(Editorial of The Star of the East Vol. 3 No. 1) 1981 has come, with little fanfare and much foreboding. In India the twin recognition, on the one hand that Mrs. Gandhi is unlikely to come up with any major realistic programme for ameliorating the situation of poverty and injustice, worsened by fresh outbursts of human cruelty, widespread government corruption, and general indiscipline in the nation and on the other that there is no alternative in sight to Mrs. Gandhi that could be any better deepens the prevail- ing gloom and catalyses the latent cynicism of the Indian middle classes. This in turn leads to a further disintegration of values in the nation. Mrs. Gandhi may be doing better in handling foreign policy than in solving domestic problems. The dangers are many and not all of them imaginary. A nuclear armed Pakistan can, with the help of allied forces, start a rumpus in Kashmir with unpredictable conse- quences for national security and integrity. There is some reason to believe that outside forces are involved in fomenting communal riots, and in making the North-East problem beyond conciliatory settlement. America, starring Ronald Reagan, may turn out to be no more disastrous in fact than a Wild West movie. But then, if the Indian Ocean becomes the place of concentration for U. S. naval and nuclear forces, India may have difficulty sleeping. In a crunch, some of that “ force de frappe” can be used as a tool of “diktat” telling India what to do in Kashmir or the North-East, as once happened during the Bangladesh crisis. India, (along with Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos), seems to be in danger of being punished for refusing to line up with the west, following all other nations in East Asia, including the People’s Republic of China. Mrs. Gandhi understands this as well as anybody else in India, and may have already taken measures. The visit of Brezhnev to India, which the media in India as well as elsewhere sought to depict as unproductive, may have had more signi- ficance than these vested interest defending newspapers are willing to concede. The concern about the Reagan regime, which, thank God, cannot last beyond four years, is not limited to India. His victory is widely acknowledged as a slap in the face for the American liberal tradition — a definite swing of the pendulum from the liberal East coast to the conservative Mid-west and the insular Far-West. Mr. Reagan and his colleagues have far fewer inhibitions than better- informed Americans about the once-inspiring dream of a great and powerful America as leader of the west, champion of democracy, defender of the free world, and crusader against ungodly communism. In any case Reagan’s bid to win back the leadership of the world through a posture of Wild West toughness can be no more realistic than Carter’s costly claim to set the world right through simple honesty and straightforwardness in diplomatic relations. Reagan will soon learn what Carter took a little longer to learn— that the American President is neither omnipotent nor able to make all decisions on his own even in domestic matters. The point for India is two-fold — first that Reagan has openly expressed his desire to increase the strength and duration of America’s military presence in the Indian Ocean and second that he knows even less than Carter did about our problems in India; nor has he so far shown any signs of special friendship for India. Not that India has any particular reason to prefer the cow-boy hug of Reagan to the much berated bear-hug of Brezhnev. The realities of the situation are so obvious even to such an anti-communist figure as B. J. P. leader Vajpayee; we need the help of the Russian bear to ward off the sharp claws of the American eagle. But there is perhaps another side to it. The USSR has few friends on whom she can rely in Asia as much as on India. And Mr. Brezhnev has left Indians in no doubt that for the Russians, support of Mrs. Gandhi is even more important than supporting the communist parties of India, in order to express that reliance upon India. Naturally this reality can be used by interested parties to argue that India is deviating from the Non-Aligned path. Such arguments come in very handy for those interests in the world who desire to drive a wedge between the USSR and India, as well as to Two-third world interests jealous of India’s leadership in the non-aligned move- ment. What they forget is that non-alignment by no means implies equidistance from the great powers. Non-alignment is a refusal to commit oneself to support one side or the other and an insistence that each issue will be settled on its merits and not on the basis of which of the great powers is on which side. If the non-aligned decisions tend to agree more often with the policy objectives of the USSR than those of the USA, this means that there is more conflict of interest between the Two-third world and the market economy countries than between the former and socialist countries. One bit of cheering news in the New Year has been the release of American hostages in Iran. But does this ending of many months of misery for the hostages mean also that Iran has finally made up its mind that any price is not too high for getting the spare parts and the additional arms necessary to win the war with Iraq? Does it mean that Khomeini has decided, by force of circumstances, to follow the path of the Shah in totally lining up with the west? It is possible that the American ploy of making Iraq attack Iran has really worked. It has more than secured the release of the hostages. A multi-million dollar market has been opened up for the western arms trade, which in itself is a big boost to a sagging western economy. An almost comparable market in both Iraq and Iran has been provided by the need to repair the oil installations that have been damaged by war. Obviously the Russians do not want openly to side with Iraq, for fear of pushing Khomeini into the bosom of the West. But will