The new Prime Minister of Japan Yukio Hatoyama is seen as diplomatically active.  In India he spoke his mind, he urged India to comply with CTBT terms, stop nuclear proliferation and engage in nuclear disarmament and promote peace.  India was polite and only diplomatic.  India displayed lack of a positive vision.  American economic decline might give Asia the century’s opportunity say observers.

To defend democratic institutions and practices

The Commonwealth seems to have lost its relevance, not many countries take the institution seriously, not the UK which is also weakening day by day.UK lives on its nostalgic past and the empire memories are caught with its own sense of decline in a changed world.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lately been on his many foreign missions. He paid an official visit to the USA and had discussions with Obama. Then, he flew to Moscow where he met both the President and Prime Minister Mr.Putin. In the Russian scheme of things, it is perceived that Mr.Putin is more powerful and popular than the self-effacing President. As Mr.Putin is also now thinking of contesting for the President once again, after 8 years in the same office, it is what Mr.Putin thinks is important as to what India can expect to get from Russia.
Now, the PM’s US visit has been commented upon by various people by various ways. One such commentator is Prof.Jagdish Bhagwati, from Colombia University.

For those who might not know, Dr.Bhagwati is an old friend of Dr.Singh when both were Ph.D scholars at Nuffield College, Oxford during the late Fifties of the last century. Incidentally, I was also there (as an undergraduate) and I used to have a tutor (for monetary economics) at the same College and I used to see them both at the College premises or at the nearby cafes!

What the current readers might not know is the fact that while these Indian economists, including Prof.Amartya Sen, were to become later famous, Dr.Singh becoming the PM is the surprise of all surprises!

Only in India we seem to accord such a high respect for the professional economists who, while they might all be brilliant, they in practice, have either tended to remain academics or while in government they remain very obedient to the powers that be and as a consequence, even when Dr.Singh became Prime Minister, the much-praised achievements are all often a media build-up and in actual terms their achievements are far from spectacular.

So, when Dr.Bhagwati writes, he did in a popular Indian news weekly about Dr.Singh’s visit he pays his usual compliments but he is also saying that “while the PM was able to impress Obama that India’s economic growth is based on better economic and political path (read: democratic path) the PM, says Bhagwati “the PM needs to articulate it better” and also the PM “needs to learn from the US President’s eloquence what India needs to do in economic policy.”The PM needs to have a bold vision to be put before the country”.

This is criticism, mild though; Prof.Sen would have been more populistic, as Sen openly claims to be on the Left!

The point here is that the PM has learned to be more diplomatic on many contentious issues.

Lately, the PM’s overseas visit are not producing any visible impact, both on the host countries or  the Indian people back at home.

The recently concluded six agreements with Russia are very important, though their relevance or timing remain to be explained.

This explaining is not done either by the PM or by his advisers. May the Congress party also doesn’t mind either!

So, we are left with so many agonizing questions and when the time comes for particular issues we remain clueless.

Take the recent China’s behavior, over Dalai Lama visiting Arunachal Pradesh, or the PM visiting the same region or the many antics China has put out, over border roads building by India, China road building in Pak-occupied Kashmir etc.
Now, India as one senior diplomat puts it, USA under Obama, for various reasons had helped China to fan its own ambitions and egos, Obama is deferential, he refused to receive Dalai Lama before his departure to China obviously to placate China which is seen by Obama himself as emerging as a powerful economy and even a military power.

So, China is now given to jingoistic behaviour, it would only raise its heat on India and would go for many unanticipated things.

So, what is the future policy, future long term approach to the unstoppable China, it seems?

There are so many holes in India’s future vision, if there is one at all!
China would only use its undiplomatic and even unpeaceful methods; it would display its nuclear and missile proliferation methods with Pakistan, our neighbour whose own fate is highly complex.

China won’t help Pakistan to become a more stable region. Nor China would really help Pakistan to restrain its nuclear ambitions nor would it provide economic aid to strengthen its economy.

Certainly not to promote democracy in Pakistan either.
The critical point here is that China is not a democracy nor has it any pretensions to become one, now or in the far future.

This is the critical differentiating, underlying feature about China.
While China is feared and even respected by its own neighbours, namely, Japan or the other Asian neighbours, with maritime and land boundaries, not only with Japan, but with such countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia (the third large democracy) and of course with India.

Among these countries, if we include India’s own immediate neighbours, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar and in the West, even Afghanistan (with that country our relations are more closer and friendly) and in the down South Maldives, Sri Lanka, we have a long list and a longer list of common interests.

