118 years of Trust BOOK REVIEW
Sunday, December 6, 1998
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Ringside view of foreign policy
Fifty Years of India’s Foreign Policy by J.N. Dixit. Picus Books.
Reviewed by T. N. Kaul.

The country of countless contradictions
Assignment India edited by Christopher Thomas. Har-Anand Publications, New Delhi. Pp. 250. Rs 395.
Reviewed by Kuldip Dhiman

When a company struggles to be reborn
Business Process Re-engineering by Sukul Lomash. Ocean Books, New Delhi. Pp. 150. Rs 250.
Reviewed by P. K. Vasudeva

Angry look at working class origin
Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India, c. 1850-1950 by Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, Cambridge University Press, New Delhi. Pp. xii + 388. Rs 525.
Reviewed by Parshotam Mehra

Two-faced US policy on N-arms
The Gift of Time by Jonathan Schell. Penguin, New Delhi. Pp. 240. Rs 250.
Reviewed by Rajiv Lochan


50 years on indian independence 50 years on indian independence 50 years on indian independence
50 years on indian independence

Ringside view of foreign policy

Fifty Years of India’s Foreign Policy by J.N. Dixit. Picus Books.

THIS book by J.N. Dixit is perhaps the best he has written so far. He has made full use of his knowledge, ability and access to papers and personalities. The style is professional — historical, analytical, critical and constructive. One need not agree with the author’s assessment and conclusions but one cannot question his ability and knowledge and the logical and systematic manner in which he has given expression to his thoughts.

He has traced the origin of India’s foreign policy to not only our freedom struggle but also to the late 18th and 19th centuries as well as to India’s "geo-political identity and cultural individuality", going back to Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Tagore and the "mutiny" of 1857. While he has rightly emphasised the importance of the basic Indian values as enunciated by Swami Vivekananda, Maharshi Dayanand, Hali and even Akbar Allahabadi, he could have gone back a little further to Guru Nanak, Kabir, Gautam Buddha and others. However, that would have been a much bigger task and required not one volume but many more. He has done well to confine himself to the 19th and 20th centuries and mentioned, among others, Kamal Ataturk, Sun Yat Sen, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, M.N. Roy, Zakir Hussain, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and Maulana Azad.

The most interesting part of his book is to be found in the aspects of India’s relations with other countries, especially the USA, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, where he had the occasion to represent India. His analysis of the situation in Sri Lanka and India’s unsuccessful efforts to help the Tamil population there and at the same time strengthen the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka is masterly. He was India’s representative in Sri Lanka at a crucial period and speaks from first-hand knowledge.

His analysis of Indo-Pak relations is also profound because, again, he speaks from first-hand knowledge and experience having represented India in that country. As for India’s role in NAM and its relations with China, the USA and the Soviet Union, he has dealt with these subjects from a slight distance and perhaps that makes his views and assessments more balanced and less passionate.

However, one would have expected from a man of his ability, knowledge and experience a better justification for the basics of India’s foreign policy than what appears in this book. For instance, he is of the opinion that India under Nehru and thereafter over-emphasised the importance of moral values and adopted a high and mighty attitude towards other countries, particularly the USA. I am not in full agreement with this view.

India’s history and peaceful struggle for independence show that India’s greatness lies in the ethical and basic values that it has stood for at difficult periods of history — from the golden age of the Guptas and the Mauryas and then during the reign of Akbar, and even more so during our struggle for independence from Britain under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Azad and others.

If a country like India bases its foreign policy merely and mainly on realpolitik, then India would not have a unique or worthwhile role to play in the comity of nations. Its role, particularly in the decolonisation process and in the fight against racialism and thereafter in the Non-Aligned Movement, would have been insignificant. It is because India, both during the struggle for independence and thereafter, tried to adhere to these basic values that it was able to make a mark in international affairs.

It is true that we had to pay a price for it — economically, socially, politically and militarily — but to be able to have any significant achievement in foreign relations involves a certain amount of sacrifice and suffering and bearing the blame for sometimes annoying the powerful countries of the world.