Khomeini himself last? Are there not generals waiting in Paris to be crowned in Teheran by the Americans? And what would a Pakistan- Iran axis in league with the West and China mean for the security of Kashmir and communal harmony between Muslims and Hindus in India? Mrs. Gandhi and India’s very sober foreign minister Rao seem to be aware of these questions, though their efforts to reconcile Iraq and Iran stand little chance of succeeding. The heavy arms build-up in the Indian ocean is justified by America on the assumption that the vital interests of the American people are buried in the oil-fields of the Gulf area, and the charge that Russia’s move into Afghanistan is a first step towards the take over of West Asian oil fields, which would give the USSR a strangle- hold on the Western economy and on the Market Economy system as such. As far as Afghanistan itself is concerned, events go to show that the forces for socialism in that peasant land of warring tribes have less influence on the minds of the Afghan people than the vibrant emotions of “Islam in danger” or “life and death struggle of belief against unbelief” spread by sophisticated propaganda interests, speci- ally trained in Pakistan to use Islamic feelings as a most effective anti-socialist weapon. We do not want to play the game of the World Astrologers Conference recently gathered together in India, nor to take their word that the Third World War will not come this year. If there is a third world war, it can come only as the result of a wrong decision on the part of the leaders of the two leading powers. Such an error is even more likely this year than the next. For in a year’s time, even Reagan would have understood the harsh realities of a nuclear war, which despite arguments to the contrary, can neither be conta- ined nor won. If the folly of being armed to the teeth as counter- productive in terms of national security is realized on all sides, there is nothing other than the fact that the arms race and arms trade are profitable to a small group of powerful people, to stop the world from beginning to disarm, and to use the resources so saved to solve the problems of poverty and injustice all over the world. Unfortunately in India the debate among intellectual circles seems preoccupied with non-issues like Parliamentary versus Presidential system of Government. Since everybody thinks that the debate is part of Mrs. Gandhi’s scheme to introduce again a dictator- ship in the country, opposition intellectuals get into such great fury that they affirm without batting an eyelid that the present system is working quite well. There are three points (among others) at which the present system fails miserably (a) its inability to mobilise the masses for social production with justice and equity; (b) the enor- mously expensive character of the election machinery which lets even leftist political parties become enslaved to the money-bags and their interests; and (c) the odious practice of defection and changing of parties by legislators elected by the people on a particular party plat- form. The Presidential system would help only in the third point, but would make little difference in the other two areas. A Presiden- tial system has the advantage that the President would not have to spend all his (or her) time trying to stay in power. Elected for four or five years, the President can devote the time not for ensuring political survival but to get something done. Whether President or Prime Minister, to infuse a little discipline into the Government and into the political system in India today is hardly possible without taking the risk of assuming powers whicn can be used also to suppress certain fundamental rights like protest demonstrations or newspaper criticism. The fact of the matter is that the people sometimes feel that the protesters and the newspapers are also putting their own interests before the interests of the nation and especially of the poor. In India it is quite possible to organize protests, provided one has someone to pay the bill (this applies even to the recent farmers’ agitation), ^nd most of the English language newspapers in our country are run by moneybags in their own interests and in the interests of their affluent readers and advertisers. A general reduction in the number and volume of protest demonstra- tions may turn out to be healthy for the economy. And what our English language newspapers say cannot always be taken as the voice of the people. Which set of risks should we take — that of going on as we now are, drifting into anarchy and chaos, or accepting a measure of disci- pline, knowing fully well that the day may not be far in the future when discipline turns into authoritarianism and the people’s protest energies would have to be turned full blast against that authoritaria- nism? It is somewhat unfair to forget that Mrs. Gandhi’s ordering a general election in 1977 was a democratic act — whatever her own motives might have been — a democratic act which freed us from oppressive authoritarianism. It was not the Janata party that libe- rated us, it was the people’s vote which was allowed to be exercised and was accepted without demur. Once that process of expressing the people’s verdict through free and democratic elections can be exercised periodically every four or five years, the difference between Prime Minister and President is simply that the latter has political security for one term and does not need to concentrate all effort on political survival. Mrs. Gandhi is perhaps one of the few persons around in Asia capable of world leadership. In fact, she is much better and fairly unerring in her judgments about international relations than about domestic issues. A little peace, through the Presidential system, may give her a better chance to do something creative in international relations as her father trained her to do. On the domestic front, only the hand of God working in totally unconceived ways, can open up a glimmer of hope.