Every year, I look at the previous year and make predictions for the coming one, not based on any astrological basis but the basic understanding of the socio-economic situations. (Review of 2008 Predictions and New ones for 2009)
On this front the record was just 50%. We were right on the economic front but wrong on the political front.
Politics: Congress, under Dr. Manmohan Singh, has performed rather well and the BJP has disintegrated and is now trying to instill a new life into that organization. Dr. Singh and Chidambaran’s team has made sure that more attacks of Mumbai variety do not happen anymore. For which they do deserve credit. Another area where Dr. Singh should be commended on is how he has helped India forge a relationship with US and Barrack Obama in particular. The pressure of US on Pakistan is an important component of India’s Foreign policy and managing it is no easy task, given the many pressure groups in US Government. So, well done.
In the next one year, one can sense a deepening of this relationship even further, although China is making attempts to throw “spanner in the works”. It will be tough to handle every aspect, but given the two patient personalities – Dr. Singh and Obama – one can feel reassured.
I have been very disappointed at the turn of events in the domestic politics. I still consider regional parties and interests as a curse on India. The ability to create multiple parties and use regional sentiments to arouse people and gather votes is a damaging trend in the country and should be arrested before it takes a rather bad turn.
Another area of major concern are the Maoists. Without alineating ones own people and start bombing them to create more terrorist organizations, the Indian Leadership has to counter these Maoists. Our success or failure at this engagement will be key to India’s future.
Economy: On the economy side, gains will be made further as things seem very vibrant in the country and infrastructural development is going on along with the economic vibrancy. The only issues I see is of damage to the environment that is happening, less than world-class productivity levels, and bad infrastructure.
When I say less than World Class Productivity levels, I mean that Indian businesses are not keen on adopting standard processes. Not talking about a formal standard like ISO, which one can just adopt and show formally.. but processes on how to work. For example, I have not seen ANY IT company in India, including the Big Three, who have had ANY process methodology to run a full scale IT Transformation project. None! Whatever any team does is considered a “methodology”.
And that is precisely my issue – in India Business Processes are defined by accident NOT conscious undertaking.
Lack of processes, methodologies and consequent lower productivity has meant that to improve scale, the quality is lowered. Now, that is a great strategy when the catchment base for you is over a Billion people. But there will come a time and a situation when the costs of the outputs and the quality of the work CANNOT be lowered any further. I reckon that such a point in Indian businesses is fast approaching.
Pakistan and what happens there has a direct bearing on India. Last year, we had predicted Talibanization of Pakistan and one can say that Pakistan is moving in that direction very fast.
Now this needs to be understood properly. Despite the fact that Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists are creating havoc in that country and many disapprove of that brand, yet the popular thought in the country is NOT of re-evaluation of the issues that fanaticism of religion – which is the fundamental character of Taliban – has created within the country.
In fact, the popular analysis tends to push the blame to Americans, Jews and the Hindus (Indians).
Nobody seems to get that Taliban are just an alibi.. just ONE color of the many that fanaticism in Islam has generated. Even if you kill the entire Taliban and Al Qaeda, that does NOTHING to alleviate the problems of Pakistan. The problem is of the mindset. Unless they abandon the religion as the basis of their existence and learn to integrate with the world in general, several new Talibans will be created!
And mindset in Pakistan is becoming more and more fanatic, even amongst the educated. Recently, I had recounted (Righteousness of Intolerance) how in one conversation on a social network, I came across people who – though educated – were completely closed minded and rabidly fanatic.
Taliban or more importantly the Religious Fanaticism CANNOT be fought with Statistics – so many dead and so many wounded – but by change of mindsets. And that change is impossible, as I see it within any Islamic society.
Only those societies based on Islam can be sustained (for a medium term), which are UNI-CULTURAL. For example, everyone speaks Arabic and is an Arab and a Sunni.. or everyone speaks Persian and is a Shia and a Persian. The moment you introduce ANY diversity in ANY of the dimensions – Language, Sect, Culture, Geographic affiliation – Islamic societies fail and fail miserably. Islam was not created for diversity but for Unilateral action and forced assimiliation into that milieu.
That, is the greatest tragedy of Pakistan. Because Pakistan is inherently an off-shoot of a multi-cultural society and the investments in those cultural dimensions by the local population is far more or at least equivalent to their investment in their own religion. So, Punjabi Sunnis massacred the Bengali Sunnis. Punjabi Sunnis massacred the Urdu Speaking Sunnis. Sunnis massacred the Shias and the Ahmediyas. Diversity cannot be sustained in an Islamic society. And that will lead to more issues and massacres within Pakistan.
Intolerance in Pakistan will touch a peak in Pakistan and that will lead to a turn of events within that society. I also fear that we might see a limbo in the Government and perhaps the Government of the day may be thrown out WITHOUT a replacement! And THAT is the situation which the Taliban and Al Qaeda are really waiting for. Reach that stage and then present a hard core Islamic agenda – of the Taliban’s kind – as an alternative for stabilization.
The situation in the US is much better than I predicted. And part of it may be superficial, for the inherent macro-economic issues have not been really addressed. The unemployment still runs high and the risk from the financial markets has not been eliminated. Also, there is no sign of manufacturing recovery within the country. Increase in Consumption without corresponding increase in Production is inherently unsustainable.
I do see a medium term recovery in the economic scene of the country but it will be a tentative recovery.
Politically, Obama will face even more issues. His ratings have fallen and he still goes on with his work, which is commendable. His incursion in Afghanistan and Pakistan is risky although CRITICAL and as yet he has not really explained that well enough. This coupled with the ideological Democratic mindset of opposing any war is going to be tough to handle.
On the Health care front, the final thing may be just a band-aid at best for the issues that Obama and gang set out to address. Such is the power of the Pharma and Health Care lobby that no one can bring any REAL change in that area of this country. So, the health troubles will rise more for the common man.
And this brings me to another dimension that doesn’t seem to come up. Beyond the ideological camps of the Democrats and the Republicans, there is a huge population that is reeling under the stress of the economy and its inability to cope with the many demands on their resources. The imminent Inflation won’t help the matters either in the coming months and years. The unrest from that situation probably has not been addressed or anticipated yet.
World in General
The power centers of the world seem to be moving towards the developing world, as the Copenhagen summit showed. Yet, there is no indication that the new aspirants to the power – Brazil, China, South Africa, India, and Russia – can really handle or manage that power. I would say that the shift in power may not be happening anytime soon.
Regional emotions may scale back some of the integration in some countries although the push will be towards the assimiliation.
Terrorism will remain the main threat and it may take up new dimensions. I find it hard to imagine that the terrorists may not taken any learnings from the spread of H1N1 virus to draw a strategy to use biological weapons instead. Resources may be an issue for them but given their tenacity, they would be working hard on those lines. So, the world should get ready to foil an attack on that front.