Nupur Sharma, neo-feudalism and the geopolitical squeeze on India


The commentariat has rightly focused on the specifics of the Nupur Sharma incident, such as the alleged blasphemy, the apparent provocation, the possibly pro-forma outrage and the street-veto (cheered on by certain politicians who spoke ominously about tinder and spark).

I couldn’t possibly improve on their perspectives. For instance, Utpal Kumar wrote an article excoriating the cringe-inducing and thunderous ‘liberal’ response and I would add that ‘feminists’ were also notable by their absence.

The blood-curdling death threats being hurled at Nupur, the fact that she has been hanged in effigy, and the related riots that appear to be astroturfed, are all deplorable.

But I would like to look at the whole thing from the point of view of geopolitics. India is in the process of being squeezed badly.

Soft State

There are a couple of perspectives of interest. One is a throwback to the dark days of 1989-90, when the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban induced the most recent genocide of Kashmiri Hindus because the terrorists Pakistan had assigned to their Afghan battle were (as they are now) available; and this time, thanks to Biden’s largesse, they have billions worth of weapons.

A related historical incident is the hijack of Indian Airlines 814 in 1999, and what, in hindsight, was a strategic blunder committed by India, with Jaswant Singh personally escorting the freed terrorists to Kandahar, who then proceeded to wreak general havoc.

In both cases, the Pakistani takeaways were predicated on triumphalism. They could see the dictum in their Brigadier General SK Malik’s The Quranic Concept of War being put in place. “Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end itself.” They could with good reason argue that they were on a trajectory towards a final victory, and urge a final thrust that would bring the house of cards down.

The result was the Parliament attack, 2001. Operation Parakram. Godhra, 2002. And eventually 26/11 Mumbai in 2008.

Pakistan and its friends in India have been nothing if not lucid: They openly declare their intent to wreak havoc on India, balkanise it, massacre people, do Ghazwa-e-Hind. There is every reason to believe that they mean what they say. To pretend otherwise is to repeat the US folly vis-à-vis China: China kept saying what they intended to do, and the US kept pretending not to hear; and we know where that got Obama and Biden.

The point is that every capitulation, every demand conceded, is viewed as a sign of weakness, and invites the next, ever more outrageous demand. India today may be going down this slippery slope, again. As it did repeatedly in the 20th century.

The deep freeze on CAA was a capitulation. The withdrawal of the farm laws was a capitulation. And now the silencing of Nupur Sharma is a capitulation. There may well be good reasons for all of them, but the fact is that they perpetuate the notion that India is a Soft State.

Neo-Feudalism and the Serf State

The second perspective of interest is global. Sociologist and demographer Joel Kotkin writes in his latest book The Coming of Neo-Feudalism that we are slipping into a period where there is a stark contrast between the ruling elites, in particular the tech billionaires, and the ruled proletariat. In other words, a return to the European era of feudalism, where a ruling class lorded it over the serfs, who basically had no rights.

On Singularity Radio, leftist and former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, echoes the same sentiment and argues it is ‘techno-feudalism’. He goes one step further to state that Capitalism is dead, whereas Kotkin only goes so far as to argue that a zaibatsu-isation of the US economy is happening, and the economic systems of the US and China are converging.

In a Hoover Institution podcast based on his Foreign Affairs article, geo-strategist John Mearsheimer suggests a convergence from a political angle too. He argues that the difference between a democracy and an autocracy are limited so far as great-power rivalries go, and that the US made an extraordinarily foolish move to enable China to rise.


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Says he: “Engagement may have been the worst strategic blunder any country has made in recent history: there is no comparable example of a great power actively fostering the rise of a peer competitor. And it is now too late to do much about it.”

Put these two arguments together, and you get an interesting picture. On the one hand, feudalism requires an upper class and a lower class. It could be argued that feudalism never in fact went away in Europe, or even the supposedly class-less US. Social mobility there is far less than one has been led to believe, according to research by Raj Chetty, then at Stanford.

