Geo political significance of the city of Calcutta for South Asia and the strong cultural homeopathy
Pushan Kumar Dutta
Kolkata as a dying city or a city of joy has been exonnerated by many philosophers who visiited the city.The joy of visiting the land of Tagore and Ray leaves many elated for both entering and leaving the city .They say there is romance in the putrefied habits of the city. Dark alleys, ideologoues termed ‘addas’ as people brimming with confidence at tea stalls; habits which never changed as people surrendered to a kind of cultural homeopathy to relieve themselves of rules set by themselves ; but is Kolkata of the future going to be the same for US and China setting foot for the strategic expansion for South Asian hubs of Malaysia, Indonesia and even China and Indian elite looking for a secure place to die in their last days . Let’s look back three hundred years back. Calcutta is founded as a trading post under the British in 1690 a year when the European countries were looking for strategic expansion. With direct roads linking to Delhi, Madras and the rest of India and yet serving as a lynch pin to the rest of the north east. Kolkata is there for grabs. Poor infrastructure as a tool can be developed for building new cities massive towers of excellence. Kolkata is the closest to the Chickens neck of Eastern India with the tea-plantations. You hold the neck you orchestrate the rest; that will serve as a tool for the rest of India to follow. Kolkata offers an excellent bio reserve and the oil reserves of the North- East have to move through Kolkata .There is no alternative route out. Kolkata gives excellent communication with the seas as a boon for the Goliath navy of the imperialists which again is a boon as with time you conquer the entire Eastern Ghats and get control of the waters of Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Kolkata can be directly connected by Land to Chittagong another port of Power and provides excellent route to Kumming, China ,Bhutan Nepal, Myanmar and you get via foot to the booming markets of Singapore Thailand and the rest of South Asia. I want to formulate the rules of the game that will be followed systematically by the world power as visualized by Kaplan in his book Monsoon. Now, as we enter this new era, the winds of time seem to be shifting towards the East, as China and India emerge to exert their influence on the world stage. As Mr. Kaplan studies this shift, from the Horn of Africa, past the tense arc of Islam, past the Indian subcontinent, all the way to the Indonesian Archipelago, he sees this area as a place where he believes the struggle for religious freedom, energy independence, and the fight for democracy will all take place. Kolkata served as the most improved hub .Lets transit to the present day. With Kolkata being a secure hub with favorable climate and natural disasters diverted away to Orissa and Bangladesh, it serves as an idealistic vantage point for overthrowing the idea that Kolkata is a dying city. It will and mind you will be ideal colony with its subversive ideologies and a submerging intelligentsia for future take overseas and a future colony of present day imperialists. The nature of Kolkata remains the same with both Chinese and Jew and Armenian settlers having come to the City three hundred years back. Kolkata provides the ideal backdrop for Asia’s two strongest pivots for forming the outer membrane for their global status in Australia and Israel. The rulers overturned the elite polity at its foot and the intelligentsia afraid to decide but ready to work will culminate as the faction for US and China agents of change or better termed as the counsels of rule. The emerging multi-polar world Mr. Kaplan envisions has the Indian Ocean as its center. Why? For example, it is the Indian Ocean, the third-largest body of water in the world that serves as the global energy interstate. Nearly 50 percent of the world's container traffic and 70 percent of the world's petroleum product travel through these waters. It is also where the political future of Islam will most likely be determined. It makes sense, Mr. Kaplan argues, that if America wants to remain relevant in an ever-changing world, we will need to concentrate our power in this vibrant, evolving geographic sphere that cannot be ignored. If Satyajit Ray envisioned the jewels transmitted to far-lands and the rulers serving as the social polity; Let us look at the present day exchange. The Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean has been part with the entire arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian Archipelago. It is literally the world's global energy interstate, where all the oil and natural gas from the Arabian Peninsula and the Iranian Plateau are shipped across the Indian Ocean, through the Strait of Malacca and Lombok Strait, up to the burgeoning middle-class fleshpots of Asia in the Chinese coast, in South Korea, in Japan, et cetera." Indian Ocean is vast and yet Predictable. What is unique about it is that it is reversible. The winds flow in one direction—northeast, southwest—steadily for six months a year, then reverse themselves by 180 degrees and flow in the other direction for six months a year. And they are utterly predictable, unlike other