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.
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