Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SECOND OPINION, Patriotism pays-It makes sense to bring Indias looted wealth back home (By Jug Suraiya)

To paraphrase well-known saying, the last refuge of the profiteer is patriotism. But what if patriotism is, in a given situation, the most profitable of options. What if patriotism paid. Wouldnt it be a foolish and eventually pauperised profiteer who in such a scenario did not make patriotism his first resort rather than his last. According to the Swiss Banking Association Report 2006, dishonest (and unpatriotic) Indians have stashed away some $1,456 billion in numbered Swiss bank accounts. If the report is to be believed, Indians have more clandestine loot hidden away in foreign accounts than all the rest of the world combined. This suggests that, far from being a poor country as we have always been taught by our netas to believe, India is in fact a very rich country. Except that its wealth, instead of being kept in India, has been taken outside India.

Compared with Indias $1,456 billion, Russia comes a poor second with $470 billion, followed by the UK ($390 billion),Ukraine ($100 billion) and China ($96 billion). These figures,which are four years out of date, relate only to Swiss banks, and do not take into account other offshore tax havens such as the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands which offer similar facilities for the parking of undeclared wealth. It has been estimated that if the Indian money kept abroad only in Swiss accounts were to be brought back to India, the countrys entire foreign debt would be wiped out 13 times over. The foreign debt repaid, the interest earned on the residual amount would reportedly be more than the central budget. You wouldnt have to pay taxes. Every poor person in the country could be given a lakh of rupees.

But why would this huge hoard of undeclared boodle be brought back to India. For reasons of pure patriotism? Certainly not. But what about reasons of profitable patriotism. Now that makes more sense. The reason that all this wealth was secreted out of the country by politicians, industrialists,businessmen, racketeers, smugglers was that the regulation-strangulated Indian economy did not inspire confidence in anyone, least of all in much of the political leadership whose (deliberately) misguided policies had made the country economically weak to begin with. It was deemed to be prudent to keep cash assets in the form of hard currency rather than in the lowly avatar of the despised and worthless Indian rupee. Economic patriotism very definitely did not pay. But does the same situation obtain today, when the so-called advanced economies by and large are in terrible shape, thanks to their own greed and spendthrift ways which have resulted in enormous and unsustainable accumulations of sovereign debt. Following the subprime crisis in the US, which unleashed a global financial tsunami from which the international economic order will take a long while to recover, Europe has been hit with an epidemic of Euroflu as a result of fiscal mismanagement in the euro zone which has led Greece into virtual bankruptcy and is also threatening Spain and Portugal.

Increasingly, the so-called advanced economies of the world including Japan, which also seems to be on the brink of a sovereign debt trap dont look so advanced anymore. The two big growth centres of the world today as we keep being told over and over again are India and China. In this context, wouldnt it make both patriotic and more importantly profitable sense for Indias offshore riches to find their way back to India, instead of remaining in what looks to be an increasingly dangerous economic war zone.
What about it, all you Numbered Accountwallas Wear your patriotism on your sleeve. Or, better still, in your Indian bank accounts.
Training has to be relevant to counter threats: Army chief

General V K Singh wants the Armys training methodologies to be constantly upgraded to ensure the 1.13-million strong force remains fully prepared to fight across the entire spectrum of conflict ranging from asymmetric warfare to conventional wars. Training must be pertinent to counter the variety of threats and challenges one faces. The best doctrines,strategy, force structure, equipment and tactics can be of little use if the Army is not trained well, said Gen Singh, at an Army Training Command seminar on Tuesday. Our training institutions are amongst the finest in the world. These institutions can maintain their pre-eminence only by imbibing and adapting the best practices and realities. The latest training aids and simulators must be inducted for value addition, he added.

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