All posts in the NRIs category

The Israeli Relationship – Moralistic, Geopolitical & Palestine Considerations Analysed

Published July 5, 2017 by vishalvkale

This week, just yesterday as a matter of fact, our Prime Minister landed in Israel  – the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to that nation from our side. This is a seminal event; yet, it was saddening to see some voices being guarded, as opposed to openly welcoming this move. In a democracy, it is perfectly fine if you don’t support the ruling party, having voted for the other side; it is accepted as well as expected that you criticize – but when the Government does something laudable – you should welcome it.
This move by the NaMo Government stands in that list; a fully laudable move, one that we would do well to welcome, leaving our apprehensions aside for the time being. On that other hand – this is not a time for chest-thumping either; let us reflect what this move means for us as a nation, and analyse the pluses and the minuses of this new equation. Whatever else we look at, this is not the time for misguided moralistic analyses – Geopolitics is not a field that lends itself to excessive moralization, to be honest. You have to be extremely hard-nosed and practical in Geopolitics.
These stem from the Israel-Palestine issue; and the hard-nosed Israeli response. I feel for the problem, to be honest; but I have to admit with deep regret that they aren’t Indians – and Indian interests have to be placed first. I don’t say I like the way it is being handled – but there is little we can do, beyond a point. We aren’t the world police – and neither do we want to be the world policeman either. The onlyway to look at this problem is from a Geopolitical angle; not a right-and-wrong angle.
Further, it is surprising to note objections being raised basis Palestine, and in some cases China: I do not recall many voices questioning our relationship with the USA, which actively sends arms and aid to Pakistan, and which was the original provider of weapons to our enemy, leading from the Afghan conflict. The continuing support from the USA to Pakistan is a matter of documented record – and yet  few people raised a question as we went closer to the USA. Where were these moralizing objections then?
Not only that, Is the USA’s record crystal clear? Want that we should go into its highly chequered and ugly history? Or perhaps the innumerable times it stopped India, or tried to, from achieving its justified goals? I respectfully submit that The USA has a far uglier record than the Israelis who actually are saints by comparison. Remember the Iraq Fiasco? Where are those WMDs? And yet, we welcome closer ties – because it is the primary world power, and a much-sought after relationship?
I don’t recall as many questions being raised on the impact of our relationship with the Russians as we came closer to The USA. Why is that? So, it is OK if you go after an aspirational relationship with the premier world power, forgetting our long standing support from Russia? That is something that has required far more serious thought, and has been handled very adroitly by all Central Governments we have had; let us give them credit for that. Thus, cant we cut slack for our Government and our Diplomatic forces that they can handle Israel and Palestine with equal aplomb?
Yet, when we come to Israel, we get instant moralization. Where was this moralization when The USA is involved? Its human rights record is ugly beyond mention – yet, no controversy. Where was this moralistic stance when we moved USA-wards, forgetting that it was Russia who has always stood by us? When has the USA ever stood for us in Geopolitics? Almost never historically! What’s good for the geese is good for the gander – you cannot ignore moralistic issues in one relationship, and apply them in another. You have to apply the precise same standards in each case.
More serious are the Geopolitical objections, which to be perfectly frank – deserve a serious reading, and merit a reasoned response from us. To summarise, these are India-Iran; Arabs; NRIs in the Middle East; and the Israeli-Chinese relationship. We need to look at all of these in an informed debate : a dispassionate analysis of these is required, shorn of ideological baggage. Some of these frankly are fantastic, like the NRI problem or how our NRIs will be treated due to a relationship with Israel – that is just stretching things too far. The Arab world also has relations with Israel!
First, India is seeking alternatives to OPEC actively, trying to reduce the dependence on it for Oil. Second, some Arab nations are anyway fedup with Pakistan due to terrorism, and that is a huge point in our favour. Third, The Arab World is itself giving overtures to Israel – Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to be specific. We are also building relationships with The Arab World, who can also see our impact in Afghanistan. So, why on earth shouldn’t we build a relationship with Israel?  Fourth, Iran has seen our support to them in the face of The USA – and our diplomatic forces can be expected to handle the delicate relationship balance. That leads to Fifth – the Israel visit comes after a visit to the Arab world!Thus,  If we can balance USA and Russia, we can certainly be expected to balance Iran and Israel, that much seems to be certain. Let us not sell ourselves short.
Now, the Israeli Chinese Relationship. Why on earth should this make us uneasy? First of all, Israel is but of three major defense partners of ours, alongside the USA and Russia. We have hedged our bets, not being dependent on any one partner. Sure, a lot more needs to be done, but the direction is right. Second, Israel had supported us in 1962 against China. While that is no guarantee of the future, it is nevertheless a significant factor. It actively supported our Armed  Forces as well as our anti-terror efforts many times after that as well, including as recently as in 1999 during the Kargil conflict. Third – we are perfectly fine with having a relationship with USA, which is supporting Pakistan openly – but use a different yardstick to judge the India and Israel relationship! That is amazing!
Finally, on Palestine, I accept that we have been a long-standing supporter of the cause.  But we need to understand that we need to look out for ourselves first. We are in a world with rapidly re-aligning geopolitical relationships. In such changing times, we need to change with the times, and respond to the challenges being raised. A strategic alignment with Israel is a given, as we have many common points and mutual areas of interest. This is not present in the Palestine relationship.  Furthermore, there is no other reason to be reticent; we will have to trust our diplomatic corps to play the balancing role, That is the need of the hour. There is no such thing as a perfect strategy – it is always give and take.
This does not include the many areas of trade and scientific commonality that we enjoy with Israel – which is only just one more added incentive for closer and more open relations with Israel. From my opinion, my point of view, it sounds slightly hypocritical to talk of our relations with The USA is one voice, and analyse the Israeli relationship along diametrically opposite tones. In this, I stand solidly with the Government praisers – well done, NaMo Government. You have taken a splendid step for the reasons outined above. That said, it has been a collective effort- it has to be said that all political parties have stood by this relationship for years and nurtured it actively.

