The U.S. is – and will continue to be for at least a generation more – the primary engine driving the international economy. If Asia has made progress during the post-colonial period (i.e.after 1947), one of the major reasons is the U.S. economy. Although the Eurocentric administrations in Washington DC refused to sanction a Marshall Plan for Asia the way they implemented for Europe, the private industry has made up for a lot of the slack. Although the Vietnam war of the 1960s and beyond was a disaster in several ways, including the devastation it caused to that land and people without being able to prevent the takeover of the country by the Viet Minh, yet the purchases of goods and services made by the U.S. from the countries of East and South-east Asia for prosecuting the war created tigers out of pussycats. Even Hong Kong developed,once the British withdrew east of Suez and lost interest in the day-to-day running of the colony.
India under Indira Gandhi missed the US-driven bus. Unlike Thailand, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, she refused to create the conditions needed for Indian businesses to take advantage in the spurt of U.S. procurement created by the Vietnam war. Indeed, she turned away from such opportunities, even rejecting an invitation to be a part of ASEAN. As for industry, Indira Gandhi continued with Jawaharlal Nehru’s policy of strangling the private sector through taxes and regulation, and creating state-owned monopolies that were citadels of incompetence and corruption. Small wonder that SE Asia and East Asia rapidly overtook India and entered the fold of middle-income countries two decades before India finally began to catch up in the mid-1990s, a rise that has been threatened by the sharp increase in regulation seen in the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA since 2004.
Despite the return of frank Nehruism in central policy, India still remains a country where the newly-empowered private sector is fighting back. Honest corporates are happy at the increase in public awareness of the fact that it is graft on a monumental scale that is keeping them in such misery. Those traveling by the potholed roads of India; enduring power cut after power cut despite sky-high electricity prices; going through substandard public schooling at a time when the UPA is seeking to choke the private education sector through fresh regulations; and suffering such depredations as income-tax raids conducted just to collect bribes for settlement, are now coming on to the streets. If not in 2012, certainly by 2013, India will have its own Tahrir Square, with millions likely to picket the homes of the powerful trinity of corrupt bureaucrats, businesspersons and politicians who have aped the British colonial authorities by enriching themselves through impoverishing the country. For the first time since the 1950s, India seems to be on a path towards cleaner government and greater powers to the ordinary citizen vis-a-vis the colonial-style state,largely because of the pressure from the Supreme Court and the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is personally honest,and hence has no personal interest in continuing to cover up corruption.
This is the ideal time for a great democracy to create multiple linkages with India, so that civil society in both countries can benefit. In the field of energy, this writer has already pointed out how the negative bias of the non-proliferation lobby in the U.S. is creating the conditions for an Indo-Russian atomic alliance from which the U.S. will get excluded. Healthcare is another field in which India has several advantages. Indeed, it is this potential that is scaring pharmaceutical and fat-cat medical lobbies in Europe, making them invent risks in India that are unproven by scientific evidence. The Lancet, for example (whose advocacy of the medical mafia in the developed world is transprent) has been printing report after report warning individuals to keep away from India. The latest smear is that the country is swarming with a “superbug”. Unexplained is why such a “deadly” microbe has made zero dent on the country’s population, or in its health services. The reality is that cooperation with India will cost the medical mafia in several countries their millions of euros, hence the hysteria against India.
The fact is that only – repeat only – an alliance with India can reduce healthcare costs in the U.S. and the EU to levels that are compatible with continued prosperity. Instead of blocking low-cost Indian pharmaceuticals from entering their (or other) markets by the foisting of cases and by other means, EU governments should get their corporates to form alliances with Indian companies that can ensure low-cost healthcare to billions of people in Europe, India and in North America.
However, given their mindset (which is clearly still lost in nostalgia for the colonial era), it is unlikely that the EU will follow such a rational path. On the contrary, we can expect several more efforts to malign both the country as well as its medical profession, because of the fact that it can provide healthcare at a fraction of the cost charged by the medical mafia. Rather, it is the U.S. that needs to take the lead in forming an alliance with India, that would ensure enhanced Indo-US production of cheaper drugs and cheaper procedures. Unless this be done, the U.S. budget deficit will continue to balloon to a level that threatens the future of the world’s biggest economy. The sharing of healthcare facilities by India and the U.S. will ensure the saving of tens of billions of dollars every year, and in time form a fusion that can bring healthcare to the doorsteps of the needy in every country.