OP Rana

Setting a disturbing precedent

By Op Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-31 08:08
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Among the international news hogging the limelight this week is British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to India to turn his vision of "a strategic relationship" with "one of the world's fastest growing economies" into reality. What seems to have escaped the international media's prying eyes (rather what they seem to have happily lent a blind eye to) is what the Indian press calls the "generation gap".

Before we jump to any conclusion, let me be clear that this is no comment on (nor criticism of) the state of affairs prevailing across many parts of the world, and less so on the "changed reality" in India and Britain.

But it is no serendipity I'm talking about. Amid the hullabaloo over the visit of Cameron and his 90-member team to India, something important (to some, something ominous) seems to have been ignored by everyone, especially the media. In fact, the media outlets that have reported the rather radical shift in protocol have chosen to laud it.

All those who sang paeans to the high merits of democracy, and hence purported to worship the hoi polloi and vox populi, seem to be writing an anthem to the power of money. If they are trying to say that in this age of globalization, power comes from money, and not the other way round, they are stating the obvious.

Returning to the "unfortunate discovery" (hence, not serendipity), before Cameron's visit, one Indian newspaper reported: "Osborne and Cameron have expressed a desire to meet not just government officials but a whole cross-section of Indians during the July 28-29 visit. It's an uncommon request that New Delhi seems to have accepted."

George Osborne, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, "attended dinners hosted by some of India's leading socialites (captains of industries)" rather than by Indian ministers with Cameron also "dropping by" at the events.

It might not have been a breach of (foreign policy) protocol, but it was pretty much unprecedented, at least in India. And it points to the power that the corporate world exercises over many of the governments across the world.

If there still was any doubt about that, one Indian government source laid it to rest, saying: "This is a changed world and not everything happens with governments or their representatives In fact, more and more of the action lies outside government. That is a section the British are also very keen to interact and engage with."

Of course, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted a lunch for Cameron and his Cabinet colleagues in New Delhi on July 28. But the importance the British delegation (and, by default, the Indian leaders) has attached to the corporate world (the socialites who hosted the dinners for Osborne are either kin of or advisers to powerful businessmen) leaves no doubt what the focus of the world powers' new realpolitik is.

And if anyone still has doubts about the power that corporate houses exercise on many governments across the world (developed and developing both), he should look beyond the media. The international media are as good or bad as the corporate houses that control them or dictate rules to them are. Nothing, well almost nothing, escapes the hawkish eyes of these corporate houses and they are ready to pounce upon anything and anyone going against their interests. And all this while, they never tire of talking about the sanctity of the media and merits of democracy.

Only time will tell whether India and Britain have set up a second line of communication, but they have certainly rewritten the rules of governance and diplomacy and set a disturbing precedence (or should we say they have disclosed something the world always knew).

The author is a senior editor of China Daily. He can be reached at oprana@hotmail.com