WHY DO OUR NEIGHBOURS HATE US?

The political history teaches us that when a country dominates a region geographically , demographically and economically , the region becomes its backyard. Hence when The United States came up with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 , no one was surprised . But when a country of India’s size declared a foreign policy based on equality and non interference at the time of independence a few eye brows rose . Nehruvian concept of a free and equitable world order was a revolutionary concept , according to which India would assist its neighbors with all its means in solving their problems without interfering in their internal affairs. Nehru’s vision got its first set back in the war of 1962 and by the time of his death our foreign policy was in disarray. Today if we look around us , we have more enemies than friends in our neighborhood.

so what went wrong? The failure of 1962 and the unprovoked war of 1965 made us realize the futility of an egalitarian foreign policy and the need for self preservation made us assert our stature as the regional power . Pakistan has always seen us as an existential threat , hence it tried to exploit the weakness shown by us during the war of 1962 by invading Indian territory in 1965 making us suspicious of that country’s motive ever since . Hence when the rebellion broke out in the East it was natural for India to support the Mukthi Bahini . The war of 1971 broke whatever trust pakistan had , turning it into our eternal foe . As far as Sri Lanka is concerned we never had a clear policy , we always saw Colombo through a lens that was placed at Chennai . Once we realised our folly we tried to rectify it , but the damage was already done . Bangladesh was supposed to be our friend thanks to our involvement in its birth but with the rise of ziaur Rehman and the Bangladesh National Party we were not able to cope up with the changing scenario and due to our poor judgement we lost an ally . The error in judgement was also the main problem in our relationship with Nepal , which sadly still continues with the madhesi fiasco.

Our failure could largely be attributed to the lack of clear foreign policy doctrine. Once the Nehru doctrine was thrown out we never tried to frame a new one . A country specific approach is one of the steps to rectify our current situation. Using the same yard stick for every country was the biggest mistake as far as our relations with the SAARC countries were concerned. China signing the CPEC  with Pakistan must not be equated with Sri Lanka signing a treaty with China or Nepal planning a Railway line across the Himalayas . Sri Lanka is recouping after a bitter civil war and it needs investments from across the globe , Hence that factor must be taken into consideration while evaluating the Sino-Lankan relation and its effects vis a vis  India.

Next is to evaluate the political situation in a country thoroughly before interfering or lending support to different groups. India’s policy with respect to President Nasheed of Maldives was such an issue . Tit for Tat cannot yield any results , Pakistan supporting separatists in Kashmir must not make us support the balochi cause . A stable Pakistan is more of India’s necessity than of Pakistan itself. A better judgement could help avert many of such crises.

Lastly we must have a better perspective management system. The cause for every ill in any of these countries is often directed towards us . This has much to do with how those people perceive India . This requires more cultural interactions , but sadly it is one sided with Indian culture being imposed on them , which they see as aggression . A better cultural understanding of our neighbours could go a long way in alleviating suspicions and mistrusts.

BHARATMALA , SAGARMALA AND CHABAHAR

According to IMF, India will be the fastest growing major economy next year . This will not only raise our International clout but also make us more vulnerable to the changes taking place in our volatile neighborhood. Our biggest neighbor China is facing the biggest economic crisis since its meteoric rise in the 80s and is expected to slow down to sub 7% levels for the first time next year. Though western experts expect a dystopic future , in reality the Chinese one party system could be stretched to its limits . There could be ruthless oppression in Tibet as the communist party would be needing scape goats to tide over the situation , which could easily spill over into India  .Pakistan on the other hand is fighting a civil war with a hydra headed Taliban , which ironically have sympathizers within the government apparatus. A failing state is more dangerous , as it could do anything to take maximum causalities with it as it sinks , which in Pakistan’s case is us.Hence  The proxy war and a porous border are bound to frustrate us more and more in the coming years . Bangladesh , a regional success story is in midst of a showdown between two women , who are in no way in the mood to relent. Nepal and Myanmar are in transition while Bhutan and Sri Lanka are on a path of self discovery. Being the only “bright spot” in the region we must be prepared to face the worst.

