India has crossed sixty years of being declared a republic and it is an achievement which is laudable. Higher foreign exchange reserves, a relaxed economic policy which encourages foreign direct investment, several rockets deposited into space, an indigenous fighter plane, BPO’s (Business process outsourcing), mobile phone density, broadband and more infrastructure. The list can be broadened depending on one’s interests.
The development of our republic has also meant that we have meddled with the political spheres of our neighbouring countries. These have been active involvements like the Indian Peace Keeping Force going to Sri Lanka in the 1980’s and more subtle under the table interferences with other countries around us. With each year leading into our sixty we have come far away from what got us our independence: non-violence. Today we are judging ourselves with the potency of our violent nature and our arm twisting tactics.
All of us get goose bumps when we sing the Indian national anthem standing in attention under the tricolour flag with all respect and patriotism. But after the anthem the burden of our actions also catch up pretty soon. Half of our population is impoverished and hungry but we choose to increase our defence expenditure citing perceived threats in our immediate and distant background. Violence is coming out in various forms in our villages and cities, and women, children and the poor find themselves at the mercy of others. Yet we have taken a decision to guard our borders rather than guard against our own narrow mindedness!
I can be challenged on the front that India will soon be a super power and we need to flex our muscles and show the world just that. But does being a leader of the sub continent mean bombing and destroying the most or trying to save as many lives as possible? Do we deserve to celebrate the formation of our republic when we have come far, far away from the values with which it was formed? Will I be deemed a traitor if I question my own country? I guess we are reaching there although we already did have a short term experiment of it during the emergency in 1975.
Skimming through the list of chief guests http://www.icbse.org/2010/01/list-of-chief-guests-to-india-from-1990.html for the republic day function over the years, one country is evidently missing- Pakistan. Even though they are our direct neighbour and we share many things in common, they are kept at a distance when it comes to matters that count in our country. A small token of this was the IPL snub http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/ipl-snub-pinches-pak-cricketers-hard/383490/ that the Pakistani cricketers got. Picture this: How would we feel if we had a neighbour who is doing reasonably well, who ignores us, snubs us, humiliates us, thinks we are dumb, and threatens us with their guns and missiles? Every inch of our self respect would make us fight this neighbour. I guess this is what is happening with Pakistan and India. Our actions have led to conflict in the region rather than peace being brokered.
The Jang group and Times of India initiative ‘Aman ki asha’ (destination peace) http://www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/amankiasharticleshow/msid-5454035,prtpage-1.cms is an initiative which is trying to express the voices from Pakistan and India. These voices agree with each other on the existing tensions but see the scope for better relations as well.
The initiative should be from the Indian side. If we consider ourselves bigger, we should do what leaders are supposed to do. We have to allow Pakistan to express herself rather than trying to crush any such move. We should stop dictating and start respecting our neighbour and develop trust. This republic day, many will ask- are you an Indian? If I can come to terms with my neighbours and allow them to live just as I hope to, I can then say with a sincere heart- yes I am.