INDIA PLAYING BIG DADY
The conceptualization abilities of the Punjabi language are amazingly broad and insightful. Its euphemisms are extremely meaningful and accurate. It has the inherent ability to “kooze meh darya band karna” (put something in a nutshell).
“Barkah Marna” is a Punjabi expression meaning making empty threats by loud noises and claims – a verbal exercise to frighten and force the adversary into submission, or at least create a panic that a looming violent crisis exists which may inflict great harm and a total disaster for the adversary (hence, an unacceptable option). The only way out is complete and immediate compliance to the demands of the aggressor or the powerful. This is a kind of verbal sorcery.
In the last few weeks, some Indian generals and the military establishment have been involved in massive “barkah marna.” Recently, the Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor announced: “…a new war doctrine of the Indian army to eliminate Pakistan and China in a matter of hours even if it has to fight on simultaneous fronts…” Quite a tall order, quite an unprecedented “bark,” quite an extraordinary claim, quite an exceptional military doctrine, and quite an unusual and bizarre declaration of a military-political approach to global affairs when, most specifically, the entire world community is looking for peace, stability and the end of an era of military adventurism in international relations: the world at large wants to replace the current system with dialogue, mutual consultations and a largely politically-based paradigm for conflict resolution.
The question is: Why have the Indians felt the need for such an aggressive and outrageous “bark”?
It is not a difficult riddle, though fundamentally flawed, offensive and shocking to the world community!
The answer lies herein: It is the American’s “Kama Sutra”-like diplomacy that is caressing India to a seductive and wonton mental-emotional pleasure on the verge of a politically erotic climax – and in the process, India is losing its rational bearings and submitting itself to the lewdness of a political discourse unimaginable under normal circumstances. Metaphorically speaking, the scandalous bliss it is experiencing from its American romance has made India forget actual political realities and has pushed it entirely into the realm of daydreaming about the overstretched political-military fantasies of its global power capabilities.
The political seduction of India at the hands of the US is un-ending: “India is a tremendously important participant in the search for peace and stability…throughout the vast region that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Pacific,” said Richard Holbrooke in New Delhi last week. The Americans are bent on nurturing India’s self-image as a great power, and then using that in their foreign policy objectives as not only a counter to China, Russia and Islamic states, but as a power to reckon with in Southeast Asia as a part of the newly-emerging American global-political strategy. It is obvious that India has been hooked by the bait!
But the question is: Will this paradigm work? Is India capable of being a “great global power?” Psychological military-political seductiveness is no substitute for real power or global leadership capabilities. Simply put, India, internally, is not in a state of political capacity to take over as a great military-political power to influence world events or impact a fundamental change in global affairs.
Logic and political realities of the present-day world (rise of China, Russian re-emergence, political awakening of the masses in Muslim countries and their direct intervention in state affairs, US-Western economic-military ideological and strategic failures, etc.) will undoubtedly deny India the possibility of rising as a global power in the traditional sense. For one thing, contemporary India is envisioning for itself a “great power status” in the US-Western image: political and economic hegemony, military prowess, being the policeman of the region with the potential to influence global-political events to achieve its own desired objectives, irrespective of their legitimacy (why else would the Indian general threaten to eliminate China and Pakistan?).
On the other hand, the majority of nations throughout the world are craving for a new international-relations system based on the equality of nations, moral legitimacy, independence, regional grouping, and seeking international and regional conflict resolution entirely on a political basis. India does not seem to subscribe to this contemporary emerging notion; it wishes the international relations system “status quo” to remain intact and wants military supremacy as well. It is not going to work out this way!
Having said all that, there are some basic facts that need to be recognized regarding India’s position in the global system: Indeed, India is a large country with a huge economy and an enormous potential market, social mobility is slow but certainly a reality, and its democratic structure has been intact for six decades and is gradually improving in its processes. Governance has also improved over time. Its technological know-how is getting better and industrialization is on an upward trend. The face of India is definitely looking brighter.
And yet, the majority of Indians live in poverty with deprivations of all kinds. There are racial and ethnic tensions, cultural relativism, internal conflicts, overwhelming Hindu political-economic domination with all its negative fallouts, unrecognized terrorism throughout the country and a host of other domestic and international conflicts and conflicting ambitions (for example, its stance on the non-proliferation nuclear treaty, environmental issues, Security Council membership, Kashmir, China, Afghanistan – and its love-affair with the US) which are tremendous national challenges. The fact of the matter is that a nation with such pressing economic and political problematics cannot become a great global power, especially when 70% of its citizens live in or near absolute poverty. One wonders why the Indian leadership (both political and military), given the realities of its alarming contemporary existence, is dreaming of being a world power (and that, too, in the traditional role of excessive militarism and hegemonic status, now rejected by the world over)!
A more befitting role for India is to become a formidable global player equipped with a visionary notion of a new world order: a war-free world, regional economic-political harmony, regional no-war and non-intervention accords with its neighbors, and public welfare-dedicated programs and agreements to jointly lift the masses out of poverty. Given India’s recent ability to influence the US, it needs to work on the development of political doctrines to stabilize the global system and gear it towards peace and prosperity, in their entirety.
None of this is possible if India espouses the US-Western model of militarism, doctrines of dominance, and economic-political hegemony. Unfortunately, that is the direction in which it is heading now – a direction which is fundamentally wrong in its very conceptualization!
“Barkah marna” is the first vocal, visible and affordable sign of this degenerating national consciousness!
Ironically, in one sense, “barkah marna” is also a clear indication of intrinsic and fundamental limitations!
The Indian general’s “bark” is simply an admission of India’s institutional weakness and a growing dependency on an external actor!
But, nations cannot be made on dreams of grandeur!
A “bark” is only a “bark” – meaningless, insignificant, senseless – and above all, pure absurdity!!
The writer is an academic, political analyst and conflict resolution expert