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Bharat mala and Sagar mala are two ambitious projects proposed by the the new central government aimed at enhancing the infrastructure along our land and water boundaries .

The Bharat Mala project plans to build a 14,000 Km long highway along our land border extending from Gujarat to Mizoram on a fast track basis . This is of strategic importance especially along the border with China , which will reduce the chances of a 1962 fiasco from being repeated. It is a known fact that the Chinese are also enhancing the infrastructure along the other side of the border and in many ways this initiative could act as a deterrent for the Chinese. The project is expected to be completed by 2020.

Sagar Mala on the other hand aims at improving the infrastructure along the coast , with ports developed along the modern lines and improved connectivity between them.The modes of communication would include roads, railways, inland waterways and coastal routes. Both these projects aims at garlanding India (Mala) along its peripheries not only acting as arteries for economic growth , but also as a shield to protect us .

CHABAHAR

Yesterday (6 may 2015) Minister for road transport and highways Mr Nithin Gadkari signed an MoU with Iran to develop the southeastern Iranian port of Chabahar for $ 85 million . This project is  expected to increase Indian access to the resource rich central Asia Bye passing Pakistan. Ironically , China is developing the Gwadar port in pakistan , which is 72 km east of chabahar , aimed at turning  it into a naval base in the distant future . With these ports becoming operational in years to come their effect on regional dynamics is something to look forward to.

footnote : With two more ports in its neighborhood it would be interesting to find how Dubai , which is basically the gateway to Iran will fare in years to come.

INDIA’S OCEAN

Prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the two Indian ocean island nations of Seychelles and Mauritius may not have got the media buzzing . But strategically speaking , they are by far the most important ones he have undertaken . As our aspirations are expected to grow over the years , a better relation with our Indian ocean neighbors could prove a game changer in the long run . We are the only country in the world to have an ocean named after us , though the nomenclature may be accidental , geography has it that there is not a single landmass of notable size south of kanyakumari , making us the prime care taker and possibly the potential benefactor of its resources . With the rising east , the trade through this route is only set to increase , making us not just a global power but a significant player in the future multipolar world.

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The primary objective  of any nation is self preservation , with hostile neighbors to the north and west , India cannot have its coastline left undefended . unlike the pacific or the atlantic oceans , the level of militarization of the Indian ocean is still low , Though this could facilitate uninterrupted  free trade but in the longer run it could have fatal as seen with the rising piracy over the horn of Africa .T The united states and Britain do have a military base at Diego garcia in the Indian ocean , but the assertion of power over the entire region was limited, china was the first to initiate a long term military cum trade agenda for the region through the “string of pearls ” initiative . India had never shied away from showing its unease at the opening of a potential hostile front in the south , with the conflict over the control  of the south china sea now heating up ,  India  is compelled to assert itself in the region through its own security initiative. The SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) initiative , aimed at greater engagement with the Indian ocean region was initiated by The Prime Minister , under which the Indian government have signed MoUs for the development of assumption island( Seychelles) and agalela island  (Mauritius)  as trade and defense outposts . The Prime Minister’s visit also coincided with Seychelles and India launching a Coastal Surveillance Radar Project and commissioning of Barracuda into the service of the Coast Guard of Mauritius ,  our first steps to ensure maritime security in the region.

Indian ocean could indeed be India’s ocean if we could use its abundant resources to fulfill our growing demands , The blue economy project aimed at harnessing these resources was extended to these countries , so that our interests are met without harming the nations over the ocean’s rim nor the ocean’s ecology. our passive demeanor over the race for arctic resources has already put us in the back foot . A similar situation in the Indian ocean will be unacceptable , hence pioneering the blue economy initiative to explore the bounties of the ocean is the right step towards India’s resource self sufficiency.

