There seems to be no closure on the situation in the Maldives, and as a reader of the daily newspapers, one cannot get a fix on what we have committed to Bangladesh, particularly on the Teesta waters issue. Why this unending confusion and seeming lack of clarity? Is it because India has bungled on its relationships with nearly all its neighbours? Or is it because India has decided to shift from the earlier strategy of working along with the Saarc group of nations and follow in the footsteps of the larger world powers in this region? We have ceased to take a position based on intellectual, democratic and moral grounds, reacting almost in a knee-jerk fashion to events that unfold in the neighbourhood.
We support ‘ruling parties’ that break democratic norms in their respective nations. We play second fiddle to larger powers, which, more often than not, create and support dictatorial regimes. We may think we know what we are doing but the government seems to be stuck in a web that is compelling it to commit blunders. This insular brainstorming is being indulged in by those who think they know it all. It is akin to being in a mode of self denial as the world changes and moves on. India is truly a nation characterized by archaic rules, colonial laws, insecure babus and lazy leaders. Neither a sense of excitement to break new ground nor a doze of energy that comes with liberated minds and the explosion of new ideas seems to enthuse the minds of the men and women who rule us.
This is the saddest commentary for a country that is youthful, lively and entrepreneurial, with a complex past that showed the way forward despite constraints and unimaginable hurdles that came in the way of almost every human and economic activity. Poised to boom at all levels, we are, unfortunately, stuck with a ‘rule-book’ that encourages corruption and malpractice. It has created an environment in which ideas, risks, transparency and accountability are absent. Status quo is the mantra celebrated by the leaders who are in power. Creativity and the ability to break out of the mould are discouraged and given a short shrift.
It is for this reason that a young India is desperately looking for a leader from the same generation who will be able to excite public imagination and lead the charge into another phase, shedding the skin that has diseased the polity. We are losing precious time and diluting the spirit of India. National elections are scheduled for next year, and it is time to hear the voice of the new leadership. What is its view on the neighbourhood? How would it like to see relations develop with China, Europe and the United States of America? What is the view on smaller states within India? Is decentralization and federalism something the new dispensation would want to endorse and restructure? What is the blueprint for Centre-state relations? Will future prime ministers have to be elected to the Lok Sabha and not be members of the Rajya Sabha? Will political, administrative and judicial reforms be top most on the agenda?
There is no way India can restore its credibility without these changes. Leadership should not be about numbers from now on, but about ideas, initiatives, efficient operating systems and delivery mechanisms with rational laws that are in place. This model should be rehearsed over the next few months and the parameters of change ought to be spelt out in a simple language. Equality and a sense of fraternity will only be realized with the help of rational laws and equal opportunities. The time is ripe for this kind of change that will be the great leveller in India for the next few decades of growth and assertion.