Thursday, February 24, 2005

Being India

This is probably a puerile thing to say, but it is hard being India.

It is hard to hit that just-right note: somewhere between self-contained and all-enveloping.

It is hard to know when we're ignoring our neighbours and when we should shut up and mind our own business.
Step back and refuse to take sides, or leap up and get our teeth broken against a rock-solid power bloc?
Punish those who don't like us, and make no secret of it, or ignore petty annoyances and keep smiling, trying to make relationships work?

It is hard to strike the right balance of power in the subcontinent, so that we neither come across as a bully, nor upset regional power equations by being sullen and withdrawn.

It is hard to decide when we're being 'assimilatory' and when we're subject to the 'porous borders' sickness.

It is hard to choose between welcoming desperate refugees and sending back foreign nationals who don't belong here. It is hard to decide who belongs here, in the first place.... Pakistan and Bangladesh were once a part of this country. People who left, often did so against their will. If they wish to return, do we have a right to stop them?
If Kashmiris want to leave India, should we let them? Do we have a right to send in forces to any part of the country and insist that the people living there stay within this republic?

If Nepal doesn't like our big brother attitude, should we snap ties and cut off supplies (like Rajiv Gandhi once did, it is rumoured, to teach them a lesson and remind them of their dependence)? Should we continue feeding them - both royalists and maoists - with arms and sugar, to enable them to fight the good fight, as they see best?

Should we stand up for the rights of veiled women, if a group like the Taliban returns to the subcontinent? Should we issue a statement on the ban on music, in some provinces of Pakistan? Should we ever have offered to help Sri Lanka crush the LTTE? Should we allow the US military to set up base in the region?

Should we arm-twist Bhutan into having a more open border?
Should we invade Burma and enforce democracy?

Should we give aid to any of our neighbours, seeing that our own kids are starving? Is it any better though, if our kids are fed and warm, while kids living across the border starve? Whose kids are they anyway? Where do kids belong?

Should we allow anyone from the medical fraternity to leave the country before they've put in five years of free service? Should we insist that super-specialty hospitals have a 50:50 quota arrangement - milking the rich and subsidizing the poor?

Should we insist that all schools and universities follow a regimental schedule, pre-defined syllabi and universal examination systems? Why not allow them to form their own systems?

Should we follow a no-visa open border policy for all our neighbours? Why restrict it to neighbours then?
Does any country have a right to stop anyone from entering, and even staying on, in any country?

What is a country anyway?
Countries change all the time - cultures change, geography changes, politics change. If we cannot be sure what makes us, how do we decide what we must do in order to stay intact? Especially since we know that we will not stay intact, as such, ever...

This is hard - being a country. It is very hard being India.

1 comment:

dapunk said...

Hi Annie.
Remember we met last in Mumbai years back!!!
can u guide me as to which all countries, if any, have an "open border policy" with India, besides Nepal.
Also any weblink where I can find more about what it exactly means - no PhD., just a brief quick-glance summary is what I'm trying to seacrh for...many thanks
gud to have u in Delhi!!!

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