Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Democracy Of Dunces

Of Arafat, it was frequently said, he lost no opportunity to lose an opportunity.

Alas, the same is true of our Indian democracy of dunces.

In this crucial geopolitical moment -- serendipitously pregnant with strategic possibility -- India's democracy is typically missing in action.

Global strategic equations are being re-defined. UN Security Council (which excludes India) has been devalued. G8 (which excludes India) is finally sending warm feelers. EU is in demographic crisis and economic stagnation. The Atlantic alliance is ever less relevant -- particularly to the US. West Asia is at war.

India is -- by sheer accident -- being courted by many major powers. US, Japan, EU, Russia, China, Iran, Israel and now, even Saudi Arabia.

If there's a time to assert ourselves, this is surely it. We finally have diplomatic capital which we should be spending.

Instead, we are allowing our neighborhood, where we can have the most infuence, to burn itself down. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan are all in deep trouble. As a great power aspirant, isn't India expected to flex its muscles and enforce its writ in these blighted countries?

We should be enforcing political modernity among our neighbors. Instead, as C. Rajamohan ably chronicles in Indian Express, our failed intervention in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s has sapped India's will to take hard decisions on managing regional crises.

How can we possibly frolic with great powers at day if, at night, we make our bed in a burnt out neighborhood?

Now, it's easy to blame our political leadership. But, as must be done in a democracy, we need to start with the man in the mirror. It's India's people who talk a big game but are unwilling to give our leaders the needed political mandate to really exert India's power.

We consider Pakistan evil for its terrorist ways, still cheer Cricket with them. We've had an ex-PM blown up by LTTE, whose terrorist leader sleeps in his own bed 14 years after the ghastly murder. Would Indians support an all out war against the LTTE? Unlikely. Nepalese Maoists roam around freely in India, and their domestic allies kill and maim our policemen, but Indians are hardly ready to wage war on this pernicious evil, are we?

Nah. We want our shiny malls, internet cafes, credit cards, and ridiculous "peace parks". We seek economic engagement and "people to people" contact. A fat lot of good this naivete has done for us.

So, our democracy of dunces straggles on -- without any firm sense of direction. What a sorry bunch of people we must appear to our rivals in the world?

7 comments:

sanatan said...

PR,

This post of yours truly captures the essence of the current situation in India. In my opinion, this situation will not change until there is a generational change. It is for the <35 years generation to start making efforts to take charge hoping that the our efforts will bear fruit in 15 to 20 years. This and many other blogs are a good beginning.

Apollo said...

we have rulers we deserve :-(

libertarian said...

PR agree 100%. We need to take responsibility for our neighborhood and establish our writ. Our lack of a plan approaches criminal proportions.

apollo - this may sound like nitpicking - but I grate at the use of the word "rulers". They have rulers in Saudi Arabia, in Kuwait, even Pakistan - we do NOT have rulers in India - we have representatives - who currently do not represent this blogger's interests.

Anonymous said...

The question, it seems then, is where does India see itself, in the world as well as within the (sub)continent. I do not think India's meddling in the affairs of our neighbours shall be seen as a good sign, not only by our citizens, but also by the very global powers you cite as courting us.

Our history of a more self-contained foriegn policy has been the very cause of our current global acceptance. Where we should be focusing (as you said) is in securing a place for ourselves in international governing bodies such as the UN security council and the G8.

Apollo said...

anonymous, i wouldn't call that "meddling". i would call it "giving brotherly advice". and if u think that USA will welcome another veto wielding permanent member u r day dreaming.

@libertarian - we don't get to select our representatives. we get to choose among the donkeys selected by different party high commands.

BangaloreGuy said...

I blame the "aam aadmi" as much as the media. The media is inherently critical on India, and the opposite on our enemies and neighbours.
Even if our enemies and neighbours were to write pieces on India and our policies they could do not do a better job of maligning our country.

The media excels in linking things stupidly. The evidence is seen in how people keep talking of peace, and how instead of defence purchases we could spend the same money on the social sector - when any one (large) scheme intended for the social sector is more expensive than our total defence budget!

The Aam Aadmi cares to read little beyond the headlines - which anyway distort the picture. If the headline says "India refuses to Pak's overtures", he would instantly conclude that India is recalcitrant state here. As much as thinking every country around us is very friendly towards us just *because* of their mehmaan-nawaazi. ("OOh! the Pakistanis treat Indians so well, they dont sponsor Jihad against our country")

Apollo said...

why is the indian media so irresponsible? is it because they are heavily influenced by communist/socialist ideology or is it plain ignorance and stupidity.

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