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64, and onwards ho!
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If one were to look at where India was this day 64 years ago, and where it is now, not only would one stare on in amazement, but one might also feel a sudden compulsion to pinch oneself hard, if only to remind oneself that it isn’t really a dream.

Though surprisingly little might have changed in the remotest corners of the country, the strides India has taken as a collective whole belie belief. From being a British colony, to a divided nation, to a staunchly independent young nation, to finally being an American sympathiser (toady?) via being a Soviet sympathiser (again, toady?). Phew. Quite a journey.

However, this very journey has reaped rich rewards. Today, the world touts India as the next-to-next-big thing. Sadly, China stands between us and the next-big-thing tag. China notwithstanding, respect has been garnered. India is widely accepted as the chief proponent of soft power. The Mahatma would, in many respects, be proud to see the country he liberated, doing so well.

64 years ago, the very thought of India even entertaining thoughts of bidding for a permanent seat on that great table of power, the United Nations Security Council, would have sounded laughably ludicrous. True, that India was offered Taiwan’s seat in 1955, but much to his credit, our first Prime Minister refused. Maybe, he knew that India’s time was yet to come.

Today, nations are clamouring to endorse India’s bid for a permanent seat. “It represents the changing world order,” they say. Such a large consensus has little chance of being wrong, but what is interesting to see how our foreign policy might have affected this huge an opinion shift.

Indo-America bonding
The recent past has seen a great shift in India’s foreign policy. A shift largely towards the American camp. Observers are rather alarmed. Some have gone on to insinuate that India is losing its formerly independent stance.

The Hyde Act! That Hyde Act! How could they even entertain thoughts of agreeing to the postulates? HOW?! And whatever even happened to our close comradeship with the Soviets? Are we becoming America’s little lapdog? And is America even treating us fairly? After all, they are aiding Pakistan, and that very aid is in a way biting us through terrorism.

Valid questions and assertions, all. But then again, consider what we’ve gained in return. The respect of the Americans, and their endorsement (in principle at least), of our bid for a permanent Security Council seat. Come 2012, and our bid for the same should be that much easier because of this endorsement. Surely, that means a lot? Surely that means that other nations too can endorse the Indian candidature? After all, we now have the American seal of approval.

Yes. It means a lot, and India’s candidature has never looked stronger. When India bids for the permanent seat in 2012, it would have more support than it has ever had in its entire history.

Which brings us to:

Power and Responsibility
India’s growing clout has added a certain responsibility to its name. A responsibility that our leaders don’t quite feel.

As a dominant power in the world, and as a country which feels, and is able to convince others, that it is worthy of a Security Council seat, India does surprisingly little to not just assert its individuality, but also to fester more stability in its neighbourhood.

The Non-Aligned Movement, that great testament to India’s diplomacy and fierce individuality, seems to be a relic of the Cold War era. SAARC seems to be more of a formality than an actual convention which can make a difference. Indo-China relations are on the upswing, but it is China taking the initiative while India just plays along. Indo-Pak relations are nowhere close to being stress-free.

Let this new era of our independence be one where we, as a nation, show the world that we understand the responsibilities attached with our power. Let us show that the power we talk about isn’t merely through clever word-play, but also in deed. Our leaders might have convinced the world that we are worthy of the Security Council, but let them convince the largely cynical Indian populace. Let that be a test of worthiness.

This post first published as an Independence Day feature on SIMC Wire.

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