Washcon Syndrome

Washcon Syndrome or Washington Consensus Syndrome is similar to the Stockholm Syndrome in many ways. But a major difference is that victims of Stockholm Syndrome recover when freed from captivity, but those suffering from Washcon Syndrome, mostly remain afflicted all their life with this illness. A large number of Indians suffer from this syndrome specially those who have served in US controlled international institutions implementing Washington Consensus and hence have been in constant touch or under psychological influence or monetary temptations or pressure of the Americans. The illness becomes more acute if they have been educated in English media schools and universities and worse if in English and US universities.

What is Stockholm Syndrome?

Stockholm Syndrome is an extraordinary phenomenon when a hostage begins to identify with and grows sympathetic to his captor. It was named for an event in Stockholm in August, 1973 when an armed Swedish robber took some bank workers captive, held them for six days and exercised control over their hearts and minds. Another famous example of the Stockholm Syndrome is Patty Hearst, heir to the US publishing fortune, who was kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army. She later joined the SLA and participated in a bank robbery with them. More recently in 2002, a US girl Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped by a couple for 9 months. Elizabeth repeatedly had the chance to run away or ask for help but did not. It is another example of the Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim had formed emotional bonds with her captors.

Stockholm Syndrome is created when captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. Rescue attempts are also seen as a threat; since it's likely the captive would be injured during such attempts.

It must be noted that these symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress. The behavior is also considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse, and has been observed in battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors.

What is Washington Consensus!

"Stabilize, privatize, and liberalize" became the mantra of a generation of technocrats sent from Washington to control and manipulate the economies of poor countries.

The phrase Washington Consensus was originally coined in 1989 by John Williamson to describe a set of ten economic policy prescriptions that he considered to constitute a "standard" reform package promoted for crisis-racked countries by Washington-based institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and U.S. Treasury Department. (In fact it could cover other institutions where US, UK and other Western nations decide policies for their continued domination and hegemony)

Later Williamson realized that the term came to be used in a different and broader sense; as a synonym for market fundamenatlism. In this broader sense, Williamson admits, it was criticized by even by George Soros (!). The Washington Consensus has also been criticized by many nationalist leaders in Latin America, Africa and Asia and non-neo-liberal economists .The phrase has become associated with neoliberal policies in general and drawn into the broader debate over the expanding role of the free market, constraints upon the states, and Washington/US influence on other countries' national sovereignty.

IMF‘s "austerity programmes," demand increasing taxes even when the economy is weak, in order to generate government revenue and balance budget deficits. They are often advised to lower their corporate tax rate. These policies have been criticized by Joseph E. Stiglitz, former chief economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank, in his book Globalization and its Discontents. He argued that by converting to a more Monetarist approach, the fund no longer had a valid purpose, as it was designed to provide funds for countries to carry out Keynesian reflations, and that while the IMF "was not participating in a conspiracy, but it was reflecting the interests and ideology of the Western financial community".

Many critics assert that the ‘reforms’ led to destabilization as in the Argentine economic crises (of 1999-2002) and in exacerbating Latin America's economic inequalities. Critics of the Washington Consensus are often accused of being associated with socialism (as if it is crime) and/or anti-globalism ( Never mind that under the charade of globalization, over a US trillion dollars were transferred out of Russia to the West following the collapse of Communism and implementation of neoliberal economic policies during Yeltsin regime)

US scholar Dani Rodrik, Harvard Professor of International Political Economy, in his paper Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion! also joined the critics. Williamson himself has summarized the overall results on growth, employment and poverty reduction in many countries as "disappointing, to say the least".

Rodrik pointed out that while China and India increased their economies' reliance on free market forces to a limited extent, their general economic policies remained the exact opposite to the Washington Consensus' main recommendations. Both had high levels of protectionism, little privatization with extensive industrial policies planning, and lax fiscal and financial policies through the 1990s. But they turned out to be successes. This was perhaps a result of resistance against agents of Washington Consensus institutions by Indian civil servants much maligned in Western and Indian corporate media.

According to Rodrik: "While the lessons drawn by proponents and skeptics differ, it is fair to say that nobody really believes in the Washington Consensus anymore. The question now is not whether the Washington Consensus is dead or alive; it is what will replace it. Many economists claim that among other things those policies involved major turns in the direction of greater reliance upon market forces.

