The brash young Englishman and the cringing Indians. India has many lessons to unlearn and learn! Let us stand up and talk more boldly and confidently!
Mr.Ratan Tata didn’t do India proud by welcoming the British Foreign Secretary at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai and honouring such an immature man just for the fact he was British minister and a white man at that!
The Tatas must know and appreciate the sentiments of the common people of India and must show more timely sense of connecting with the common people, not just show up by standing near white man who shows such insensitivity to issues!
The brash young Englishman,David Miliband,44, proved to be more than a match to his counterparts in India! I mean the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and the rest of the Indian establishment.
When he was appointed as Britain’s Foreign Minister he was supposed to be the youngest to that post for some thirty years. As such he was looked upon as a man of promise and also a bit too young or too premature to that post.He now proves,once in India,he is both premature and a bit over-excited too.Considering he comes to India with the knowledge that India was Britain’s one-time colony,he must have imagined and as most ,it seems,may be still people there in Britian seem to imagine they can take India and the Indians granted.
much more shocking was the conduct of this visiting dignitary.He was both arrogant,aggressive as well as a bit hectoring.
He seems to have imagined that he can talk and behave as he is used to ,may be at home,back in Britain where such conduct and behaviour might be appreciated and considered as a sign of cleverness.
But the young man was not only brash he was also a bit crass in not knowing good manners and etiquette.
India had changed beyond his imagination.That is clear.That he is why eh didnt seem to think it was important that in India some polite manners count a lot.A respect for age and experience and also some appreciation of local flavour where more politeness commands more attention.But not in his manner.
What purpose was served by his visit?Noting it seems.
Of course,the visitor forgot,at least for the duration of his visit before he went on to Pakistan that he is after all a foreign minister of a country which had steadily fallen in the international rank to the level of a Third World country in terms of its international standing and influence.
But the British has a long memory,their memory of the past grandeur and glory.So,they don’t forget.
He was allowed speak but the foreign office was quick to respond and say India is a free country and any visitor is also free to talk whatever he or she wants.
Yet,in India we have our own perceptions of the world,world affairs and also on our own terms and conditions for resolving India’s problems.
In one sense, I was both annoyed by the conduct of Mr.Miliband and also in a way,the foreign secretary’s visit also must have served the Prime Minister well,in a rather cynical way.
I was for long of the view that Indians are a miserable lot when it comes to standing up to the foreigners’ lecturing to Indians.
In this instance,I am of the view and I have no hesitation to say this again that under Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh,India has been let down in a manner that I consider this as unfortunate outcome of the UPA government under the learned Dr.Singh.
First in the UK when he received a hon degree from Oxford where he made a speech that was criticised by many in India,among others by Prof.Irfan Habib,the eminent historian.Also by myself.It is just a co-incidence that both Prof.Habib and myself were at Oxford,at New College,he as a research scholar and me as an undergraduate.So,may be we both felt very uncomfortable when Dr.Singh(who was at Nuffield College in our time)went out of the way when he spoke and applauded about how much Indians still owe to Britain to give us the lessons in good governance!This made me very,very angry.
Also,when Dr.Singh went to the USA and when he met George Bush,he let his guard go away!Our Prime Minister,obviously overawed by the presence of the American President in such close proximity,he again let his caution and sense of presence let go and gushed and called President in such an unguarded language.He said:”Oh,President,Indians simply love you so much!” Yes,that was the tone!
How great is India!How much we have come along!India is now a regional power,the world”s software superpower and India is counted and courted by all nations for its unique image,as a responsible,peace-loving and peace-seeking great democracy.
How much caution the Indian Prime Minister must have taken!Alas!We are not well-served by our leaders of the current dispensation when it comes to raising the international standing and image of India in the world capitals.
So,I am both saddened and also take comfort,in a negative way,yes it is somewhat in that manner for now the British foreign secretary comes and wakes us in a rude shock for conducting his diplomacy in a deplorable manner.
The tragedy for Indians is that we as a nation or at least still our ruling class,the political establishment and the official class still present themselves as a gang of cringers!
Already we have noticed and commented in these columns that our Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh,went to UK and when was presented with a hon degree by Oxford University,our man stood up and made an acceptance speech.Yes,on such ceremonial occasions,we make speeches and as a matter of courtesy to the guests we make some polite remarks and we don’t take such occasions to make any controversial comments of discordant notes.This is well-understood.But our Prime Minister with his learning and also with degrees from Cambridge and Oxford and thus knowing well their traditions and also their historic value,must have chosen his words very carefully.
