We do not get to choose our neighbours, do we ?

Let us start with the manner in which neighbours behave even amongst metro cities. There is a huge difference between the behaviours of neighbouring folks living in the next apartments in Chennai and Mumbai even. In Chennai it gets to be rather intrusive, neighbours are generally wanting to participate in some minor way in your life ! They just want to know more about your family and friends !! In Mumbai, it would be surprising to even know who your neighbours really are – except for an occasional smile when you journey together in the lift (elevator).

In the above instance, there is a possibility that neighbours change sometimes. Some one renting the apartment migrates to another city, and a newcomer generally tends to smile at least (I am referring to Mumbai). In the case of Chennai, the newcomer becomes an “open book” in a very short time, as he or she is offered lots of advice and help from unassuming neighbours, whose real intention is to find out more about the newcomer and his life.

However, the above example does not work when it comes to geographical neighbours.

Can we get away from Pakistan, Myanmar, or Bangladesh ? Or, for that matter, from China ?

We did not choose them, neither did they have the option of not having India as a neighbour. We have issues with all the neighbours. And the problems continue. The neighbours cannot be changed when it comes to countries.

The light veneer of animosity between China and India has perpetuated, despite seemingly best efforts from both sides. Relationship between Pakistan and India has hit a nadir, almost a point of no return. India cannot blame the generals running Myanmar, though it well knows the complete absence of democracy in that country. Bangladesh suffers from serious domestic problems.

Since China has not taken on the mantle of a global leader, despite its formidable economic status, the onus is on India now. India needs to demonstrate that it could take a pole position in the geography and perform its duties as a good neighbour, while asserting its prowess as an emerging global player. India is less threatening than China to most countries, and this fact needs to be leveraged in the global political arena. But India is slow in capitalizing on its strengths as it lumbers around slowly with its “democratic” weight.

India is lucky to find itself in this position right now. There is growing mistrust of China, as its opaque leadership is difficult to fathom for the Western countries. Since the human face of the Chinese Communist Party is actually not human, but prone to an automated response, it has become rather challenging for Western leaders to do business with China on a firm footing. China has not given up on any of its policies and has not loosened its hold on its currency. With the artificial weakness of the Remnimbi, money is flowing into China stoking inflation.

India has the chance to prove to the world that it is a responsible, flexible global leader and fill the gap. But first it must fulfil its role as a good neighbour, in fact, it is the only good neighbour that is around in South Asia. Even Sri Lanka is not fully out of the woods.

So, it is time to show our neighbours how good we are indeed.


Vijay Srinivasan
23rd January 2011


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