It is here that the book does not carry conviction while describing India’s relations with the great and super powers. India has been able to stand on its own, even though sometimes it had to plough a lonely furrow. In the long run, it is India’s stand on total and complete nuclear disarmament, on respect for the sovereignty and independence of all countries and peoples and India’s conviction in secular democracy and the right of nations and peoples to retain their culture and enrich it through an intercourse with other countries — it is these qualities that will ultimately survive the stresses and strains of international politics and politiking.

Temporary victory here and there against one country or another is not what survives in the long run. Without these basic values, India’s role would have made little significance.

India would perhaps have been militarily and technologically better off and stronger today if it had become a client state of the USA and secured advanced science and technology as Japan has done. However, it is not Japan but China that is going to stand out in the Asia Pacific region in the future. There are many lessons we could learn from China, as China could also learn a few lessons from us.

The main lesson that both have learnt and should remember is that real politik may benefit a country for some time but the spirit of independence and standing up to the strongest countries of the world is something that shows the moral fibre of a nation. It is this quality that has made China survive the stresses and strains of its internal and external struggles, and that can pave the way for its ultimate success.

Similarly, in the case of India if it kowtows to the USA or any other country, however strong and powerful, it will lose something that is more vital and necessary for survival than mere economic or technological progress. Progress can be durable only if it is based on the full utilisation of indigenous skills and resources.

The author’s analysis of the situation in Sri Lanka and the role of India have been dealt with in a masterly manner. The author has rightly pointed out that one of the reasons why India sent its forces to Sri Lanka (at the request of the Sri Lankan government) was the overall strategic threat to India and the region by the Jayawardene government bringing in external influences of Pakistan, Israel and the USA into the Island. He has, however, not mentioned the Chinese threat to the Bay of Bengal from its reported naval base or the attempts by the Chinese Government to send arms to Sri Lanka.

If the Indian forces in Sri Lanka had attained quick success as they did in the Maldives, India’s action would have been applauded by all. The fact that it could not do so and was unpopular with the majority of the Sinhalese population in Sri Lanka, should have been foreseen. India could perhaps have considered other ways — namely, economic, political or diplomatic pressure and friendly persuasion — of easing the tense and serious situation, particularly for the Tamil minority. The author has rightly pointed out that the LTTE also adopted a very negative and aggressive attitude and made it difficult, if not impossible, for the Indian forces to have a speedy success in their operations.

The future of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is a matter of concern not only for Tamil Nadu but for the whole of India. India showed vision and generosity by giving the island of Katchativu to Sri Lanka and agreeing to take back people of Tamil origin from Sri Lanka. It seems that the Sri Lankan government, under the late Dudley Sananayake and his successor the late Premadasa, played their own political game and showed little desire for or appreciation of India’s cooperation.

It is possible that with Chandrika Kumaratunga as President of Sri Lanka, the situation may improve through friendly and sincere cooperation between India and Sri Lanka and a rapprochement brought about between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka through India’s good offices, both of whom seem to be tired of warfare.

However, it would be a mistake for India to send its forces again to Sri Lanka unless it becomes absolutely necessary because of external interference and threats to the security of the region. This is a matter that needs serious and careful study not only by defence experts but also at the political and other levels.

Dixit has dealt ably with the changes in the configuration of world forces in Chapter 7. His assessment of Rajiv Gandhi and the new orientation that was given by Rajiv to the external policy of India is fair and objective. However, his defence of Narasimha Rao’s policy seems to be overdone. Narasimha Rao not only showed lack of guts, grit and courage in dealing with the infiltration of militant forces from Pakistan and the violation of the Line of Control which had been set up in the Simla Agreement, but also followed a weak and pusillanimous policy in internal political matters. Narasimha Rao was an able number two but proved a failure as number one in the government.

The author has bent over backwards to plead for a gentler attitude towards the US policy in Vietnam, Cambodia and Afghanistan. The stand taken by Indira Gandhi and reiterated by the successor governments with regard to Nicaragua, the Heng Samrin government in Cambodia was not only correct but necessary in view of the US policy of interference in the internal affairs of Indochina. As for Afghanistan, the author is right in pointing out that the mistaken Soviet policy of sending troops into that country. India did not support this but did not join the USA and Pakistan-sponsored chorus of condemnation of the Soviet Union.