The prime minister’s previous foreign visits were more hyped than the one discussed above , yet his subtle initiatives this time are going to reap huge dividends in the future for India as a nation.

“SAVE YAZIDIS”

“SAVE GAZA” posters are a common sight in Malabar these days ,These posters usually contain horrifying images of victims of the Israeli airstrikes followed by a warning hinting at a possible retribution . They also  blame the western powers for turning away from the ground reality and usually end with an anti imperialistic slogan questioning this double standards followed by these powers. Though the Palestinian crisis is one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the past century , the hue and cry made over here miles away from the conflict zone is questionable . Two main groups are responsible for the wide spread dissemination of these “messages” in this area with sizable Muslim population , one being the communist party of India (Marxist) and the other are the various Wahhabi organizations that have sprung up in the region . Taking political mileage out of an international crisis is nothing new to Indian politics , in fact it was The Father Of our Nation who started the trend by supporting the Khilafat Movement .From the umpteen number of communal clashes since 1930s , including the recent ones in Gujarat , we Indians are also familiar with the fact that Religion and politics is a highly explosive mixture . Still we abundantly mix the both whether it be Sangh Parivaar , the Wahhabi or as in the case above even the communists. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Malabar aided by the oil rich countries of the Persian gulf is a reality that we cannot shy from , the same is true with the visible tilt among the Hindu youth towards the Sangh . Posters like these whether well intended or not will only fuel the further polarization of the region . What is sad is the fact that the communists are using the desperate polarization tactic to break into the core vote bank of the Muslim League at the expense of its ideology . This article is not meant to delve into this situation but to the double standards we adopt with respect to a group of ” DEVIL WORSHIPERS ” in Iraq called the “yazidis” .

Independent India according to Pandit Nehru was to become the voice of the oppressed . But over the years , electoral compulsions have made us more selective of the causes we support . Though the mainstream political parties and the fringe groups may highlight the Palestinian cause , they never issue a poster condemning a non sectarian issue like the extermination of Yazidis by the ISIS .  Yazidis are a minority in northern Iraq , who are one of the few remaining tribes in the middle east who have  not yet been islamised . Like the Druze , a minority community in isreal , Yazidis are stuck in  the Jew-sunni-shia conflict unfolding in the middle east. The ISIS have already given the ultimatum for them to convert to Islam or die , which if happens , would be nothing short of the holocaust..

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we malayalees carry the pride of molding a perfectly secular society on our sleeves .But over the years we have become more compromising of the true ideals of secularism. The fear of being branded communal have made us hide our real feelings behind this mask named tolerance . To break out of this glass house let us lend our collective voice to the yazidis and start placing “SAVE YAZIDI ” hoardings .

HINDUS AND THE INDIAN DEMOCRACY

to know  the sheer scale of the success we as a nation is , you must read ramachandra guha’s ” India After Gandhi” . it is the riveting  story of a nation born out of chaos , which over the years slowly overcame obstacles , many of which life threatening , with ease and determination. we have had the various political scientists giving their take on why we as a country survives or is surviving , but most of them have given scant credit to the most important of the reasons – the majority community – ” hindus”.

i had always wanted to write a post on this pillar of indian democracy , but backtracked owing to the “communal” tag that comes with it.  the recent anti immigration laws by many European countries made me value the sense of openness that our community have shown over centuries and the level of tolerance it still foster. many had predicted at the time of independence that with the death of nehru , india will start taking baby steps towards being a hindu pakistan , which even after 65 years have not happened and to my knowledge is never going to. we have had the saffron party ruling the country for nearly eight years and still we remain more secular as ever before . the sheer force of the ram janmabhoomi movement that propelled BJP to power could have easily compelled it to build the temple at the site , but the secular section of the majority community , fought for it not to happen . many dooms day predictions are already out for the day when/if Mr Narendra modi will become the prime minister , but as we all know as far as the secular ones , which btw constitute 95% of the 1 billion hindus remain the majority , is never going to.

