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Taking Stock
The Bell Tolls
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahIt is time for the people to decide whether they prefer to live in Bharat or in freak states, splinters from bigger units of the Union, where regional Lilliputians on their Quixotic march are trampling the Constitution under the wheels of sham raths by discriminating against the citizens of India on the basis of creed, caste, place and state of their birth while the leaders at the national helm look on absent-mindedly in a state of utter helplessness pat them on their backs for having provided them with the social contacts so badly needed. It is beyond the comprehension of regional dwarfs why this time is critical for India in the global perspective.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in his annual report to the UN General Assembly pointed out four areas of concern for world peace. Unfortunately, all of them fall in our immediate or near proximity, and we happen to be vulnerable in any case. Although the developments are not the outcome of our doings, our omissions have certainly contributed to the gravity of the situation. That inexactitude may be attributed to the lack of sagacity. Throughout the Nehruvian era spanning over four decades after independence and ending more or less simultaneously with the break up of the erstwhile Soviet Union, India followed a policy of non-alignment, which was construed as a policy of equidistance from both power blocs, but its tilt towards the Soviet Union was evident. Thus on all international issues America found us in the opposite camp. One wonders how could we expect the US to stand by us on issues crucial to us. The same fact was rather curtly stated by President Bush when he said: “Those who are not with us are against us.” However, our greatest blunder was to leave Afghanistan, a friendly but weak and poor country, alone to face the Soviet invasion followed by almost a decade of occupation and plunder. The chain of events that followed turned Afghanistan into a breeding ground for terrorism, and as such one of the hots pots on our door steps.

On the Kashmir issue our policy as expounded in the UN was almost mortgaged to the Soviet veto. We failed throughout to balance it by soliciting some support from the Western bloc, especially from the US. There was a marked difference between the proclamation and practice of non-alignment. We expected a role superior to China’s in Asian affairs but none of the big power saw it with equanimity. This should have been enough of a sign for our strategists and policy makers to see that the two blocs were in perfect unanimity on issues against our interest. 

By our own recognition of communist China from the very beginning, we earned the displeasure of the US. Far from getting Chinese support on any issue, we invited an invasion of our northern territory which had been inviolable throughout history.

Let us see from another angle how we have been let down by all powers whose policies influence world affairs which our policy makers here and our representatives at the UN have been blabberring about. For instance, India has been expecting a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Many countries have been privately expressing their support for India, but it has not materialised so far. Perhaps hoping nuclear capability to be a qualifying factor, India did achieve that capability. However, Pakistan was aided and abetted, overtly and covertly, in exploding nuclear devices to overshadow the supremacy which India had achieved through her own efforts.

The question arises why in the first place India did not work assiduously for hosting the headquarters of one of specialised agencies of the United Nations such as Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for which India, being a big agricultural country, would have been most suitable contender, or the World Health Organisation (WHO) as India has a large number of highly trained medical personnel serving in almost all parts of the world? Establishment of such organisational headquarters adds to the prestige of the host country in addition to providing an elbow space on relevant issues. All of such headquarters are located in America or Europe. Why? From the climatic point of view do we not have a whole range under the benign shade of the Himalayas? As for port facilities, do we not have the whole length of the West Coast doted with cities like Mumbai. Instead of building on our strengths we have been chasing the wild goose.

There is another decisive consideration-- the economic factor. Every member country has to contribute a certain percentage of the total UN budget. The economic capacity of the member concerned and its acceptance of the allotted share must be a part of the process of assessment and fixation of the share. Going through the list of the contributors, one finds India stands nowhere among the first twenty members. For instance: the US shares 25 percent of the UN annual budget. Next comes Japan with 15.7 percent, third comes Germany with 9.1 percent. France 6.4 percent, UK 5.3 percent, Italy 5.2 percent, Russia 4.3 percent. And, hold your breath, India shares 0.31 percent. (These figures for the year 1997 were provided by the UN office). Although India has provided troops for the UN peace keeping force in various parts of the world, its voice on issues that make or mar things in the world is inaudible.

Two major impediments that distract India from playing its true role in world affairs as a big democratic country have befallen as a never ending curse: one, almost permanent state of conflict with Pakistan which is sapping our life blood like beeches and not letting us to devote due attention to other issues in world forums, and two, the fundamentalists of Hindutva brigade tarnishing the name of Indian democracy through their minority- bashing. Through their vituperations against Indian Muslims they are not only slighten the minorities in the eyes of fellow countrymen but depriving the second largest Muslim population of the opportunity to play their role in global affairs through their influence in Muslim countries.

Going back to the original premise, it is time to decide whether India should play its role in conformity with its potential or remain in the morass of the past, caught in the cobweb of poverty and unemployment, faltering in the darkness of ignorance and misleading the masses into believing the unbelievable. At the same time it must be stated firmly and finally that Indian Muslims pose no threat and will never do so. Those crusading against them are, in fact, distracting attention from the real threats—the growing suicide of farmers, small fish polluting the political pond. The saffron brigade will never be able to brave the storm which is already brewing. Beware!
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