Selected References : 

The NRI Question Revisited

Published January 23, 2017 by vishalvkale

Our love for NRIs – especially the variety who go to the US has always been paramount in our society. This is something I hold dear to my heart and my core reality. It has always been a bone of contention for me; why should an educated person leave India to settle abroad? Lets be practical; the modern job can carry you abroad for certain lengths of time. This is unavoidable; in fact, it has its benefits. Those benefits are beyond argument; that is not the point of the article.
The Media feeds this national past-time, engorging themselves on NRIs and their achievements nearly every day; the same Media who would not recognize a local success, or find him or her worthy of placement on their august and hallowed sites.  The people in turn, in a funny circle, simply adore reading about these people, including even PIOs – people who didn’t even care enough to retain the citizenship. A person doesn’t even care to remain Indian, and still we create a hero or heroine! Why cant the Media devote a lot more space to Indian stories? Because the people lap up the stories of the people who effectively ran away from our nation, that’s why!
I came from my parents, and also from this holy soil. This soil produced the food my parents ate, the air which they breathe. The public spent its taxes on me as I grew up. I owe a debt to every Indian, and every cubic mm of this air, water and soil. My body, my entire existence has been crafted by India. How can I  forget this? I, personally speaking, cant; not for a moment. This realization does not leave me even for a single moment of my life. Every breath I take, I acutely realize to be a gift of this holy land.
I admit that there may be cases of harassment – I personally know of one case; and am aware of some unsavoury realities that queer the pitch. Yes, in such cases it is understandable; you cannot argue with that. Each person has his or her own reality; and in cases where there is harassment, the logic I state may not apply; to such people, I can only say that I understand, respect and accept your decision – although why my acceptance or otherwise should be of material importance to them is debatable!
The biggest argument presented as a counter is that NRIs benefit us by sending money. How much would a person contribute if they stayed, as opposed to the above – have you calculated this? We arent beggars, we dont want or need a contribution equal to 0.6% of GDP. I refer to US contribution; total contribution of NRIs is 71 Billion dollars estimated, out of a GDP of around 2100 Billion Dollars. That is peanuts. These same people might contribute well over several hundred Billion to the US economy, if reports are to be believed! Ok, the economic reality there is different – accepted.  
But we have success stories of Indians who stayed in India to create value. Read my blog, business books section, for some excellent examples. The point is the value addition generated has these people stayed in, or come back to, India. They would have generated Jobs, livelihoods, brought in new methods of work and technology; in fact – that is how we have progressed over the millennia! I already stated going abroad isn’t the problem; the problem is not coming back. What use is it to us Resident Indians {yes, there is such a category} if the NRIs retain passports? That is meaningless, without value!
Yes – it would mean some frustration, and some adjustments. I once read an interesting, and outright funny real experiences of an NRI who tried to come back and could not adjust for what I regard as silly and stupid reasons. The problem you regard as problems need to be overcome – you cannot cry; this is your own holy land, your country. If you wont make it a better land, who will? They aren’t problems, but challenges. You think I don’t face issues? Of course I do – but unlike some other people, I don’t sit crying and blaming the world. I face up to them, and try to defeat them, like my many fellow Indians.
That is why the entire argument of NRIs being beneficial is plain nonsense, in my opinion. The best brains go out – how can that be good? How can a person place self-realisation above the nation? Even our holy literature is quite specific in this regard : the qualities of a good person listed specifically list doing your bit for your “desh”! Especially when the people who run away abroad are the educated – who could easily build a more than decent life in India itself!
Ok, so you  guys send in 71 Billion Dollars, thanks a whole bunch. What about the taxes and the public facilities you used when you stayed here? Want I should start putting a price on that? Or the seats you used in your education – which could have gone to a person who would have stayed? Want I put a price on that? Or on the opportunity cost involved, in terms of value added by doing jobs here, creating value and generating income & livelihood? Or should I count the cost to the nation in terms of the positive impetus you could have generated in the momentum?
Nahi chaahiye NRI paisa, I don’t want it at any rate. We {I} want Indians to stay in India. But then that is my opinion – and there are 1.3 Billion  opinions in my lovely land! In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us local people to set a price, just as a reminder to any person who claims the NRIs benefit us by sending money – price in terms of reminding them, hello bhai – you used educational seats, public facilities, etc! Are you an investor – sending money? It is a far more effective input if a person puts in his or her knowledge, education and experience, a far greater value addition. Paisa toh investor bhi bhejtaa hai


