|Friday, 17. October 2008 2 comment(s)||
For those of us looking on from afar and through the unavoidable prism of the news media, there are perhaps three Indias. The first is the techno-globalized India of an exploding middle class, consumer spending and confidence. This is the India that millions of English speakers in the rich world talk with daily they when they dial a call centre to sort out their banking, credit card or computer service needs. Secondly there is nuclear-India: the emergent global power permanently on a knife edge with its neighbour Pakistan but also jostling for position with its fellow giant, China, on the northern border. Nuclear-India is much loved in Washington by virtue of being the world’s largest democracy and saying the right things in the ‘war on terrorism’. Washington’s willingness to work with India has led to its compromising the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Nuclear-India remains very much what Robert Cooper calls a modern power – seeing the world through the realist prism where its interests come first. India’s relations with Burma are a fine example of this, where Indian domestic democracy did not lead to support of the Burmese democrats during the Monks’ protests early this year. Rather India prioritised the maintenance of good relations with the fascist Burmese junta – and the continued flow of oil and gas from Burmese fields. Finally there is the India seen only in small stories at the bottom of the international news pages of the quality papers or heard about late in the bulletins on the BBC World Service – this we can call Naxalite India.
The Naxalites are Indian Maoists guerrillas who have been fighting their seemingly quixotic battle with the Indian state for decades, but who ensure that a huge swathe of Eastern India from the Nepalese border to the south is not fully controlled by the state. But the Naxalites are only one form of the political violence that goes on in many of the rural and marginalized parts of the country. The recent upsurge of violence in Assam, the far north eastern province squeezed in between Bangladesh and Burma, is a decade old issue mixing resistance to Delhi rule with tribal, religious and political tensions that have in recent times been heightened by immigration from Bangladesh. Finally India continues to suffer from what at first appears to be religious violence, but these overlay far more complex socio-economic, cultural and political conflicts. The recent horrific pogroms against Christians in Orissa are yet more in a continuing line of flare-ups of sectarian violence being visited on minorities by other more powerful religious groups. The most extreme example of these tensions were the Gujarati ‘riots’ of 2002 where Muslims were attacked by Hindu mobs with, according to Indian human rights groups, the collusion of the authorities. An estimated 2000 people were killed.
India is a continental country – huge and geographically diverse with a population of over a billion (more than twice the size of the entire EU population) to match. The people of India are enormously diverse in terms of languages, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation and in their relations to the federal state. Out of this brew it is not surprising that conflicts arise, although it is no excuse, and that struggles for social justice continue. Nevertheless India remains a vital democracy if, like most others, an imperfect one at that. It continues to be a counter-example to the Chinese model of authoritarian capitalism, and suggests that 21st century will not be solely an East Asian age.
Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors