INDIA - THE GOLDEN SPARROW
While talking of ancient Indian glory, History textbooks in Indian schools often refer to ancient India as a Golden Sparrow. India has traditionally been a storehouse of world's gold and it has always had defense systems and attitudes that can be best compared to that of a sparrow - defensive with strict policy of non-aggression. It is no wonder that India was invaded time and again with the intention of plunder. Yet, Indians refuse to learn from history. Even today India is a large golden sparrow - and that is not something that Indians can be proud of ; it should be a matter of concern for India as well as for the world.
As per statistics of World Gold Council, in 1998 India imported 614 Metric Tons of gold through official channels and almost 100 MT through unofficial channels. This amounts to a sum of about 6.75 billion US dollars or about 300 billion Indian Rupees. The combined production of gold from all the gold mines in the world was 2555 MT in 1998. Twenty Eight percent of the total world production was purchased by a country that has a balance of payments problem and can be often seen presenting its case for aid or loan or investment at some world forum or the other. India's expenditure on gold imports is - about twenty percent of its total imports ; about 145% of foreign investment in the country ; about 425% of Indian Central Government's expenditure on education ; about 63% of the country's defence budget. It is interesting to note that in 1998 the total net inflow on account of foreign aid, investment and loan into India was approximately equal to the outflow from India on account of gold imports. It is no exaggeration to say that in the unlikely event that India can completely stop its import of gold (official and unofficial imports), the country will need no aid or loan or investment from any foreign source.
In addition to economic considerations, there is another aspect of gold imports into India. Gold is never consumed. Gold changes shape and hands but its quantity remains almost fixed. If some quantity of gold was imported into a country fifty years back, the same quantity or may be marginally lower quantity will be lying with some family or bank in the country even today. If it is assumed that the gold imports into India have been growing at a steady pace starting from zero at the time of India's independence in 1947, the country would have imported at least twenty thousand MT of gold in the past fifty two years. One can make a wild guess and assume that there was about five thousand MT of gold in India at the time of independence. Putting the two figures together leads to the conclusion that India has about twenty five thousand MT of gold. To just get an idea about the enormous size of this gold stock, one should keep in view that the total gold lying in all central banks of the world is estimated to be about 35000 MT.
Massive stocks of gold that are constantly increasing pose a serious security hazard. At a personal level anyone having some gold jewelry can deposit it in a safe vault of a bank and feel secure. Banks do offer security from petty thieves etc. At the collective level of the society and the country as a whole, banks can offer no security for gold stocks of the country. Let us consider the worst-case scenario of a city with a population of one million occupied by a rogue invader with an intention to plunder. The invader cannot possibly carry thousands of electronic goods or refrigerators or furniture. The invader would not also be interested in carrying currency which would be just worthless scrap of paper in such times. Gold with its compactness and universal value is the natural choice of the rogue. If the complete gold stock of the city is available in a few banks and the rogue army does not have to conduct a door-to-door operation, it suits the rogue army ideally. India's history is full of instances when her cities were looted with extensive blood-bath and carts full of gold were carried away.
No other country in the world offers such an opportunity to a barbaric invader. Someone plundering a city of Europe or USA will get lots of furniture, televisions, computers, carpets etc. but negligible amount of gold. It is easy to carry away a hundred Tons of gold but almost impossible to carry thousands of tables and chairs and such sundry items.
It is no coincidence that wherever there is honey there are flies. A few centuries ago India faced waves of barbaric invasions from her western side. The medieval culture that shaped the mindset of the invaders at that time is raising its ugly head once again. Tribalization of the society in Afghanistan and Central Asia is a bad omen for India. The economy of Afghanistan has been ruined by prolonged fighting between Taliban and other groups. The social systems enforced by Taliban lead to a society that is truly grotesque, cruel and devoid of any values that make a modern civil society. Neither industry nor agriculture can survive in such an atmosphere. Crime and an orientation to plunder are the only products of a brutalized society with a ruined economy. The cancer that was born in Pakistan and has established deep roots in Afghanistan is now slowly spreading its tentacles to the whole of Central Asia. It is gaining strength steadily by virtue of the financial support from its drug and crime based operations spread across the globe. Using the name of religion as a cover, the brutal outfits that have emerged are institutionalized criminals with the resources and cover of a nation-state, who have no qualms about genocide or plunder or rape.
Organizations aligned with Taliban and its protector Pakistan have been almost shouting from roof-tops their intentions to invade India, to loot India and to kill millions of Kafirs (non-believers). The historical genocide and plunder of Delhi by Nadirshah is an act of glory and inspiration for these medieval souls. Pakistani newspapers are full of stories of rallies and other events that display the barbaric anti-civilization mentality of these groups. Indian people and leaders are well aware of these facts but are crippled by a historical moral baggage that does not allow a sparrow to become a hawk or a tiger. Refusing to learn from history - on one hand, India adopts a passive role for herself in matters of Central Asia and on the other hand keeps accumulating gold thereby offering an attractive target to the rogues.
If one is ready to learn from history, there are two things that India must do immediately. First - declare an open war against all Islamic terrorist groups across the world. India has traditionally been foolish to fight all wars on its own soil. It is high time that India realized its folly and fought a war on the enemy soil. India should seek support from all civilized nations in this fight against medieval barbarism which affects every single major country of the world including USA, Russia, China, Israel and countries of Europe. It is not unlikely that even some Islamic countries may extend support in this fight that concerns the fate of modern civilization. Incidentally, it needs to be emphasised that this is a fight against barbarism and is not directed against any religion.
Second step that India must take is to educate its masses against their insatiable hunger for gold. Indian women must understand that if India has to be secure and has to develop economically, they will have to get over their traditional love for yellow metal.
The problem of security of India's gold stocks is not just India's problem. It concerns every single country of the civilized world. In the war between civilization and barbarism, India happens to be a border state. Every small battle lost by forces of civilization will immensely strength the barbaric forces. Osama Bin Laden is just a small tip of the iceberg. It is time that the world realizes the enormity of the latent problem and helps India change itself from a sparrow to a lion defending the modern civilization.
VT JOSHI & ANIL CHAWLA
25 August, 1999
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VT JOSHI (1925-2008) worked for more than fifty years as a journalist. He retired from THE TIMES OF INDIA in 1989. During 1985-89 he was the Special Correspondent of THE TIMES OF INDIA in Pakistan. His books "PAKISTAN: ZIA TO BENAZIR" and "INDIA AT CROSS ROADS" (co-author GG Puri) were widely reviewed in both India and Pakistan.
ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.
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