Forget self respect, Indians do not even understand when they are being insulted, believes Air Marshal (retd) R K Nehra.
Like the individual, countries, nations and civilizations have their self-respect. The term is a bit of a wrong nomenclature; what is meant by 'self-respect' is that others should respect you. Let us examine the case of India in respect of 'self-respect', with the help of a few actual episodes:
In 2006, an Australian cricket team visited India. At that time, a senior Indian politician, Sharad Pawar was the Chief of the Indian Cricket Association, called the BCCI. He was also a senior minister at the Center. The Australian team won the series. The Trophy giving ceremony was presided over by Sharad Pawar. Normally, players vie with each other to get themselves photographed next to, or near the chief guest. However, an Australian player took the opportunity to physically push Sharad Pawar out of the photo frame, with the Australian captain watching gleefully. As if that was not enough, the Australian captain, with a bent index finger, signaled to Sharad Pawar to get moving, pick up the trophy and hand it over to him. The whole scenario was far too offensive and humiliating to be described in words; it was watched 'live' on TV by millions of Indians and others. These TV clips continue to be frequently shown on TV, even as late as in 2008. Now, offensive and boorish behavior, especially towards South Asians countries, is the USP of the Australian Cricket team; they always seem to enjoy it and get away with it.
But, what was the reaction of Sharad Pawar; he dismissed the whole episode of being of no great consequence. The whole Indian nation was aghast and there was a massive public uproar. Following that, a (mild) protest was lodged with the Australian Cricket board, who belatedly, expressed a sort of semi-regret.
Now, let us try visualize a different scenario, i.e. we imagine that India is a self-respecting country. It would have known that verbal messages for the Australian cricket team have no effect, except perhaps to motivate them to more boorish behavior. India would have arrested the Player and the Captain on some trumped-up charge (say drunken brawl) the Indian police needs no training for that. The two could have been kept overnight in a rat infested jail and given a lice-laced blanket — two normal things for Indian jails. The duo and Australia would have realized what third world countries are all about and it is best not to mess with them.
Next morning, hell would have broken loose all over the world, especially in the Sports press. Indians would have been dubbed 'barbaric'. There would have been calls to expel India from the cricket circuit: but, no one could have dared to exercise that option as all the money in cricket comes from the (crazy) Indians. Some top Indian top cricket official would have come up with profuse apologies and expressed how the whole thing was a big mistake and would never be repeated. As a sign of our sincerity, the concerned police official could have been suspended (for the day). Things would have reverted to the normal in a week or so. However, the Australians would have realized that India had come of age, and was not to be pushed around. It is quite possible that other South Asian cricketing countries would have sent us 'thank-you' notes on the quiet.
We may reiterate that the above is a totally imaginary scenario; there is no question of it ever being put into practice. The masters of Indian culture would never permit such a thing; it is against everything that India stands for — we are used to such humiliations.
In the 1990s, there was a coalition Government in India, under the leadership of the BJP. A very high profile socialist politician was the Indian Defense Minister. In the course of his official duties, he visited the USA. As per newspaper reports, the Indian Defense Minister was asked to strip at the airport, in spite of protests from the Indian Ambassador, or his representative. If India lodged any protest, it is unlikely that that reached the desk of any one important in the American establishment.
If any such incident would have taken place in India with the American Secretary of Defense, it is almost certain that the 7th Fleet would have paid a visit to Mumbai.
In early 2008, the Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned the Indian Ambassador in Beijing, at 2.30 am to hand over some silly message of no consequence. Moreover, the Ambassador happened to be a woman. Is that the time to call Ambassador of a major country like India? The intention of the Chinese in doing that was clear and need not be spelled out here.
The question is not why the Chinese called at that unearthly hour. The question is why the Indian Ambassador went; however, no one will ask that question. Are our diplomats not trained to notice when the country is being insulted, deliberately or otherwise? Of course, our protocol experts would quote chapter and verse as to why the Ambassador had to go; nation’s honor only comes later, if at all.
Do the above episodes convey a message? Of course they do. Do the Indian antennas receive it? Perhaps not. Indians even do not understand when they are being insulted. Does it call for a change in the situation and approach? Of course yes. Will it happen? Perhaps not. We continue on our chartered path; country’s honor can look after itself.
Excerpted with permission from Hinduism and its Military Ethos, By Air marshal (retd) R K Nehra, Lancer Publications.
Also read: A clerk, a typewriter, and Pakistan
Hinduism & its Military Ethos
Author: Air Marshal (retd) RK Nehra
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