India tried to play a pacifying role through contacts with Zahir Shah and the Najib government and might have been successful if the USA had not sent military aid through Pakistan. This was an example of the short-sighted cold-war policy. The arms that Pakistan received were and are being used against India in spite of US assurances to the contrary. The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan has not led to peace in the region. America must reassess its role and policy in the region and give more importance to the feelings of the people there as well as in adjoining areas like India.

The main reason for the souring of Indo-American relation from 1954 onwards has been the military and political support that democratic USA has given to the military-dominated Pakistan against India on the Kashmir issue and allied matters. It is a pity because the basic values enshrined in the US and the Indian Constitutions and the policy of secularism, democracy, human rights and gender equality are more abiding and permanent than the differences that seem to bedevil the relations from time to time. The US policy seems to be concentrating more on its short-term narrow interests than on the long-term objectives that both countries value.

However, it will take time for the USA to fully understand and appreciate India’s stand India and will have to make much greater efforts to inform and even educate the US public opinion before it can expect any appreciable change in US policy.

India could make much greater use of the people of Indian origin in the USA, numbering about a million as well as sending able, intelligent, non-partisan and important non-officials from India to speak in the USA and explain the basic principles of India’s internal and external policies. The American people are willing to listen and influence their government’s policy as they did in the case of Vietnam and Bangladesh.

On the economic side, the author is right in emphasising the principle of distributive justice and its importance for raising the living standards and the quality of life of the people of India in general and those below the poverty line in particular. In this regard, while the liberalisation of economic policies by Narasimha Rao, mainly through his able Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, deserves appreciation, the author does not seem to have mentioned Manmohan Singh at all. I think Manmohan Singh deserves far more credit than he has been given. The only credit that Narasimha Rao deserves is that he accepted Manmohan Singh’s advice.

The author has been fair and balanced in dealing with V.P. Singh’s and Chandra Shekhar’s short tenures as Prime Minister and in pointing out the mistakes that V.P. Singh made.

As for the Gujaral doctrine, the author has dealt with it ably and objectively. Unilateral concessions to smaller neighbours like Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives may be justified and a more conciliatory attitude to the water dispute and other differences with Bangladesh is desirable. So far as Pakistan is concerned, all our efforts to be conciliatory, cooperative and friendly with that country have failed so far. We should not have any illusion that Pakistan, as long as it is under military and mullah domination, will respond positively to our friendly gestures. The Simla Agreement was an attempt by Indira Gandhi to make a generous and magnanimous gesture to the people of Pakistan but unfortunately President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as well as Zia-ul-Haq and even Benazir Bhutto only stiffened their attitude and treated India’s friendly gestures as a sign of weakness.

As for a possible peaceful solution of the Kashmir problem, there is a consensus both in Parliament and among the political parties in India. In fact, Parliament has passed a unanimous resolution in this regard. However, the realities on the ground and the actual situation which has lasted 50 years cannot be ignored or brushed aside and has to be taken note of. At the Simla Conference, I asked President Bhutto across the table during the official talks, whether as President of Pakistan he would be willing to a final peaceful bilateral solution of the Kashmir question, as he had said at Tashkent (when he was Foreign Minister of Pakistan) that this question was the basic cause of all our disputes. I did not specify the terms on which such a solution could be found but wanted to probe his mind.

There was a general feeling that if Pakistan was willing to agree to the Line of Control with minor modification as the international border, it might be acceptable to both sides. However, President Bhutto was too clever to accept my proposal and said: "At Tashkent I did not represent a defeated country but today I do. It will not be possible for me to accept any solution of Kashmir at Simla as my people will think that I have succumbed to pressure!" Then addressing Indira Gandhi, he said: "Madam, I assure you that within two weeks of my return to Pakistan, I shall prepare the ground for it." This is on record.

After this I felt that it was no use my staying on at Simla and left for Chandigarh the same evening. The final meeting between Bhutto and Indira Gandhi took place later in the evening. There is no official record of the discussion between them though there are conflicting and contradictory statements about it by P.N. Dhar, Abdul Sattar and others. They were not present at the discussion which was held without any aides, but it is possible that Indira Gandhi may have told P.N. Dhar what had transpired. P.N. Haksar has been silent on the subject.