Major religions, Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic populations of these Asian nations again make it a strong contender for the world attention to what we initiate today.
My suggestion for the Indian leaders is to think of a new Union, an Asian Democratic Union, or an Asian Union, simply to concentrate on strengthening the democratic institutions and democratic practices.

This union of nations, big and small, are timely also fit the simple reason these nations are also undergoing some radical changes.

To list a few issues:
The Commonwealth seems to have lost its relevance, not many countries take the institution seriously, not the UK which is also weakening day by day.UK lives on its nostalgic past, and the empire memories are caught with its own sense of decline in a changed world.

India is becoming a strong economic power and our political power, soft or otherwise, is enormously growing. This the USA recognizes, though under Obama it is not as clear and explicit as we want it to be. But this doesn’t matter or should bother us much.

So, in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan too parliament works!Even this parliament asserts itself!It could turn down the President’s nominations for the cabinet!More powerful and assertive Parliament than India’s? It seems like that!  That is wonderful!

India has a great opportunity to emerge as a great force for good, force for change for the better.

Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to India
India should take it as a departure for a new policy for Asia

Kuldip Nayar, the veteran journalist and a thoughtful Indian of some stature has written a New Year eve column in a newspaper. It is all about the current scene in South Asia, more so in India and Pakistan and  by extension what is happening in the Asian region, in special focus  in the SARC region. SARC, South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, is a bloc of eight countries and SARC in spite of having done much to promote understanding and peace is far from achieving such laudable objectives.

The picture of Asia today is far more reassuring than what, say, we can say about other blocs like European Union, EU, of 27 countries. EU came about through a long process and with so much bitterness of wars and bloodshed, Hitler and Mussolini and much else behind its creation or evolution.

The countries of EU had seen the worst of modern man, the worst of human egos. The point is that even in SARC, the play of egos is no less!
If not, it is more  and more dangerous and no less bloodletting and much violence and turmoil and the life for average Asian, if we can assume such an entity is more brutal.

India is the only democracy standing so shining in the surrounding sea of so many autocracies and mindless brutal regimes.

Myanmar, Pakistan and Nepal and at another end are regimes of various stability, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and you can name it and we can give a suitable description.

China stands out in Asia with so many questions and also so many answers. There is a whole array of China watchers and China experts!

Now comes the Japanese Prime Minister with a fresh mandate and a fresh party capturing power in that country after a long regime of the Liberal party.
Japan is a great country with a great civilization and a great heritage.
Japan was for long a great friend of India, not necessarily in politics but in the great cultural exchange.

To cite one example, that when Rabindranath Tagore was alive he went to Japan, more than once, and there were visitors from Japan to Santiniketan and India ,names like Okakura, the poet and philosopher and Tagore and Okakura  established many cultural links.

When I was a student at Santiniketan, there were still Japanese scholars, and I even attended a Japanese language class! In fact, there was and still is the Cheena Bhavan for a long time at Santiniketan and I was an ardent Chinese language class student and Chou En Lai visited our class and I had the privilege of shaking hands with that great leader.

Why I say all these things here is the fact that India was always looking East, India had a special place in the minds and imagination of Japan and China for ages.

As Pandit Nehru used to remind us students at Santiniketan that India was bounded by civilizations bonds with Japan and China by the great Buddha, the Buddhist religion was India’s great bond with South Asia, South East Asia.
I had in my Santiniketan days great many friends from these great countries, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. Nehru as Chancellor of Visva Bharati, made it a point to bring in lots of students from Asia to Santiniketan. In fact, this tradition of cultivating Asian nations into a new entity started with Tagore time and this continued under Nehru.

I mention these facts to only show and urge that under our current leadership, we must start the process once again.

Of course Kuldip Nayar talks of so many other things, the current issues, of terrorism in Pakistan and the breakdown of relations between the two countries and doings of China, as the Big Brother, as Nayar says and much else, the rise of Maoist menace in India and the threat coming from Nepal and the issues in Sri Lanka and the unsaid part of Nayar’s burden is to call the attention of New Delhi what we should be doing inside and outside of India to make India find its balance and its centre as a great democracy surrounded by a sea of autocracies or imperfect democracies.

In India democracy is neither perfect, nor lead by men and women of any vision or mission.

We all seem to have become small men and women, as Pandit Nehru used to remind us in his own time.

Then, imagine where we are now as a nation?

