Column, OPINION, Politics

Modi must now zero-in on how to build a credible India

Where each citizen is responsible towards his civic duty.

By Robinder Sachdev

Robinder-150-x-150NEW DELHI: This is the sixth in series of seven articles that are analyzing or suggesting how India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi may or must look at the historic opportunity that he has seized and that the people of India have lustily handed to him.

Much like the story in Hindu mythology of the disciple Arjuna who when asked by his teacher Dronacharya, as he was preparing to shoot an arrow at a bird, as to what he was seeing around him, answered that he saw nothing else – no trees, no sun, clouds – but could see only the eye of the bird, in much the same spirit, Modi may have focus on only one thing – how to build a credible India.

Today, as the Prime Minister-elect converted into the Prime Minister of India, a storm of thoughts must be swirling in his mind, and at the eye of this storm must be a credible India.

History – and the future

Ever since the birth of India as a nation in the Westphalian mould in 1947, the leaderships of India have not paid much attention to the narrative about India, within India. We have paid slightly more attention to the global narrative about India, but that too has been done only with view of investment promotion and tourism into the country.

To the outside world, India may no longer be only about snake charmers, natural disasters, non-violence, yoga and a million Gods, filthy roads and towns, and poverty. India is also about IT nerds, Bollywood, red-tapism, corruption, and so much more now. A very colorful but at times depressing narrative.

On the other hand, to the Indians in India, we may no longer be a country where we only aspired for roti-kapda-aur-makaan, bribery was a way of life, and our government was the new feudal lord in town. India is also about garbage and filth all around us to which we are numb, where rule of law and civic duty will always be neglected,  and where no leader can be doing good, since everyone in public life is just a sham. A short-minded, but largely true narrative.

Both of these narratives – the outside narrative about India, and the inner narrative about India – must change for the good of India, and for the good of the global community.

Modi’s ascent as the PM of India may be historic for several cited reasons – first single party non-Congress majority government since independence of India, first person born in independent India as Prime Minister, and such – but that is not the story. The real story is that Modi could change the domestic and global narrative about India – and in this process he could steer the nation of India onto a trajectory that will cast a new India anew.

Why the eye must be on a credible India

A credible India is an India where each citizen is responsible towards his or her civic duty, a government official works on his job, a policeman does his beat, a court of law acts promptly and fairly, a democratic institution functions transparently, and where leaders stand up for right and wrong without bias.

A credible India is also an India where we stay true on the covenants between our leaders and the public, uphold our contracts between businesses and governments, and we do what we say – be it citizens, corporations, government, or our elected lawmakers.

A non-credible India hurts the self-respect of every Indian, devalues our sense of character and character building towards civic duty, good citizenship, and care of the land, water, and air of India, and lowers the economic productivity of the nation.

A non-credible India causes untold harm, sadness and misery to the poor, vulnerable and the richest of the rich if caught in a vice of exploitation, lowers the quality of our democracy, and suckers the economic vitality and growth of our nation.

A non-credible India serves a huge dis-respect to the civilizational ethos of India, and with a dilution of this ethos over time, will deprive not only future generations of India but also the global community at large of the good that a credible India can bring.

A non-credible India is dangerous to the life and property of each citizen, and to the territorial integrity of our nation – as our external and internal enemies make light of India’s professed desires for peace and prosperity, and take our words at no more than face value.

A non-credible India also causes heartburn and loss of participation by the Indian Diasporas – an asset of over 30 million people spread across the globe who can play a remarkable role in bringing knowledge and investments into India.

And last but not in the least, a non-credible India loses billions of dollars of FDI and FII moneys that could flow into India to help us construct the infrastructure of our country, and generate jobs across all layers of our society – ranging from the construction worker, to the non-engineer supervisor of a lathe workshop, to the white-collar manager of a company.

All reports say that the number one step which the Modi government must take is to restore investor confidence. So how do you create investor confidence? The answer is that we create investor confidence by restoring our credibility.

There is so much more that we can discuss on this issue of credibility. Being passionate about promoting the imagination of India, I hope I may have done a fair enough job above of sparking your imagination on how a non-credible India hurts us, and how a credible India will bring real value to the life of each citizen of India and this global community.

Modi and a credible India

Modi now stands at the cusp of a rarest of rare opportunity to restore and build the credibility of India – both externally and internally. Seldom in human history have stars aligned for any individual in the way they have lined up for him. We entrust and expect that he will do his best. However mere expectation is not enough in this age of outsourcing – we the people cannot outsource national development to one individual and go to sleep.

It is incumbent upon us the people of India that we contribute to shaping the destiny of our nation – we must work hard, strengthen our civic discipline, and fulfill our civic duties. We must bring good ideas and resources to the table among our friends, families and our circles of influence.

At same time we the people must be alert and act with alacrity, and in this day and age of communication and information technologies nip any lackadaisical-ness by our leaders in the bud, so to speak. Let us hold our leaders accountable – and let us hold ourselves and each other accountable towards the unprecedented morphing of India.

We must also be gentle with each other and know that change takes time. Modi must also know that there will be occasions where his credibility will take a hit. Why go in the future – right now there are voices that are saying that he reneged on his poll promises by inviting Pakistan’s Prime Minister to the swearing-in ceremony scheduled in couple of hours from now – and these are voices from some of the folks who are his supporters and voters.

As time passes we can expect critical voices on many of the decisions or outcomes of a Modi administration in India – all very important for a vibrant democracy – and you can rest assured that your column will be amongst the first to raise a flag on any issue that it feels are rightly or wrongly detrimental to the credibility of India.

The only advise I can offer him via this column is that Modi must look at his own credibility like a savings bank account. He has a huge balance right now, and he can draw political capital from it and push some fundamental changes in India – like cleanliness in India, and few more visionary projects. Soon his political capital will start depleting. He must continuously invest more in this bank account, so that he can keep drawing from this bank to invest to build a credible India.

After today, Modi is no longer a person – he is only a medium for the renaissance of a credible India. He has to become the agent of change for the domestic narrative about credibility of each Indian towards civic duty, and the credibility of the Indian state toward each citizen of India. And, on the global theater he has to become the ambassador of India who helps the global family, “vasudeva kutambakan”, to understand and know that India and its people are credible.

As Modi takes oath of office to lead the 1.2 billion people of India, his only laser-like focus must be on how to build the credibility of India – domestically and globally. The people of India and the global community need a credible India. I repeat – Modi, tomorrow onwards must not be a person. He must only be a servant and medium to convey the credibility of India to Indians and to the global community.

The credibility of India can never be at stake. India is too big a nation, a civilization for anyone to even question the credibility of India. Sure, we have taken some hits on our credibility in last 70 odd years. Today a rare mix of factors makes it possible that we the people of India can uncoil the credibility of India.

The task is clear for Modi – he must uncoil the credibility of India.

(Robinder Sachdev is a global thought leader in opto-politics. The author defines opto-politics as the phenomena beyond geo-politics. In addition to the reality of geo-political, and geo-economic, forces, world affairs are increasingly being shaped by the images, optics of these forces. Opto-politics is the interplay of images and geopolitics.)

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