Some unasked  and unanswered questions!

India should get prepared for new roles in this century! Not look to the UK or USA for guidance. So, India has to maintain its friendly relations and talk things out and solve some of the outstanding problems with China, Pakistan and neighbours.

The 58th Independence day came and gone. There have been the usual speeches by the President and the Prime Minister. There have been media commentaries. Inside the country there is much to celebrate and much to do introspection. What we have achieved and where we are still to do much? Yes, we have become a mature democracy, the largest democracy in the world. In internal sphere India had overcome four wars, managed terrorism, still a threat of sorts riots and as one news magazine wrote “some of the world’s stupidest politicians! Readers can pick and choose their own favourites among these stupidest politicians! The poor still a large segment and they feel lost.  An uncomfortable question, no doubt!

India now has the youngest population, those under 35 years.  There are two issues of some current priorities that engage the attention of the nation : our coming of age as a recognised nuclear power by the USA and following this recognition by other major world powers. The second is the Nanavati Commission’s exposure of the high and mighty in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

Our nuclear power status entails much responsibility for India to play a more added responsibility in international affairs. There is no simple diplomatic talk in this new recognition. India has the great burden of living up to its past traditions of peace and pursuit of a peaceful world in the post-colonial, post-Non-Alignment, the post-Communist and in the post-Iraqi war phase of the world. The new American friendship under George Bush calls for extreme caution and India cant be any less unconcerned about the developments in the international scenario. I am no expert in international affairs. But I have my own definite views. On who are our  reliable friends and who are our doubtful friends and who are, certainly, suspects who might not advance peace in the world as India sees it.

So, there is much to debate internally, at many levels of Indian public opinion, in the university campuses and also outside in the independent public forums.  It is here I like to make the point that as on date we in India, inside India are rather blissfully unaware or rather complacent on many sensitive and tricky issues that concern our progress as an independent power in our  region and also in the world.

The China question : China is seen by the world from different perspectives. It is seen as an enigma, as an odd man out and as a threat also! Unfortunately there are not enough indications that we in India are discussing China more today than what India did when Nehru was very much around. I have a personal angle, as I was very much a student in those days in Santiniketan where the Cheena Bhavan under the late Prof.Tan Yun Shan was the scene of much of the China debate, when Chou Enlai came and also after the 1962 developments I was watching Nehru’s visits there and his lamentations. Now, of course China had changed a lot. But the uneasiness about China’s current intentions and future intentions are not known.

USA is now friendly towards China as all countries are! Yet there are undercurrents of tensions and mutual discomforts between US and China. The globalised  world is after all not fully global or fully free market driven as we believe. China’s financial muscle, its intention to enter the US market, bid freely for takeovers or investments or list companies and do IPOs etc. are severely restricted by ‘unofficial’ policies. Even inside India this fear persists today!  The Chinese  defence minister recently said that China would use nuclear weapons if US interferes with China’s Taiwan issue! So, China is seen as a  problem by many, by Japan and even India, though we don’t say openly. China exports missile technology to Pakistan. Pakistan is engaged in nuclear proliferation by illegally giving out nuclear  secrets.

Certainly such topics are not discussed inside India. There is no informed opinion even among our senior political leaders. Let alone among the informed public opinion making media or the elite class. This is a lacuna and I very much want our universities at least to study more of China, study the Chinese language more widely and travel in China, let students and delegations go to China and let there be more exchanges. Now, Indian businessmen set up shops in China and this we must welcome. But businessmen at any time are no substitute for experts in diverse fields.  Unfortunately, again, our present existing China experts are not enough. Diplomats, are no reliable experts, they don’t contribute to educated an informed public opinion on matters like China.

India is also a friend of Japan and South Korea and China has its own equations with these countries. So, we need experts, academic and media experts, more studies on these countries in our universities. South East Asian leaders themselves are not very comfortable with China for various reasons, Singapore in particular more so ,hence Singapore’s free trade agreement with India! Japan has its own  perspectives.  This generation of Indians, Indian students and university  scholars must become experts on these countries.

Our relations with America are critical for us and also for a more peaceful world. The last century wars were caused by empires and the emergence of bad men: Hitler, Stalin and Mao. These three had massacred millions of innocent people. But now more countries posses nuclear weapons and also we have now some unstable countries and unpredictable men in a few countries. So, India  can look to America as the largest economic and military power. Though unipolar, it is better than a bipolar world. Better we manage the multi-polar world by a mix of diplomacy, trade and strengthening the UN and other international agencies.  India has very big opportunity to demonstrate our peace-credibility and India has to have more better quality politicians. Now, the coalition partners, some of them are plainly ”stupidest politicians”. They are  driven by utter selfishness, they entertain  vague, irresponsible separatist views.

Also lately, thanks to the current Speaker of the Lok Sabha, there is some retracing the old Parliamentary principles of conduct on the part of the Honourable Members of Parliament. Our MPs as a class had lately let us down on many fronts. So,  I welcome the current Speaker’s many initiatives.

Either by design or by accident that India under Singh now finds itself in a more elevated pitch in international affairs. We have to become more pro-active and pro-principles-based international player. This is going to give  India an enormous opportunity and also an enormous strain as we move forward to engage more ambitious and more problematic players on the international arena.

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