Friday, July 11, 2008

Day 24: Indian Government Seeks a Trust Vote

I haven't been keeping up with this diary as a colleague is here, and there are a number of things happening in our English training business. We have fiddled with this far enough, and it is time that we freeze the business plans and get everyone on the same page. The key problem, however, is that while this is obvious, this isn't easy. We wanted to create a great franchising organisation but then entangled ourselves into a running a centre, and that sucked out most of our time. As a friend says, hindsight is an exact science, but of no practical use, sadly - I think we defined our business wrongly. We wanted to create a franchising business, and built expectations around that. However, we somehow ended up thinking that we are in the business of English Language training and started a centre in all earnestness. The whole point, of course, is that we never clarified what we wanted out of it, and today, one year down the line, if I ask my colleagues in the board what they expect out of this business, all the expectations are aligned to a great network of franchisees, and none with a great English training centre.


One could plausibly argue that to have a great franchise business, you need to have a working centre. I thought so as well, but as I know now, the dynamics of these two businesses are completely different - commitments are different. This realization is a bit late, as we have dwelled in this confusion for a while, and what in effect I have to achieve is a change of course over next 8 to 12 weeks. This is going to be difficult, but as with things like this, this is going to be an absorbing challenge and I am looking forward to it.

Of course, the other thing that kept me absorbed for last 24 hours is the fact that the left parties withdrew support for the government and made it to seek a trust vote in the Parliament over the Indo-US nuclear treaty. This has been going on for a while, and has huge implications for ourselves, our business and India in general.

I always thought that Indians, particularly the Indian elite, learnt one thing from their British Colonial Masters very well - they are as much in denial as the British about their relative position in the world. I think we are too self-important. I must point out here that I am as optimistic about India's future as anyone else, but I think we will do very well with a dosage of reality and a proper lesson in humility. This problem was very visible in left's dealing with the nuclear agreement issue.

I think what we all have to realize are the following: One, India needs clean, renewable and abundant energy if it's economic growth has to be sustained. Two, while Indian scientists have created indigenous technologies to produce nuclear power, being able to tap the global nuclear fuel trade and using up-to-date technology will significantly upgrade India's nuclear power capacity. Three, the whole 123 agreement would not happen if the Bush administration did not see India as an important strategic partner and did not think that assisting India to grow will strengthen the global economy.

I find the stance of the leftist parties absurd here. They chose not to be in the government and provide outside support. They, therefore, can not claim ministerial privileges and be a party to administrative decisions. Especially when they are organising rallies against rising fuel prices, for which the government can do very little, the very fact that they are hindering government's efforts to go forward with the 123 agreement is cheap politicking, opportunism at its worst. This will surely cost them my vote in the next election, but more importantly, they are working against India's strategic and long-term interest. And that is a crime!

Well, the other opposition parties are opposition parties. They are not trying to take the moral high ground like the left. They are trying to cash in the general discontent, and behaving as childishly as expected. But they can possibly be forgiven, because, not being the party of the government, they will not have the direct responsibility of wrecking this deal.

I must say that I could not see anything wrong with the agreement India negotiated with the IAEA. In fact, it is an excellent agreement under the circumstances. It stops just short of accepting India as a nuclear power. It allows India complete sovereignty over its nuclear power. I don't think that the leftists expected this, and I am sure they have been caught completely off-guard. They are trying to make an issue why the government rushed [we know the answer: it is an urgent issue and the government the 123 agreement to reach US congress before they adjourn in 40 days time, and reconvene effectively after a new administration has come to power]; they are asking why they were not taken into confidence [they have done nothing to deserve the confidence - they have created trouble from day one, never engaged in a constructive dialogue on this, and besides they are not part of the administration].

The point is that in India, the administration and the legislature are not separated clearly, but they ought to be. And, I do not think we should allow the governments to take the administrative decisions, deferring to the parliament only for ratification of done deals. The involvement of so many shortsighted and feeble politicians in a matter of national importance is disastrous. I am hoping that the government will finally manage to win the trust vote and be able to move forward with the agreement soon. If not, the Indian leftists would have managed to do what they do best: stall progress and commit monumental blunders.

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