The election of Kamala Harris as Vice-President of the USA is the ideal way to celebrate the centenary of women being given the vote in America. In virtually no democracy in the world did women have a vote before. It is also a proud moment for America to elect a woman as Vice-President, whether she be white or coloured.
Even the distinguished Hillary Clinton could not win as late as 2016. Now, a woman needs to become President to fill the last gap. For us Indians also it is a matter of satisfaction that Harris is of recent Indian origin. In fact, she personifies a several-splendoured combination. Her father is a Jamaican black, her mother was a Tamil Brahmin. Her husband and stepchildren are white Jews. Blacks are the biggest minority in the USA while Jews are a very influential community in the country.
And women are in equal number as men if not a majority by a slight margin. Harris is a successful lawyer; what more can America want for a Vice-President? President Joe Biden, being of a mature age, is likely to let his deputy play a more active role than most other Vice-Presidents hitherto. It is said that when President Franklin Roosevelt passed away in 1945 soon after his fourth election, many Americans knew little of Harry Truman, the Vice- President.
Yet on proceeding to the White House, it was he who pressed the atomic trigger for Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. It shocked the world then, but it took years for even military experts to realize that Truman had, in the process of bombing Japan, abolished the use of nuclear weapons for times to come. If the horrors of nuclear bombs had not then been demonstrated, possibly the world would have witnessed the use of incomparably more horrific thermonuclear weapons.
It is hoped that in the interest of the USA and the world, President Biden would expose his deputy to foreign affairs with a helpful Secretary of State. The reason is that there have occurred many changes in the equations between nations as well as civilizations. Knowing about them as they were 30 years ago is of little use today and more changes are taking place continually. Everyone knows that the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 but not everyone is familiar with all the consequences of the event.
As the erstwhile President Trump asked Europe: what was the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? It was formed to defend Europe against a possible Soviet attack. But now defense against whom? Germany is the world’s fourth economy but does not look after its defense. China was effectively a third world economy and therefore a second class power.
Today it has replaced the Soviet Union as the second superpower. India is coming up to become a great power, even militarily. Japan is gradually freeing itself from US protection and should soon become a military powerhouse. Its navy is already powerful, and its air force is also on the way. Islamic countries were together petro-rich and a united group of 54, except perhaps Iran which is Shia by faith and away from the Arab and other parts of Islamia.
Today, the demand for oil is fluctuating. Vehicles are headed to run on electric batteries. The USA is itself producing shale oil and importing little from Gulf states. As the demand for petroleum declines, Islamic economies would decline. Impoverishment often leads to internecine differences. Already there are two camps; one led by Saudi Arabia and the other by Turkey. The latter was a committed ally of America but no longer.
Pakistan was for decades a favoured ally that significantly lived off American aid, but no longer. Yet, several politicians in USA still criticize India about Kashmir without any clue about the sub-continent’s history. Moreover, the Nehruvian era finally passed in 2014 and the ethos of India is changing. The USA should also take greater interest in Africa where the sun may rise before long. Australia is an important watch tower for China as well as a growing military associate.
Kamala Harris’ country no longer needs allies who cost its economy. To keep its industrialmilitary complex as well as its economy going, more genuine exports would be useful, rather than exploitative imports as for example from China. Mind you, so long as the dollar is so popular nothing can go wrong. In the end however budgetary deficits are not to be encouraged. In the ultimate analysis, an economy would be as rich as its cash inflow and be less defined by its fixed assets.
President-elect Biden addressed his party a few days ago. Thereafter we heard Harris deliver a longer and an eloquent speech. It was perfect except for repeated references to black women. This was despite the claim that Biden and she wish to heal wounds and bring together a divided nation. True, the blacks care for Harris but Indians feel that half the blood that flows in her veins is Indian. Indians who wish Harris to succeed should therefore hope she will be less provocative to whites. They make up 60 per cent of the population and have great resources.
The Indian electorate has experience that may be useful to her. The Constitution gives the minorities more privileges than the majority. The latter was divided by caste and parties won many an election by pampering minorities who generally voted in unison. Over a period, the majority could take this reverse discrimination no more and united to amend the political ethos of India. The few whites I have met and talked with freely felt that America was built by them however badly the minorities might have been treated on the way.
In short, one cannot win over whites by emphasizing on the blacks. Anyone with a heart has a socialist corner in it but with many white Americans, it is like a red rag to the bull. The USA was built on free enterprise and capitalism; each according to his ability and opportunity. The Marxist slogan of need was irrelevant. The Soviet Union was an anathema to Americans. What little sympathy was left for the Russian was smashed by leaders like Nikita Khrushchev.
He had tried to threaten the USA with nuclear missiles placed in Cuba. In the end, the bankruptcy and break-up of the Soviet Union was not a proud advertisement for socialism. The Communist Party of China is doing everything to prove that socialism is an ideological hypocrisy and a political menace. The Middle Kingdom mania has gripped the rulers of Beijing which has pulled the final curtain on the memory of Karl Marx. So, it would be best for Harris to forget the politics she might have learnt at Howard University.
(The writer is an author, thinker and former Member of Parliament)