Published January 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

One of the most surprising aspects of our collective behavior, as collectively expressed through the organized as well as social media, is the ever-present phenomenon of the Abroad Dream… the dream of at least some Indian parents and children alike, to go and settle abroad, or work abroad. Another aspect of this is the penchant to give undue importance to NRIs / PIOs in our media; a third aspect is the near-devoted tracking of PIOs success-stories, especially in the realm of politics… the fact that the Media gives prominence to these is mute evidence of the fact that we, the people, give importance to them

Let us consider the third case, and examine it a little more clearly. It is near-certain that having a number of prominent PIOs in positions of power has been of benefit to us in the realm of Business, wherein it is a win-win situation… the PIO is better aware of how to do business in India, and can thus act as a bridge between two cultures. However, extending that to dream of improved influence politically in strategic matters is stretching things too far; Geopolitics is frankly not something that can be impacted by overmuch by such things.
Geopolitical decisions are taken on realpolitic, national aims, threats, plans etc– and are not so  very easily influenced by matters of culture. Sure, it  can get you increased approach to corridors of decisions makers {lobbying}, but that is about it. The decision wont be altered by mere lobbying; Strategic Decisions are born out of an entirely different set of parameters. That means that these PIOs in such places cannot be as critical as we may think them to be. Their increased presence in parliaments in the world is important fundamentally to the resident Ex-Indian population, who have their own issues, and are not Indian anymore…
It is a baffling scenario, when you consider it coldly – the undue and totally unwarranted focus on PIO and NRI population, whichever way you look at it. We are so blind to our own good stories and successes, that we notice them only when these people get an international recognition! I am yet to read many news articles on local success stories; and on the odd occasion they do appear – like as not they are buried somewhere; whereas the NRI – PIO story invariably finds its appearance on the first page, or the landing page of the website, prominently displayed!
We are a nation that wants to be a superpower; we are a nation that places due and correct emphasis on our glorious past and history; we are a nation that proudly lists achievements that are the stuff of envy; so how does the above behavior gel in with the above sorry scenario? In fact, we are delaying our own success by avidly following those who left us for other lands, we are setting the wrong example to our younger generation.
We should place far greater emphasis on Local Flavor successes, those that made it locally, by a local education, and succeeded. Doing so will give exemplars to the general society, and act slowly but surely to build a base that will act as drivers to the younger generation to follow- much as people follow IITs, NRIs, even IASs… the need of the hour for a strong, developed India simply has to be the encouragement of the local people, that it is eminently feasible to do it in India, that the rewards are far more encouraging here. This is currently absent in the present atmosphere, where there is a clear absence of attractive aspirational aura around the local story
Sure, Make In India, Developed India etc are great slogans – but they wont happen fast enough unless there is an aspirational halo around working in India, living your life in India. It should be a dream, a pull and an aspiration – landing a good job in India after studying here for the large part, if not all. Currently, there is no mention of it in a cultural sense; we ought to encourage and make being a resident Indian a matter of not just pride – but an aspiration, something to be vied for, something to be struggled for, something to chase with single-minded devotion!