We have succumbed in a fit of insecurity to the Telengana and we are not sure where we are heading internally?

We need to have a new perspective and a new vision for Asia.
We need the application of great minds to evolve a new vision. We need historians and we need philosophers, we need creative minds of all fields, artists, poets(like Tagore and Okakura) and  political leaders of the stature of Gandhi and Nehru and all the great leaders of Japan ,the Prime Ministers who came from Japan to cultivate a new relationship with India.

Japan was a great Asian power, in fact, the first great Asian power when it defeated Russia in 1904.Thus arose the new national consciousness and when the Japanese Nationalism reached its high, Tagore warned.

Indian leaders must read Tagore’s passionate pleas and warnings.
Asian arose and much else happened. Then, came, equally, the Chinese nationalism, Sun Yat San and then came the Chiang Kei Sheik.
China and the two Soong sisters, the wives of Sun Yat San and Chain Kei Sheik, were great friends of India. We should not forget.

So, India was seen as a part of this new nationalist consciousness.
Then, came the other nations. The then Burma, Indonesia were all once closer allies of India, the two great leaders of these two countries were friends of Gandhi and Nehru.
I myself had seen once in Chennai, when I was a student, the great Indonesia leader, Sukarno, on the steps of the Connemara Hotel, when he came there. He was a great hero, a great orator and a liberator and great friend of India.
Now, entirely a new situation has  arisen. Obama is at the White House and he sees China as a great ally of USA. He, as Prof.Sugata Bose (Harvard and a nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose) says China is now both a neighbour and a sort of threat to India. India is now a strategic partner with USA, yes, we have to  and yet we have to recognize very crucially, China is no friend. China is realizing its rising clout and so does things that doesn’t contribute to peace and stability in Asia. China is no democracy, it is an one-party dictatorship.

China is still an odd man out.
This, gives China, it seems  a sense of unease and irritation at the sight of India rising in the estimation of the world for all that it represents. India is a democracy, the largest, in fact its ideological ally in Asia is Indonesia, the fourth largest democracy. USA, India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia are the rising democracies, besides anything else.

Now, says Prof.Bose, India after the May 2009 elections, the Indian electorate has the remarkable maturity and intuition to elect a government for stability. This we have to keep in mind, the leaders!

There is ,warns Bose, a likely winter of discontent!
India must look at the broad canvass.

India must not be seen as a begging nation with every visitor to give India a nuclear deal!

India must, as the Japanese Prime Minister wants must look at the broader picture and must  be seen as a willing partner for world peace. Let China be a member of the UN Security Council, the world opinion is sympathetic to India’s peace stance. It has become a habit with media and other diplomatic community to stress  the military strength.

We, in India, the public opinion, must be educated to realize there is much strength in a country when  it talks the language of peace.
In India, we at the moment seem to be pretending to adhere to some institutions like the Commonwealth. No, it is dead!

We abandon the Commonwealth or keep it going as it is, but we go for new initiatives in India.

We co-operate with the new Japan which, after its world war atomic bomb nightmare is very sensitive to nuclear deals, so we concentrate as wanted by Japan in preventing nuclear proliferation and disarmament and elimination of nuclear weapons ultimately.

This language, Dr.Singh is  not talking.
We, the civil society, even the  other sections ,must think out of the box and we must emerge as a country with much in-depth resilience and inner power and inner reserves of power and energy to think innovatively and we must engage the new world, the new century with a new vision and a new world outlook.
India must become the country for new peace offensive. We call all the peace activists, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and other leaders.

It is a great strength that India is a host to Dalai Lama.
On the New Year day I saw many strange  coincidences.
At Vatican I saw Pope bemoaning the world, men living in small enclaves and small pockets about their own small concerns. Man must reach out to fellow men.
Officers representing various countries at the 20th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth Countries in New Delhi.

So too Dalai Lama was pointing out how Hinduism was so accommodating to other religions. Buddhism, Jainism, even Christianity and Islam. I was wondering where our own great religious leaders are.
Our Mahants, Shankaracharyas and other great minds?

Yes, sometimes we have to think on broader fronts. There is now a rising migration of people of different religions and ethnicities.
These are going to create new situations.

Japanese Prime Minister Tukio Hatayoma has come to India and discussed the bilateral issues. One important perspective the Japanese counterpart told Dr.Singh is that India must sign the CTBT if more meaningful co-operation in the nuclear field, civilian nuclear energy, prevention of proliferation, nuclear disarmament, peace etc are to be pursued seriously. We don’t know how serious Dr.Singh is committed to all these goals. Whether the Indian Prime Minister has, say, read Tagore’s lectures on Asian nationalism, Pandit Nehru’s own impact on the Asian outlook etc.

