Friday, March 19, 2010

INDIA AND AMERICA: MORALITY AND 'KRISHNA-SUDAMA' SYNDROME

The outrage that some informed Indians are expressing over America's handling of the David Headley case, its arming of Pakistan, its re-tuning of the Af-Pak policy to sideline India etc is, at one level, deeply disturbing because it flows out of faulty premises. I am sure there is not even a whisper of disapproval either in the American media or among ordinary American citizens over the manner in which the US is working to protect its own interest by getting the double-agent to plead guilty so that he cannot be extradited to India. Similarly, there is broad approval of President Obama's other policies that directly affect India as being in America's best interest.

That is the way it should be, but we don't seem to have understood that even though history has tried its best to teach us otherwise.

Mature and sensible nations don't hobble national interest and foreign policy objectives just to seek meaningless "moral" approval of others and appear "nice". On the contrary, great nations display a wholesome degree of morality and honesty in their internal political and administrative processes, and pragmatic immorality in external dealings, when required, in national interest.

India, on the other hand, has a few basic tenets totally inverted.

National interest, it appears, is a bad word, if it does not measure up to the yardsticks of democracy and morality. This fanciful and, in my view, utterly ridiculous positing is a legacy inherited from Nehru. Unfortunately, protecting the legacy has taken precedence over protecting national interest. This has prevented this huge country from looking at itself as a strong, confident nation which should matter and command respect proportionately at the global stage. That is why, to give one example, even a small country like Bangladesh, which we helped create, can disdainfully show us the middle finger and blatantly permit anti-India activities on its soil. Let us not even talk Pakistan. Will any other large country allow such nonsense in its backyard? But for Independent India, morality has almost always been more important than anything else, no matter what price the nation has had to pay and continues to.

Where morality should really be the lodestone for our politicians, we have gutter fights instead. Petty political power is what really energises them. So desperate they are to physically experience and enjoy it as individuals and parties, like spoils of war are in a foreign land, that they are willing to got to any extent to grab it in "supreme personal interest". Morality is not even a factor as they willingly rip apart every single norm of civilized behavior in their unbridled greed and lust for perverse personal power. Hypocrisy, corruption and falsehoods have become so pervasive that they are not issues that disturb any longer or discussed any more except when politicians are throwing blame at each other and scoring pathetic political points in TV studios.

Equally disturbing, if not more, is the somewhat sentimental expectation from the US that it owes something to India just because some Indians believe that the American Dream is their dream too and spare no effort to tell fellow Indians and the world that they - and therefore India - do not aspire to be anything more than America's fiercely loyal "poor friends", happy to glow in the reflection of that nation's light. The latest clamour for getting American universities to India is just another manifestation of that "second-best" mindset; there is not even a thought being given to creating educational institutions that will better the best that the US has; it is as if those who matter have managed to convince themselves that Harvard and Stanford are more Indian than American just because they have been there!

The modern Sudama, happy being where he is, expects that the US will play King Krishna and honour him for his "loyalty" and "friendship". He refuses to realise that America, like any other nation, will act only in its national interest; there is no space for compromising it in any manner, no matter how much someone genuflects disregarding his own dignity and pride. The pain that some of us are experiencing is due to this lack of understanding, this "Krishna-Sudama Syndrome", more than anything else.

Morality is the talk of the weak and the meek. And of those who lack historical perspective and future vision of the practical world that man has lived in since time immemorial.

A nation which bases its policies and responses primarily on such irrelevant considerations cannot realise it full potential. In any case it cannot claim its rightful place in the world based on its size, resources and population. I do not see any other nation being stymied by such juvenile talk and debate.

The meek shall not inherit the earth, if past and present experience is anything to go by. The sooner some of us understand it, the better.

Related reading: Go India: got to be the best, not second