Home > Corruption, Global Finance, History, Indian Economy, Politics > Walmart and Jahangir’s Love Letter

Walmart and Jahangir’s Love Letter


What’s common between Jahangir and the UPA govt? They both licensed two large corporations. What did they get in return?

Has India been sold out? Graphic by Parag Tope; published on November 28, 2011; at quicktake.wordpress.com; copyright with artist. Click for image.

Has India been sold out? Graphic by Parag Tope; published on November 28, 2011; at quicktake.wordpress.com; copyright with artist. Click for image.

Two recent news stories about opposition to FDI in retail, highlight an issue that is relevant in a historical context.

News Story-1

The government had taken a Cabinet decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and increased the FDI in single-brand to 100 per cent. Sushma Swaraj later tweeted that “Parliament is in session and the government announced a decision of such far reaching consequences outside the parliament.”

“It is contempt of the House. They should have discussed this issue in the Parliament and taken a decision in accordance with the sense of the House. They bypass Parliament. We cannot accept this,” Swaraj said. (via ndtv.com | Govt’s FDI decision contempt of House:Sushma Swaraj)

News Story-2

BJP leader Uma Bharti on Friday threatened to set on fire Walmart store wherever it opens in the country to register her party’s protest against allowing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail.

“I would personally set afire the showroom when it opens anywhere in the country and I am ready to be arrested for the act,” Bharti said, condemning the decision of the Union cabinet to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail.  (via ibnlive.in.com | Will set Walmart store on fire: Uma Bharti)

Large Corporations need Large Governments

A corporation’s complex ownership structure and contractual obligations are impossible to sustain without an active involvement and protection from the government.  In order for corporation to sustain itself, the government needs to expand its functions, hire more personnel, and raise more revenue.  Whether or not the corporations pay that extra revenue, the problem remains that the government needs to expand itself as more corporations come into existence.

A license or government approval, then gets an implicit “protection” from the government, thus creating a romance between Big Government and Big Corporations.  The present UPA government has extended this “license” to Walmart by going around the parliament, which was going to oppose the motion, like eloping lovers.

Jahangir’s Love Letter

This romance is not new – Jahangir, the Mughal Emperor, had also written his own love letter.  Not to Anarkali.  That love, we are told, remained unconsummated, but his letter to James I, King of England, expresses a different kind of love.

After decades of piracy in the open oceans, English East India Company (EEIC) wanted a foothold on shore and were literally “fighting off” competitors such as the Portuguese.  EEIC, a state sanctioned monopoly, had the backing of James I, King of England, who sent Thomas Roe to “request” the Emperor of Delhi for a “license.”  History is unclear as to what discussions took place between Roe and Jahangir, and what नजराना (gift) was offered to Jahangir, but romance was clearly in the air.  Shortly after, Jahangir wrote a letter to James I:

The letter of love and friendship which you sent and the presents, tokens of your good affections toward me, I have received by the hands of your ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, delivered to me in an acceptable and happy hour; upon which mine eyes were so fixed that I could not easily remove them to any other object, and have accepted them with great joy and delight.

For confirmation of our love and friendship, I desire your Majesty to command your merchants to bring in their ships of all sorts of rarities and rich goods fit for my palace; and that you be pleased to send me your royal letters by every opportunity, that I may rejoice in your health and prosperous affairs; that our friendship may be interchanged and eternal. [Emphasis added] (source)

What was that “object” that was presented to Jahangir that his eyes were “so fixed” that he “could not easily remove them to any other object?”  Jahangir’s “love and friendship” with the EEIC was apparently cemented with promises of more “rich goods that were fit for his palace.”

An affection that was purchased with a gift and promises of more gifts from a large Corporation.

Has the the present day UPA government received such gifts and promises of more gifts from the future?

Corporations and India

While Mughal rulers and Indian governments have shown an affection for gifts from corporations, Indians themselves, don’t take too well to large corporations, especially foreign ones.  The Anglo-Indian War of 1857, also lit a fire to the English East India Company.  The leaders that lead the war against the English, made a five point Proclamation of Freedom, under the name of Bahadur Shah.  Three of the five points were about economic freedom.

An excerpt:

Products such as textiles, indigo and other articles that India has exported in the past are now a complete under the control of the English. This leaves only the trade of trifles to the people, and even in this, they are not without their share of profits by means of high customs, stamps, and bureaucracy that is entrenched in limiting freedom in trade.

My government will abolish these fraudulent practices and open the trade of every article, without exception, both by land and water, to all Indians. (Tatya Tope’s Operation Red Lotus, p. xxix)

The EEIC was was shut down while the war was still in progress.

गुण, कर्म and Liberty

Many on the “right” side of the great divide, consider any opposition to Walmart as “protectionism” that is reminiscent of India’s days of socialism.

Most of these people on the “right,” fail to understand that the phrase “free market capitalism” is an oxymoron.

In a true free market, competition will prevent accumulation or aggregation of capital, making “capitalism” moot.  In a true free market economy, power is not derived from “capital” but from individual effort and ability – from one’s गुण and कर्म.

Only in Indic polity is there a triad of freedom.

  1. November 28, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Good one parag .. the comparison is very apt.. the license given to British east india company, is the base for european foothold in india.. i think, its only mughals who gave such warm welcome.. NOT hindu kings..

    Do you have any account of Hindu kings offering this? To my knowledge, Shivaji kept British at bay..

  2. November 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks Senthil.

    Indic polity did not authorize kings to grant licenses for trading.

    However, EEIC was not looking to trade – they were pirates looking for exclusivity in contracts on land. Shivaji’s naval warfare with these pirates and then attacks on EEIC’s warehouse in Surat, indicate that he saw the EEIC for what it was – a pirate company – not a “trader.”

  3. November 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm

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