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The Times Of India
Wen knows the address
He smiled in the winter of Sichuan coolly and said: “So Mr Tarun Vijay, you say your democracy is better than what you call our autocracy?” I said, with a tinge of pride: “Yes, Mr Zhao.” “But how?” he asked. “Most of your parties are nothing but family fiefs. You may begin with the central one — nothing can happen in the Congress without the approval of one leader, that is, Sonia Gandhi, and no one can rise above a certain level in party hierarchy except her children. Right?” I said yes. “Then all other parties, except the Communists and the BJP, are run the same way. They are known by the names of their owners rather by their political beliefs. Political corruption in India is as bad as or perhaps worse than what we have in China. At least our people take bribes and deliver; your people take bribes and ditch. Our corrupt are honest, but you have dishonest even in corruption.”
I wanted to protest saying “no, no, we also deliver after taking money”, but something stopped me midway, and I kept listening to him.
He said that in China they have a single-party system but they have transparent elections and their inner-party forums are strong. They too can boast of leaders from common strata of society — no prince, no son or daughter rising high just because they happen to be the children of some leader. “And look at our collective will power — we have emerged,” he finally declared.
Yes, I did present a great picture of my nation, fast growth rate, and emphasized that the happiness index is not necessarily tagged to material prosperity. Half empty bellies too can struggle for greater freedom, feel happier than the rich, below-poverty-line people too have a yearning for democracy, they feel better with the power to shout and oust bad governments than the overfed rich in China without the power to vote for a party they like, and read about all the good and ugly happenings without a big party boss watching. And mind you, friend, a professor he was, in spite of the Chinese claims of great economic growth, your rural disparities may burst the bubble someday suddenly. Our growth is inclusive and powered by people’s entrepreneurship, not dependent on the state entirely. Yours is exclusive and driven by state control. It’s a big difference that will prove decisive soon.
Having said that I knew, in spite of the freedom we claim, we are yet to arrive. If there is no press censorship, there are pressures from Radias and political moneybags. The media is coloured. If the judiciary delivers, it also produces corrupt judges. And the most hated icons of our public life are politicians and compromising civil servants. Even in a basic thing like cleanliness, we are far behind. Not only ministries but the offices inside Parliament and its annexe need a review about their hygiene and cleanliness. The corridors stink, they are full of openly stocked old record files, and empty teapots and used meals thalis. Like a house deserted by the real owner but occupied by temporary careless tenants, our nation faces a situation where it’s difficult to say who owns India.
The Chinese are rising. Their confidence often enveloped in a touch of arrogance is immense. When we go on a China tour to attend their conferences and seminars, we are genuinely impressed. Clean, well-maintained roads, sparklingly modern airports, decently functioning railway stations and above all courteous behaviour. Their cities show that the nation is on the move. Their students show great acumen to learn newer subjects and their academics establish specialized universities in remote locations too, like more than a dozen music universities working in the realm of various musical streams.
We boast of our democratic prowess and show a well-deserved pride in it. But we can't explain why in spite of having a great democratic institution and having produced development-oriented leaders like Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar and justifiably showcasing a young dynamic leadership emerging, which shows concern about the teeming millions, why are we still trapped in the imbroglios of 2G spectrum scandal, CWG scams, continue to put our feet backwards on Kashmir traitors, Maoists and NE insurgents. Why can't our leaders belonging to different parties and ideologies come together at least on the issues of national development and fight for a common national agenda? Why the ruling elite and the struggling opposition behave as sworn enemies of each other while each one claims to be serving the nation better than the other? The goals seem to be common — to serve the motherland. The paths and programmes may differ but do we have to have differences even in the goals of ridding India of corruption and terrorism? Crumbling edifices of leaders in every area of public service, media, industry, judiciary, administration, defence, policing, and of course politics show how vulnerable we have become in front of our sworn enemies. Even a Tata, in whom every Indian had great pride, is seen to be standing next to a Radia, vindicating uncomfortable questions put up in my last column.
So when Wen Jiabao arrives next week, what do we expect from this visit?
After Obama’s and Sarkozy’s, Wen's India tour beginning December 15 is a significant one. Despite our major differences on the border issue, despite China strengthening Pakistan's terror power and its increased activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, stapled visas to Indians from Kashmir, and refusal to receive our general commanding the northern frontiers, India has chosen the path of moving in areas of less differences or convergences while continuing to emphasize its known position on other issues of disagreement.
Chinese can't have a better situation than this. It doesn't harm its interests. It has already had what it wanted — Aksai Chin — and an overpowering military power reinforced by a vibrant and growing economy that makes Obama bend more than American ever wanted him to. China continues to claim Arunachal's 90,000 sq km and a cosy, military-based cooperation with Islamabad that results in more attacks on India putting our security under an increased threat. Pakistan's nukes are a Chinese gift of “brotherhood and a friendship”, which is described as “deeper than the sea and higher than the skies”. There are other known and oft-repeated areas of concern for India, like encirclement by China from Gwadar to Koko and its increased presence in Sri Lanka and Maldives.
So far the Chinese have simply ignored our protests and concerns and our noises have been essentially limited to address a domestic audience which is pathetically less knowledgeable about our immediate neighbour and more hooked to Europe and Vilayat.
Wen needs Indian support and cooperation for China’s economy, through more raw material to help its construction spree and for its highly accelerated knowledge pathway. He is bringing the biggest-ever business delegation with him. As reports say, Wen will be accompanied by Chinese trade minister and more than 200 businesspeople representing various sections of the Chinese industry. He needs business from India and he will get enough of it. He needs strategic relations with Pakistan where he would be going immediately from Delhi on a three-day tour, and he will get that too to his satisfaction. As news reports say, during his visit to Pakistan, the two countries are likely to finalize the modalities of their strategic dialogue, augmenting their close coordination in different fields including nuclear technology. He is not bothered, like Americans, what Pakistan is doing to us through its terror agents. He is also not concerned how Chinese help to Pakistan’s nuclear projects may result in a potential threat to India.
But, are our leaders concerned about it?
Wen knows the address where he has to reach. Do we have any address where we would like to arrive not only in our relations with China but also with Pakistan and our long-term security goals?