wind systems around the world. Because they are utterly predictable, it makes sailing distances calculable in advance. In other words, sailors could calculate exactly when to sail, and how much time it would take to get to a place. This has been the pattern since antiquity. The Bay of Bengal is likely to influence of the maritime influences in the area. The Bay of Bengal is generally more stratified than the Arabian Sea as the upper-ocean is warmer and the much higher rainfall creates barrier layers in the near surface (haline stratification). Thus cyclones in the Arabian Sea generally produce stronger surface cooling than in the Bay of Bengal due to enhanced vertical mixing, which limits cyclone intensification. The Indian Ocean, unlike the Atlantic or the Pacific, did not have to wait for the age of steamships to unite it. It may be vast, many thousands of miles across from the Indonesian Archipelago to South Africa or East Africa, but it is in a way a small, intimate ocean. Kolkata has the deepest inland sea-port in Gangasagar. West Bengal is the largest producer of jute that can turn to bags and has best provision for fresh river water. Above all, opium cultivation has the largest growth in Bengal. Large opium growth in control measures serves as excellent measurements in the production of casein which not only was used in technical, non-food applications such as adhesives for wood, in paper coating, leather finishing but also as an addictive in fast food consumption. Kolkata and Indian ports had always served as excellent gateways for privileged and under privileged markets as a welcoming port right from the early centuries. The ships that would take a route via the salty seas would have always needed a break-point to load in fresh water, livestock and other feasible goods for their journey forward. It's why you have large Malay communities from South East Asia living in Madagascar, right off the coast of East Africa. It's why you have large Yemeni communities from the Arabian Peninsula living in Indonesia. It's why you have large populations of Omanis from the Arabian Peninsula living in East Africa. It's why Gujaratis from northwestern India are everywhere in the Indian Ocean, particularly in East Africa. It's all because of the historical legacy of this geographical fact of the monsoon winds. That leads us to another realization. If everyone was everywhere along this ocean, it kind of does violence to Cold War area studies, which artificially separated the world. At the end of World War II, the United States found itself as a great global power and it had to manage the world to an extent, and it needed experts for everywhere. So it divided up the world. We had the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, South East Asia, East Asia and other regions. University departments, think-tanks, and the U.S. government did this. It's where China is investing heavily in the Middle East, and it is particularly in Saudi Arabia and in Iran. It's where India in South Asia wants to build gas pipelines toward South East Asia. It's where the Chinese are prospecting for copper in Afghanistan. If there were ever even semi-stability in Afghanistan, it could become a nexus of pipeline and road networks that would take gas from Turkmenistan across Pakistan into South Asia and then across to the Malacca Straits, to China, or directly by pipeline from Turkmenistan across to Uzbekistan into western China. We are entering a world where these area divisions are breaking down and new cluster outfits are emerging and merging with the international business order. A geopolitical diversification along a sea with different food habits dressing statements and equal distribution of the rich and poor is something which is symbolic of that than an Indian Ocean map. Focusing on the Indian Ocean allows you to deal with the whole world without drifting into the bland nostrums of globalization. It allows you to kind of see a picture of the world while focusing on one particular area that shows that, rather than subdivisions, what you have is a flowing, organic continuum of economics and culture. Another thing about the Indian Ocean: It shows you a different take on Islam. Americans tend to think of Islam as a desert religion, supposedly prone to the extremities of thought to which deserts give rise. But Islam is also a great seafaring faith, with Arab and Persian soldiers in the medieval centuries, before the arrival of Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese in South Asia. These Arab and Persian sailors sailed across the longitudes from the greater Middle East all the way to the South Seas and the Far East. If you go back and look at the book Sinbad the Sailor and Sinbad's voyages, Sinbad was an Omani who sailed out of Basra in Iraq. If you look at the descriptions of his voyages, it takes you to the Andaman Islands and the Bay of Bengal, to Borneo, to various places in South Asia and South East Asia. Sinbad was a story that encapsulated the trading adventures of these early Muslim traders. The Islam that developed in the tropics, in the Far East, was very much a cosmopolitan religion because it was spread gradually by sophisticated traders, rather than suddenly by the sword, as it was across North Africa. Because