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May 19, 2009

For a country that prides itself on winning independence through non violent means enabled by a man who valued the human dignity and life above else, India seems to have fallen a long way down in the past 60 odd years since independence. To boast of being the only long lasting democracy in the South Asian region is perhaps laudable but the fashioning of democracy as an institution that is independent of the people who make it possible and an institution whose primary concern becomes power itself is appalling . The lack of a strong Indian response be it regarding the Sri Lankan issue, or the Tibetan protests before the Olympics, or the Burmese protests last year or the Junta’s response to Cyclone Nargis or even its own disquieting human rights record only underline the complete disregard for the values and the principles that the nation and its democratic institutions were built upon. The silence of the government in face of the arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on May 13th, even when western governments were quick to make their displeasure known is just further evidence of how low the government and its foreign policies have fallen. By not responding or showing a strong negative response to the detaining of a women who has for the last two decades fought on the principles that were made popular by the Mahatma, the Government of India has shown clearly where their interests lie.

The placement of economic interests and economic growth above all else does not come as a complete surprise. India, after all is just following in the footsteps of the west who have repeatedly turned a blind eye towards human rights issues in the Middle East, China, Latin America, Africa and in many other places if that blind eye meant an increase in their economic status, an move to the top of the developed nations list and the recognition of being on par with the first world. Globalization and global capitalism has shown to be two faced again and again. The human cost of it has been increasingly whitewashed with figures of people who have profited from it. The bigger hoax has been the UN Human Rights council which this year boasts a list of who’s who amongst the world’s worst Human rights offenders. For an institution which boasts its mission as being to strengthen, protect and promote human rights issues around the globe, the inclusion of United States, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Russia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and India would be funny if it were not so depressing. The absolute lack of concern, the mind numbing indifference, and feigned ignorance of the status of the human rights situation in these countries and amongst the countries that relate to these countries is frightening. The double standards of the United States, the United kingdom and many of the Western developed countries when it comes to dealing with the nations that have poor or no standards of human rights just sets the tone for how an international organization that depends on the support and economic support of these countries will behave and how countries that aspire to become democratic and members of the free trade consortium will behave. None of the countries have a right to be appalled by Daw Suu Kyi’s detention until they show the same degree of concern for the minorities who suffer through the communist regime of China, or the degrading status of women, and minorities in the Middle East, or the status of immigrants in their own countries. Secretary’s Clinton’s show of friendship and her dismissal of human rights as an issue in her first visit to china show the priority of the Obama administration. Neither the US or the UK have any right to criticize the Burmese Junta until they can convince India and China to stop trading with Burma, supplying it with Military equipment and build roads and ties with the Junta in a never ending one-upmanship competition.

The new incoming Indian government needs to set its foreign policy priorities straight. It cannot stand up in the international stage and claim to be a voice for democracy and boast of its history of preserving human dignity until it takes concrete measures to stop the massacre along its borders. It cannot support the military junta in Burma while talking about non violence and value for human life, it cannot support the Sri Lankan government with arms and money while talking about complete rights for all minorities, it cannot maintain a cordial relationship with china while sheltering the Dalai Lama and talking about respect for all religions. Above all, it cannot claim to be a democratic, secular country with equal rights for all its people and act as a beacon for the downtrodden while ill treating the refugees who come to its shores. A system has to be put in place in coordination with the UNHCR to make sure the refugees who come are not left to die in under prepared camps or sold off into prostitution and trafficking. There has to be a concerted effort with the western nations to bring governments like the Burmese Junta or even the Sri Lankan government to task and to highlight the violations of minorities, tribes and other people in those countries. There has to be an awareness that the responsibilities of a rising power extend far beyond its shores and far beyond providing food, water and shelter to its people. It’s high time the western countries were made accountable too. There needs to be a better system to bring violators of human rights and justice to task than just closing one’s eyes, and there needs to be a better international system that is just and equal in bring countries to task not based on their relationship to the west but rather on their history of trying to suppress the human will to be free.

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