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hindus make up nearly 80% of our population , with their share in population varying from 3% in many northeastern states to 95% in himachal pradesh. the most interesting of the examples is my state of kerala were 45% percent of the people belong to the minority groups. the state could have easily gone the malaysian way , which have similar statistics and taken up their own bhumiputra movement  , what happened was just the opposite. now after 50 years of the states birth it is more egalitarian than malaysia will ever be.  kerala could not be compared with a north indian state , where generations have grown up hearing the folklore of shivaji and prithviraj chauhan and their fight against the invaders. even after this huge doses of victimhood they remain much at ease with their muslim neighbours , there is this misconception among the secular left wing observers that the north indian hindus could never accept secularism to the fullest , which is to an extent baseless , if it was the case , then how could you explain the success of the hindi soap on zee tv “qubool hai” ? .the story revolves around muslim characters with the lead actress invoking “allah” on every second breath. according to the rating charts it was once the second highest rated show in india. similarly  to me the khans of bollywood shows us  how the north indian masses have graduated with salman khan being revered as god by most of the lower class men from bihar and UP .

this brings us to the question of riots . if hindus were at ease with their other half how could they riot? . my answer would be the comparison with the white supremacist movements and neo nazis. these riots which mostly are politically motivated are the handiwork of these fringe groups , a phenomenon not confined to india alone . but unlike the countries of the west which have stabilised into  monolithic entities , we are in a state of flux like the europe of the 18th century , where outbursts could be magnified and old prejudices easily offended . as we progress towards a stable future these groups will certainly be pushed into obscurity .

i did my graduation at a MES (muslim education society) college whose president Dr Fazal Ghafoor once told us that he would always be thankful to the majority community of kerala for being secular as it is and helping the minorities prosper with them . which is a huge credit for the 95% of us . i conclude this post with the trajectory of BJP’s evolution , a party that began as the appendage of RSS is now a national party whose ideology is just called “right wing” , with more emphasis on free market than on hinduism.

CONGRESS SOCIALIST PARTY

this is a story about a movement which neither the right , left or centre wants to talk about. founded in 1930s  by a group of well informed gentlemen as an alternative to the congress and the communist party , congress socialist party was grand in its vision . it wanted to fuse the socialist ideas with the “bharat ki mitti” and that too not in a marxist way. they were never against the indian set up , but opposed its evils , nor were they anti religion. its leaders dreamed of an india were inequalities perished and everyone lived a fruitful life.

quit india movement was when most of its leaders like jayaprakash narayan and ram manohar lohia came to the national forefront. they quickly made inroads among the masses and were quiet literally challenging the congress high command. gandhi being the authoritarian that he was did the same thing with the socialist camp what he had done to subhash chandra bose. that is he boycotted it. with time the movement lost its steam and by 1950s died a slow death. though jp rose back to prominance in the 70s for another reason , this time his ideology taking a back seat over his personal vendetta. if his second innings was more about his ideology than ambitions the janatha party regime could have ushered in a new india..

NEHRU’S INDIA

nehru’s experiment of what came to be india , is much debated these days , especially for the huge bureaucracy and the associated corruption it has given rise to ,with some of those commentators   terming it a total failure . as another independence day approaches , it is time for a bit of introspection of what we as have become.

at the time of independence there were two antagonistic views of how india must move forward. the gandhian and nehruvian path.the first to me , a third generation free indian is a bit insane. gandhi was in favor of grama swaraj , an utopia were villages were self sufficient and the nation was nothing but a federation of these villages. in a world were nationalism is worn on sleeves such a federation would have broken up years ago , with a weak center we didn’t even stood a chance . that is were nehrus india out shined . though much of the government of india act of 1935 was blindly copied , it did give us a sense of unity , particularly in those formative years. today it has become the backbone of modern india .

