The other day a friend asked me, “I have often heard about India being a third-world country. What exactly is the third world?” It struck me that most of us are ignorant about what that exactly means. I said to my friend that “third world” was an euphemism for “desperately poor extremely underdeveloped starving nations utterly misgoverned by unimaginably corrupt kleptocrats.” And, I added, as a consequence, the third world is a world of human-created misery.
The images of the desperately poor are heart-breaking. Imagine how hard it must be to be one of the billion extremely impoverished people. They are skin and bones, suffering from chronic hunger, malnutrition, stunted physically and mentally retarded.
A billion or so. We cannot imagine such large numbers. Then there are the leaders of these billions. They stash away in off-shore banks billions that they steal from their countries. These guys are well-fed, enjoy extreme protection from terrorists — often they are the guys who hob-nob with the terrorists, anyway.
The Guardian (UK) reports that Wikileaks revealed that the Sudanese president ‘stashed $9bn in UK banks‘
Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has siphoned as much as $9bn out of his impoverished country, and much of it may be stashed in London banks, according to secret US diplomatic cables that recount conversations with the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court.
Some of the funds may be held by the part-nationalised Lloyds Banking Group, according to prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who told US officials it was time to go public with the scale of Bashir’s theft in order to turn Sudanese public opinion against him.
“Ocampo suggested if Bashir’s stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at $9bn), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a ‘crusader’ to that of a thief,”
Note that the leaders of the advanced industrialized economies, aka developed countries, know about the kleptrocracy that keeps the third world in miserable hunger. But it is not in their interests to reveal this to the people. Wikileaks, as Ocampo notes, changes public opinion. It educates the people.
Note that the people are starving but the leaders are plump and comfortable. The people’s desperate struggle to keep body and soul together is in contrast with their leaders’ billions in Swiss banks. Sudan is a small country (45 million population) relative to India. Still Mr al-Bashir’s $9 billion is peanuts compared to what Indian political and business leaders have accumulated: a staggering one thousand five hundred billion ($1,500,000,000,000) abroad.
Having so much money, these leaders can then talk to the leaders of the advanced industrialized countries as peers. They are in it together. The 3rd world leaders are members of the club. They confide in each other and exchange words that they would not want the rest of us to hear.
“You know, the problem with the unwashed masses is that they are too uppity,” one may say to the other at a nice little cosy lunch at one of their fancy mansions in the capital of some third world country. “They are the cause of terrorism, don’t you know.”
The people, of course, don’t know what their leaders really think about them. They are fed the usual crap by the newspapers and TV — which incidentally are packed with puppets of the regime.
Here’s how Elliot Abrams in a “Council on Foreign Relations” op-ed, Dictators, Democracies, and WikiLeaks (Dec 1, 2010), puts it
The second and most important reason foreign leaders ask for secrecy is that they are protecting themselves from their own populations. Dictators and authoritarians don’t tell their people the truths they tell us; their public speeches are meant to manipulate, not to inform. Instead of educating their citizens, as one might have to do in a democracy, they posture and preen on state-owned television stations and in state-controlled newspapers. Their approach is striking: Tell the truth to foreigners but not to your own population.
Wikileaks allows us a peek into what’s really going on behind the scene. It tells us that one “Prince Charming” believes that Pakistani-funded Islamic terrorism is not really as much as a threat to India as a bunch of Hindu radicals.
Some of us have always suspected that the US (and previously the USSR) has the leaders of third world countries on their payroll. Wikileaks provides evidence.
One thing we need to remember. The US is the most powerful nation on the planet. It did not get there by not fixing the rest of the world to suit its purpose. It had to — and has to — control the third world. It cannot post US soldiers in every nook and cranny of the world. The simplest way to get around that is to buy up the third world leaders. India is not an exception to that strategy.
That brings me to another related point. The US wants “buyable” third world leaders. The US will be very unhappy if India gets a prime minister who cannot be bought. So it will do its best to support someone pliable (say, for example, a half-breed whose loyalties are divided between two cultures and countries) and do its best to prevent an Indian nationalist to get to New Delhi.
Wikileaks will tell us if this theory of mine is correct.
There’s no need to belabor the point: wikileaks tells us what we need to know. It is one of the best instruments of public education. We — the citizens of India — have the responsibility to throw out the kleptocrats who have ruled India for so many decades. It is up to us to free India from the kakistocracy that the Congress has made it into.
If even after this, the public does not wise up and drag the kleptocrats to the gallows, then of course they deserve the hunger and deprivation they suffer.
It’s all karma, neh?
 My definition of the third world — “desperately poor extremely underdeveloped starving nations utterly misgoverned by unimaginably corrupt kleptocrats” — is only an operational definition. The etymological definition of course differs from it. The Wikipedia puts it nicely.
The term “Third World” arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned or not moving at all with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World) or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions.
The term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world.
 Kakistocracy – government by the most corrupt and the least principled. See this Feb 2008 post for more on that: Of Kakistocracies, Principals and Agents.