India’s response not enough!
India has just concluded a major election, the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

This is India’s 15th major election and the results of the election proved beyond doubt, if there is any doubt or any doubters, both domestic and foreign, that India has emerged and is becoming a fairly mature democratic society and a liberal democratic society as well.

This needs to be stated and re-stated any time and many times.

There are so many major happenings in the world and India must be seen as being counted. As they say time and tide wait for none and so too is politics. If you don’t do anything also, time passes and politics moves on. Is India is this position today? When major events and occasions call for India taking a stand and expressing an opinion?

The new US President Barack Obama seems to be a new phenomenon in world politics today. There hasn’t been any such US President in recent times. May be after such major figures like Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy in the US history here is a new comer who by all previous standards breaks new ground. He is first of all a young person, comes from a racially mixed background, partly African and religiously he bears a middle name that is unheard of in Western politics, he comes at a time when the world is faced with some unprecedented crises in race and religious relations, there is a near universal threat from extremists and violence-inducers and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda seem to be the only two major manifestations that shook the world and continues to shake our faith and capacity to restore confidence in more Western liberal and enlightened politics and governments.
The Arab world is divided, rather deeply and the Muslim world is very unsettled with so many conflicts and mutual suspicion and much hatred as well.

Obama’s visit to the Middle East in early June this year has come as a refreshing light to the world.
Obama went to the major countries, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and made a major speech at Cairo University. The speech was long in the making and was widely heard and translated into several languages and the major   speech was at Al Azhar University.
Now, after Obama made that historic speech, many countries in the world became more enthusiastic and congratulated the US President.

Indian response zero?
I was totally disappointed at the Indian response. There was practically no response! All our nameless face from the foreign ministry desk was that Obama made no mention of India or India’s relations with Pakistan! Is this a response?

Is this all India has to say or respond to a major historic speech on issues that were at the very heart of a long time history of India’s foreign policy.

India, if at all, has a long, long engagement with the Arab Middle East, our non-alignment policy is founded on what we did in the Middle East, from Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal to what the rise of Arab nationalism did for the partition of Palestine and the creation of the Jewish state in Israel.

To cut the story short, our relations with Palestine and now with Israel, to say so, is on an  even keel and that we all have to recognise and behave, we agree.

But the Obama speech touched some basic fundamental moral and political issues of our times.
If anything, Obama was at his candid best. So, self-confessional. He said at the beginning of his trip:”There are so many apprehensions and misapprehensions. Over Iraq, over Iran, over Israel, Palestine and over Guatanamo. I want to open a dialogue, with the one and a half billion Muslims in the Arab world.”They are hoping that a son of a Kenyan Muslim who lived part of his childhood in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, can help chart a new course”. That touched an instant rapport with the entire Muslim world, nay, with the entire world community.

“I want to speak the truth in politics” the US President was speaking. He was reminding us, specially, the Indians, our own Mahatma Gandhi. The rest of the world too, as the TV pictures across the Arab world capitals showed were listening with rapt attention and dead silence! A cold chill ran across my veins, I should confess!

Obama said in Germany:”The moment is now for us to act what we all know to be the truth. The US can’t force peace upon the parties but he had created the space, the atmosphere, at which the talks can start”. Obama did many remarkable things no other previous US President has done so far. He visited the sites of mass massacre in the World War II. Buchenwald, he mentioned the existence of the gas chambers, the Holocaust, which liquidated six million Jews and also mentioned the fact of one million Palestinians killed obviously by the Jews and these are all very hot and unmentionable topics and this Obama did with a moral candour that was not seem for years in any living leader of any major or minor country. All these mentions evoked very strong emotions and created a new height of hope and expectation of solving perhaps the long for and yet unbelievable chance for a time  when these lingering pains of the past are still holding up mankind’s search for a civilized peace that can be sustained.

We all seem to be living through some exciting times, it seems.
The world can’t move on as it had done under George Bush. The world has to find a new path, a new set of ideas and strategies to bring the trouble-torn world into a more humane and more sensible for each nation to exist in dignity and peace.

Luckily, the Obama speech came on the day the Peking’s infamous Tiananmen Square massacre, the twentieth anniversary came on the very day when Omaba was making those famous remarks in the world capitals. The Chinese were panicky and they clamped a strict vigil and there was much mental disturbance in the civilized world. There were also other soul-searching issues in other countries, in India’s neighbour, Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial over and the judgement awaited. All these events and happenings, Sri Lanka where the humanitarian crisis, all these were catching up with the international community’s conscience.

What are India’s responses to these on-going international affairs?
Where does stand on some of these critical issues?

Can India live silently and can India think and behave as if these are all internal matters for those far and near countries’ own internal matters!

