritarianism and a place among the liberal intelligentsia and political elites. They are not revolutionaries. Revolutionary Marxists should no longer waste energies on them.

On the other hand, the anarchists can overcome their anti-organizationalism and other bourgeois tendencies and focus again on class and other oppression with the serious aim of transformation and revolution and; not mere symbolic violence or individualistic isolationism.