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Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 28, June 27, 2009

Diffident Us versus Combative Them

Thursday 2 July 2009, by T J S George

By any standard, the violence against Indian students in Australia is nasty business. What lends an astonishing edge to it is the Indian Government’s routine, pedestrian, unfeeling handling of it. Indeed, non-assertiveness seems to be a characteristic of the Manmohan-Sonia leadership.

By contrast, Australia took a combative position. First, police bosses remained almost indifferent, refusing to see any racial angle in the repeated attacks on Indian students. At the political level, high-ranking leaders chose to express themselves against violence in general terms while declaring Australia as “the safest country in the world” for students.

On top of this exercise in nationalistic self-justification, the Australian Prime Minister turned provocative last week. He indirectly accused unnamed Indian politicians of seeking to inflame passions. And then he said that Australians in India had also been violently attacked. In the last decade, he said, there were 20 such cases.

Ill-advised words from an inexperienced Prime Minister. White thugs in Australia may well interpret this belligerence as a call to even up the score. (Against 20 Australians attacked in India, only a dozen Indians have so far been attacked in Australia. So another eight can “legitimately” be attacked. Then what about the interest outstanding from a decade ago?)

The strongest statement from the Indian Prime Minister is that “we are appalled” by the attacks. The External Affairs Minister wasn’t even appalled; he just asked Indian students to “concentrate on their studies”. What a noble race we are, combining the virtues of Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ, and turning the other cheek to our tormentors.

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Just as Indian students are contributing massively to Australian economy today, Malaysian students were the mainstay of British revenues from education in the 1980s. Seeing it an easy way to boost the national income, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered a big increase in the fees of overseas students. Malaysian families felt cheated and exploited. Their government then announced the “Look East” policy. Imports from and industrial collaboration with Britain were cut down significantly and Japan given preferential treatment. Hit where it hurt, the famous Iron Lady lost her iron and withdrew the fees increase on Malaysian students.

Malaysia then was governed by neither Mahatma Gandhi nor Jesus Christ, but by the no-nonsense Mahathir Mohammed. He was feared by the West but admired by Malaysians whose quality of life reached international standards during the twenty years of his stewardship. Manmohan Singh is loved by the West, especially by the likes of George Bush. So they feel free to do what is in their national interest and ask us to tag along. And we do.

Even Indian business houses show more asser-tiveness. From Arcelor to Jaguar, world famous companies have become Indian-owned against stiff resistance. Indian entrepreneurs seldom receive the governmental backing American and Japanese companies routinely receive. In fact, companies like Essar and Reliance have faced problems in major markets like Iran because of American pressure and lack of counterveiling Indian support.

Developing an Indian presence in the Iranian oil scenario would have pointedly benefited India’s national interest. But we surrendered to American national interests even on the critical Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. America’s policy towards Iran may get friendly tomorrow. By then we will have been overtaken by China and Russia and even Europe on the Iranian oil front.

Why is our national leadership so diffident? Even as they talk of India as an emerging world power, why do they buckle under small-time Australian goons? Why do they forget that even the Christian George Bush never turned the other cheek? He gave’m hell.

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