Friday, July 31, 2015

Japan in India

Japan in India
It was the afternoon of 16 August 1945. A few eminent citizens of Tokyo assembled at a burnt-out building in the city to chalk out the future plans for the revival of their beloved city. One of the experts present, Okita, narrates the situation: “If you looked out of the windows, it looked like a scorched plain. Everybody was starving. But the committee discussing the future worked really hard”.
It was just the day before, 15 August 1945 that the surrender of Japan before the Allied forces had happened. Once a mighty empire Japan was reduced to a fiefdom of US. Militarily it was finished. One third of the country was completely destroyed. More than half of the means of economic production had been reduced to rubble. Many millions had been killed in the Allied air raids. In one case a night-long Allied attacks on Tokyo city witnessed some 3000 sorties by the US Air Force dropping bombs every which way killing more than 100000 in one night. The Second World War had almost finished off the means of survival for Japan.
Yet what couldn’t be destroyed or written off was the spirit of the Japanese. They thought, ‘it’s bad now. But with a big effort, Japan will get back to its feet again’. While the country was being smothered by the Allied forces during the War and the occupational US Army under Douglas McArthur for seven years after the War, the eminent experts of that country were busy putting in place their plans for future revival of the country.
David Pilling calls this characteristic of the Japanese ‘Bending Adversity’. In an inspiring book with the same title he narrates how the Japanese have made it into almost a national obsession to work towards bending adversities into opportunities.
Japan is India’s largest and most important trade partner. We exchange goods and technology. But we need to exchange this spirit also. India is a land of great cultural and civilizational institutions. Our family and social institutions are an example to the entire world. Japan is facing serious stress at the societal level today. Atomized families and materialist lifestyles of the extreme kind are taking their toll on the Japanese society. Country is aging fast with average age shooting above 50. The aged parents in the country have nowhere to turn to. As the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu told one gathering recently toy business is booming in Japan not just because the children love them but also the old people need them to play with. They have nobody else to turn to in the twilight of their lives. Japan will soon join the club of the so-called ‘evening economies’.
While Japan can benefit from our value system we need to imbibe the great work culture – the single-minded obsessive focus of the entire nation on development – from that country. It is a country with a totally out-of-the-box thinking. It used every opportunity – good or bad – to strengthen its economy and industry. As soon as the Second World War ended one of the first decisions that the country took was to join the NATO – the very force that had caused such a vast mayhem. It was a decision thrust on Japan by the occupying forces of McArthur.
But the Japanese turned that humiliating decision also into an opportunity. Joining NATO had released Japan from a number of international obligations that the country would have otherwise been subjected to for its dastardly role in the Second World War. It now was freed from the burden of its own defence too as the US Army was there in Tokyo and elsewhere to take care of that. The Japanese had cleverly used it to throw all their energies in the direction of economic development.
“Some factories went the other way, from pre-war military production to manufacture of civilian goods. An aircraft factory in Osaka started making nails for houses. Makers of radio parts turned their thoughts to light bulbs. In due course, companies such as Nikon, which had ground lenses for gunships, started producing cameras and binoculars”, writes Pilling. To aptly sum up the post-War mood in Japan Kiyoshi Tomizuka’s diary entry in April 1945, a few months before the surrender of Japan, will be the best source. A professor of engineering at Tokyo Imperial University Kiyoshi wrote in that entry: “An army in uniform is not the only sort of army. Scientific technology and fighting spirit under a business suit will be our underground army”.
Our Make in India needs a lot of learning from this culture of Japan. In fact China emulated Japan in some areas like industrial production. It focused on capturing markets first and for that growth, not profit, was made the target. In fact this is another important trait of the Japanese; ‘growth now and profits later’ was the motto for a long time in Japan. Unlike the notion of the western economists for whom economic activity means securing more and more profits for the shareholders the Japanese companies look for growth first and profits later.
We are happy letting our politics block the economic and industrial development of our country. The most important economic reforms like the Fair Compensation and Rehabilitation Act (popularly known as the Land Acquisition Bill), GST etc are held to ransom for petty political gains.some Opposition leaders are scouting around spreading rumours and falsehoods about the government and its programmes. Prime Minister Modi faces the biggest challenge to his developmental dreams in the form of these political roadblocks today.
There is no other way but to accelerate infrastructure boom in the country. Without that the desired economic and industrial development will not kick-start. Unless we achieve that job creation is not possible. India is a country with a massive young workforce constantly in search of jobs. Every year we are adding about 20 million youngsters to the workforce. But sadly we have been able to add only about 2 million new jobs annually. We need to urgently bridge this gap. But without the required reforms like the ones mentioned above none of this is possible.
It is a challenge for Modi and his team. Can they, like Japan, turn this adversity into an opportunity? The Japanese had used the Korean War in the ‘50s to strengthen their manufacturing base for supplying to the US Army. It was bad; but it was an opportunity. India can’t look for wars to strengthen its economy. But does it have experts in its Niti Ayog or the government that can ‘bend’ the present ‘political adversity’ into an opportunity?
That is the big question for which the nation is awaiting answers; not the silly ones raised in the prime time TV shows.

1 comment:

  1. Sir, fully agree with you. We should exchange the spirit. National interests should be above petty political gains.