He must be knowing that the British had done much harm to the Indian psychology. We as a nation of people under the British rule for very long, have somehow for the complex reasons, have become a nation of subservient people and whenever we see an Englishman, more a British than an American, we become somehow tongue-tied, we speak in a very subservient way and we seem to nod to everything that comes from a white tongue.
So,our Prime Minister chose that Oxford ceremony to make his observations.The key ingredient of his speech was to tell the present generation of the Britons this way.He said,among other things:”We,Indians,learnt all that is good in us,we learnt from you,gentlemen and ladies,how to govern ourselves,you taught us,the art of government,how to manage our affairs,we took democracy from you,we learnt to respect the laws from you,we are what we are today because of your benevolent rule for such a long,long time”!
Yes,this was the tone.
Now,when he met David Miliband,the youngman,rather the brash young Englishman,he ,our Prime Minister floundered! The “boy David”didnt care for any nicities.He went on to lecture the learned Doctor on what is terrorism,how to deal with it and he said,in the tone and manner this way:”You,Prime Minister,see here.This is what I want to tell you.Take it from me.You want to tackle terrorism?From Pakistan?Then,go straight to your original sin.Solve the Jammu and Kashmir issue,do you understand?Yes,that is the way way to move forward…”Our learned Doctor was tongue-tied,literally and metaphorically!
Then,he met the Foreign Minister Mr.Mukerjee.Our man is a bit more learned and more polished and that is when it comes to smooth talking and a more gentlemanly way,you cant fault Mr.Mukerjee.But this time,Mr.Mukerjee was also taken aback by the brashness of the distinguished visitor.Mr.Mukerjee was giving the impression he was serious in demanding the handing over of the terrorists,who committed the crime on the Indian soil.But no,for this time Mr.Mukerjee had a taste of the brash young Englishman’s rather immature and impetuous wisdom!No one would hand over their country’s citizens to another country for trial.
Mr.Miliband is in a way a publicity-conscious and publicity-seeking man.It is obvious.On January 15,he made his comments that received maximum publicity.He knows the value of publicity,adverse publicity is sure to ensure widespread coverage and he made it sure that he also wrote a ed-page article on his views on India and this he made it happen the same day in the British newspaper,The Guardian.
He also gave a very popular channel.Karan Thapar’s Devil’s Advocate and in which also he played with his words and expressions that all amounted to articulating his prejudicial views.One,terrorism on war as articulated by the USA and with which the UK governments sailed along for seven long years,he now disagrees.
Second,he sought to link the Pakistani terrorist attacks on Mumbai targets which included killing of foreign nationals,UK,US and Jewish
nationals too and yet the Brit didn’t make any distinction,he sought to link the Mumbai outrage with the age-old and tired theme of solving the J&K issue!
The young man sought to speak and behave like a colonial office hangover.
Third,he didnt behave politely with a sovereign nation which doesn’t look up Britain as an equal.
These three aspects of Miliband’s visit would be long remembered and as far as the current solutions of the Pakistani action on the terrorists,Miliband’s visit is a disaster.
India has to seek its own solutions through its own mature diplomatic ways. Obama’s approach to the world’s affairs,. and in particular to the Indian affairs would be watched by everyone and surely by the UK government.
One fallout and even one new lesson for India is to treat UK’s views on terrorism,the current Pakistani outrage and how UK would seek to re-invent its ties with the new US government as not our business but it is the UK’s own business.
UK under the current dispensation is going to be different.May be Gordon Brown is a mature leader and he is.But not his ministers.Mr.Miliband would bring a bad name for the good name of Brown.
This is the message India must send out to UK government and the British people.
One message additionally is:UK should change its stance on many issues of the world.Not only about India’s.
India must become more pro-active now,with a new US President in office and India at the centre of the terrorist outrage must now expand its diplomatic base and we have engage every country that is concerned with the serious threat of terrorism into an internationally organised voice,through the UN and other agencies and organisations like the EU and other councils.
Yes,at the end of it all,there is no quick-fix to attacking terrorrist menace.It is now a universal issue.
It requires enormous patience and Pakistan is going to test our patience.
We seek Pakistani’s civil society more than ever for a more mature approach to bringing the current tensions under control.
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