New Delhi: It has always been the case and now it is even prominently advocated that nations engage each other in international politics motivated by only their self interest.
Raj Liberhan, Director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
For quite some time, India’s engagement with the world was perceived as a nose-in-the-air evangelist preaching a peaceful coexistence through Rs.Panchsheel’ and some vigorous handshaking with all concerned, not excluding the enemies.
It has since matured into acting with enlightened self interest. This has given rise to many a moral conundrum amongst nations as self interest, enlightened or otherwise, pit one against an equally vigorous pursuit of self interest of another.
Notwithstanding the ruthless atrocities on the silently protesting monks in Burma, India’s voice becomes muted and infact transforms into deafening silence. We do not even gurgle a mild disapproval, forget strongly condemning the Burmese government’s acts of inhuman violence unleashed on the unarmed and defenseless warriors of Buddhist priesthood.
No sir, no pip; no squeak from this gigantic mouse concentrating on being counted as the sole elephant of Asia. We, allegedly, have very good reasons for keeping quiet, in that we do not speak on the internal matters of a neighbouring sovereign state.
The truth, of course, is less sacred. For, we have oil exploration concessions and we do not want their doors shut in our faces. So why worry about a battalion size gathering of marching monks who should be praying instead of demanding democracy and human rights freedom in their homeland.
Not so long ago, it was different when we decided to march into Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to help them help themselves. But nations are allowed to evolve, just as much as other beings.
Is the record of the world’s most powerful country, the U S of A any better? They seek to force regime changes, even use force to spread the magic of democracy across the world. While the magic takes time to ignite the different paradises, in the interim, they readily support military dictatorships, insurgent warlords and other such desperadoes.
Taliban with Osama alongside, Middle East kingdoms, military dictators can all be counted as one-time friends of the world’s most powerful saviour driven by Rs.geostrategic interests being served’ kind of philosophy.
The relationship does not bear any resemblance to being founded onRs.shared morality or ethics’, only transitory shared interests. Democracy or human rights or giving a fair deal to its citizens are not pre conditions to friendship. A BBC correspondent got ejected from a neighbouring country when he, crassly but correctly, described the West’s liking for the military dictator: Rs.he is a bastard’, but he is our bastard’.
Now we know what it takes nations to choose their friends and enemies. If he is our guy, he is a friend, no matter how oppressive a ruler, and if not, then he is our enemy, even if he leads one of the most democratic countries.
The absence of ethics and morality has been the hallmark of international relations throughout the history of transnational engagement of nations. Strangely, only a handful of men and women have stood for and spoken for the vast legions of humanity.
Jesus Christ, Gautam Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa. Can we count some more? Hard to remember. Perhaps Nelson Mandela, perhaps……..? These men and women stood for their convictions and their public and private conduct always stood for what was right and fair.
They were figures with a huge following, their presence commanded awe and reverence and they created huge aspirational value for the vast millions who came to revere them.
Succeeding generations strangely do not emulate them. Who knows if they had been Presidents and Prime Ministers, they would also have been masters of realpolitik, rather than real ethics alone.
The affairs of nations, be as they are, founded on pursuit of self interest, what of the men and women elected to formulate our collective self interest? It is now a belief and a conviction that local to national politics, engagement of personal and party interests are achieved through the art of making things possible and managing Rs.contradictions’ whatever these contradictions mean.
To us onlookers, the contradictions are only a bundle of accommodating conflicting self- interests. As they change, so does the configuration of the elected. What we are witnessing is the death of ideology. The political idiom gets invented according to the need of the moment. If international affairs are without ethics, national affairs are even less so. The tribe of Gowdas, post Nandigram resurfaced Left intellectuals are daily competing to plumb newer depths of public immorality.
Can we at least pin our hopes on the social affairs of mankind? At least now we can use the Rs.Ten Commandments’ to regulate our personal discourse. Don’t even think of it! How many people lament that personal relationships have become need-based.
Ah-ha, we have a synonym for enlightened self-interest’, which is Rs.need based’. ‘I am OK, only if you are OK, but you are OK, only if I need you’. Makes one wonder if Darwin’s theory of Evolution ended with the man or is the evolution still going on.
Do we have a choice in this process, or do we have to wait to evolve further into another variety of an animal other than the one who is always on the hunt, on the prowl, seeking to justify everything it takes to satisfy its hunger. Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, back to the future.
Raj Liberhan is Director of the India Habitat Centre at New Delhi. Send your reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org