I hold no grudge against those who left – God Bless Them, make them happy. There are manifest advantages to having a large expatriate population, and people of your culture. It will help build an aura around Indian Culture, much the same way that the West now enjoys a halo around it, an aspirational pull. That is the ultimate limit for the aspirational pull I referred to above. But, placing them on a pedestal is just plain inaccurate – they are the ones who left our lovely nation. Nations are not built by those who leave; they are built by those who have the courage, the guts to stand and fight, building a great legacy and country for all who follow!

Being Indian – 5 : National Narrative Versus National Ethos

Published August 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

Concluding part of the series “Being Indian” – previous part found here : Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West

India is a land that, as all of like to repeat ad-nauseum, is known for its diversity as well as its unity both; in fact, Unity in Diversity is the justified by-line for our Nation, our national ethos,  that is what, essentially, India stands for, and our ethos, our culture is what we are exceedingly proud of. This unity rests on the unique Socio-Cultural fabric of our nation, which has been crafted out of several Millennia of inter-mingling, living together, interacting and even fighting together. While India the nation, the political unit, may be a relatively new construct – Hindustan, or Bharat or Hind is a concept as old as this land itself, as is borne out by the scores of period documents as well as in the writings of the visitors to this holy and blessed land.

But, if you dig deeper, one can easily spot a narrative that is at complete variance with this stated ethos, and many contradictory themes emanating from within this unified cultural milieu, many inconsistencies that critics use to label us as being not quite so unified – namely, the fervent desire of a small section of our society to become a Hindu Rashtra, or the entire language debate {to be taken up in an independent article}, or the imaginary oppression during the Muslim rule from around 1150AD, or the politically charged debate around Casteism.

It isn’t my objective to defend “Unity In Diversity”; I see no reason to be defensive about my lovely nation to anyone. If the non-Indian thinks otherwise, he or she is welcome to his or her several impressions. I think all of us know what India is, at the core – so why be defensive? It is far better to ensure that we make this holy land where we have been blessed with a human birth an even better and even more strong place than it was before. And doing that requires tackling the present inconsistencies, challenging them, setting the narrative right – and taking corrective action.

That we are defensive on the topic of India and Being Indian is easily seen and can be readily observed everywhere: from our unhealthy penchant of following NRI-PIOs abroad, highlighting their achievements. This can be seen in our pandering to Western standards, rather than setting our own cultural standards based on our culture; this can be seen in our sheepishness on seeing songs in Movies,  or even in our going gaga over Indian cultural fests abroad or in the ardent following of Temples and their events abroad.

At the core of this defensiveness lies a deep-seated inferiority complex, the roots of which lie deep in our past, and are now firmly entrenched in most people, which is a real tragedy. Why should we go gaga over the achievements of people living abroad, as a small example? These are people who chose another nation over India for their life; what is the message we are giving people? Why should we care overmuch if some Tom, Dick Or Harry makes it big in The UK or The USA? Don’t we have enough success stories in India? Cant a nation find success stories locally? Why is it that NRI-PIOs routinely make front page, whereas the local successes almost never feature in any news? If you cover both with equal vigour – that is fair; but if only is found newsworthy, then this is a manifest inferiority complex.

