Millennium Post

Singh’s theory of sovereignity

‘What has the US got to do with this? We are not a country to be dictated by others,’ thus explained Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when asked about the opposition charges that he brought in foreign direct investment [FDI] in multi-brand retail under pressure from the West, especially the US. However, his argument is problematic. The first part of his answer is almost a tautology. If there is one brand the world over that has come to represent multi-brand retail trade, it is Walmart. And, it is as American as it can get. That is what the US has got to do with non-US economies allowing FDI in multi-brand retail. Singh’s political position in the country and that of his party may not allow him to acknowledge a direct US interest in the FDI policy in retail in India, but it is unlikely that he won’t know this. What he will also know – though again he may claim ignorance – is that it is part of the US policy to pressure other nations into making policies favourable to American investment.

Singh used the same argument of national interest and no pressure from abroad when he signed a nuclear deal with the US without taking Parliament into confidence in 2008. But, his counterpart in the US sold the deal to his constituency as something that was achieved despite all odds and which ensured many thousand American jobs among the worst downturn in the history of that country. In a way, George Bush punctured the sovereignty theory of Singh thus.

In an interconnected world, which is largely being governed by internationals treaties and cooperation pacts, the idea of national sovereignty is under pressure from many directions anyway. It is ironical that a learned man that Singh is should raise the bogey of absolute nationalism to defend policy decisions that will allow many foreign players to make huge profits from a huge market.

Singh may do well to remember that very recently he had also questioned the source of funding of protesters connected with the agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu. Now, the opposition wants to know if he is under foreign influence the way he wanted to know if the protesters were under the foreign influence. Chickens, thus for the prime minister, have come home to roost. With a background of the World Bank and opening up the economy and a belligerent opposition chasing him from Coalgate to FDI in retail, he may have to be extremely argumentative to convince a vast majority of Parliamentarians, including many from his party and the Congress allies, to wash off the taint of foreign influence from his character.
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