Reflections from the classroom

This post is related to some of the sessions at IDS and the discussions around it. Think this is a good way of recording my thoughts, by putting them up here…

One of these weeks, we had an opportunity to look closely at different government apparatus – a lecture on democracy, a lunch-time seminar on Maoism and the readings on Russia. There were discussions on which government forms work better, which are better for growth, for rights and security. Not surprisingly, the variety of models that emerge are enormous. Also, the different strains within each model are also prominent and deserve attention. For example, it is important to understand the differences among countries like India and USA – to take obvious examples of countries regarded as democracies. Democracy, in my opinion, can easily become a tool for autocratic rule by a skillful political leader. The fact that people technically have a periodical opportunity of electoral review can be defeated by the influence of the 3 Ms – money, muscle and mafia.

I rather strongly feel that the emergence of Russia is not a bad thing at all for global politics. Given that the UNSC is stuck in a time warp, one feels the need for a greater degree of scrutiny of unilateralism by the USA and Russia has been a strong voice at the table in the last couple of years. There have also been voices from within that suggest that Putin is much liked within Russia and that people there had a sense of having regained ‘pride’ which was very important for their existence. I have very little idea of the state of human development within Russia and that probably is my biggest reservation when it comes to the country. However, to redeem a country from the hands of a few oligarchs who have been eroding the country’s wealth is an important task and this seems to have been achieved in an effective manner. It is evident that the Putin derives his muscle from the energy reserves in the country and it is a cause for worry for them that the price of fuel has fallen. It will be interesting to see how Russia combats this challenge.

But as governance systems go, democracy emerges as a worthy model, not always for those characteristics that empower citizens, but more for acting as a safeguard for citizens. And therefore, it is full of self-controlling measures and checks and balances among different pillars of the government that sometimes make policies very difficult to implement. But countries choose to live with this systems – sometimes as a smokescreen for the international community, which would otherwise cut off ODA (unless you are a Pakistan, of course); and often, as well-meaning governments attempt to incorporate basic democratic policies, believing that policies must be a product of debate and deliberation.

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