Similarly, why should we, as Indian Citizens, care about Temples and Hindus in The USA or The UK? Of what concern is it to us? Why should a Barack Obama Diwali party hold relevance for us? Why should we follow the growth of Sanaatan Dharm worldwide? Is our religion a proselytizing faith? If it isn’t – then why can’t we leave well enough alone? And why focus exclusively on The USA, The UK and developed countries? Why not trace the growth in outlying countries, Eastern countries, or African countries? Come to think of it, why don’t the success stories of the Indian Diaspora in other parts of the World become headline news, like the cases in the USA or the UK? Is this what Sanaatan Dharm teaches us? Or does it teach us something different? Is it the contention that only PIOs in the Developed World are successful? What are we displaying by this frankly idiotic behaviour?

On an equal note is the most disturbing trend of the slowly rising – but thankfully currently minor – scenario of the Hindu Rashtra; or the habit of some among us to regard Muslim rule as being worse than British Rule. I have dealt with this extensively earlier here : Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery ; so shall not elaborate. The sad disregard for and ignorance of the evil that happened during British Rule, and the complete inability of even our Media to tell the full story is the most enduring tragedy of Modern India. What is needed is a balance, a complete and truthful exposition of all that happened during both the periods – Muslims and British; such an examination is certain to knock the sails out of the 1000-year slavery myth.

This is what this Being Indian mini-series has been about, focusing on the present inconsistencies, trying to make the reader ask himself or herself some hard questions about what it means to Be Indian. Does Being Indian mean that you have to settle abroad? Does Being Indian mean you have to study and live here just to go away? Does Being Indian mean that you are a Sanaatan Dharmi? Then what about Dr Kalam, or Paramveer Abdul Hamid, or any number of other Muslims, Christians and Sikhs? Does Being Indian mean that you have to follow Western norms? Does Being Indian mean that, by contrast, perforce have to follow Indian norms? What does it mean to “Be Indian”? What is our national story, our national narrative, above and beyond the clichéd term “Unity in Diversity”? And do we, all of us, understand, display and believe in this narrative?

How many of us can identify a snap of Kalpana Chawla – and how many of us can recognize a snap of Paramveer Nirmaljeet Singh Sikhon?  I cant recognize the latter – and that is, perhaps, the worst possible comment on us as a people, and what we value. One person, {if some records and wikiis correct} quit Indian Citizenship for the US, and the other gave his life fighting to protect us. The US citizen’s face is plastered all over our Media, which doesn’t even care to look at Kailash Satyarthi {let alone someone from the past like The Great Nirmaljeet} till The Great West awards a prize, when we suddenly discover him! {God Bless Her, her achievements were tremendous indeed – but she wasn’t Indian, and I therefore take no pride or otherwise in her achievements. And not just for her : the same applies to any PIO. They aren’t Indians}

How many among us quote the ills of The Muslim Rule and the raids of Chengez Khan and Mahmud of Ghazni? And how many of among those know and quote of the 1857 Genocide, or the Bengal Holocaust, or the Famine of the 1760s which killed an estimated 30% of the population of Bengal? How many of us quote the Industrialised India of the 1600s and the 1700s? And how many among us quote and send messages on social media and whatsapp on the ills of that period? And how many of us quote the stories of the weavers, the potters and other products of India, and of the Merchant trade – and how many just reproduce verbatim the sporadic killings of that period?

What is the actual national narrative that we are displaying by such behaviour? Is it in keeping with what we perceive as our national ethos? Why do we ignore the real heroes of our nation – those who stay in India work in India, give their lives for India? And why do we ignore the full story of the past, and concentrate instead on one part story, which is by definition a biased approach? Why do we idolize ex-Indians or even NRIs who quit India, and ignore our heroes at home? Why do we chase after stories of Temples abroad – how is it important to us as Indians? Why do we place Western Culture on a pedestal – when our oft-quoted assimilative culture specifically equates all cultures as one? Why then cant we be accepting of our own identity, and be confident of our own selves? Why this manifest effort to be someone and something that is at complete variance with what we profess to be?

Therein lies the key – our professing to be one identity, and then belying it by displaying behavior that is the complete opposite. Unless we develop a national narrative that is in keeping with our national ethos, this dichotomous behavior will remain. Ethos means “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations”; while narrative means “A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values”, or in short – A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

In this series – Being Indian – I have attempted to look at some disturbing aspects of our national narrative that are not in consonance with our National Ethos – In simple terms, our behavior vis-à-vis our words at what we profess to value.  I have attempted to lay bare the inconsistencies; areas where we need to bring our narrative and our ethos into one… That is the subject of the next mini-series ; Developing a National Narrative