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India’s path to greater glory!
By Nazarul Islam, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO. A singular bias had engulfed the minds of successive generations of Pakistanis…. since the nation’s birth in 1947. I had felt this in the air. So did my friends. As I stepped into adolescence, I was taught to hold a specific belief: that Israel and India, aided by the West, were always conspiring to pull our ‘Motherland’—the Islamic state, down! And down the road, as I grew up, all this was force-fed to me, at the public gatherings, events, and occasions of national celebration. I could sense the presence of the ‘ideology’ everywhere.
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I really did not believe all this could shape my identity or belief. Were the big powers, especially those in the democratic West, and neighboring India, truly concerned about Pakistan’s (Islamic) revival and rise into the limelight? Did a plot really exist in the concept of Hindu-Zionist or Christian plot, designed against the rise of ‘Islamic’ Pakistan? Something had bothered me: Did the rest of the world hold respect and esteem for the ideology or the creation of Pakistan?
Much later, I came to realize— all that I had been forcefully fed, was not ‘so nourishing or true’ The size and dynamism of neighboring India had fascinated me. The truth is, for seven decades now, almost all of the ‘rest of the world’ had really wanted both Pakistan and India to succeed.
Barring traditional adversaries including Israel, it is really difficult to name a nation that didn’t express concern at the rising hostilities between India and Pakistan. And they wished both nations well; hoping that the two neighbors would also benefit from their failures.
Today’s global scenario is scary for Pakistan. It had lost half the country in 1971, and over the years, drifted into extremism. This had glided into the minds of people, because it was now constraIned to fend for itself, in a hostile neighborhood. This country had failed to build its institutions. Democracy in Pakistan had eloped repeatedly, with different military dictators. Corruption and lack of infrastructure had held the nation’s progress—to the extent, that its own survival had become questionable. On the other hand, neighboring adversaries, India did well in all spheres, despite the burden of the population.
Even though present-day India’s economic slowdown is a setback, the bigger problem, however, is the precipitous fall of its moral stature, with struggling social indicators, falling rankings on democracy and corruption scales, spontaneous, peaceful nation-wide protests against CAA/NRC, and an establishment discourse that is getting angry, vengeful and exclusivist by the day.
In three decades since the Cold War, whether or not India was among the
favorites in the race, it was always looked up with a sense of expectation, and awe at the growing ease with which it was able to manage its diversity, change governments democratically, and globalize its thinking, economically and strategically.
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India’s economy grew only in the post-1991 phase impressively, and that further enhanced the thought of ‘Grand India’. This is an example of one chaotic country that became socially and politically more stable by the year and is now deemed as one of the engines of global growth. China had managed to keep itself, way ahead of India but it was unable to serve as an example with its ‘authoritarian political economy’, that anyone really wanted to, adopt. And even Putin’s Russia and the Iran of Ayatollahs could not match India’s steady rise in esteem, within the community of nations.
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By contrast, India’s posture was diametrically opposite—which became an inspiration and an example to the rest of the world. That the big, diverse nations had failed to grow not ‘in spite of’ democracy, but the Indians were able to do it because it had cherished democracy. Just Imagine, what chaos would result, if a nation as diverse as India did not have its liberal, democratic, inclusive political and social culture? Where would the Indians end up?
It could crumble like the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia or the Middle-East. Or perhaps, go the authoritarian way of Russia, Turkey, and China. A growing and increasingly secure and stable India, with its poverty, diversity and a million problems, was a reliable catalyst for democracy and liberalism.
Unfortunately, all this is under threat today. Decades-old India’s friends now look longingly to their leaders. What really has gone wrong, India? And the question you hear quite often remains: what is really going on in India? And…is it going to get worse? How did you get here, in the first place? No one, no foreign power, political, corporate or opinion leader, is celebrating India’s stall. However, the alarm and concerns, particularly from India’s friends, is certainly there. Do Indians realize, they have a problem, at hand?
This certainly is not a proud nation’s fall from grace. At least, not till now. One must consider that friends of India are also diehard optimists, and centered on the idea of India—a country, with an uncanny ability— of flattering, to deceive them, more often than not.