It is time India evolves a more broader Asian vision, not just Asean economic co-operation and trade. A political vision that builds on India’s own inherent strengths, democracy and spreading India’s peace initiatives. This the Japanese PM made it clear, we have to note. He was non-committal on nuclear co-operation, while the only sectors where partnership possibilities, exist, he said, are the non-proliferation and disarmament areas.

Unfortunately, in India any serious issues before the government are not debated by the civil society, the media, print and the TV channels, are still very obliging to the incumbent government. When will Indians become a mature people, when more open discussions and debates are possible?

Only when hard questions are debated by the citizens, India can move forward from the current confused outlook. Be it our own West of Asia and East of Asia visions, if we can so term them!

The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit estimates China will grow at 8 per cent, while the US and euro zone economies will contract in the range of 2 and 4 per cent.

China and Russia are becoming more interdependent and Russia wants China to invest in its far flung regions of Central Asia.

The opening of 1,833-km gas pipeline on December 14 connecting the energy fields of the three former Russian satellite states, to China’s Xinjiang province with an annual capacity of a mind-boggling 40 billion cubic metres is a great happening. The very pipeline has changed the very geo-politics of the Central Asian landscape. The pipeline is 7,000 -km long.

This is the new East-West trunk route and would give China a boost vis a vis India. In economic and strategic and even military terms.

So, India must have some alternative vision and a long term strategy.

What is it?
India must ask itself. Indian   people must ask themselves.

Can India enlarge its geo-political footprint
in East Asia?
Can China, India and Japan form an Asian concert of powers?

Is our current leadership capable of such boldness of vision and idealism of the type we saw under Gandhi and Nehru? Yes, there are some distinguished diplomats (like C.V.Ranganathan) who have advocated a “shared neighbourhood”. It is time we start talking!

Now, Indian democracy itself is undergoing change and Dr.Singh, being the first non-elected Prime Minister for the second term too, is setting a new precedent. Neither is he elected to the Lok Sabha. Nor is he elected properly to the Rajya Sabha. Leaving aside these “minor” flaws, there are other issues of great impact. Indian elections are becoming more and more corrupt, driven by money power, more corruption scandals erupt and they go unnoticed for the most part. Nor the Congress party, be 125 year old party, very much like the older parties of Europe, has a long tradition of evolving new ideologies, both economic and political. So too other Asian neighbours like Sri Lanka which only next to India is the typical Westminster model democracy! It is also undergoing change. After the elimination of the LTTE, there is a military general to contest civil political office. This is not a happy trend either.

There are severe ethnic conflicts within Sri Lanka and these needs to be tackled on very careful, sensitive lines.
In Pakistan we have a real problem, complex and too complicated for the time being.

I remember as a student of Parliamentary and Constitutional history, it was the late Sir Ivor Jennings who wrote the Constitution of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka retained the Jennings model, in Pakistan we got the Constitution distorted many times.

Now, under President Zardari we thought we have an elected government there. But now comes the Pakistan Supreme Court examining the National Reconciliation Ordinance of 2007.Now,to re-open the trial would only open the Pandora’s Box!

So, it is not a happy turn of events.
So, we need, India and countries and friends like USA and UK must think and come out with a plan to effect a new national reconciliation so that we don’t rock the boat there. Pakistan is fighting for its very existence. There is Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Afghan war or Afpak war and peace is perhaps the most dangerous test for Obama’s make or break administration as on date.
So, with all the challenges, we cant take a very routine duty of running our government or even tackling the 26/11 terrorist attacks.

The challenges are real for us, for our generation, in India as well as in other Asian countries and small nations with their own internal dynamisms.
So, it is worth pondering over the many issues Asian nations face. With China not having such a humane and humanitarian concerns and, as of now, only interested in settling its scores with Dalai Lama and Indian border issues, it is time India thinks big and does things with a greater vision and a sense of commitment to peace. Peace not only in Asia but in the whole world.
To think of millennium issues calls for great minds and it is the task of great nations as well.

So, I appeal to all Indians and even those in those Asian nations as I have narrated and also even from outside Asia, from the West we can invite new inputs to promote peace and understanding based on certain eternal values of democracy, secularism, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communities.

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