Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting past our colonial past - By C. Raja Mohan, The Indian Express, Mumbai | Comments by Ghulam Muhammed

Comments posted on Indian Express website over C. Raja Mohan article: Getting past our colonial past:
It is regrettable that a seasoned Journalist sometime has to follow the editorial time-line and guideline without proper application of mind as to why India should celebrate British colonial government on India, when India is no longer the slave country that British Crown had treated it all along in their 200 year interruption of Indian history.

An article in THE HINDU celebrates Gate of India, Bombay with which 3 prominent names are mentioned. Viceroy Earl of Reading, Governor Sydenham and donor David Sasson --- all Jews that even in the last century were ruling India in the name of British Crown.

Isn't it time for aware Journalists to warn Indian people about the dangers of British Jewry once again poised to take over India, in one shape or another. This is a time to learn from history of colonial serfdom and let people aware of International conspiracies against India rather than lament the neglect of  our colonial past.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Getting past our colonial past

India’s ambivalence about celebrating the founding of its capital, New Delhi, by the British Raj a hundred years ago today underlines the pathetic hypocrisy of our political class, which feeds off the empire’s legacy but is unwilling to acknowledge it.
Consider in contrast the Chinese Communist Party, which by nature, is hostile to inconvenient history. Yet, the CCP is more comfortable coping with its colonial past than the Indian National Congress that runs the Central and state governments in Delhi today.

If you ever visit Shanghai, do step into the basement of Pudong’s Pearl Tower, which hosts the city’s Municipal History Museum. It covers the period between 1843, when the Shanghai port was opened and 1949, when the Communist Revolution triumphed. This is precisely the era that the CCP routinely denounces as the “century of humiliation” for China at the hands of imperial powers.

But the CCP has no hesitation in recognising the emergence of modern Shanghai in this period and recalling it. One section of the municipal history museum recreates the vibrant atmosphere of colonial Shanghai’s streets and markets. Visiting the Pearl Tower a few years ago, I could not but marvel at the decision to put a a life-size sculpture of a Chinese man pulling a rickshaw with a white memsahib in it. In another corner, Rabindranath Tagore is in conversation with the great Chinese poet Lu Xun in a coffee shop.

The British Raj is part of our history and modern India can’t simply disown it. Unlike the petty posturing of Delhi’s current rulers, the founding fathers of the Republic were more pragmatic in dealing with the legacy of the Raj. Recall Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s decision to join the British Commonwealth immediately after winning independence from the Crown.

Even as they deny the imperial legacy, modern India’s rulers rely on institutions that can’t shake off the DNA of the British Raj. All the essential security structures of modern India — the armed forces, the police, the general administrative services, and the diplomatic corps — can trace their roots to the East India Company that made Calcutta the first capital of British India.

The history of our Foreign Office, for example, dates back to 1783, when the Secret and Political Department was formed by the East India Company to deal with the sensitive political communication with the various kingdoms within the subcontinent and on its periphery. The Secret and Political Department was run by the “Persian secretary” (all inter-state communications in the subcontinent were then in Persian), the oldest predecessor to the current “foreign secretary”.

Beyond the institutions, the influence of the Raj endures in the nature of India’s foreign and security policies. Our political discourse pretends that India’s foreign policy was divined on August 15, 1947 and refuses to acknowledge the pre-Independence sources of our contemporary external engagement.

The geographic imperative is by far the most enduring influence on the foreign policy of a nation. And modern India’s political geography is indeed a legacy of the Raj. India’s territoriality, constructed under the Raj and partitioned as the imperial power left, remain powerful influences on modern India’s world-view.
While imperial London was surely an important driver of Indian foreign policy under the Raj, so were the security and political imperatives that were rooted solely in the subcontinent’s location. The Raj was indeed part of the British empire, but the evolution of its foreign policy was not always dictated by London.

It is politically incorrect for the foreign policy establishment to acknowledge that many of its current mantras were invented by the British Raj. But our smaller neighbours in the subcontinent, and China, have no problem seeing through this. Consider for example, India’s insistence that outside powers should not interfere in the internal and inter-national affairs of South Asia. That is an undiluted inheritance from the Raj, which declared an exclusive sphere of influence around the subcontinent and strove hard to prevent the other colonial powers from encroaching on its space.
Equally enduring has been the notion in Delhi that India’s security interests are not confined to its borders but extend from “the Suez to the South China Sea”. Independent India did not have the power of the Raj to enforce this doctrine, but never gave up the objective.

A third legacy of the Raj has been independent India’s vigorous contribution to international peacekeeping under the flag of the United Nations. This is rooted in the “military surplus” that the Raj had created in the subcontinent. Despite the many persistent military conflicts that Delhi had to endure — especially with Beijing and Islamabad — independent India had enough military resources to spare for collective security ventures at the global level.

A rising India will find that her emerging foreign policy priorities are not entirely different from those of the Raj, when King George V announced the shifting of the imperial capital at the Delhi Durbar held on December 12, 1911. These include securing access to raw materials outside the subcontinent, promoting free trade and opening markets, pacifying India’s periphery, limiting the role of hostile greater powers in our extended neighbourhood, offering protection to small states, use of force beyond borders to maintain regional peace and guarding the sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean.

Modern India can achieve these tasks only if it recalls the legacy of the Raj, accepts it as an integral part of our history, and above all, is willing to learn from it.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

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