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HVK Archives: Have we lost all sense of national pride?

Have we lost all sense of national pride? - The Free Press Journal

M V Kamath ()
June 30, 1998

Title: Have we lost all sense of national pride?
Author: M V Kamath
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: June 30, 1998

If a foreign journal, say The New York Time or The Times, London
or The Economic blasts India for daring to conduct a nuclear
test, one can take it in one's stride. They have a long record of
being anti-India and one can take their fulminations with a
liberal pinch of salt. But when an Indian journal runs down its
own country and its government, and that too in exquisite bad
language, it is cause not for anger, but sadness. The 25 May
issue of Outlook has done neither India nor the cause of nuclear
non-proliferation nor of world peace any service. It is a vicious
piece of journalism that has had no parallel in the history of
Indian journalism. Mr Vinod Mehta, the editor, is a distinguished
journalist and a seasoned one at that. But his editorial - if it
is that - smacks of poor understanding, poor assessment and worse
judgement. It is a tirade against India that leaves a bad taste
in one's mouth. Towards the end Mr Mehta asks: "Have people like
me lost all sense of national pride? Possibly, but in a genuine
democracy dissent and opposition are vital". Whether Mr. Mehta
has lost "all sense of national pride" is for him alone to
answer. Surely he is as patriotic as anyone of us. But when he
asks rhetorically whether "critics of the tests are all CIA
agents" he should look into his own heart for an answer. One does
not have to be a CIA agent with deliberate intent to be called as
one. But if what one says or does suits the CIA, one must pause
and think. The most revealing article in this issue of Outlook is
the one by Bruce Hawke and Ethan Casey from Bangkok. Ironic that
the most revealing article and indirect support to India should
come from two foreigners. "For years," Hawke and Casey report,
"International defence experts have been reporting Chinese
activity in Myanmar, particularly on the Great Coco Island, just
20 nautical miles from the northern tip of the Andamans". That
article has to be read to be believed. One hopes that some time
in the days to come, Mr Mehta will sit quietly and meditate on
the harm he has done to the country, no doubt in a well-meaning
way, but the harm has been done nevertheless.

Understandably there has been a spate of articles in every Indian
paper on the subject of nuclear tests at least some of them from
writers whose views deserve respect. Some of these articles have
been indeed critical of the government but in a constructive way.
Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyer writing in The Sunday Times of India
(17 May) took upon himself to 'expose' what he called myths that
he himself conjured up, but that is okay. C Raja Mohan writing in
The Hindu (13 May) had an excellent news analysis, meriting
study. Dina Nath Mishra writing in the Observer (21 May) was
right in pointing out that our Prime Ministers, right from Rajiv
Gandhi to I K Gujral "could not dare think of exercising nuclear
options" in part because "the historic load of demoralisation of
the past 1,000 years has incapacitated most of diem". Mishra
correctly noted that many of our leaders often underestimate
India's potential and are "overawed by advanced powers" and "act
as intellectual slaves even today". There have been balanced
articles such as the one by G S Bhargava in The Hindustan Times
(21 May) or by C V Narasimhan, former Under-Secretary General of
the United Nations in The Hindu (21 May) who made light of some
of the criticisms levelled against the BJP government such as the
question of cost. Narasimhan noted that it was Henry Kissinger
who once said that the long-term interests of both India and the
U.S. in the decades ahead coincide much more than they diverge
and that it was Kissinger's advice to the U.S. "to keep this
convergence of interests in mind". These are voices of sanity.

A page from the Wall Street Journal reproduced by the Indian
Express (21 May) published comments from Senator John Glenn that
should rouse interest in India. Sen. Glenn has proposed that
President Clinton go ahead with a trip he had been planning to
India in November and transform that visit into a high profile
South Asian Security Conference, drawing together India, Pakistan
and China. As Senator Glenn put it, "If we had a conference,
maybe we could work out something where the more industrialised
nations of the world could develop their economies". That is
about the most constructive suggestion to come out so far from
abroad. It makes sense.

In India the provincial papers by and large have supported the
government, their support mixed with advice. The Hitavada (May
12) noted that the shedding of the nuclear veil after 24 years of
ambiguity by India "marks a landmark in its history". It pointed
out that India's good intentions in the past were misunderstood
and taken for weakness, that "there will of course, be a strong
opposition to adding nuclear weapons to the defence system from
almost every political quarter in India" but that "inwardly,
every Indian would want the feel of the pride of a nuclear
defence". The paper's editorial entitled "A bold step" was front-
paged and took two full columns. Three days later the paper had
another editorial which said plainly that sanctions won't work.
Firstly, said the paper, he sanctions amount to little more
than locking the stable doors after the horses have bolted=94. The
sanctions may hurt, said the paper, but they would "hardly be
choking". Tune, it added, is running out for "nuclear Brahminism
and it was about time the Big-5 and others realised it. The
Times of India, never one to shun pomposity, said (May 22) that
"the irony Of Pokhran II is that what is rightly considered a
great scientific achievement is in danger of being co-opted as
yet another flourish in the rhetoric of partisan ideology" and
archly suggested that "the primary role of science is not to
devise and perfect weapons of mass destruction" but to "fuse the
well-stream of human ingenuity with the secrets of nature... and
thereby illuminate a path for the solution of humankind's
problems". Rhetoric was never put to more futile use. Gomantak
Times (15 May) expressed its doubts as to whether India can
withstand the sanctions, suggested that the tests were "ill-timed
for Indian economy" but added that "in a way, India's defiant
testing... was a clear message to the international community and
particularly Big-Brother - United States - that conducting of
nuclear tests was its own business".

The Hindustan Times (21 May) after warning the BJP's 'blimps'
against "mouthing warlike slogans" suggested that what the
country now needs "is a spell of mature diplomacy to prove to the
world that there is no offensive intent behind the May 11 and 13
explosions". The fact that international sanctions have ceased to
be a threat should not lull the country into a false sense of
security" the paper said. Interestingly, in all the hubbub over
the explosions, two stories which should have made big news were
all but forgotten. The Indian Express broke the story in Bombay
that the Tata Everest Expedition comprising 12 members has
successfully scaled the world's highest peak, Mount Everest, on
May 18. That should have been a lead story, but climbing the
Everest has become somewhat blas=E9 and too many expeditions have
done it for much interest to be aroused. The Hindustan Times
carried the news item on page 12 (!) as a boxed item! So much
for pride in our conquests! The Indian Express played up the
story across four columns, but not on the front page where the
story really belonged. The Hindustan Times credited the story to
UNI whereas die Express took the credit to itself But what a way
to treat the story!

The other story which should have received prominence was a PTI
report from Washington that said that for the first time India
produced more wheat dm the United States last year That story
should be a matter of pride for us as much as our capability to
make a hydrogen bomb.

Meanwhile Express Newsline photographer needs to be congratulated
for a nice human interest picture of former Union Minister P.
Chidambaram exiting from the Bombay High Court where he had
appeared as a counsel for a Trombay-based chemical company.

Wearing proper trousers and jacket etc with the mandatory
lawyer's cloak over him, Chidambaram looked the very picture of
legal grace and, says the caption to the photograph that appeared
on 20 May, dded an element of celebrity interest to the daily
proceedings=94.

Well, what do you say?


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