India and the World – Chapter 1
“Our knowledge of one another is often extraordinarily superficial, and we, living in our grooves, big or small, seem to imagine, each country seems to imagine, that we are more or less the centre of the world, and the rest is on the fringe, that our way of living is the right way of living and other people’s way of living is either a bad way or a mad way, or just some kind of backward way. Now, I suppose it is a common human failing to imagine that we are right and others are wrong. But it is difficult to judge who is right and who is wrong. Both may be right, and both wrong.”
(Jawaharlal Nehru at the Constituent Assembly (Legislative) New Delhi on 4th Dec 1947)
Every Indian has a dream – right from leaders of repute to the ‘last man in the queue’ – that India would be a super power in a couple of decades. But people generally do not bother too much to know what it means and what it needs to be a ‘super power’.
The very term is more cinematic than real because, the concept of a super power does not hold much in the current scenario at the International arena. The days are gone when a ‘super power’ could enjoy over-riding powers and dictate terms to other countries.
The political and economic situation, all over the world, has undergone a sea change in the 21st century. Even a tiny country, rightfully, refuses bow down to any ‘outsider’ and demands equal rights and status.
Algeria is not inferior to America; Chile is, by no means, meaner than China. Uganda, Rwanda or Somalia instantly resists any indignity done to them by any ‘big’ country – be it America or China or Russia.
The study of International politics has moved away from detailing the political set-up, the system of governance and the success / failure of individual leaders of various countries to talks, dialogues and deliberations between / among the countries at various levels. The border disputes, ethnic conflicts, religious differences, aggression and war… have ceased to be the focal points of International relations.
Yet, issues like the Palestine, the Kashmir, the South China sea, the Doklam stand-off, the Rohingya refugee crisis etc do persist and seem to be perennial in nature and a permanent, ever lasting solution is nowhere in sight.
We are in a paradoxical situation – we may witness escalation of tension leading to acrimony and blood bath; at the same time, it would not in any case break into a major war.
The so called ‘blocks’ do not exist anymore. The ideological and conceptual rivalry does not exist. Every country is socialistic as it is capitalistic too. Communism, socialism or imperialism in its purest form has no place in the world today. An undiluted system of politics or governance stands vanished once for all. We find democracy in the worst form of despotism as we see marks of tyranny in democratic rulers as well.
China’s Xi Jinping is trying to project himself as a true democrat and Donald Trump of America is doing everything that an authoritarian ruler with all the powers at his disposal would love to do. It is their style of functioning rather than a mark of a paradigm shift in the policies of the governments they lead.
Xi Jinping or Donald Trump or any other leader follows a principle that would fetch optimum good to the country and rich dividends to their electoral prospects domestically.
People fight for their rights in India, in USA, in England – that are visible. Equally, the common man in China, in Cuba, in Russia fights for his basic, fundamental, legitimate rights too. Arab countries provide as much freedom as a democracy and pose as many restrictions as the communist China.
During the past two decades or so, the United Nations Organization has lost a lot gaining little in terms of its effectiveness in having its say over International disputes. Except for imposing sanctions at the behest of the USA, the UNO does not possess any justification in its existence as a representative body of the world.
The all legitimate demand of expanding the Security Council remains unaddressed. Conferment of permanent membership to India and Japan would have given the Organization the all important legitimacy, acceptability and credibility that is obviously lacking now.
The Veto power of the permanent members of Security Council has made matters worse. “The veto was inserted by the common consent of all the great Powers. It was put there because they felt – the Soviets felt that way, the United States also felt that way – because these huge and great Powers did not like the idea of half a dozen little countries just telling them to do this or that.” (Jawaharlal Nehru)
It is high time the Veto power is replaced by the endorsement of the majority members of Security Council. The possibility of any of the five permanent members of the Council getting away with anything not to their liking is an insult to the world body.
Since 1945 till 2018, during the past 73 years, more than 200 resolutions have been vetoed only because they did not suit the interests of some one or the other of these five countries. There just can not be a more ridiculous arrangement. The charter says – the UNO would work to ensure ‘universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction…’
If that be the case, why should there be a provision for Veto at all..? Unless the Veto power is scrapped or until the number of permanent members in Security Council is substantially increased to accommodate the developing and under-developed nations, the U.N.O. can never truly serve the purpose it is intended to.
The refugee crisis is looming large over the Asian region with Europe following very close. The UNO says that as on this date there are more than 60 million people who are refugees, whose life is at perils. They are being treated more as animals and commodities rather than as fellow human beings. The Rohingyas, the Somalis, the Liberians… are all left in the lurch not sure of whether they would be alive the next day.
The number of refugees keeps rising at an alarming rate and the UNO could do nothing but make an appeal to the people at large to donate liberally to help provide basic necessities to the deprived lot. Is it what the world body was formed for? The goal, the objective, the purpose of founding an organization like the UNO has been lost and there seems to be no possibility of a true redemption at all.
While the UNO makes an honest appeal for petty financial help from the public to save the lives of many, countries like America, China and Russia are talking about expanding their military base and strengthening their might to combat any resistance from their enemies.
Poverty, slavery and dreaded diseases are not the enemies in the agenda of the developed countries. They do not care a bit to alleviate the sufferings of the millions reeling under astute poverty. There are so many who do not have access to the so called liberty and freedom of any sort. Sadly, there is just nobody to speak for them in the International arena. This is the most worrisome development in International polity today. Sooner this scenario changes, the better it will be for the entire Mankind.
Transparency is becoming the absolute, basic component in governance and people expect the rulers to be more accountable and answerable for all their deeds and misdeeds. More and more countries prefer to enact its own ‘RTI Act’ and where citizens are given the right to information, the absolute power corrupting absolutely is put to checks and balances, driving the powers be to seeking safe modes of malpractices. At least a few, if not all, are under pressure now to be wary of public scrutiny, questioning, fury and wrath of the people.
Taking the popular mandate for granted is becoming the thing of the past. The Premiers, Presidents and Prime Ministers of various countries stand in the cage of trial, deposing before the Judicial authorities, pleading innocence and praying for clemency.
The judiciary too, on its part, is trying to assert its supremacy over every other pillar of governance and it makes even the mighty political authority apprehensive and jittery. Independent and impartial Judiciary has been able to complement the institutions of democracy firmly injecting the spirit of freedom in the common man and a sense of accountability in the men in power.
Ironically, the talk of ‘over-reach of the Judiciary’ or the ‘judicial adventurism’ is heard aloud from all over the world. From being the Power Vs common man fight, it has turned out to be Power Vs Judiciary, leaving the last citizen silently watching the tussle with great interest and with nothing to lose.
Add to this – the overwhelming presence of the media.
Author – Baskaran Krishnamurthy, Writer, Columnist & Income Tax officer