The latest comments from US Commerce Secretary Ross reveal that Modi might be about to bow down to Trump on trade in exchange for potentially receiving hundreds of American companies that might re-offshore their operations to the South Asian state from China following the possibly impending disastrous end of the US-Chinese trade talks, though the likely quid-pro-quo of removing trade barriers to American agricultural exports to the country will likely ravage its rural farming class and probably catalyze their large-scale migration to the urban areas as desperate low-cost laborers for the same US companies that Modi’s courting.
Debunking India’s “Tough Talk”
India likes to “talk tough” but rarely “puts its money where its mouth is”, which was recently proven by New Delhi going back on its promise from last May to only abide by UNSC sanctions and instead agreeing to abide by Washington’s unilateral anti-Iranian ones that were reimposed earlier this month after the US’ refusal to renew India’s sanctions waiver. It’s with this in mind that it’s highly unlikely that it’ll continue resisting the US’ trade demands, especially considering what US Commerce Secretary Ross just revealed during his latest trip to the country. With a wink to his administration’s hope that the incumbent will win, he praised the outcome of his talks with Indian leaders by announcing that “We applaud India’s commitment to addressing some of these (trade) barriers once the government is re-formed, probably starting in the month of June”. He also couldn’t help but appeal to his host’s internationally infamous ego by quipping that “I would like to rephrase ‘Make America great again’ with ‘Make America great with Indian cooperation’”.
The Way To Modi’s Heart Is Through His Ego
That rhetoric was intended to imply that India is far more powerful than the US because America supposedly needs it in order to become great again and not the reverse, suggesting that Modi has been so wildly successful in making India a “superpower” like his supporters promised he would that the US is now practically begging it to share some of its strength by opening up its markets and helping to revive the American economy. Nothing of the sort is true in real life but the Bollywood-indoctrinated masses are extremely receptive to this game of make-believe because it also helps soothe some of the wounds to their ego that were inadvertently inflicted when Russia offered to host peace talks between India and Pakistan and therefore unprecedentedly implied that both countries were international equals, something that’s totally taboo to do in the hyper-jingoist and ultra-supremacist society that Modi presently presides over. As such, there’s a high likelihood that Modi will bow down to Trump’s trade demands partially because Ross massaged his country’s ego with his warm words.
In exchange, India isn’t going to receive cheaper oil to compensate for cutting off its low-cost Iranian imports like the ruling party’s most zealous supporters might imagine, as Ross was unambiguously clear that his country’s “oil is owned by private people so the government cannot force people to make concessionary prices.” Instead, it’s much more likely that the US promised India that the removal of its trade barriers could encourage hundreds of American companies to re-offshore from China to their country after the possibly impending disastrous end of the US-Chinese trade talks. This could breathe a second life into Modi’s stagnant “Make in India” vision, but for it to be the “success” that both parties want it to be, then India will have to allow the US to export more agricultural goods to the country with the tacit purpose of putting its own farmers out of business. For as illogical as this may sound, there’s actually a very rational “logic” behind why it might be pursued.
“Make In India’
“Make in India” is all about urban-driven industrial growth, but New Delhi spends billions of dollars a year subsidizing the hundreds of millions of people directly and indirectly involved in rural-driven agricultural growth who compromise a powerful voting bloc that no government can afford to ignore. This presents a quandary for Modi since his vision can’t succeed so long as so many of his countrymen remain in the countryside employed in agricultural enterprises of some sort, hence why they need to be displaced by large-scale American imports concurrent with cutting their billions of dollars of yearly subsidies in order to encourage a mass migration to the cities so that they can then be employed as low-cost labor in the companies that the US might be planning to re-offshore to India from China. After 2016’s “demonetization”, many of these people were forced to open up bank accounts which can in turn facilitate their employment and attendant payment by the transnational corporations that Modi wants to woo with his revived “Make in India” program.
The Corporate Class’ Favorite “Chowkidar”
Understandably, it would be political suicide for Modi to openly announce this during the ongoing month-long election process that concludes in two weeks’ time and is seeing him fight for his political life amid heated opposition to his re-election, which is why Ross was careful to qualify his hopes by talking about “India’s commitment to addressing some of these (trade) barriers once the government is re-formed, probably starting in the month of June.” There’s no other way for Modi to carry out his far-reaching socio-economic neoliberal engineering plan than to wait until after the elections have ended and he possibly wins re-election, but even then it might be a tough sell for him to make unless he concocts a convoluted plan to make it seem like this process is just “naturally unfolding” and that he isn’t to be faulted for the likely consequences. As such, his possible re-election victory would evidently be more to the US and its corporate class’ favor than to India and its farming class’ no matter how much the Bollywood media tries to spin it.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Eurasia Future