India Suffering from Stage Fright

The Art Institute of Chicago, September 1893. A 30 year old Orange-monk from India was feeling nervous before his speech. After all, he was carrying the idea and faith of more than 190 million people. He bowed to Goddess Saraswati and began his speech. “Sisters and Brothers of America.”

With the power of his voice, believe and enthusiasm, only these five words were enough for the audience of about 7000 people to give him standing ovation for more than two minutes. And when the crowd settled, he introduced the world to the mother of all religions – “Hinduism”.

Next day The New York Herald wrote, “Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.” Such was the power of the Cyclonic-monk. He knew that his Religion and its ideas could back his declaration. But it was his Oratory, Self-believe and Assertiveness what made the world accept Hinduism as a mighty religion.

On the contrary, what Dr. Manmohan Singh recently delivered at the UN meet was nothing more than timidness. The speech was a mix of pleads and problems with no suggestions or declarations. And the most embarrassing irony came when he referred to Libya. He said, “Societies cannot be reordered from outside through military force. People in all countries have the right to choose their own destiny and decide their own future.” To say such words when India had officially abstained from voting on Libyan No-Fly Zone, show nothing more than desperation.

1st January 2011, India joined Security Council as a temporary member, for 2 years. This was the golden opportunity to show the world that India is ready to have a say in World matters. We were chosen by a whopping majority by other nations so that World could be balanced. But our performance so far has been abysmal.

Just a few days back, when Resolution for Syria was put to vote, India again remained uncommitted. But still Dr. Singh asks the world to give India a Permanent Seat at Security Council. On what basis are we demanding that? Our navy gets harassed by Chinese in South China Sea. We seem almost oblivious to terror attacks inside our country. And when world asks for our opinion on major issues, we remain undecided.

India’s foreign policy since Independence looks like a web-of-paradoxes. We started by being Non-Aligned and took many countries with us. But during the course of progress, Non-Aligned Movement failed, nations chose a side. And India was left with a jumbled International Policy.

When a permanent seat of Security Council was offered to us after Independence, we humbly said, “Give it to China instead.” During Cold War, we officially stayed Non-Aligned but cosied up with Russia to get Military Technology. On the Palestine issue, we are with Palestinians but buy Israel’s technology in bulk. In 1971 and 1987, we intervened in East Pakistan and Sri Lanka, respectively, to stop a civilian bloodbath.

But in 2011, we totally shied away when Libyans were getting killed. The reason was, voting against Western powers looked bad and at the same time, totally discarding Gadaffi with his Oil-power could have been risky. So in the end, we chose not to decide. This might look like a real good strategy for a cheeky nation, not an aspiring world power.

Moreover, with such indecisiveness, we are not making our case for Veto power any stronger. US Senator John McCain has clarified this already, “Great powers have to make choices in international affairs — it is what makes them great powers. India’s abstention in the Libya votes disappoints its many American friends who supported President Barack Obama’s call last November for a permanent Indian seat on the Security Council.”

Workings at United Nations are not the only blot on the credibility of India as a future superpower. Even the fields of science and technology, we are limited only to building Military weapons and Space Satellites. Our timidness is so embossed on our foreheads that even though we helped NASA find water on moon, we were too afraid to even take credit for it.

World’s Largest Democracy will have to shed this “choker” tag. Only high growth rates and military might can’t enforce assertiveness. On the world stage, the country will have to take decisions, good & bad, tough & easy, likable & unlikable, but firm decisions. Indian diplomats need to understand that they are not representing just India or India’s future.

They were chosen to represent Asia and its problems. It took 18 years for India take this non-permanent seat back. And if such uselessness continues, other nations will see India only as a soft power. If India wants to become a Global Superpower, she might have to start from her own backyard. Most urgently, we need India’s intervention on the issues like Sri Lanka’s War Crimes, Afghanistan and China’s harassment of small nations. We need India to Rise Up!

Abhay Nidhi