WORLD POLITICS: Waiting for Obama – any reason not to be sceptical about the influence of the US hawks ?!!
Hardnews Bureau Delhi
In a few weeks from now, US President Barack Obama would travel to New Delhi on a two-day state visit that has the potential to take the ties between the two countries to the next level.
The US president would have to be mindful of the Indian government and its people’s sensitivities. After all, it took 20 odd years of sustained engagement between the two countries to get over a phase of suspicion and mutual recrimination.
There was a time when Indians could not reconcile to the threatening moves of the US’s 7 Fleet in Bay of Bengal when India was fighting a war to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistan’s control. It was this one move from Washington that gave legitimacy to the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty and scarred the mindset of nationalist Indians. It also reinforced the commonly held belief that “friendship with Pakistan is more valuable to the US than with India”.
For more than 40 years after India gained independence in 1947, the two democracies remained estranged. Jawaharlal Nehru’s first visit to the US turned out to be a disaster, firming his resolve that the country had to stay ‘non-aligned’. US Ambassador John Gunther Dean’s testimony about American relations with India in the late 1980s show that there was great amount of bias and subjectivity built against New Delhi inside White House.
Before the relationship warmed up, it hit a painful nadir when India exploded its nuclear bomb in 1998. Desperate wooing by BJP’s then foreign minister Jaswant Singh of US official Strobe Talbott and the visit of Bill Clinton put the ties between the so-called ‘natural allies’ on track. The impetus to these ties also came from the rise of non-resident Indians and the burgeoning IT and software industry in the US. Emergence of BPOs and outsourcing by US companies to Bangalore and Hyderabad drew the countries closer.
Melting away of the blocs and the rise of ‘civilisational conflicts’ brought the two countries on the same page. India’s fight against cross-border terrorism began to find an audience after the 2001 WTC attack. Since then, there has been a paradigm shift in ties. George W Bush placed great importance to his country’s ties with India. His Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice promised to make India a superpower. A claim that only got sniggers from detractors!
India’s profile has zoomed due to its new friend. Countries all over the world view New Delhi as a serious player. Even China, which had been comfortable pairing India with Pakistan, has woken up to the new reality. China knows what ties with US could do to the status of a country. China was transformed after Mao Zedong chose to shake hands with Richard Nixon after the Chinese forces came back with a bleeding nose after engaging with Soviet forces near River Ussuri.
Barack Obama, who is trying to redefine America to revive its economy and poor infrastructure, would have to do solid work in Delhi. Besides showing solidarity with India’s fight against terror, Obama would be expected to respond to the documents released by Wikileaks and other sources about Pakistan’s involvement in terror. Obama is expected to request the Indian government to play a role in Afghanistan, when the US forces will draw the curtain down next year. Obama’s visit would have major implications not only for the two countries, but for a troubled region that could see an end to the mindless arms race. That would be one enduring step towards hope and peace.
Hardnews also brings to its readers a refreshing, unimaginable slice of America. Beyond advanced capitalism’s fetish of mindless wealth, success, materalism and militarism, small can still be beautiful. Is ‘hated socialism’ entering the final bastion of capitalism?
For an unbiased version of Partition – where reality emerges over and above parochial bias ?!!
By Stuti Shukla
October 22, 2010: Bansi Singh was 22 when she had to flee her house in Lahore along with her husband and five-month-old son. Now 85, she still remembers how their car was surrounded by rioters on August 13, 1947 who let them flee to Amritsar only because one of the rioters had received free medical treatment from her husband who was a practising doctor in Lahore then. Now settled in Versova, Singh does not know what happened to her palatial house in Lahore; she has never been to Pakistan since.
School history textbooks may be replete with descriptions of the jubilations on the midnight of August 15, 1947. Some may ever remember the exact words of Nehru’s iconic post-Independence ‘tryst with destiny’ speech. But far fewer people know about the horrific tales of Partition. Now, a group of six teenagers from the city, having done over a year of research, is trying to bring out a clear, non-partisan and unbiased version of the actual turn of events that occurred during Partition.
Their ultimate goal is to see a museum devoted to memories and memoirs of the Partition days. The group also wants to travel to Pakistan to collect stories and artifacts from across the border.
The idea originated when17-year-old Ria Mirchandani, a student of Cathedral and John Connon School, on a trip to Jerusalem in Israel last year visited a museum that had captured the holocaust during Second World War. “This is around the same time when the controversy surrounding Jaswant Singh’s book Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence was brewing back home. As I was reading the book I realised how Partition was never a glorious event as our biased history books have made it out it be. It was almost like an Indian Holocaust in itself,” said Ria.
Ria’s friend and fellow researcher Shawn Wadia said, “We are unaware of the root causes behind Partition and therefore find it strange that even though the true facts of Partition have not been transferred to our generation, the collective hatred for our neighbour has been.”
The other members of the group — Kunal Mehta, Raghav Sawhney, Zara Rustomji and Niyati Mahimtura — are between 16-18 years of age. The teenagers spoke to historians and authors such as Jatin Desai, traced partition survivors from both sides of the border, read books about Partition written by Indian, Pakistani as well as foreign writers.
“We managed to speak to over 20 survivors from India and about four survivors who moved to Pakistan. While all of them vividly recollect gory sights of trains laden with bodies chugging in to stations in both countries and lives being lost in riots, some of them also recounted positive memories of how Hindus and Muslims went out of their way to help each other during the crises period,” said Kunal
The group is being backed by local NGO Citizens for Peace and Pakistani NGO called Citizen’s Archives of Pakistan. The group will hold a day-long discussion on various Partition-related issues at the Indian Merchants’ Chamber on Sunday .