Swadeshi plus religion equals Buchanan

The shock victory of Mr Patrick Buchanan in Republican primaries in the USA shows two things. First, Mr Buchanan is a caricature of the BJP-his campaign, like that of the BJP, rests on the twin pillars of swadeshi and religion. Second, his castigation of the World Trade Organisation, multinationals and foreign trade shows how important those institutions really are for developing countries like India.

The BJP regards GATT as a four-letter word. So does Mr Buchanan, for the same reason-both protest that it erodes the sovereignty of members. Of course, Mr Buchanan would be astonished at the BJP suggestion that this helps the USA–not at all, he says.

Both are populist protectionists. Mr Buchanan’s vituperation against imports from Mexico matches the BJP’s vituperation ‘against Kentucky Fried Chicken or foreign brands of potato chips. Both believe national security, jobs and cultural values of their respective countries are endangered by foreigners and foreign goods. Mr Buchanan wants the USA to leave the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which gives Mexico free access to the US market.

Both hate illegal immigrants. The BJP wants to fence off Bangladesh, Mr Buchanan wants to fence off Mexico, and guard it with troops. Like the BJP, he would like to shoot trespassers.

India and the USA are the product: of mass migrations over centuries, but neither the BJP nor Mr Buchanan are keen to acknowledge this. The BJP regards Muslims as outsiders who invaded the country. Mr Buchanan says of Hispanics, ‘I will halt this invasion cold.’ Both conveniently forget that their own communities are earlier immigrants-the Aryans moved to India and subjugated the locals, while Europeans moved to the USA and crushed the red Indians. Indeed, an American cartoon shows some Red Indians telling Mr Buchanan, ‘About your closed border idea: can we make it retroactive?

During the Republican primary in Louisiana he swore to local crayfish farmers that, if elected, he would protect them against ‘Chinese communist crayfish’, and slap a tariff of 40-50 per cent on these. This may be first time crayfish have been condemned as ideological symbols, but the BJP has long done this to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The religious right has gathered momentum in both countries in the last decade. The BJP wants Indians to take pride in saying they are Hindus. The US religious right sees Christianity as a saviour of values. It is dead against abortion, urges school prayer and bashes homosexuals. Mr Buchanan, if elected, will nominate Supreme Court judges who will strike down abortion as unconstitutional.

There is no American counterpart of Muslims in India. But Mr Buchanan’s remarks on Jews are sometimes as loaded as those of the BJP’s on Muslims. He opposed the Gulf War of 1991, saying its only supporters were the government of Israel ‘and its amen corner in US Congress.’ In a 1990 column, he said that Jews who survived Nazi death camps suffer from ‘group fantasies of martyrdom.’

Both are populist protectionists. Mr. Buchanan’s vituperation against imports from Mexico matches the BJP’s vituperation against Kentucky Fried Chicken or foreign brands of potato chips. Both believe national security, jobs and cultural values of their respective countries are endangered by foreigners and foreign goods. Mr. Buchanan wants the USA to leave the North American Free Trade Agreement, which gives Mexico free access to the US market.

However, unlike the BJP, he does not foment riots against the minorities. He has given a shocked refusal to the proposal of the proto-fascist Russian leader, Vladimir Zhimovsky, that the two should co-operate in deporting Jews from their two countries. Mr Buchanan may be a caricature of the BJP, but is fundamentally a far superior human being.

His meteoric rise shows that the US right can be very different from what most Indian Indians think. Most Indians associate the US right with free trade, deregulation and attempts to dominate the world. Mr Buchanan shows this to be a gross oversimplification if not outright error-he is isolationist and corporatist.

He believes in sovereignty, not inter-dependence, and so wants to pull out of WTO, NAFTA and all UN military operations. He condemns the WTO as an organisation that helps not the JSA but multinationals, which he lays have no loyalty to their country and simply seek to set up plants where they get most profits, such as Third World countries.

Bravo, Mr Buchanan. You have just punctured the bombast of Indian leftists. They look upon the WTO as an organisation dominated by the USA : you see it as one where the Third World has most votes and can rein in the USA. Many Indians see multinationals as serving the interests of their home country: you see them as apolitical organisations interested in strengthening their operations in Third World countries. Many Indians see free trade as a recipe for US domination of the world economy: you see it as a formula for domination of the US economy by cheap imports from the Third World. Indian critics fear the USA wants to dominate the world politically: but you, Mr Buchanan, want to pull the USA out of global operations in Bosnia and Hail), and regard the Gulf war as a waste of American time and money.

I cannot think of a better reason for Indians to want to strengthen the WTO, to take advantage of foreign investment, increase foreign trade, and aim for economic inter-dependence in a globalised economy.

What do you think?