India’s Widening Chasm

India’s wealth distribution and ensuing security challenges for 2012.

Background

Across this sprawling, frenzied nation, 2012 ushers in an Indian ambition that will exceed the size of its democracy: a goal to reduce the inequality compromising India’s economic ris—ensuring equitable and inclusive growth for its escalating population that continues to push the margins. The disparity between the ridiculously rich and miserably poor has long been a setback, but now as neighbors like China and Bangladesh start to flex their muscles, India’s incredible wealth disparity and rampant corruption will persist as a threat to security.

Another issue that begs attention remains the incapacity of the government to address India’s problems through lawmaking. The nation’s infamous bureaucracy—a source of vulnerability and shame, failed yet again in late December 2011 to enact the Lokpal Bill- the legislation necessary to create an independent anticorruption agency. Commotion over the event has resounded throughout Parliament in recent weeks, but the more prevailing issue concerning intrinsic corruption has been at the center of the political landscape for years.

Why is India’s Widening Chasm Relevant?

Though the economic trajectory for the country is moving steadily upward, this bodes ill for the disparity between rich and poor—the income gap is only widening as India grows more financially sound. The gap will pave the way for a burgeoning underclass that remains in the social basement, impoverished, and angry. Today pulses beat with renewed fervor among India’s youth, who, outraged at the political status quo, don white Gandhi caps and join anticorruption demonstrations led by the rural activist Anna Hazare.  History bears witness that this environment encourages sectarian violence and in extreme cases, regime change. This issue will emerge in 2012 as the primary domestic security threat to the subcontinent.

Regional threats are ever-present as well, and India must keep a watchful eye on its neighbor Pakistan—the home of terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which wield grotesque distortions of Islamic ideology. Central to their agenda is tapping into the anger of a disgruntled Indian underclass and inciting them to join their efforts something that has plagued India since 1990 in the form of terrorist acts.

Security preparedness audits have shown that India has failed to learn from its lengthy experience with terrorism, and has been slow to improve its defense systems. 2012 will hopefully jolt Parliament into realizing its duties in the face of a broadening wealth gap, a mushroom cloud of middle class Indians irritated with the financial inequity, the menacing Chinese giant, and persistent border disputes. Needless to say, with economic success comes a price to pay.

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