When I asked Indira Gandhi the next day why she had made two important concessions without any quid pro quo to President Bhutto (namely, the return of over 90,000 POWs and 5000 square miles of territory which we had occupied in West Pakistan), she said: "I did not do this to please Bhutto whom I don’t trust. I did so to make a gesture of goodwill to the people of Pakistan. I hope they will compel their leaders to see reason and agree to a peaceful bilateral final solution soon."

She was adamant on replacing the 1949 ceasefire line by the Line of Control and Bhutto had to agree although he rejected it at first. If she had stood firm about a final settlement of Kashmir at Simla, Bhutto might have given in.

J.N. Dixit has briefly dealt with India’s relations with the UN and accurately described the role of the various Secretaries-General of the UN, the machinations of the Anglo-Americans on Kashmir against India and the need for reforms and restructuring the UNO. However, he has not mentioned anything about the Court of International Justice. If it is to be effective, its decision, in my opinion, should be made binding on the parties concerned if they agree to its jurisdiction in specific issues. Dixit is correct in saying that "the Security Council is becoming increasingly intrusive and pro-active, not only on security issues but also on issues related to human rights, environment, etc."

India should, however, not give in to political, economic and military pressure even if she is in a microscopic minority for sometime. India stands by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and should not allow them to be diluted even if this may mean that India will lose its claim to a permanent seat in the Security Council for some time. Sooner or later, the so-called great powers, permanent members of the Security Council, will have to come to terms with the rest of the world and cannot continue to dominate the UNO through their permanent membership and right of veto in the Security Council.

— T. N. KaulTop


The country of countless contradictions

Assignment India edited by Christopher Thomas. Har-Anand Publications, New Delhi. Pp. 250. Rs 395.

FOR some it was just another assignment; for some it was the best job in journalism; and for others it was an adventure of a lifetime. They came here, got over the culture-shock, mingled with the multitudes, and tried to understand the confusing history, culture, and politics of India.

"Assignment India" is a collection of 10 nostalgic essays written by veteran correspondents representing such illustrious institutions as the BBC, the VOA, Reuters, Daily Telegraph (London), The Times (London), the Guardian, the Washington Post and others. A project of the Indo-British Historical Society and Har-Anand Publications, "Assignment India" is a tribute to the golden jubilee of India’s Independence. But unlike most tributes, this volume, mercifully, does not read like government-sponsored propaganda.

What makes this book interesting is that it is a collection of impressions and reflections, not judgements. Although some of the contributors came here expecting to find an India of Kipling, they soon grew wiser. "Our stay," confess John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore of the Washington Post, "was a constant exercise in discarding preconceived notions and stereotypes. Two-thirds of the way through our tour, when we admitted to a friend that the longer we were in India, the more confused we became, he replied, "When you realise how much you don’t know, that is the beginning of knowledge of South Asia."

Yes, no one knows India, not even Indians. What can one say about a land that is an amalgam of diverse peoples, cultures, religions and languages. Christopher Thomas, editor, puts it succinctly in the introduction: "India has produced more clichés than chillies: my own contribution to this over-abundance of slick phrases is plagiarised from an Irishman who told me in Belfast: ‘The man who understands Ireland is misinformed.’ The quote transports well to India, because so much has been dissected and disgorged, there might seem to be nothing left to say. But nothing has been said: there is not even an Indian who understands more than a fragment of the country, let alone a foreigner."

Whether one likes these vignettes and personal impressions that fill the pages of the present volumes is a matter of opinion. One thing can be said with certainty — they are written in a very lively style. Devoid of journalistic jargon, statistics, tables and charts that we are so familiar with, the book is entertaining and riveting.

It is a delight to share the experience with old India hand Doon Campbell (not to be confused with Alan Campbell-Johnson, Mountbatten’s Press Attache) who was here since the late forties. He remembers covering the first Independence Day when one-fifth of humanity awoke to freedom. Later he recalls his interview with Mahatma Gandhi, Jinnah and others leading personalities. Then we have Mark Tully, who has always maintained that India was more important to him than the BBC. Mark Tully is so popular (at times unpopular) that whenever the masses of the subcontinent see a white journalist, they ask him, "Are you Mark Tully of the BBC?"

