A thought provoking article by Pritish Nandy:
What is it about us that makes us crib, crib, crib? Cribbing has become a national pastime, making us look insecure, selfish, petulant and pompous, all at the same time.
Let’s look at the Obama visit. Even before he arrived in India, and he’s the first American President to visit India in his first term, we began to boast about how the US needs India today more than India needs the US. He is coming, declared our media, because we are the economy of tomorrow and America’s the economy of yesterday. We started hyphenating ourselves with China and argued that Obama was coming to India to acknowledge the shift in power from the West to Asia. Even assuming this is true, it was perhaps not the apt time to crow about it.
Yes, Asia is today an economic powerhouse and a US-India detente could augur well for the free world. As for China, it’s bigger, tougher, richer, cleverer and far better economically placed than we are and I don’t think they like being hyphenated with us. They prefer to be hyphenated with the US. Sure, both see us as a market for their products, not because we have a huge middle class with lots of surplus money. They see us as a market because it’s easy to sell to a country where 90% of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of 10%. Deals happen much quicker in such markets and we know exactly why.
Even before Obama came into town, our pompous local politicians, including the CM who’s currently living on borrowed time, having been caught stealing land belonging to the Kargil war widows, decide to show huge outrage over being humiliated by the US. What was this humiliation? They were invited to meet Obama at a gathering organised by the US Consulate and were requested in advance to provide their identification through PAN cards and whatever ID our own Government demands of us whenever we enter an airport or any other place where security’s an issue. So our politicians and bureaucrats took huge umbrage and refused to go.
We must be the only nation which allows our VIPs to walk through airport security without being checked because their ego is so fragile it might break if they have to go through a process mandatory for the rest of us. Worse, just outside the check-in counter, there’s a long list of VIPs who can walk past security without being checked. For VIPs it’s a status symbol. For the rest of us it’s a shame that we allow certain people (the list includes Robert Vadhera, who holds no official position) to violate a security protocol that could endanger all of us. Luckily, the Americans are not a hierarchical society. Their leaders get no such special treatment. So they did what was normal. They asked for everyone’s security details.
Our leaders created such uproar that the Consulate had no option but to call it a clerical error and apologise. Apologise for what? For ensuring security for their own Head of State, the world’s most targeted leader, at a function organised by them. Luckily, the MEA was wiser and clarified that this was no affront to India and the Consulate was well within its rights to impose its own security norms at their own function. US diplomacy won, over the petulance of our petty leaders, when the Consulate head personally met them and politely apologised for a mistake which was not a mistake in the first place. You should have seen our leaders smirk.
Now we are already claiming, half way through the visit, that Obama has let India down by not naming Pakistan as a terrorist state. No Head of State goes to a country and points fingers at another. Short of blaming Pakistan for 26/11, the poor guy did everything right. He did not go to Delhi first, like others do. He landed in Mumbai, stayed at The Taj, where the tragedy took place. He met the victims, commiserated with them, talked eloquently about the courage and the resilience of Mumbai in the face of such a dastardly terrorist strike. He said all the right things. But were we happy? No. The media went on and on and on, saying Obama should have done much more, he should have nailed Pakistan.
But Obama’s not a judge. The 26/11 case is being tried in a Mumbai court. Why should Obama pre-empt the legal process? Why must Obama stand on Indian soil and blame Pakistan? If Pakistan is behind 26/11, it’s our job to teach them a lesson, not Obama’s. He has done his bit, by openly sympathising with us, supporting our war against terrorism. He has come all way, after a severe electoral drubbing, to honour an invitation. He has not once mentioned Kashmir. He has not, like earlier US Presidents, hyphenated India with Pakistan. He has broken with the past by not going to Pakistan on his India trip. He is in India and India alone. That’s the biggest statement of all. He is here as a guest, a visitor, a friend, a believer in the tenets of democracy that bind our two nations together. Let’s treat him like one.
Bitching him out will achieve nothing.