At least, India should have congratulated Obama for his very bold and very risky speech.
He was breaking new ground in the Arab world. He was mentioning the unmentionable subject of an independent Palestine state. Palestines have the right to exist as a great nation.
But the American policy, its tilt so far, was not to treat the Palestines and the Israelis on equal terms. This, Obama daringly did.

He did so wonderfully, with sweetness and charm and much aplomb.
India should have congratulated Obama for saving the world!
This we didn’t.

India was seen hesitant and even hiding in some sort of chickenery of heart. We didn’t show up as an independent country. We seem to be looking both sides, fearing some reprisal or some rebuke and we seem to be taking a back step and seem not wanting to be seen by other countries.
Are we afraid of China or some other country, say, Russia?

Or, what was holding us back from going forward and openly congratulating Obama.
Or we still taking some lessons how to behave internationally, from countries like the UK, our former coloniser and still pretend to be a power.

Unluckily for the UK when we are talking about the time, the UK state was caught up in its own internal crisis. So, we didn’t have any idea or clue as to how our former masters would have behaved.

It is a national shame, I would say, to think so. For giving room for thinking so. Unfortunately, what Singh’s leadership, in his second avatar as the Prime Minister, didn’t show any improvement?
If at all, he seems to have lost in his own internal affairs, with the newly formed government affairs, the Prime Minister of India was seen as not very much interested and concerned with what is happening on the international stage.

That is my personal view, as seen from a long distance.
If I am wrong I am willing to correct my own mistaken view or if I am right then I would to have suitable responses from the right quarters.

The point is that we have a large body of experts on foreign affairs. It is more an outcome of the large number of retired officials living in New Delhi and also the habit of expressing and that too very carefully some instant opinions on the TV screens for some off-hand questions from the anchors and then forgotten.

It is a measure of our current low-profile on the international scene that we in India don’t have an independent intellectual community. There is no independent foreign policy expert who is not dependent upon the government’s largesse or government help.
Every other foreign policy or Foreign Service retiree seems to be living for some other next assignment.

So, New Delhi doesn’t seem to have the environment where such nondependent scholars and experts can thrive in a free manner.

Nor do we have a media culture like that obtains in the UK and the USA or the various think-tanks that all seem to operate with private fundings, not necessarily independently but still with a great deal of independence.

The US universities also fund lots of new departments; one new department I noticed now is in Canada where in a university there is a new department called Innovative International Governance or some such name.

That dept often produces articles that are very interesting and even we in India can adopt some of its suggestions.

I don’t think there is even one such innovative institution to study the new developments in international governance.
What is India’s foreign policy vision?
Is India engaging enough on the world stage?
Or, we are becoming isolationist nation?
Why India is not talking about its place in the sun, as it were!

The PM-Zardari encounter is a stage-managed farce, to say the least. It is a handiwork of some clever foreign ministry officials but this sort of fake photo-opportunities don’t take a country very far on the international stage.

As John F. Kennedy said: we should not speak out of fear but we must not be afraid to speak!
So, India needs to think deep and hard and must come out a new vision for our foreign policy initiaitives.US President Obama has caught the imagination of the world by talking about the fundamental principles in all his policy initiatives. So, he is able to kindle the hopes and aspirations of millions of people across the globe.

India has to do a lot to catch up with the “vision thing”.

Our Prime Minister was at Bric summit. This time it is in Russia and so Russia becomes our focus too this time. This is the first time an Indian Prime Minister attends this Brazil, Russia, India, China meet to discuss  security-centric issues and also the political interactions. Unfortunately, in a very difficult world and in an atmosphere where we need new ideas and inspirations, our leaders were found wanting. The PM talked (coyly) about rather peripheral issues while only our officials foreign secretary) was commenting. Brazil’s President Lula seems the only one to talk “bluntly” and point to the need for more political talks, so that everyone tries to change their own protectionist mindset and even the Brazil’s President talked of the agriculture sector that needs to be taken out of the subsidised and  thus making the world’s poor agriculture areas more becoming more unviable. One is not at all clear how far our Prime Minister is capable of grasping the varied layers of the world realities, the geo-political realities, the mental processes of the men and people at the key positions who agitate and cogitate the central currents of the modern world’s multi-layer thought processes, from intellectuals to the politicians and leaders.

What matters or should matter in such gatherings? It all of course depends upon the moral stature of the persons concerned.

Sure, it is the higher thoughts on the ideological contours of nations and peoples matter a great deal in lending the leaders’ their persona and the aura they inhale and breathe, so to say!
India is a democracy; we can say the largest democracy. Are we a great democracy? It depends upon who raises the question or who answer the same!