The assassination of Gandhi, wars with Pakistan and China, the creation of Bangladesh, the dreaded Emergency, Indira Gandhi’s comeback, Sanjay Gandhi’s rise and fall, Rajiv Gandhi death, the opening of Indian economy, nuclear tests — so much has happened in the past half a century. So much has changed, and yet it seems nothing has changed. Most Indians still live below the poverty line, thanks to the power-hungry politicians and their stooges. Nobody will seriously disagree with Christopher Thomas when he derides Indian politicians: "I believe there is no vindictive adjective too strong to describe them, considering what they have done and continue to do with their grubby manipulations and hateful ambitions...."

What is alarming about us is that we have begun to accept our lot with appalling passivity. Exploitation of the poor, rapes, bride-burning, female infanticide, child labour, gang rape, sexual harassment, violence, corruption: nothing shocks us anymore. The only power we have is the power to vote and we use it quite vindictively. The leaders that we overthrow in elections are replaced with another group which is equally bad, if not worse. But do we have any choice? We have politicians like Jayalalitha who redefined the concept of corruption while in office; Bal Thackeray, the Al Capone of Bombay; Devi Lal, a Haryana bull carrying his own china shop with him; Benazir Bhutto, a once-great champion of democracy reduced to an autocratic feudal ruler whose second term was an exercise in holding on to power and punishing her enemies and the Press.

"What staggers me is," writes the editor, "that people forgive them, so that they can be dumped decisively in one election and come striding back in the next with a thumping majority, only to exploit people all over again in their drive for staggering personal enrichment from the sweat of the poor." We seem to suffer from the Stockholm syndrome — a condition in which the captive begins to sympathise with his captor. So after a while, we forget and forgive, and even begin to justify and admire the methods of the people who exploit us.

If the general picture is not very flattering, the lot of the backward classes and women is even worse. In one case, Rani, a 31-year-old farm labourer from Tamil Nadu describes how she and her mother-in-law mashed poisonous oleander seeds with a dollop of oil and forced it down her two-day-old daughter’s throat.

"I never felt any sorrow...There was a lot of bitterness in my heart toward the baby because the gods should have given me a son." But it is not only the uneducated and the downtrodden who have this inborn dislike for the female child. Even in the most educated and progressive families, the preference is usually for the male child. We grow up with an inborn prejudice against women. "More down to earth was the curious tale of village Kulu ka Bas in Rajasthan, where the men have only one source of income: the prostitution of their daughters."

The picture is not all that bleak; there are lighter moments too. Derek Brown remembers taking delight in dictating to his copytaker in London, the name of a Sri Lankan politician, Animalaivaradarajaperumal. And one can imagine Khrushchev squirming with embarrassment as he reviewed an army parade in Burma "to the strains of Colonel Bogey, played by the regimental pipe band." When a labourer was asked if his wife took the birth control pill, he replied, "She takes it every day....And some days, I take it, too."

Paradoxes are part of our culture. We have more science graduates and engineers than any other country has except the USA; we make missiles, tanks and satellites but "when the space scientist wants a non-conductive transport to take the shiny electronic satellite from its laboratory to the launch pad he calls up a bullock cart to carry it".

In spite of rampant corruption, exploitation, bureaucracy, crime and violence, we can be proud of at least one thing; our democracy.

"Perhaps that should be the enduring memory of India," sums up Derek Brown of the Guardian, "The people. The vast numbers involved. And their love of the democratic process."

— Kuldip DhimanTop


Angry look at working class origin

Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India, c. 1850-1950 by Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, Cambridge University Press, New Delhi. Pp. xii + 388. Rs 525.

IN its essence, the book under review seeks to examine the interplay between class relations and political discourse in the late 19th and early 20th century India. On the broad premise that the history of capitalism and the working classes in India could best be studied not as a case of pre-capitalist development, much less the product of a peculiar and unique "Indian culture". But essentially in the larger whole of what are deemed to be the "rules" or expectations of sociological discourse.

