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FOLLOW THE LEADER

Afzal Guru has been hanged. Television channels debated the incident with gusto and amidst much confusion for two days. If only they would devote as much time and energy to discuss pertinent issues like, for example, the mishandling of the situation in neighbouring Maldives where a dictatorial regime, having come to power through a coup, continues to operate under the chatra chhaya of India. There, the former president leads a tenuous existence, not knowing what the government will inflict upon him before the next elections.

It is incomprehensible that the Indian State has not been able to build, nurture and lead a vibrant, democratic and modern South Asia. There is not one Saarc nation that genuinely respects India. It is a failure of our foreign policy in the region and a reflection of our inability to consolidate a ‘force’ that can stand up to the world on its own terms, and not on the basis of the terms set by the likes of the United States of America, Europe and China.

By being perceived as an acolyte of a ‘bigger’ world power, and as a bungling and directionless nation that has not been able to use the resources and strengths that make this subcontinent the last of the large markets of the world as well as the most creative bank of human skills, India has failed miserably to emerge as a true leader of nearly one quarter of the population of the world. This is unforgivable, particularly in the context of the framework that was designed by the men and women who founded the modern federal democracy that is India.

Solitary figure

In the last few years, we have managed to successfully alienate all our neighbours and have, in the process, achieved a secondary status in the world — that of a chorus boy for the US. This government has always ‘acted’ when confronted with a demand or intervention from the US. India also bungled when it came to working out a solution with Bangladesh on the Teesta waters. It mishandled events in the Maldives by instantly supporting the coup and its new president. Sri Lanka, Burma and Nepal do not take India seriously. They forge independent alliances outside of Saarc, thereby making a mockery of the ‘collective’ that India has failed to lead with creative competence and solid ideas. China has thus become the dominant power in ‘our’ region. That is the report card of the United Progressive Alliance on its initiatives in South Asia.

Britain has been making overtures to India that remain ignored. The same holds true for other European nations. These are ‘destinations’ that the new breed of leaders and babus is not drawn towards. They are only excited by the US. There seems to be no fire in their bellies to break out of the ‘formula’ and lead with ideas and confidence. Our leadership suffers from intellectual lethargy. It remains afflicted with the ‘follow-the-leader syndrome’. Important questions are seldom asked. Policy is determined on the basis of short-term thinking. This is a kind of lethargy that this region does not deserve.

This ‘failure’ to govern effectively by the Congress-led dispensation is what has put Narendra Modi on the national and international stages. There seems to be no other leader in the arena today. The Congress is in denial of the fact that its government at the Centre has failed to deliver good, clean governance.

The great oral tradition of India is alive and kicking and we all know, sooner than later, who is protecting which ‘group’ and why. Corruption is endemic. The violation of the laws is condoned by the ruling authority. The present dispensation is responsible and will soon be made accountable. The culture of quid pro quo is being exposed.