Now India is a democracy, Russia and china are not, right?
Russia is not yet a fully developed democracy, though there are some welcome features. China is utterly a dictatorship and has only one party.

India has advanced a great deal on the democratic path.
So, there will be mental issues, that is, our own perceptions of how we see the world and we see the prospects of the world peace.

West has its own perceptions of who make a genuine democracy and who doesn’t.
All these are likely to impact on the outcome of the summit.
I feel that India needs to generate more ideas and more debates on the many current of the turbulences and also the chances.

India certainly has a natural ally in Obama, if not in America as such. We have to seize this rare historic opportunity and take along Obama’s wise words whenever we have an opportunity to advance peace and understanding, be it in Israel, or Iran or even North Korea.
India’s opportunity is here and now.

In such a context we have to read the US President Obama’s Middle East speech and draw lessons.
Obama talked and mentioned some unmentionable taboos! This was morally courageous.
In particular, the two thorny issues, Israel and Iran, are being tackled by the US in a more imaginative way.

Israel’s Prime Minister was in Washington and back home he seems to have melted a bit but not enough to allow peace to return to Palestine.

Palestine issue is at the heart of the modern world’s peace prospects.

Palestine needs a home, a secure home with borders, Jerusalem and settlements. But the Israel PM is talking about negotiations about cantons – “the canton of the state of Palestine, with a flag and an anthem, a state without borders, without sovereignty, without a capital”.

India must engage energetically, with an inspired mind with a dedication to world peace and whatever contribution India can make, we must make and we must be seen as the true inheritors of the Nehruvian legacy. Not just as routine minders of day to day survival politics. India’s voice, India’s must be made available to the people.

India is a large liberal democracy.

It is time we foster lots of independent, privately promoted such think tanks.
Here all that is possible to be dependent or to b    become very soon dependent sort of experts who are all otherwise, retired government servants.

Where is optimism and hope for the future?
The point here is that the fact India is a great democracy, a liberal democracy, an open society or any other current fashionable views might hold good for India and we should all be proud about it. But who feels such pride? The pride of being Indians and the pride of being a democracy of which the citizens feel a rejoicing?

The 2009 elections are supposed to be a victory for the youth. Is it so?
How the youth victory is reflected? In the public space?

There is now every analysis about the statistics that tells different stories.
One story is that this is not a youth election as such. The first Lok Sabha had an average more youth representation than what the 2009 Lok Sabha bears out. The more number of MPs with criminal records, the more crorepatis and the more dynastic youth must make us to think hard and deeply. The National Election Watch did a good job in highlighting and giving us detailed analysis.
The irony is that the Congress party was leading the BJP and the SP and other parties. More worry is the fact that UP, the crucial barometer of the Indian politics has the largest number of MPs or MP candidates with criminal records.

The detailed analysis showed that the first, second and the third and fourth phase had successively 222,288 and 258 and 164 criminal record candidates! A total of 259 millionaires were represented in the fourth phase of the election alone. Every other party had the dubious candidates with dubious distictions; more the BSP had millionaires, no less other parties, both national and regional.
The Mumbai electorate and even the Bangalore electorate didn’t show much enthusiasm for voting in the Lok Sabha elections. The 40 and odd percentage voting for the urban and enlightened electorate tells another stiry, for sure.

Even now, the indepth study only can show what is wrong with the voters or how the apathy or the other factors had contributed to the skewed voting percentages and the number of seats won can be attributed to the euphoria or the subdued disenchantment that we can associate with the Lok Sabha elections.

In UP, for instance, where Rahul Gandhi strategy or Rahul Gandhi wave or vision is supposed to have succeed needs to be studied with some skepticism for the 21 seats won by the Congress out of 8o seats came with only 18.25 per cent of votes, while the BSP secured 27.42 per cent vote share, SP got 23.26 per cent vote share.

The urban apathy and also the vote rigging in rural areas, the flow of black money and liquor and  the other corrupt practices are also widely in operation, in most states, notably in TN and in W.Bengal and Kerala we saw a different trend altogether.

The main point is that the 2009 Lok Sabha elections led to any euphoria or a great deal of optimism.
It seemed that for the Manmohan Singh government, government formation and later to run the government machinery seemed one of just a routine. As any other routine life in the nation.
There is no vision or no euphoria in the peoples lives.

Rahul Gandhi didn’t accept office and this too might have dampened what was left of the youth spirit.
In India we see a pervading sense of fear and a sense of helplessness over the prevailing corruption in the bureaucracy and the ever-self-perpetuating power and hold of the bureaucracy.
No changes, the same faces, and the older the more they survive.

We seem to be a nation of survivors and status quoits.
The youth were not enthused by this election. The twentieth anniversary of the  Tianananmen Square riots celebration saw the Chinese youth recalling those days of the uprising when they youth saw optimism, students pride in the country etc.

