It's very intriguing if you were to simply observe the ongoing process (so called) of signing the Nuclear Deal with the USA.
If one was to look at it from a ‘negotiators’ point of view, there are certain very well known tactics being used by everyone involved. There are also certain well known flaws being unknowingly committed by some.
These tactics and flaws in negotiating terms are called gambits. Gambits of course is a term used in Chess. Negotiations, especially, when both sides are well versed with the tactics and counter-tactics, is no different than a game of Chess where each maneuver (or non maneuver) can cost dearly.
The First Case: George Bush versus Manmohan Singh.
The age old, common sense gambit, that we wouldn't dare to think holds a chance to succeed in the modern business world - still works for a high power negotiation as this. Before I attempt to bare my thought process - let us first examine the positions of the two sides.
George Bush for whatever reason is very keen to see the deal through. Presumably because of ‘economical’ reasons and the advantage or benefits it may give to the companies in America. Since when has he cared about economic development, God only knows. However he is very keen to see this through and so is the next Republican candidate. May be they have their reasons - Economy for sure. The others might be a footprint in history or a more likely assumption is election funding, maybe. Who knows?
Manmohan Singh is equally keen to see this through. The ‘economic reformist', the ‘first liberal visionary', the ‘father of stock market budgets’ is absolutely certain that this is it. His team is sure that they have squeezed US into granting as much as was possible. They are keen to do it. No one knows the exact content of the agreement, however it's been marketed well enough to assume that this will be good for us in the long term. Of course the fact that its Manmohan Singh helps to validate this. Furthermore, Congress knows that the next government, be it BJP or Congress itself, will seal the deal. Make some cosmetic changes here and there but will seal it and take credit for it. Congress does not want to lose out. Manmohan Singh wants it. What better than this as a final imprint on India's economic history.
There are two gambits that US has masterfully played: Number one is “Good guy, bad guy" - In a typical business situation it means two people working together one friendly, the other threatening. You would have experienced it plenty of times. It happens all the time in real estate negotiations. Also happens in a lot of legal battles.
How has America used it? “India has got a dream deal. They have got more than they could have bargained for. The next government, specifically if it were to be Obama, is very unlikely to go through with this. They will want to re-negotiate the agreement. Bush is being very kind. " . . Isn't it wonderful how this still works. As if George Bush is some long lost friend of India's. The truth is that he's never been. So easy for an entire nation to assume that this is not planned by Republicans and Democrats. Breaking News: It Is. Developed democracies are way ahead of us. A give away to this fact is that they are not even voicing a ‘superficial’ dissatisfaction.
The other related gambit used is called the ‘Withdraw Offer Principle’ - Take an example of a sales situation where you are selling a product for say 100 bucks. The buyer asks for a discount. You say 95. The buyer says 93. You say you need to check with your manager if that is possible and will let him know tomorrow. You go back to him and say that we had a discussion around it, I am very embarrassed to inform you that our CFO intervened, did some calculations and revised the policy based on some calculations, saying that even 95 is not possible as we incur a loss on that discount. So I am very sorry but I'll have withdraw the 5 Re offer. 9 out of 10 cases: the buyer instantly says but you already made that offer, you can't go back on your word - and you sell at 95. It's a widely used gambit.
India is the 9 out of 10. US (Democrats) is threatening to withdraw the offer, once it's in power.
The Second Case: Left-Congress Deadlock.
One of the underlying rules, rather a premise of Win-Win negotiations (I don't personally believe there is another kind) is this - Never Narrow Negotiations Down To One Issue. Why? Because when you do, there has to be a winner and a loser.
This is exactly what has gone wrong with discussions between the Left and the Congress. Day one, itself, it was publicly narrowed down to one issue. The Left had the power in that particular process and threatened to withdraw support and topple the government if it went ahead. Congress had no choice but to retreat and buy time.
The sad part is that the Left never used its power to reach a decision or a negotiated agreement. Its one of the most common errors made by a party that holds power in a negotiating process - that you don't reach a decision. By a decision, I mean a negotiated agreement. There are plenty of examples in our history on this - The Kashmir issue, Setu project, Afzal Khan death penalty, the Mandal commission, the Emergency or even the Godhra riots - Gujrat is not resolving it because they have the power.
Once a party to a negotiating process have the power, they get fooled into believing that they will be the only winner. They can get all. The history suggests otherwise. Equations change rapidly once they start to change.
The mistake that Left made it not realize that the deal is inevitable - whether with the Congress or with the BJP in the next government - Imagine if BJP was to win the next elections and bring the deal to the parliament. They don't even need any support. Congress cannot oppose it.
Left, in hindsight, had they kept the main issue aside, could have got what they wanted - Policy changes to suit them (or their voters), petroleum price waivers for certain states, SEZ allocations, a possible non-compete from Congress for Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, perhaps a next president nominee. . . endless.
As silly as it sounds - no one negotiated - they only debated.
The Third Case: Samajwadi Party (SP)
Congress has very smartly used the ‘Mediator’ principle. SP has the power to save the government. The perceived threat for SP is losing the Muslim vote. who does Congress bring in - Dr. Kalam. Can anyone on Earth imagine a situation where the great president will be opposed to ‘Nuclear’ Deal. Considering the Congress opposed his re-election as president, obviously then he will be perceived as neutral. Moreover BJP is unlikely to challenge Dr. Kalam. They supported his re-election and his 2020 vision.
Mediator Gambit in negotiations is bringing in a third party, someone who must be accepted as neutral. This is used all the time in ‘out of court’ settlements. It has found a perfect fit in the current situation.
SP though has gained where Left has lost - A negotiated arrangement on UP seats is what is somewhat in the open. However I suspect that they will now start ‘Nibbling’. The Nibbling principle says this - Somethings are more easily achieved later in the negotiations as introducing them early may mean a ‘trade-off’. For example their demands on resignations of the finance and petroleum minister may already have been traded or rejected on some other grant. However watch out for a lot of nibbling now. One such nibble has already taken place - Mukesh Ambani's jets! The second one has started - Getting Rahul Gandhi to be appointed in charge of UP coalition.
Nibbling is actually a kind of ‘cheap’ tactic but works on a simple behavioral principle that once you have made a decision - you like to validate it so you are susceptible to action in it. For example - you just bought a car - now you are the most vulnerable to nibbling by the salesman - as you in your mind want to validate your decision and make it better - accessories are coming and I guess you'll be buying something - even if it is a foot-mat. Conversely even the salesman is susceptible to your ‘nibbling’ - he'll give it free if you ask. It's a matter of who negotiates.
Finally, I am no political theoretic, neither am I a very keen observer. The realities of this particular situation were indeed intriguing and I think you will understand the point I am attempting to make. Getting back to negotiations do remember these facts:
1- You are negotiating all the time.
2- Anything you want is presently controlled by someone else.
3- There are three critical factors to every negotiation - power, information and TIME.
4- Never assume what the other party wants - negotiations are with people, not parties.
5- Never narrow down to one single issue and
6. Negotiations have to be Win-Win. If the other person is not thanking you at the end of the process - It wont sustain.
Chetan Walia: is a creative, on-the-edge, speaker with unquestionable expertise on sales and breakthrough achievement. Chetan is known for programs that are funny, insightful, and in setting landmarks in learning.
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