Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/56080/domains/filtercoffee.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/themes/canvas/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160
Tag Archives | independence day

On Independence Day

India’s wars.

In keeping with (what I think has become) custom at The Filter Coffee, here’s a short blogpost and some thoughts on this Independence Day.  Most readers will be familiar with Jawaharlal Nehru’s Tryst with Destiny speech on August 15, 1947, on India’s independence from British rule.  While it is amongst the great speeches, Mr. Nehru’s address to India on August 15, 1948 — on the occasion of the first anniversary of its independence — is an important speech in its own right.  Within the span of a year, India had gone through much — Hindu-Muslim riots, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, and a war with Pakistan.

In his speech, Mr. Nehru asks citizens to engage in new wars –for freedom and democracy, and against poverty, intolerance and economic impairment. Excerpts follow:

India will ultimately give us what we give her of love and service and productive and creative work. India will be what we are: Our thoughts and action will shape her. Born of her fruitful womb, we are children of hers, little bits of the India of today, and yet we are also the parents of the India of tomorrow. If we are big, so will India be, and if we grow little minded and narrow in outlook, so also will India be.

Freedom has no meaning unless it brings relief to these masses from their many burdens. Democracy means tolerance, tolerance not merely of those who agree with us, but of those who do not agree with us. With the coming of freedom our patterns of behavior must change also. . . .

The only war that we want to fight with all our might is the war against poverty and all its unhappy brood.  All the world suffers from the after-effects of the World War, and inflation and rising prices and unemployment oppress the people. In India we have all these and, in addition, the care of vast numbers of our brothers and sisters who have  been driven away from their homes to seek a new life elsewhere.

It is this war we have to fight, the war against economic crisis and to rehabilitate the disinherited. In this war there is no hatred or violence but only service of our country and our people. In this war every Indian can be a soldier. This is no time for individuals or groups to think of a narrow self-interest forgetting the larger good. This is no time for wrangling or the spirit of faction. [Link]

There are lessons in this speech for those concerned about the state of the nation, given the events of the last eight months.  The economy has performed below expectations; yet, inflation is on the rise.  The Commonwealth Games and 2G scandals have thrown open a Pandora’s Box of dirty little secrets. The political class is corrupt, and the citizens, apathetic. In this vacuum, sanctimonious crusaders have arisen, claiming to be the voice of the people and possessing answers to all of India’s ills.  And as a supine government attempts to, at once, placate and scoff at representatives of this new-age moral chauvinism, its engagement with the rest of the world (and a rapidly changing one at that, whose volatility presents both opportunities and threats to India’s interests) has been null and void.

A continued preoccupation with these issues — which have effectively put governance on auto-pilot — will not only hurt India domestically, but will also negatively impact its influence globally.  If India is to emerge stronger from what has been a challenging year, our elected representatives need to show leadership,  domestically and internationally.  They must get back to what should be their primary focus — bringing our millions out of poverty, allowing India to thrive and prosper, safeguarding India’s territorial integrity and securing its international interests.

Also see: Previous Independence Day commentary: 2010; 2009.

Read full story · Comments { 13 }

Some thoughts on Independence Day

This month’s Pragati carries an excerpt from B.R. Ambedkar’s concluding speech on the floor of the Constituent Assembly on achieving social and economic justice through methods provided by the Constitution of the land.  For any healthy, functioning republic, adherence to these methods is not just important, but essential.

On this Independence Day, we can reflect with some satisfaction on how far India has come in 63 years.  In the congress of developing nations, India distinguishes itself for its sustained commitment to pluralistic, democratic traditions.  At the same time however, the use of unconstitutional methods for seeking social, economic and political justice not only continues to be accepted, but also encouraged.

The degree to which these methods are employed differentiates an unhealthy republic from a healthy one.  The responsibility to respect the Constitution and its methods must be borne by both Government and its citizens.  This is a “sacred duty,” as Alexander Hamilton described it in his letter in 1794 to the Daily Advertiser, and one that provides the greatest source of security to a republic:

If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty, and the greatest source of security in a Republic ? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws—the first growing out of the last. It is by this, in a great degree, that the rich and the powerful are to be restrained from enterprises against the common liberty—operated upon by the influence of a general sentiment, by their interest in the principle, and by the obstacles which the habit it produces erects against innovation and encroachment.  It is by this, in a still greater degree, that caballers, intriguers, and demagogues, are prevented from climbing on the shoulders of faction to the tempting seats of usurpation and tyranny.

Were it not that it might require too long a discussion, it would not be difficult to demonstrate that a large and well-organized Republic can scarcely lose its liberty from any other cause than that of anarchy, to which a contempt of the laws is the high road.

But, without entering into so wide a field, it is sufficient to present to your view a more simple and a more obvious truth, which is this: that a sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government.

[Alexander Hamilton, Letter No. III in the American Daily Advertiser, August 28, 1794]

Read full story · Comments { 3 }

Contemplations of Independence on Independence Day

As India turns 62, pivotal changes are occurring in our nation and in our immediate neighborhood that force us to look inward and contemplate who we are as a nation, who we want to be, and where our elected leaders are taking us.  Since 1947, India has seen its share of turbulent, traumatic times.  We may not have always had geo-political prominence or economic clout to influence decisions made on the world stage, but we have almost always maintained a level of unwavering independence on foreign policy which we were able to sustain (quite incredibly, given the pressures and compulsions of third world nations) for decades.  We had nothing, but we had independence.  However, even as India stands a very different nation from itself 50 years ago in terms of geo-political and economic prominence, the virtue of upholding independence on matters relating to foreign policy has been surrendered.

The troika of the PM, NSA and Foreign Secretary has bartered away India’s independence on foreign policy for a quixotic alliance with another power.  They have since acted not on national interest but on a desire to satisfy the wavering compulsions of that “ally”, and in the process, have bequeathed long standing regional alliances and further bruised already ailing relationships.

On this Independence Day, Indians must demand that their leaders pursue foreign policies that are reflective of the national interests of the country and of the aspirations of its citizens.  In the gradual but certain rearrangement of global order, does India want to see itself as a stagnant, underachieving regional player, or as one of the poles in a multi-polar world? Aspiring for the voices of one-sixth of humanity to be heard on the global stage requires both a re-evaluation of the existing vision deficit and trend of outsourcing Indian policy, and a dogged pursuit of independence in decision making.

Subhash Kapila articulates the need for independence in foreign policy decision making and a realignment of foreign policy with national interests:

India cannot afford to emerge as a global player despite the United States or in opposition to it. The opposite is also true that no global power has ever helped another aspiring power to emerge as a global power.

It is high time, that with no end- gains having accrued from such foreign policy fixations, India’s foreign policy is re-calibrated and strong connectivities re-established with India’s proven friends. An aspiring global power like India needs to have multiple foreign policy connectivities to provide flexibility of options.

Read full story · Comments { 1 }