We need to become more engaged with voices of dissent
On the canvas of a bitterly divided polity, a picture of highly surcharged political atmosphere with an array of state elections lined up ahead, featuring an Opposition accusing the government of violating and seeking to destroy democracy, and a ruling party counter charging their rivals of being a coalition of the corrupt, is a heady cocktail; to which if you add a few strokes of strategic relationships, diplomacy, and God, and you have a picture that is many a thing, but not pretty.
In this context, there is little scope for a polite and respectful exchange of views, everything which sounds like a difference of opinion, or dissent, reduces all discussion down to a Zero-Sum game, a vitriol-filled argument, a fight. It is where India finds itself, both in the realms of politics, and public opinion, vis-à-vis the Rahul Gandhi remarks abroad, and the response from some of these nations, including the United States and Germany, among others.
India’s biggest political star in the foreign policy realm, whose mass popularity has surged to unbelievable levels because of his wit, his repartee and his calm demeanour but stern arguments, home or abroad, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, was characteristically sharp in his rebuke when quizzed by a group of youngsters at an informal public interaction in Bengaluru about the reactions of some Western democracies about watching the situation unfold in the Rahul Gandhi defamation case, imprisonment and Parliament membership disqualification saga.
“The West thinks it has a God-given right to comment on internal matters of other countries,” he said to a fairly strong approbation from a section of the public too. But it is both disappointing and counterproductive in the long run if India too believes that oversensitivity is a virtue, especially in foreign affairs. All countries keep an eye on the developments of other countries, more so super powers.
When asked to comment, especially by their relatively very free media, they respond. Keeping an eye on the developments is hardly equivalent to interfering.
All countries comment on internal affairs of other countries, wittingly or not, at some time or the other. India has also, and rightly, “advised” different nations to choose peace over war, or to prefer talks over violence, or to end clashes that harm a group of citizens, or request a government to act more strongly to protect religious or historic monuments, among others.
Mr Jaishankar’s statement that if the West will learn how it feels when others comment about them, but also blaming Rahul Gandhi, saying, “we need to stop giving generous invitations to the world saying there are problems in India. Part of the problem is them, and part of the problem is us... both need fixing” are all confessions that we are unable to bear any level of criticism.
We need to become more engaged with voices of dissent, developing a stronger democracy muscle, one that will not allow ourselves to get offended easily, and be able to laugh away viewpoints other than our own, or be able to appreciate them. It is part of ancient Hindu wisdom too — let good thoughts come from all corners of the world.