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Reliable friends have drawn comfort from what they see as a brave pushback from at least some of India’s institutions, occasionally even the judiciary and some media, the youth and, of course — I say it bracing for the consequences — widespread protests by women, students, and the Muslims. The message you hear quite often has remained: Each country has problems. But in which other countries, in such trying circumstances, would you still have men and women, Muslim and Hindu, gathering in the streets, reading the Preamble to India’s Constitution?
But then, what else would you hear if the only people you are talking to are those like your own selves: Editors, woolly-headed intellectuals and, that favorite slur, Left-liberal. Would you really expect them to detest India’s first democratically-elected government of the Hindu Right?
Two things need to be understood clearly. First, people in this category have traditionally been the biggest Indophiles. They’ve also been at the forefront of hailing India’s post-1991 rise, and have kept backing its battle with terrorism sprouting from hostile neighbors. In these decades, many believe Pakistan has morphed into a ‘global migraine’, or at least into a classical, nuisance state.
Our world watches today in silence and amusement, as Imran Khan grandly compared India going the way of Germany in the 1930s under the Nazis. One may not agree to this, nor would a person wish it were true. And, friends don’t know how to defend India. Minus, the exception of Bangladesh, others have exchanged stories of visa troubles for academics and journalists, pressures on media, and are pushed into asking one simple question: why is the neighbor India, acting like China?
And second, it isn’t just the intellectual or policy or media universe that is buzzing with these freshly-generated doubts. The global corporates are concerned too: You used to have policy predictability, now it’s like a bouncing rubber ball! New taxes and regulations keep popping up then, some of these disappear soon. And a few have lingered on!
Without prejudice, one needs to ask why India’s judiciary, is muddled? And how, the return of old socialist fixations such as import-substitution, indigenous and a small-trader mercantilist ideology, may guide India out of the malaise. On top of all that, present-day India’s ministers have continued to create fear by admonishing their people! The rapid rise of Hindutva and saffron India, In short, in one sense or the other, it is seen clearly as India’s transformation into a prickly state. And, Indians too are not liking it!
Perhaps, the next step forward would be the one of substituting India’s soft power with the induction and the rise of hard power, instead — that a new history had begun post-2014, and this naya Hindu India would no more bend over backward, to appease all other friends or foes. I strongly believe that Grand India has run into two major problems.
First, the country could make that transition, if they had traditionally built that kind of hard power in the first place. Those who know better in the international strategic community, and are not impressed by the India news media TV channels, know that while the post-Pulwama 26/27 February 2018 action had demonstrated a hard resolve on India’s part: to retaliate and risk escalation—its lack of ability to deliver a decisive, unilateral punishment on a much smaller entities like Pakistan—had, of course, been severely exposed.
India, therefore, has trapped itself in its own rhetoric to prematurely declaring itself as the region’s new ‘hard power’, while giving up what was its real strength in softness, so far. The message: perils exist if India wishes to flaunt something which the country does not really possess. Simply put, if you do not own something don’t show its image. It won’t work!
And second, I believe that a marketing person would tell you that all brands of consumer products, or let’s include nations, have some essential ‘brand attributes’. For China, it is a hard state, uncluttered, efficient governance, ethnic homogeneity, a superpower’s military, and the ‘distinction’ of carrying out the largest number of executions in the world each year and also keeping it a state secret.
For Pakistan, India’s best selling reference point these days: keep your lips shut…do NOT talk. And here lies the conflict—India’s core brand attributes are democracy, ease of living with diversity, a chaotic, cluttered but inclusive governance, and an argumentative, opinionated society. And it is by no means a soft state. It cannot be done, with such containments and characteristics. Remember that India is the only large, diverse state to emerge after World War II to not only stay unified but emerge stronger. All others, from the Soviet Union to Pakistan, the hardest of hard states, have been truncated or broken down into smaller sovereign entities!
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Do we have the courage to dismiss it all as Western prejudice, and primarily against Hinduism. This will certainly not alter the fact that a combination of identity politics and economic decline has severely damaged the former image of Grand India.
As a corollary, it has largely tarnished the image of Prime Minister Modi as well. India needs now to take a deep breath and step forward to fix up its major collateral damages. By all means, Indians can always retort: do we care?
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Friends and adversaries of this largest democracy on the planet, do share their genuine concern that whatever strategy is applied —in the wake of petty 4.8 percent growth and the highest unemployment rate in the last half-century of India, this needs to be addressed. Grand India must learn, this would not be viable at all, for an emerging superpower!