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Current Affairs

Whose Commonwealth- The Games Nations Play
By Rakesh Krishnan Simha, October 2010 [[email protected]]

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It may seem unduly cheery but  Indians should rejoice at the stinging criticism and liberal abuse  directed at their country over the preparations for the Colonial Games 2010.
   
Two reasons. One, the games have revealed who India’s friends aren’t. The  Commonwealth, like any other club, is supposed to be a grouping  of like-minded countries but here we have a total disconnect  between everyone except the four or five nations of British origin.
 
The European Union, NATO and ASEAN have a unity of purpose. They are either  political, military or trading blocs. The Commonwealth is none of the above. As  a club it means nothing except to the British. In fact, the only thing in  common among most member countries is that they were economically devastated  and subject to massacres by Britain.

Indeed, it is a measure of the  residue of colonialism lurking within the Commonwealth that the only countries  whose media networks have played up the existence of Indian slums – totally  irrelevant in the Games context – are those of British origin.
   
However, instead of pointing fingers, we should look at why the whole episode  went so wrong. For that, let’s flashback to 1982. That year India hosted the  Asian Games, which by any yardstick is grander, larger and of a more  competitive nature. And it went off like clockwork, so different to the  Colonial Games 2010. Indeed, Delhi developed into a major city after the 1982  Asian Games.
 
Also, while several athletes from the British origin countries have proudly  boycotted the Delhi Games, it is a fact that cricketers, umpires, commentators  and officials from the same nations dance to the Indian tune every year at the  perfectly synchronized and glitzy Indian Premier League. No complaints either.

So how come India can hold mega  events in such style and yet do a shocker at the Colonial Games? The key  difference is the lack of motivation. Many right thinking Indians feel a sense  of revulsion when they realise their country is part of the Commonwealth. Which  Indian won't tear his hair out when he realizes that before every edition of  the Colonial Games, British officials inspect the venues, strutting around like  condescending peacocks. Which proud Indian can stand the sight of a member of  the British royal family opening the games on Indian soil? And then there’s the  queen’s baton. Give me a break! If that isn't an affront to the millions of  Indians who fought the British, what is?

Colonialism is a distant memory now  but many in Britain still look at Indians as former subjects. The Commonwealth  remains a platform for Britain to display its past glory. Fine, go ahead, but  why is India part of the act? If the United States, a country founded by  British immigrants, isn’t part of the Commonwealth, why is India where the  British carried out systematic genocides, a card-carrying member?
   
For that we must thank India's politicians steeped in idiotic Nehruvian  diplomacy. The defining characteristic of this form of diplomacy is that  national interest and pride in history come last. The art of jumping into  useless international forums was perfected by Nehru and his two anti-Indian  cronies, Krishna Menon and K.M. Panikkar. It was this gang that took India –  despite being a republic – into the Commonwealth.
 
Now here’s the second reason why Indians should ignore the harsh criticism and  look ahead with smug satisfaction. The Commonwealth, like another former  British club, the International Cricket Council (ICC), is destined to become an  Indian-led organisation.
 
 If you recollect, the ICC was an anachronistic colonial body of which England  and Australia were veto-wielding members. No other international sporting  organisation had such a bizarre – indeed colonial – rule. It was ICC President  Jagmohan Dalmiya who famously thundered, “Once Britannia ruled the waves, now  it waves the rules.” Dalmiya pulled the rug from under Britain and Australia’s  feet and made the ICC a more democratic body. Today, India’s economic clout  sets the agenda there.

So as surely as the sun will rise  from the east tomorrow, India will take over the reins of the Commonwealth.
   
The de facto control of this disparate organisation will pass to Delhi in a few  years because Britain is unfit and unable to lead it. The reality of economic  decline and growing poverty is forcing Britain to be more Eurocentric. As a  Canadian newspaper commented, “Intergenerational poverty, rare in most  countries today, has become a factor in a notable British subculture.” The  dynamics of poverty and geography are forcing Britain to integrate with the  European Union, so it will have to discard the vestiges of empire.
 
And India is well positioned to take over. In perhaps a decade from now India’s  economy will be five times the size of Britain’s. In 20 years, India will be  the largest economy on the planet and Britain perhaps the 20th. The baton will  firmly be in India’s hands and most countries in the Commonwealth will be  solidly behind India. India's subtle exercise of power has been missed by most  observers.
 
The few voices that called for a boycott were quickly smothered in their home  countries. No nation in the Commonwealth can afford to boycott India because an  Indian backlash will hurt where it hurts most. Many countries are dependent on  Indian expertise and markets. For instance, the IT operations of New Zealand's  largest company Fonterra are managed by Indian powerhouse HCL. Fonterra  wouldn't want HCL to pull the plug, would it?
 
The only question is, when India becomes the official boss of the Commonwealth  will the British origin nations want to stay? Watch this space.
 
Have I been using the term "Colonial Games" instead of Commonwealth  Games? Well, what the heck!
 
(About the author: Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a features writer at New Zealand’s  leading media house. He has previously worked with Business World, India Today  and Hindustan Times, and was news editor with the Financial Express.)

Editor – Media reports tell us that  there were delays during the run up to the Asian Games 1982 too. However, Mrs  Indira Gandhi had the foresight to appoint an able administrator in Shri  Jagmohan who did a spectacular job. When the roof in one of the stadiums leaked  Rajiv Gandhi, Arun Nehru and Arun Singh spent the whole night there and left  only after it was repaired. Such was their commitment to India. In contrast  today’s leaders! Rahul Baba is happier visiting Dalit homes, wooing the Muslims  but does not want to get his hands dirty with Governance. Media call him Prime  Minister in waiting. Can India afford to have an inexperienced PM, she afford  to repeat the mistake of 1984 when young Rajiv Gandhi inherited the post of PM.

Also read:
1.  Why India is a poor country
2.  How the British created the Dowry system in Punjab
3.  Indigenous education system in the 18th century that was killed by Britain
4.  Definition of Secularism, Britain’s gift to India
5.  Aligarh Movement & British role in promoting Muslim separatism

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