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as the fizzling out of the arab spring showed us changes should always be assimilated with time , hence nehru’s decision to adopt  the colonial system was the best decision  made at the time . he planned to slowly adapt it to the indian climate. but his grand visions for a better india was destroyed by none other than his own daughter. being the politician she is , she adapted the system for her benefit imprinting into the indian psyche the bureaucracy that we have. if we look back it is more than clear that since 1970s no real change have taken place as far as our system goes and the later governments following indiras path nehruvianism was abandoned.

it is indira who should be blamed for what we have today and not nehru rather he must be admired for his work of uniting us into a country that is slowly emerging on the world stage.

DISCOVERY OF NEHRU

Discovery of India was there on my flipkart wishlist for a long time.i had till last month never though myself ready to read it , as i started reading , the book quickly got hold of me . internship came as a boon as i could be in it 24*7 even in the clinic. there are many view points at looking at Nehru , but over the years the minority views were suppressed and he was made a divinity like Gandhi. so for a guy in his mid twenties this book opened up Nehru more as a human being than the god that he is perceived to be.

the book is aptly titled a classic that it is , for its narration. opening at the Indus valley it passes smoothly through Vedas , Mauryas , Guptas and the sultans to reach 1944. for someone who calls himself an atheist his knowledge of Indian philosophy and advaita comes out as a revelation.for me the book really starts with the advent of British , to have the first hand narration of the freedom movement. the stubbornness of Indian national congress over partition is barely emphasized these days , Nehru vehemently opposed the idea and could rarely meet eye to eye with Jinnah. the decision taken not to support the Nazis and japan during the second world war is praiseworthy . Nehru was totally against the tactics of Indian national army and Subhash Chandra boss to side with Japanese as he believed that such an alliance would just change the imperial government at Delhi.

the book presents the constant turmoil both inside and outside , that compelled him to look at things at a new angle , from the past . so at Ahmadnagar fort he slowly unravels . the author may come out a bit too western for an average Indian for his constant references to Greek , roman and European literature , but his understanding of the Indian problems were equally deep. though a prophet of industrialization , he was of the view that india could prosper only with villages as autonomous units. the foreign policy doctrine and the non aligned movement were evident in his writing.he looked up to the African and Asian countries for guidance especially china , which he considered as the eternal friend of ours. hence it was not surprising to imagine his initial reactions in 1962.

the book opens itself in bits and as it reaches the final pages you would feel your heart heavy with pride . Mr Nehru i feel privileged to know you in person.

INDIAN MIDDLE CLASS

I have always been a fan of the dooms day prophets , especially the ones who see the apocalypse in the immediate future. I had thought of it as a genuine reaction to my secular upbringing , as we never cared about a god who would return to push us off into ovens of fire. But the developments in the last few months have made me realize the real reason , its a communicable disease called “the eternal pessimism” which makes you an ardent member of the great Indian middle class.

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a middle class guy is supposed to be pessimistic it seems, especially with the political class . we take  pride in blaming the system , naming  it clumsy and worthless , without even trying to understand what the system stands for. we forget the fact that nothing called india existed 60 years back ,it was  our founding fathers who  painstakingly pieced together a democratic setup , which holds all of us with same dignity.   i have heard many praise the chinese model of governance echoed especially in print by our national newspaper , a one party state where bloggers like me would have been jailed and arnab goswami surely executed .  the real problem with the middle classes is that, taking the global que ,we want change, but don’t know what to change. at first we wanted tougher anti corruption laws , then wanted to put all the corrupt in jail and till a month ago we wanted stricter anti rape laws.  its seems to me that all we want is to shout and not resolve real issues. protests can only ignite discussions , following it up is perhaps more important.in a democratic setup like ours that would be long , as over a billion plus voices must be heard and taken into consideration. this desire to change the whole setup overnight is absurd and blaming the system for it is plain stupidity . iam proud of what we have achieved since 1947 , our system could have crumbled in 1962 , during emergency or in 1993 , but it did not. our system is resilient and constantly adapting to face new challenges , such a juggernaut cannot change overnight but evolve over time , i wish the middle class could understands that.

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