Despite rising concern in “the West” over CO2 emissions and climate change, the booming consumer demand for cars has emerged as a central and visible feature of India’s rising economic growth. The New York Times describes how accelerating demand has outpaced regulation to produce comical dilemmas like this one:
Delhi issued more than 300,000 drivers’ licenses last year, which could be seen as either a feat of bureaucratic efficiency or Indian ingenuity. At one city licensing office this week, the test consisted of turning on the ignition and driving in a wide circle that took about a minute. Ramfali, a professional chauffeur, said he scored a license even though he cannot read. Mr. Sharma paid about $40, or five times the official fee, to an independent broker who fetched him a license in half an hour.
After reading this wildly entertaining article, I realized driving in India is remarkably akin to certain views of international relations — regardless of (inter)national norms, drivers (think states) will do whatever they can maximize their power and get what they want by exploiting every open crevice and fragility.
Most of the vehicles could be considered states but you can extend the metaphor to the competing actors for the road: fast-peddling cyclists, nimble but low-tech pedestrians, and the occasional lumbering elephant (think transnational actors like multi-nationals, terrorist networks, and the lumbering international organizations and bureaucracies, ever-trying to keep pace).
The above video of an Indian thoroughfare provides visual corroboration of my thesis: out of a sea of anarchy emerges a strange but fluid order. And particularly adept at exploiting this order is an actor with few scruples or inhibitions about exercising power when it can. Watch closely for the white car (shall we name it the Vladimir?) at the top center of the youtube screen emerging at 1:20 that flouts the norms of the existing order and likely heads off to make mincemeat of Herbie the love bug.
— Sameer Lalwani