There indeed are traditional elites in the US: The East-Coast Wall Street types, for instance. Their kids all go to prep school like Philipps Andover or Exeter, then on to Ivy League colleges, and then on to Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, and eventually maybe to government. This is, for all intents and purposes, an upper caste, which is also largely endogamous. Just try breaking into it: It is well-nigh impossible.

Then there are the lower-caste serfs, the plebeian yahoos who are subjected to ‘manufacturing consent’ on a daily basis. They were earlier manipulated via the big newspapers, but now the tech platforms do an even better job. If you don’t believe me, see how the Overton window has shifted sharply in favor of woke tropes over the last few years. Or, for a more tactical shift, note how the topic of heated discussion has gone from Roe v Wade to school shootings to 6 January within days. I am reminded of a line from Pink Floyd, Welcome to the Machine: “What did you dream? It’s alright, we told you what to dream”.

In contrast to Kotkin, I would argue that there is no neo-Feudalism, it is the same lovely practice that never went away. Kotkin also said, in passing, “Silicon Valley is full of indentured servants from Asia”. He meant India. He is right, and that is the role of India in the game: Producing raw materials, including serfs, for the consumption of the upper caste feudal lords.

Feudalism applies also to nations. Whites have for a few centuries been the feudal lords, and their colonies, especially India, have been the untermenschen serfs. That is their pre-ordained role. As John Mearsheimer candidly admits, the US blundered in allowing China to escape from serfdom. And it is too late. But of course it is not too late to contain India! They have no intention of blundering again, or allowing India to rise to be a great power as well.

China has become an honorary upper caste country by bulking up its economy and especially its military. But applications are now firmly closed for membership in this club. Even rich Japan has only a tenuous membership.

File image of Chinese president Xi Jinping. AP

It is in the interests of the feudal lord countries to keep the serf countries as they are.

In this, the US and China are one: There is no way India can be allowed to gain power.

This may explain the fury with which US and European commentators (eg, Bruno Macaes) greeted India’s stance in the Ukraine war, of keeping aloof from it. That’s not how a serf state is supposed to act: It should do the Gunga Din tango.

This mindset is why the US has continually armed and financed Pakistan, propping up a failed state that should have been dismantled long ago: It is meant to contain India. This is also why you have the likes of Thenmozhi Soundararajan running rampant in the US shouting about caste. This is why a propagandist like Audrey Truschke is not ejected from polite company. This is why USCIRF, an evangelist propaganda body, gets free rein to pontificate about India.

This is why India is marginalised in the Quad, and the upper caste countries (Anglosphere is by definition upper caste) close ranks to form AUKUS. India must be put in its place, and that’s why a million mutinies are funded by the Ford Foundation and George Soros, and Xinhua and other CCP arms. There are plenty of sleeper cells armed and ready to riot on command.

Add to this mix the oil states of West Asia. Qatar has its giant natural gas reserves, and India is increasingly addicted to LNG including for its newly-minted rural women consumers of cooking gas. Furthermore, Biden is genuflecting at the feet of Saudi Arabia, as Glenn Greenwald writes in a stinging comment on substack.

Narendra Modi and Joe Biden

Having successfully prevented India from buying cheap Iranian oil, and pushing hard to prevent it from buying cheap Russian oil, the Americans are forcing India to be ever-more dependent on West Asian states. Never mind that India has buying power: Of course, the sellers have to sell the stuff to somebody to keep their economies ticking over.

Also, never mind the fallacy of the argument that India must kowtow to these Gulf states, in case they send back the Indians working there. Well, that is not charity, either. If the Indians were ejected (let us recall what happened to Uganda in Idi Amin’s time), the serfs running everything would be gone, and the feudal lords would actually have to get their hands dirty doing something other than being rich and idle.

The fact that India has not asserted itself forcefully means that the pressure tactics are working: The malign forces have drawn first blood. Chances are that worse is yet to come.

The writer has been a conservative columnist for over 25 years. His academic interest is innovation. Views expressed are personal.

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Nupur Sharma, neo-feudalism and the geopolitical squeeze on India
Nupur Sharma, neo-feudalism and the geopolitical squeeze on India
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