it was spread gradually, it overlaid neatly onto the indigenous Javanese and Malay cultures in what is today the Indonesian Archipelago and Malaysia. So it gives you a whole new kind of cultural representation of Islam. I contend that we are going back in a way to the era before the Portuguese, to the era when you had Arab and Persian sailors all over the Far East, which is why you have remains of 8th century mosques in the cities of China. We are back to an era when you had early Ming Dynasty Chinese navigators in Yemen, making the hajj to Mecca if they were of Mongolian Islamic descent, and back to an age where the Chinese are all over the Middle East, when Middle Easterners are all over Asia. In other words, we are back to a trading system where in this case the Chinese will be the first among equals in the area. When Vasco da Gama sailed to India, he didn't discover India. What he did was he reacquainted Europeans with the monsoon wind system that allowed him to go to India. It was Arab navigators in what is today Kenya that helped him do that. The Portuguese were not the first Westerners in the Indian Ocean. The ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans were the first. They have even found Roman coins in West Bengal, up the Hooghly River near present-day Kolkata. This knowledge of the wind system was lost until Portuguese navigators reacquainted Europe with it. These navigators instituted basically a 500-year domination by the West of the Greater Indian Ocean from the Horn of Africa to the South China Sea. Following the Portuguese were the Dutch, the French in the southern part of South Asia, the British, and finally the Americans in the guise of the American Navy. The Kolkata port has a three layer port and high tier of natural security. There is an outer port that in deep sea followed by a port at Haldia and further down to the larger port in Kolkata . There are feasibility studies and visions of building a canal across the Kra Isthmus in southern Thailand, of land bridge projects using rail and roads to take cargo from the Bay of Bengal tide of the Malay Peninsula to the South China Sea side of the Malay Peninsula. Dubai Ports World and some others are doing feasibility studies on this. There are feasibility studies and visions of building a canal across the Kra Isthmus in southern Thailand, of land bridge projects using rail and roads to take cargo from the Bay of Bengal side of the Malay Peninsula to the South China Sea side of the Malay Peninsula. Dubai Ports World and some others are doing feasibility studies on this. In other words, the Indian Ocean does not have to be totally dependent on the Strait of Malacca to connect it with the western Pacific, and the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean could be more of an organic continuum. In thinking strategically about the Indian Ocean, look at it this way. Think of China moving vertically south and India moving horizontally east and west and in the course of that overlapping. India and China developed separately two great world civilizations separated by the Himalayas. It's a rivalry that will ultimately be held in check because India and China will constitute the world's greatest trading relationship. Their economies are very complementary. But let me go back to China moving south, and India moving east and west. China does not have a coastline on the Indian Ocean, but the Indian Ocean was never far from China's gaze, going back to the Early Modern era. China is presently building or helping to build deep-water ports in Gwadar in Pakistan, in Chittagong in Bangladesh, in Kyaukphyu in Burma, and in Hambantota in the southern tip of Sri Lanka. All these ports serve as port but do not double up to be a International City of Choice. Calcutta will be the maneuvering tool for the pattern analysis of ports and designing specifications. Kolkata also facilitates as a multi-hop port for reaching future international cities. With ports clearing the shore for greater co operation countries, in the South Asia will look for greater collaboration with both China and USA. Kolkata will be the best port and international logistic hub for building an elite polity. It is secure from natural disasters, crowded by people who are ready to work at cheapest rate a regular supply from foreign ports; dearth of jobs and organizational duties and finally an intelligent and a cultural society. These are all fruitful to make a city the lynch pin of future colonial and industrial policies for future bene-facto governments. Now coming to the point why we have mentioned Kolkata as a center of cultural homeopathy. Kolkata and especially Bengal has the strong statement of dealing with chemicals of any kind. The British often realized during the war waging that Bengal was good in dealing with chemicals of any kind especially in the making of rude bombs in their fight for the historical independence movement to the work of alternative medicine where ‘Homeopathy’ in a first of its kind was used by Bengali doctors to relieve the pains of the patient. Bengal and Kolkata works on this cultural homeopathy, where the extracts of the Indian sentiments are mixed into a number of potent doses often leading to the recovery of the state without any side effects.