The Washcon Syndrome

In 1960s when I joined the Indian diplomatic service, after a fiercely competitive civil service examination, one reason was the lure of foreign postings, travel and acquiring west produced whitegoods, then a status symbol as locally produced goods were shoddy. Officers from other civil services say the powerful Indian Administrative Service (IAS) would try to join the economic affairs department in the Ministry of Finance. They were almost sure to join and do well, if they learnt the mantra of Washington Consensus and religiously and unambiguously followed it. To the best of the author’s knowledge, except one or two, most of them then went on deputation to IMF, World Bank, Asian development Banks and whatever their tenure, came back loaded with foreign goodies and a hefty pension marked in US dollars. This assured Washington of loyalty of these Indians till they retired and even thereafter.

In other ministries too, say of Industry, Commerce, even Agriculture, all officers, even other than IAS tried to join the international relations division, where if they imbibed and followed the tenets of the Washington Consensus, they could be get clearance from Washington for highly paid jobs in UNDP, UNIDO, FAO and other international organizations and hefty pensions and other benefits. Thus an important cadre of Washington Consensus followers was formed and inducted into the steelframe of Indian bureaucracy. It is there for all to see and their proclivity to promote US interests at the cost of India is crystal clear. The tragedy is that with the brainwashing and a lifetime of positioning to follow the precepts of Washington Consensus and please their American masters, these Indians suffering from the malaise of Washcon Syndrome, behave like well trained circus dogs and automatically do the master’s bidding. In the words of George Orwell, "Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks the whip. But the really well-trained dog is the one that turns somersaults when there is no whip."

As for sold out Indians in media, academia and so-called think tank and intelligence agencies watch for this space. While Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims and others try to reach Godhead collectively, a Hindu under Brahmanical guidance tries to arrive at even his spiritual salvation alone. In material world, the self is above everything else, with most Indians becoming very focused in gaining their financial salvation with little consideration for the interests of the collective community.

Victor Yushchenko

Washington has positioned such personnel all around the world , say the outgoing President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko. As the head of the newly-formed National Bank of Ukraine , Yushchenko enforced in 1993 IMF's usual shock therapy economic medicine which impoverished its economy. As it has been done all over the world for Washington’s benefit. He created a new Ukrainian national currency, which resulted in a dramatic plunge in real wages, with bread, electricity and transportation prices increasing by three, six and nine times respectively. The standard of living tumbled.

Yushchenko was appointed Prime Minister in 1999 because of loans which IMF promised. In the now discredited IMF programmes, he closed down part of the country’s manufacturing base. Yushchenko also tried to undermine bilateral trade in oil and natural gas with Russia and demanded that this trade be conducted in US dollars rather than in terms of commodity barter. In 2001, he was dismissed following a non-confidence vote in the parliament - "Viktor Yushchenko has fulfilled obligations to the IMF better and more accurately than his duties to citizens of his our country, Olena Markosyan, a Kharkiv-based analyst, opined in Ukrainian centrist daily Den" (BBC Monitoring, 16 Nov 2004).

Yushchenko was installed as President – a US proxy, five years ago by Washington franchised street revolution similar to those in Serbia and Georgia with massive financial support and training and other inputs from US based institutions. In recent elections as a result of following Washington Consensus policies, only five percent of Ukrainians voted for him.

Yushchenko’s wife Kateryna, an American citizen born in Chicago, had been an official in both the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and in the US State Department. She had come to Ukraine as a representative of the US-Ukraine Foundation controlled by conservative Republicans in Washington.


India is full of personnel suffering from Washcon Syndrome in very key positions, especially in the UPA government, not that the BJP dominated NDA government was any better. Just look around to see all those who worked for Washington Consensus institutes and the damage they are now causing to India’s long term vital interests, whether in regard to energy security or the very sovereignty of Indian territory and security of its people.

India has gone out of its way to annoy Iran, a possible ally against Pakistan in Afghanistan and for energy security; and Russia, a steadfast friend in our hours of peril and unlikely to have adverse position to our strategic interests. Why annoy or irritate Beijing to please Washington, which has shown scant regard for India’s concern in Afghanistan or anywhere else and India’s interests. Even in economic domain, except that the Indian banks have not been allowed to indulge in reckless investment banking as in USA, more or less policies similar to Washington which are unraveling the US economy are being followed in India. Mani Shankar Aiyar, a younger colleague and friend from the Indian foreign service was relieved of his Petroleum and Gas portfolio, for attempting to ensure energy security, with US ambassador in Delhi braying for his head publically and succeeding.

Mera Bharat Mahan (My India is great)

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author E-mail


More by :  K. Gajendra Singh

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