Back to Old-Style Posturing by India

The Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, slammed the Western Countries for effecting a regime change in Libya during his address to the United Nations General Assembly. Please see – “Manmohan slams West for using force to change regimes” .

In this address to the General Assembly, Dr Singh made a point that “absence of democracy and rule of law cannot be a pretext to violate sovereignty and integrity of countries. Societies cannot be reordered from outside through military force. People in all countries have the right to choose their own destiny and decide their own future”.

Sounds eerily as though it were from the Nehruvian era – “Non-Interference”, and “Non-Alignment”, isn’t it ?

I do not agree with Dr Singh, of course. He is going back on the reformist approach that his government has taken over the past several years, going back to the times when India always stood out almost alone without powerful countries’ support, trying to support the countries that the West interfered with.

Let us dissect Dr Singh’s statement.

1. “Absence of democracy” – what does this phrase mean ? There is no democracy in a country, which means that it is under a different form of government, in the case of Libya it has been a tribal dictatorship for a long, long time.

2. “Absence of rule of law” – what does this phrase mean ? There is no rule of law, as it is understood internationally. Libya and Iraq were run by dictators, perpetuating the centuries-old tribal style of rule, which is not understood by the international community. Countries which support such dictatorships do so for a profit or business motive. The rest of the global community just tolerates the brutish behaviour of dictators, and democracies like India which used to support such dictators (as it is apparent again now) do a great deal of injustice to the citizens of those countries in the name of “non-interference”.

3. “Societies cannot be reordered” – of course, they can be reordered. Right through world history, reordering of societies has happened to help them adjust to new world order. In fact, it is the duty of the world’s leading nations to help the backward and downtrodden peoples of this world and bring them into the fold of advancement – both politically and materially. If that reordering demands military intervention to eject the unbending rulers who had ruled with an iron hand in a dictatorial and slavish manner, so be it.

4. “People in all countries have the right to choose their own destiny and decide their own future” – YES, of course, I could not agree more. But, what I fail to understand is how Dr Singh proposes to help these peoples to choose when their right to freedom and to their future has long been held hostage by military dictatorships. What is Dr Singh’s alternative strategy ? Is it a perennial wait for the dictators to die off eventually – if so, what about the sons of these dictators who happen to be even more brutish than their fathers ? Ultimately, if a country’s citizens do not have the right to elect their own leaders in a democratic manner, some sort of intervention would be necessary to help the people, and that intervention can only be delayed not denied forever. Such delays as we have seen in Rwanda, Sudan, Myanmar, Iraq, Yemen and North Korea have cost dearly to the citizens of those countries who have perished and the rest who continue to suffer.

Why would the world and the United Nations deny what is rightfully due to these long-suffering citizens of impoverished and bullied countries ?

The final point I would like to make is the most important – India is seen as the largest functioning democracy in the world, but it is supporting old-style globally decried policies of non-alignment and non-interference again. Take the case of the Libyan rebels who are winning the war against Col Gaddhafi. Do you think they will like India after what Dr Singh so publicly stated in the United Nations General Assembly ? India will lose the minds and loyalties of a fast-growing young nation which will now be led by the fighters who fought so valiantly against an entrenched, decades-old dictatorship, and finally overthrew him with the support of the Western nations. Not the way to go, India. Principled opposition is OK, but not a concerted opposition to regime change. It is not OK to interfere with a democratically elected government, but it is perfectly OK to interfere with a dictatorship if the dictator does not listen to reason after years of persuasion.

India should change and change dramatically towards its ideal position of a “beacon for world’s freedom” rising from the East, as is the United States from the West. Let us not throw the opportunity away again.


Vijay Srinivasan
25th Sept 2011


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