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A Letter from a Prime Minister - Views on News from Equitymaster
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  • Jun 15, 1998

    A Letter from a Prime Minister

    It has been a difficult time for me. By nature I am a poet, a dreamer. My poems are both: a commentary of what is and a wish for what life ought to be. Yet, my recent actions may have momentarily betrayed the dreamer in me and strengthened the path of destruction that mankind has set itself upon. When not in positions of power, it is easy to dream and make a wish list of changes that one would implement to make our country - and our world - a better place to live. And yet, once we get to that seat of power, which we sought with such idealism, we get caught in the numbers game and in politics and become just like those we wished to remove from power. Instead of retaining our qualities of statesmanship, we degenerate into politicians. This unfortunate reality of politics is true of India and it is true of most of the world.

    The press has often called me the mask of the BJP - a mask that covers its real face. I do not wish to debate on this point but, instead, take this opportunity to share with the world my soul and the soul of an India that has been clouded since the death of Mahatama Gandhi and darkened since the death of Jayprakash Narayan. The nuclear tests are over. Pakistan and India have now shown the world that we, too, possess the technology to build nuclear arms. I do not know if it is a thing to be proud of, but it is a fact. It is also a fact that the western world, particularly the five powers that have nuclear weapons (China, France, Russia, UK, and USA) have enough nuclear arms to blow up the world many times over and have done nothing to reduce their firepower. It is a show of their moral weakness that they seek to impose economic sanctions on India and Pakistan after our relatively miniscule nuclear tests. The poet in me wishes to make the world a better and fairer place to live. With this in mind I make the following two declarations: Firstly, from now on India will not conduct any more nuclear tests and we will stop all steps to build a nuclear arsenal. Secondly, from now on we will not participate in any trade with any country that has a nuclear arsenal and does not have a clear timetable in place to dismantle their nuclear arms.

    According to the data available with me, of the US$ 25 billion of Foreign Direct Investment approved since the economic liberalisation began in 1991 about US$ 10 billion, 40% of the total, are from the five nuclear powers. In terms of actual inflows, of the US$ 6 billion that has come into India through FDI, about 30% or US$ 1.8 billion is from these five nuclear powers that we will no longer trade with. About 350 companies out of the 619 foreign companies doing business in India are headquartered in one of the five nuclear powers. The companies from these five countries will be given till January 1, 2000 in which to leave this country or convince their respective governments to change their nuclear armament policies. In the new millenium of a moral world, projects approved with companies headquartered in any nuclear state will be offered to companies in countries that do not have a nuclear weapons programme.

    The loss of technology and foreign flows to us will be minimal. Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, and Taiwan have no nuclear weapons and are home to companies with some of the best technologies and products. We will strengthen our economic trade with them. Maybe the Finance Minister will be kind enough to repeal his 8% import tariff and replace it with a nuclear deterrent tax for imports from the five nuclear powers. Collectively, these non-nuclear countries are economically as strong as the five nuclear powers and have sufficient savings in their economies to finance investments in India. Moreover, the companies in these non-nuclear countries will be happy to face less competition for the business opportunities that India offers. Deutsche Bank and ING will not have to worry about Citibank, Shell about Exxon, Toyota and Honda about Ford, ABB and Siemens about GE, Nestle about Cadbury, NEC and Acer about IBM. The list is endless with little loss to India in terms of choices of products, access to the best technology, and availability of foreign capital. There may not be a global substitute for Coke or for Domino's Pizza (but I will make sure that George does not launch 77 again!) but that is a small price to pay for a safer world. And since we do not eat beef, McDonald's will not be missed!

    This hypocrisy of sanctions against the weak has to be exposed. One hundred years ago, our forefathers began the fight for human dignity and freedom. Today the fight is against the danger of a few powerful global policemen who wish to remain armed and deny weapons to others and, yet, carry with them the threat to obliterate our civilisation. India will not arm itself. And we will not trade with countries that have the nuclear weapons. I am sorry for the nuclear tests and for the anguish it may have caused in many parts of the peaceful world. I have the courage to accept my mistake and show my strength of character. The question is: will the five nuclear powers admit their mistakes and regain their senses? May the world be a safer place to live - and a fairer one. And may the simplicity of our message win the power of thought.



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