Put differently, it is a broad-based enquiry into the social history of capitalism in India. It seeks to scrutinise at close quarters the nature and meaning of a number of inter-related concepts often loosely bandied about such as industrialisation, violence, crime, nationalism, world capitalism and class. And examines their construction within a given historical, not philosophical, context.

In an earlier study, "The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India", the author had put forth the hypothesis that the pattern of capitalist development in India was shaped largely by the role of the working class. And that business strategies and entrepreneurial choices had been dictated by the struggle to control and discipline labour. Unfortunately, the focus of historical enquiry had for most part rested on the functionalist question of the role of labour in economic development: whether it could be recruited, trained and organised sufficiently to serve the needs of Indian industry. This was a narrow if lop-sided approach which missed the major trends in British and European historiography. There the social conditions and social practices of the constituent groups of the labour movement were a major field of enquiry and detailed investigation.

In a pioneering study, "Workers’ Politics and the Mill Districts in Bombay between the wars", originally published in 1981 and which constitutes chapter 4 of the book under review, Chandavarkar concluded that Bombay witnessed a scale of industrial and political action that was rarely replicated in conditions of "advanced capitalism". More, at particular historical conjunctures, there was strong evidence of a fiercely held "class consciousness". In essence, the rest of the chapters in this study address problems and seek to develop practices which had emerged in this enquiry.

For sure, all the remaining six chapters of the book would appear to revolve around it: "Industrialisation in India before 1947; conventional approaches and alternative practices" (chapter 2); "Workers, trade unions and the state in colonial India" (chapter 3); "Workers, violence and colonial state: representation, repression and resistance" (chapter 5); "Police and public order in Bombay, 1880-1947" (chapter 6); "Plague panic and epidemic politics in India, 1886-1914" (chapter 7). These are variants on the broad theme encapsulated in chapter 4.

On a superficial examination, the last two chapters, "Indian nationalism, 1914-1947: Gandhian rhetoric, the Congress and the working classes" (chapter 8) and "South Asia and world capitalism: towards a social history of labour" (chapter 9) would appear to go off on a tangent as it were. On a closer examination though, they mesh very well with the major thrust of the author’s argument and the broad theme of his study.

Chandavarkar bemoans the fact that Indian historical scholarship over the past decade or two has threatened to sweep away the study of the material world and leave in its place the "bleaker landscape" of deconstruction and textual exegesis. In the event, detailed attention was paid to how the colonial regime constructed Indian society which encouraged a preoccupation with the intellectual foundations of colonialism, even while the history of Indian society faded into the background. Even a cursory glance through its pages and certainly a little more detailed examination of the text demonstrates what this study heavily underscores. Namely, that colonial ideologues and entrepreneurs built their image of labour in India on the assumption that Indian society was traditional, static and timeless. In actual fact, what the colonial discourse identified as traditional about Indian society in the 19th century was largely its own creation as it sought to harness local resources to its global purposes.

In this discourse, Indian tradition revolved around the village community, the caste system and the agrarian character of the economy. The village community was portrayed as immutable and harmonious and composed primarily of subsistence, yet interdependent cultivators who understood and observed their mutual obligations.

It followed that the colonial discourse about labour, shaped by a belief in the traditional character of Indian society, sought to deny labour’s modernity. And represented it as immune or even antithetical to capitalist rationality. This led to several contradictions which in turn suggested not only the difficulties encountered by the colonial rulers and the dominant classes in maintaining control over labour but also in grasping and reconstructing the social world to which it belonged.

It should follow that the sources predominantly produced by the colonial rulers and the dominant classes should bear closer security and stringent examination for all their contradictions. That in turn should lead us to question the material world they constructed. The author’s principal endeavour in this study is not only to register the available evidence about the material world the colonial discourse constructed but also to strip it of some of the "mythologies" it narrated and fostered.

Two points may be briefly made. One, wholesale, unredeemed, condemnation — or approbation, for that matter — is not exactly part of a historian’s craft. Nor, where human affairs are concerned, a dogmatic certitude. Only some guarded, tentative conclusions. The colonialist view of 19th century India as a timeless, caste-ridden agrarian society that had undergone little or no change has long ceased to be current coinage. Even as the traditional view of the ghost of post-Mughal anarchy and lawlessness in the 18th century which our colonial masters succeeded in exorcising, yielding place to the establishment of the rule of law and Pax Britannica.

