Can the Army Salvage the Commonwealth Games?

Last Updated: Mon, Sep 06, 2010 10:57 hrs

 RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also Associate Editor, Indian Defence Review.


The run-up
to the Commonwealth Games, which for us is an indicator of the health of the Indian nation, does not augur well.

The games are a critical reflection of our collective psyche, national character, sense of patriotism, individual and collective integrity, self-confidence and pride, governance, level of corruption, and most importantly, leadership.

Each of these aspects of national health seems to have acquired cancerous proportions, notwithstanding the repeated and revised claims of an upward trajectory in the growth rate of the country’s economy.

For the past decade or so, the world has been seeing India as an economic and military power in the making.

We seem determined to negate this growing impression by sabotaging the Commonwealth Games, an international event that we so enthusiastically bid for.

Citizens like me were enthused that the games would provide an opportunity to showcase ‘A Rising India’. Instead, it seems to highlight some ugly truths.

Nations use such events to galvanize people and lift the sense of national pride. But such is the sense of despair amongst the Indian people, the organizers and the government that one wonders how the country and the countrymen will fare in the event of a full-scale war.

One segment of the political spectrum will be too happy if the games end up in a fiasco.

Given the fractious and opportunistic nature of Indian politics, the opposition parties can be absolved of their cynicism with regard to the games, but the deplorable part is the bitter criticism from some responsible members of the ruling party.

One of them publicly maintains that the games were a waste of money that could have been utilized for other purposes. The member is educated and erudite enough to understand the difference between “price of things” and “value of things” in the international arena.

Such statements by responsible people in the government have sown doubts about the very desirability of conducting the games.

Given the single reference point for leadership in the ruling party, it is difficult to believe that the politician concerned could be taking regular potshots at the games and their organizers without the tacit approval of the powers that be.

What we thus see is the ugly manifestation of this politics of “keeping the house divided”.

The nationalistic component of our polity has been missing in the preparation for the Commonwealth Games. Our power-hungry political leaders cannot be national leaders who focus on our prestige and purpose.

The event also serves as a barometer of corruption in the country.

The culture of ‘cuts’ is facilitating the growth of carnivorous elements in politics, officialdom and citizenry, all raring to consume India.

They are killing the very spirit of India. Take the fact that there is no talk of preparation of our sports persons and teams for the event. We don’t even seem to be bothered about their performance.

Contrast this with China’s accent on its performance in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

A nation does not become great merely by riding on an IT wave, or on nature’s bounties; it rises by the virtue of the character of its people.

More than Mr Kalmadi and his team, the government of the day must be blamed for this mess.  In fact, it is a microcosm view of governance and accountability in the country. If the games end in a fiasco, the world will blame India and not Mr Kalmadi for the criminal neglect of collective responsibility and monitoring mechanisms.

Beijing Olympics was China’s achievement, and London Olympics for which the British are fully prepared two years in advance is going to be Britain’s achievement.

The Commonwealth Games could still be India’s achievement. If the government thinks that the time period is short and the task formidable, it should immediately put the armed forces in-charge.

Recently, the Indian Army had very smoothly and successfully organized the World Military Games. Besides, I have met scores of concerned fellow countrymen, who are willing to come forward and pitch in voluntarily by the toil and even meagre resources that they have, for the sake of India’s prestige and honour. Their only imperative is selfless leadership, which only the Indian Army can provide.

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