Saturday 13 March 2021

Time for dual citizenship in India ( Sunday Guardian)


Agree to dual citizenship, provided this is confined to vetted citizens of countries friendly to India.

No other country in the world has a policymaking matrix that clings so obtusely and obstinately to long obsolete “past precedents”. An example is the refusal to countenance dual passports from selected (friendly) countries, given only after a thorough vetting has taken place. The fear of making changes in a context where everything around has changed reflects a lack of confidence in our country within the policymaking community. This is where those in governance continue to differ from the people they rule. In the 21st century, the people of India—especially the young—do not any more have even a smidgen of an inferiority complex while scanning the world. True,India remains less than impressive when judged by per capita metrics, as for example, having as many desperately poor people as Sub-Saharan Africa. Living and literacy standards lag much below those reached by countries further east or much further to the west. Much of the persistently patchy performance can be tracked to the indifference of most politicians towards anything other than benefits for themselves, friends and family. Although outward expressions of pride and loyalty to the country and its people are numerous, many conduct themselves in their public duties in a manner suggesting that they regard the country and its people with contempt. Many times an apparent “superiority complex” has roots in the contrary emotion. The way in which even ageing politicians dress up in denims, sports shirts and trendy headgear while travelling in private to “developed” countries indicate their wannabe desires. Apart of course from their need to have a receptacle for moneys made from India but clandestinely parked abroad. Settling a close family relative in an “advanced” country (preferably as a citizen) is an admission of the fact that several of those who rule India see the country as the inferior entity that it was considered to be by British colonialists in pre-1947 days. Exactly as the colonial administrators did, many of their successors regard India as simply a means of personal gain, with no obligation to give anything back except the minimum needed to fool voters into backing the politician concerned, a low standard of expected performance that explains several of the suboptimal choices that policymakers have made in India. Countries where policymakers have pride in their country fashion policies better suited to growth and stability than in countries where the colonial carpetbagger mindset continues to hold sway within the policymaking and policy implementation community.

Such a pervasive subcutaneous inferiority complex about a country that has the longest continuous civilisation in the world is bred out of an ignorance of the actual Idea of India. This is not the Nehruvian construct, which places preponderant weightage on the most recent six centuries of national life, and dismisses as either irrelevant or mythical the remaining 90% of scientifically provable Indian history. The Idea of India is the country and its entire compound of civilisation comprising the Vedic, the Mughal and the Western strands. It is lack of such comprehension that facilitates the greed within the policymaking community that has so diminished the overall per capita performance of India in comparison to other countries since the 1950s. Unfortunately, a persistent colonial complex manifests itself in multiple ways. Throughout the 1950s and much of the 1960s, it was possible for many times more citizens of India to have migrated to the UK and to other Commonwealth countries, and in the 1970s to other countries. This was constrained mainly by the difficulties involved in securing even so fundamental a right as a passport. A consequence was that, especially in proportion to the population, several times more Pakistanis were able to settle in the UK than Indians. It was only around the 1990s that it became progressively easier for a citizen to secure a passport, and in these days of Modi, the process is as smooth as ought to have been the case from the 1950s.

Until the end of the Soviet Union in 1992, Cold War 1.0 between the US and that now forgotten country saw India in effect within the Soviet camp. Given the way in which the US and other countries working in tandem (such as the PRC) were seeking to cripple India’s nuclear and space capabilities, it was impossible to visualize a situation when dual passports would be acceptable to India. It is now the era of Cold War 2.0 between China and the US. Although much is made of the country remaining non-aligned for eternity (the theme of External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s otherwise insightful book on foreign policy), the realty is that India has chosen a side, and it is not that of the PRC and its all-weather partners such as Russia and Pakistan. Despite romantic feelings for Russia, in which far too much relating to USSR days is being imagined by Lutyens policymakers, circumstances are propelling India in the direction of an alliance with the US and its partners to stymie efforts by the Sino-Russian alliance to achieve primacy first over the Indo-Pacific before they unitedly move on to the Atlantic. In such a context, it makes sense to agree to dual citizenship, provided this is confined to citizens of countries friendly to India and who have been vetted before being cleared for dual nationality. Eternity makes no sense except to a philosopher or a sanyasi, and the existing policy of refusing dual citizenship “for eternity” needs (as do many other policies) to be despatched to the rubbish heap.

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