On-line version sub-title: Following the United States and Reflecting the “Narrow Interests” of Indian Diplomacy
Recently, India banned dozens of additional Chinese mobile applications, over and above the earlier ban of 59 Applications, and other anti-Chinese measures such as banning Chinese devices. This series of actions by India undoubtedly harmed China’s interests, but it also harmed India’s own interests. Many people do not understand the diplomatic decisions and actions of the Indian government. Why are the interests and demands of ordinary Indians not taken into consideration while formulating policy?
In fact, this has a lot to do with the deep-rooted class differentiation in Indian society. Although the caste system, which has lasted for more than three thousand years, is no longer legal in India, the influence of the caste system is still evident everywhere. Though some individuals from the lower castes and classes might have succeeded, and become well-known scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs and even Presidents, discrimination and neglect of the middle and lower classes by the upper class is still the norm. The separation of emotions and interests between classes seems to be reflected in the existence of “two Indias”.
The feelings of the upper class are close to the old colonial sovereign state. Although the colonial rule of more than 200 years has caused great suffering to India, it is the middle and lower strata who suffer mainly. The upper strata have become agents of colonial rulers, and many have also been trained as ruling elites. They have the same thinking as the British. Nehru, the founding prime minister of India, once said, “I am the last British to rule India.” Now, the thoughts, emotions and so-called values of the Indian elite are close to those of Western countries such as the United States. They have gone from primary school English, watching Western media, to studying in Britain and the United States. Many people look at the world from the perspective and perspective of the West, especially the United States and the United Kingdom. They feel that India is already a great power, even a “developed country”. They advocate that India and the United States are “natural allies” and want to rely on the United States to counter China.
The middle and lower classes in India could not find a way out. Because of generations of poverty, it is difficult for the middle and lower classes of India to receive basic education and medical care. After more than 70 years of independence, the illiteracy rate in India is still as high as 30%. Many middle- and lower-class young people don’t speak English, nor can they speak Hindi, the official language of India. Most of them only speak the local language. Some people have never walked out of the backward villages in their lives.
In the socially divided “two Indias”, the upper class is at the top, enjoying the cheap, meek and humble service of the lower class. They feel that their current life is good enough and lack the motivation to promote the country’s rapid development. Because rapid development means that many people in the middle and lower classes will be successful and can cross strata. For example, the income of a professor in a university in India can afford a family full-time driver, nanny and cleaner, because the monthly salary of the driver is only about 1,000 yuan, and about 500 yuan for the nanny and cleaner is enough. If India’s economy develops rapidly, on the one hand, it will inevitably lead to an increase in labor prices, and on the other hand, it will make lower-level workers who are willing to the status quo see hope in life, which will greatly reduce the social superiority and comfort of the upper-level people.
Restricting Chinese investment and goods and banning Chinese software allowed the Indian government and leaders to enjoy Trump’s attempt to decouple from China. As a result, the middle and lower classes lost jobs and cheap and high-quality imported goods. Restricting China’s telecommunications and power equipment will make India’s middle- and lower-class people extremely price-sensitive to bear higher electricity and communication fees. India is already the third in the world in terms of numbers affected by the new corona epidemic. The upper class can enjoy life in isolation at home, while the poor at the bottom have to go out to work and earn a living at the risk of infection, because forbidden to stay at home may put the whole family in an existential crisis.
It is precisely that the elites of the upper class are more motivated by their own class interests. India’s national strategy is still unable to focus on economic construction, and many socially recognized reforms that are beneficial to development cannot be undertaken. In diplomacy, India’s national interests are in fact mainly the narrow interests of the upper-class elites, and it is mainly the middle- and lower-class Indians who bear the suffering.
(The authors are a senior researcher at Beijing Foreign Studies University Advanced Research Institute for Regional and Global Governance, and a scholar at Chengdu University of Information Technology)