British energy company Cairn is set to become the latest in a long list of predatory institutions that drain the Indian people of their resources for profit. A long-running corporate tax case concluded that the Indian government must pay Cairn $1.2 billion in damages after it broke the 2014 UK-India bilateral investment treaty by claiming Cairn’s 10% stake in its Indian subsidiary.
The company sent a letter to the Indian government saying they “expect early resolution, failing which they will expect Cairn to pursue the award in conformity with its rights under the treaty”. They are considering seizing assets of the Indian people by force if they do not soon get their way.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not yet given any indication that the Indian people plan on coughing up the demanded fee.
As an agreement between an enriched, powerful nation and an impoverished one who’s stolen wealth the colonisers sit upon, any wordsmith would be hard-pressed to show that such an arrangement is consensual. The power dynamic that’s allowed Britain to strongarm India into contractually surrendering its resources is regularly considered irrelevant by the international tribunals and courts that often oversee neo-colonialism’s enforcement.
UK’s chancellor Rishi Sunak has benefited hugely from tax-dodging in India. His wife Akshata Murty owns a 5% stake in IMM, which capitalised on a loophole in the tax haven island Mauritius to dodge paying the 20% on capital gains that India desperately needs for schools, healthcare and infrastructure as well as other fees.
The chief executive of campaign group Tax Justice Network said that “if the minimising of Indian tax revenue is ‘standard’ for British investors, that’s not a justification, it’s a condemnation” and IMM’s chief executive, Jasper Reid said it was “nothing out of the ordinary”.
Reid, who fittingly holds a British Empire Medal, is right that this predatory, violent practice is normal. The World Bank, which is overwhelmingly run by the Western anglophone countries, ordered Venezuela to pay American oil firm ConocoPhillips more then $8bn in 2007. This was because this capitalist institution did not deem it fair that the people of Venezuela own the resources under their feet and so had them compensate a fossil fuel lobbyist with 3% of their GDP!
Devos, a US-backed satellite company is also currently trying to appropriate funds from the Indian government.
Market-watchers have grimly predicted that India’s current tug of war with these powerful institutions may damage India’s representation for upholding these contracts its strong-armed into. This is essentially business-talk for the threat of a capital strike by the companies who continue to benefit from the brutal colonialism India was first subjected to in the 19th century. Just as workers band together when they need to defend one another, capital’s organisational capacity to oppress has always been formidable and Modi can expect global resources to be diverted to more subservient lands.
Western media has been largely silent in the vast range of atrocities that Modi’s BJP government has committed outside of its taxation policy. The fostering of the hostile atmosphere towards Muslims, The brutal crackdown on Kashmir where the internet has been restriceed for 4 months, and the 300million Indians protesting against his govrrnment has largely gone under the radar of British and Western media.
The BBC did however manage to find space to call India’s resistance to multinational parasites draining its resources “tax terror”.
Modi’s government does many horrible things to its citizens in its quest for anti-worker Hindu supremacism. However, this does not mean the poverty-stricken country should continue to be subjected to the same brutality and domination that laid the foundations for predatory companies to first colonise the world. In the fight between parasitic capital and sovereignty, capital continues to try and suck every last drop it can, regardless if those resources are needed for liberty, independence, or survival.
Mali Kakembo, is a member of the YCL’s Wales branch