As may be expected, not a few of these studies have derived their sustenance from a critical review of accounts and records left by the colonial rulers themselves. At the best of times, the archival sources may be biased; they often are. The historian’s job is to discern the bias, separate the excrescence and the grain from the chaff and arrive at the approximate truth. In the event, the author’s repeated and unremitting criticism of Indian historical scholarship engaged in the study of organised labour being wedded only to deconstruction and textual exegesis sounds a little less than fair. Smacking of a judgement that is at once harsh and not exactly balanced.

A few chapters in this study, as the author himself concedes, have appeared earlier in other books and journals; this reviewer had a look at two which came out in the Journal of Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge). While there is nothing wrong or even unusual in this practice, the reader has a vague feeling of being cheated or even taken for a ride. Of having already known of much that the book has to offer. A sense of deja vu is overwhelming.

Chandavarkar’s credentials are impressive. A Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, he is a lecturer in history. His earlier work, "The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India", briefly referred to above, was in some ways path-breaking. The present study offers a closely knit, if also cogently argued and well-sustained, critique of both Marxist and functionalist narratives of industrialisation. And posits the view that it is possible to offer an alternative scheme of the process of class formation in India within the context of "world capitalism".

— Parshotam MehraTop


Two-faced US policy on N-arms

The Gift of Time by Jonathan Schell. Penguin, New Delhi. Pp. 240. Rs 250.

THERE is unclear nonsense and there is nuclear nonsense. Jonathan Schell has come up with the latter and brought to us yet another bit of fantastic goody-two-shoes argument about nuclear weapons. "Abolish nuclear weapons now." The welcome thing in his argument is that he notices — and for an American this might be quite a revolutionary discovery — that the USA practises nuclear apartheid.

He goes into considerable detail that after having procured nuclear weapons for itself, the USA immediately went on moral high ground and began to scheme to deny the same weapons to all others. In this it did not succeed because some of the other countries, including the late lamented USSR, were able to forge the nuclear sword for themselves without any substantial support from the USA. So now this set of countries began to insist, with varied success, that countries of the world desist from doing anything which would enable them to even experiment with nuclear weapons.

Efforts were made to put even the products of the nuclear power stations under close scrutiny so as to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons. Any research in nuclear physics or engineering was frowned upon. So much so that these countries even began to offer inducements of alternate technologies, like nuclear power reactors which did not use heavy water, to non-nuclear countries if they would promise not to do any further research in nuclear science.

Governments of earlier times in history too had adopted similar disarming tactics to subjugate people and keep them under control. In South Asia the British had introduced extremely coercive Arms Acts which prevented all but the toadies from keeping weapons. It is possible that a future historian will discover that the reason for British rule lasting for so many years over India was the fact that the people had been disarmed and only a few had weapons, with them. The present super powers too have adopted a similar stance. "Give up your weapons, all ye exist here, for we are here to protect you according to our own whims and fancies."

India, not surprisingly, has been one country which resisted non-proliferation moves on the part of the nuclear powers. After all, we had been a country which had had the longest experience in the world of being dominated by "foreigners". We also had been the country which, when deprived of weapons by the British colonialists, had created and used effectively even non-violence as a weapon. And we had had a long history of knowing how the ultimately powerful can force all others to his will. Even our ancient king, the great Ashoka, the one who had been the first king in the world to resort to non-violence as the official creed, had often inscribed the ominous message throughout his kingdom: "Forget not that while the Beloved of the Gods is Righteous, he is also powerful."

The USA has tried to become the Ashoka of today. Having caused the largest amount of human misery all over the world by its war-like activities, much akin to that great king of old, it now wants to retain its monopoly over the most powerful weapons of destruction that mankind has ever created. And for what?

As Schell points out in great detail in his book, these weapons of mass destruction do not even have any tactical military role to play today. They never had it earlier either. They are absolutely useless as weapons which could be deployed in a situation of military conflict. He substantiates his point through interviews with the leading figures from the nuclear arsenal establishment of the super powers.

