Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Back from India … by gimleteye

It's a 30 hour flight, with an hour stopover through Doha, from southern Kerala state to Miami. A few impressions.


The airport at Doha is one of the most modern and efficient in the world. Qatar rises from the desert. It is manufactured completely from oil wealth. Its airport will overtake European airports on the route from the Americas to India and Africa.

The profound influence of Islamic nations on India

Kerala state faces the Arabian Sea. It is a place that exports construction and service labor to the Mideast and remittances, home. So connections run very deep. Driving through poor Kerala towns and villages, it is remarkable how many of the newest civic institutions are mosques, likely paid for with the assistance of Mideast states.

The deal that Saudi Arabia princes made with radical Islamist religious leaders; ie. to keep peace at home in return for investing in the export of the most conservative strain of Islam, manifests in India in ways that aren't very well understood in the United States. Although Hindus and Muslims have lived side-by-side in India, since the partition, how to stem the growth of radical Islam in a nation that often seems ungovernable from the outside, is a real concern.

Commercial fishing and the tragedy of the commons.

Commercial fishing is the backbone of Kerala, but the fish are disappearing. Sreet side vendors sell fish from carts and blankets on the street. There are fish, but we'd recognize them as the smallest species: sardines, butter fish, and marginal catch of larger species like wahoo.

The Arabian Sea, like everywhere else, has been scoured by international fishing fleets. At sunset from the deck of our hotel at Kovalum, thousands of small motorized fishing boats positioned themselves for a night fishing half a mile to a mile and a half off the coast. Once it was dark, the coast was festooned like a Christmas tree from their lamps.

India is a nation of the young.

Thanks to advances in health care, population is growing fast in India. Driving through Tamil Nadu to Kerala, through countless small towns and villages where economic life takes place right on streets crowded with vendors and small shops, maybe 5 to 10 percent of the people one sees are over the age of 50. It's a rough census, for sure, but an accurate picture.

India is a nation on the move, but how exactly national directives filter to the states and to municipal governments seems aspirational and not pragmatic. Because so many Indians are poor, political pragmatism is mostly about feeding one's family.

Climate change.

How will India mobilize to fight climate change? The entire nation is covered in a pall of haze and smog. Open fires are everywhere.

To my Republican friends who say there is no point in the US sacrificing economic growth so long as India and China do nothing to reign in their pollution, I say: good luck with that strategy.

As the leader of the world's functioning democratic economies, we had better get about the business of transformation, fast, because -- honestly -- the alternative is world where the best adapted to survive climate change are small villages where people are so poor they have cultivated skills over thousands of years to survive hand to mouth. India.


Anonymous said...

I flew through Doha last month and did a 4 hour city tour. Sketchy country for sure. 90% foreigners with a lot of funky rules/laws.

That said, the Qatar Airlines lounge is the best I've ever been in.

India has some huuuuuuuuge challenges ahead.

Anonymous said...

We are having difficulty understanding the new economic realities. Countries are becoming more and more irrelevant. The major players are becoming these huge multinational companies who care nothing about human beings. I too thought America was best at everything, until I was exposed to the massive wealth of the oil producing countries.