Yes, this is youth feeling and a belief in their future.
In contrast, I don’t find there is any such youthful optimism or the hopes for the future or any such globalisation vision or the international impact on either the youth or the middle classes or in the older generation.

As a nation, the Lok Sabha elections saw a rather depressing fact. There was a less turnout of voters. The voter participation is becoming lower and apathetic? We need in-depth study or studies.

Lethargy and helplessness?
Yes, there is lethargy and helplessness. There is deep down the Indian psyche that somehow we as a nation have become immune to many immoralities. There is widespread corruption. Nothing happens in India from the top down to the bottom with0out paying a bribe. Large corporations’ move and impact government policy making. We have just to see the lobbying firms or own creations by the big corporates operating out of New Delhi star hotels. It is a public fact and a scandal of sorts.
Then is the press manipulation. Indian press is not free; there is no freedom for the press owners or the press employees.

So, what is genuine policy making in the government, in the Cabinet and in the executive and even now judiciary is corrupt, the stories coming out of Chand?garh or other sources bear this fact out.
The judicial delay is proverbial.

Every man has a price; the citizen is for sale, big or small.
The Constitutional Review Committee report is in the dust bin. Why?

There is no clear demarcation of powers, among the executive, government, judiciary and the party ‘dictatorship’. Especially under Sonia Gandhi leadership the distinction between the party and the government is almost obliterated.

Much more fundamental the democracy as a system of governance is driven by what democracy is according the Congress party.

There is no inner spring, no intellectual or moral basis for many of the beliefs or token of ritual in the system of governance.

Even now, all we have is an absence of an elected, genuine democratic leadership. What is a liberal democracy or a liberal society, if we are not driven by a heightened sense of moral and intellectual commitment for truth and morality in politics? In our core belief system?
This very history of liberalism as a creed and a philosophy. From the ancient days to the modern world to the present times and the day.

President Barack Obama, luckily, has come like a fresh breeze of openness and a leader searching and articulating truth and morality in politics.

His Middle East trip, his Cairo speech represents the highest ever peak in modern day politics and creates a confident world.

We are all lucky to live in such a time and the day!

No genuine election or internal discussions or party elections at any level taking place.
Indian democracy, if we can say so, is a convenient tool for survival by all the ‘stake holders’.
Where is the place for truth or ethics or morality in the sphere of politics?

Is there truth in the oath the ministers are taking?
What is their core belief system? The ideology or the system of their values?

This is a sort of technocracy or a family and feudal management of affairs by a body of men who had shed all their inhibitions and beliefs and pledged to serve some ends that are not morally justified and ethically defensible.

Everything seems a facade, superficial. The other day Mr.Sharad Yadav, the President of the JD (U) threatened on the floor of the Lok Sabha to commit suicide if the women’s quota bill passed in its present form. Why?

There is a mere pretence in the bill. The bill doesn’t reach out to bring in the backward and most backward of the sections of women, alleged Yadav. He may be right or wrong. The point is that the bill is to serve some classes and to leave the weaker sections.

Social justice is another misused and misinterpreted word for vested interests.
A clear political ideology for the Indian democracy and for its liberal values is lacking.
Caste, communal and ethnic and even vested interested who amassed wealth and influence through the existing quota system, the creamy layer strives to perpetuate itself on the rest of the society in the name of democracy.

Yes, we need to have a new interpretation of the new democracy and the new challenges towards attaining an ideal state of affairs.

Rights and freedoms, for individuals and how to create more space for expanding our personal freedoms is not always at the heart of any democracy and liberalism debate. How the various institutions, under the Constitution and the government like the role  and independence of the  CBI and speedy justice to the poor and access to education, healthcare for the poor and many  fundamental rights are all issues that need to be debated more vigorously and  free of fear and retribution from the vested interests. The new democracy as given to us by the 2009 election results looks like a dynastic democracy. It also looks like one more new version of a new oligarchy by a select number of families.

Also, the new democracy looks like a corporate state run by paid or kept ministers by bigger corporate houses. There are as many variations as the frustrations and grievances expand as the time goes on!

It is as perpetual as ever.
We need today for India a more relevant and a more genuine democracy ideology. An ideological debate.

Twitter update
Rahul Gandhi wants to introduce internal party elections in the Congress. It is near impossible when there is a deep-rooted nomination party culture there. Youth Congress is a euphemism for dynastic inheritance.

Two Congress Cabinet Ministers from Tamil Nadu call on TN Chief Minister. But they don’t talk of coalition at the state Cabinet! Why the fear?

Photo Courtesy : http://dimpost.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/underwhelmed-alone/

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