But he forgets that nuclear weapons can have great value in telling a bully where exactly he stands and reminding him of the heavy cost of pushing others to a corner. One of his interviewees, a nuclear warrior from the USA even goes on to say that "there is no foreign policy objective today that is so threatened that we would employ nuclear weapons and accept the risk of receiving just one nuclear detonation in retaliation".

Had it not been for a threat of having its backside thumped by nuclear weapons, the USA might as well have done some more schoolyard kind of bullying across the globe of the sort it did in Vietnam, Grenada and many other lesser known theatres of war in Latin America. Schell gets its right when he identifies the cussedness and duplicity practised by the USA where nuclear weapons are concerned.

Where he is completely wrong, however, is in prescribing the doctrine of nuclear abstinence to others. Abstain, if you wish, do not preach it to others. It may be true that nuclear weapons cannot be used for tactical purposes. Also that they are costly weapons to produce and maintain and that their possible use poses a great threat to mankind. What Schell misses out however — maybe that is because he is not a peace-loving Indian — is that so long as human beings have the capacity to create weapons of mass destruction, the important thing is not to deny people the capacity to produce the weapon but to ensure that the socio-cultural situation is such that people do not need to even contemplate threatening others with these weapons.

— Rajiv LochanTop


When a company struggles to be reborn

Business Process Re-engineering by Sukul Lomash. Ocean Books, New Delhi. Pp. 150. Rs 250.

India’s competitive edge in various fields has been challenged by global players since this country opened its doors to the MNCs. Hence efforts have to be made for improving the quality of goods. Competition is now fierce not only in product design but also in areas like cycle time of production, service and quality.

A multitude of companies the world over have realised the pointlessness of automation and have engaged themselves in redesigning their business processes. Companies with a rigid bureaucratic structure and hence inflexible to adapt to the new demands of business environment, now realise that their business will fail.

Changing or redesigning the business process means eliminating wastage in overall business chain. It also calls for reducing or eliminating complexities, costs, variations and cycle time to achieve a quantum jump in performance levels and meeting the customer’s expectations.

The author of this volume has discussed the concept of business process redesign and its need in the changed business environment in the country.

According to the author, re-engineering today is all about compressing tasks and integrating them. It is contrary to Adam Smith’s philosophy of splitting tasks into specialised and repetitive units. Re-engineering the business process is definitely not a substitute for determining the strategic direction of a company. It focuses on process and work-flows, thus cutting down on waste, combining process steps, and providing a near total elimination of repetitive tasks. Re-engineering has been defined in the book as, "The fundamental rethinking and redesigning of the operating processes and organisational structure, focusing on the organisation’s core competencies to achieve dramatic improvements in organisational performance with the involvement of the work staff.

Re-engineering is basically a change process. It involves gearing up for change, designing the change, measuring the change and, finally, evaluating the change. It is natural that companies today face resistance to change from the staff. But that can be overcome by preventing job losses, sharing the benefits of success, providing greater opportunities, job satisfaction and enrichment are some of the incentives with which a company can persuade its workers to accept change. Punishment can never bring worthwhile results, and other measures have their own limitations.

From 1989-90 onwards business organisations have been shifting from synergy in the market and centralised functioning to liberalisation and decentralisation. In 1996 the focus has shifted to customer satisfaction and production leverage on competitive strengths.

After an analysis of the existing process and benchmarking, the issues to be decided in re-engineering are the honeymoon phase, discomfort phase, bad phase and the realisation phase. The corporate strategic thrust is a powerful tool which tones up the organisation towards growth through a set of practical instructions to key leaders involved in the process. The instructions should include specific and meaningful challenges in planning through listing of primary issues like restructuring, revitalising and excellence.

The author has laid lot of emphasis on "benchmarking". Benchmarking is a process of identifying, developing and understanding the practices used in the business processes, developing and adapting these processes and improving performance. Benchmarking can be based on comparisons within the organisation, with competitors, with other industries, or with world leaders in different products.

Three chapters cover basic technology of the business process redesign. Various steps of identification of the scope of project, the process mechanism and their mapping techniques of flow charting. The book offers a discussion on the probable pitfalls and some success rules for business process redesign that each member of a company must know.

The author has explained the concepts with figures, charts and graphs.

P. K. Vasudeva Top

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