November 22, 2006

This is a great op-ed by Pankaj Mishra in International Herald Tribune. He starts with the deplorable restrictions placed on Tenzin Tsundue by the Indian government during the visit of Chinese president and questions the direction of so-called "progress" by India and China. His main attack is against India.
Upholding business interests above all in its foreign policy, as in its domestic policy, China at least appears to be internally consistent. The gap between image and reality is greater in the case of India, which claims to be the world’s largest democracy, with an educated middle class and a free news media.

And yet fundamental rights to clean water, food and work remain empty abstractions to hundreds of millions of Indians, whose plight rarely impinges on the news media’s obsession with celebrity and consumption. The country’s culture of greed partly explains why a woman is killed by her husband or in-laws every 77 minutes for failing to bring sufficient dowry.

Pundits in India deplore, often gleefully, American excesses in Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and the inadequacies of the American news media in the run-up to the war in Iraq. But the Indian news media has yet to carry a single detailed report on the torture and extrajudicial killing of hundreds of civilians in Kashmir over the last decade.

As I wrote a few days ago India can not spend its way to greatness. Until we develop systems to ensure the participation of the underprivileged in country's progress, India can not truly claim to have achieved greatness. As Mishra writes,
Free markets and regular elections alone do not make a civil society. There remains the task of creating and strengthening institutions - universities, news media, human rights groups - that can focus public attention on the fate of the powerless and spread ideas of dignity, compassion and generosity.


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