Independence Day: 71 Years and The Way Forward

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India gained independence on August 15, 1947. The colonial suppression by Britain came to an end giving India the freedom to chart her own course of destiny. For India, this freedom was like a shining glorious light at the end of a long dark, gloomy tunnel that represented the combined suppression of Mughal and British rule for 317 and 200 years respectively. We celebrate Independence Day to honour our freedom fighters and their sacrifices that have propelled us into the world’s largest democracy currently. While no actions or homages can ever be enough to honour our independence heroes, both famous and unsung; this article attempts a different perspective on independence.

We complete 71 years of independence in 2018. In this year, India has already surpassed France to emerge as the world’s sixth largest economy and is poised to overtake Great Britain and enter the G5 club by the end of the year. 2018 is indeed a sweet year as India will overtake the economies of both countries that had made Indian territories its erstwhile colonies. While this is a great cause to celebrate, the journey ahead is going to be very challenging as India will have to lock horns with the big boys to become a member of the G3 club and so on.

Chanakya, undoubtedly India’s greatest political strategist has defined state policy as “getting what has not been got, guarding it, developing it and distributing it”. Further, he defines politics as “a tool of state policy and foreign policy as the deployment of the fourfold policy of conciliation, donation, division and punishment towards neighbouring states that are the source of treaties and hostilities”.

There is no doubt that economic challenges and betterment in the quality of life of its citizens for India will constitute a hurdle but the greatest challenge is that of the mind. To become a global power, it is imperative that India thinks and acts like one and this also extends to its citizens. While economic and social policies can be open to disagreement among the left, right and centre; nationalism is not and should never be negotiable. Even today, we are deeply polarized on the basis of caste, creed, language and religion which have given fodder to anti-national and foreign forces to foment trouble for their strategic interests that are contrary to the future, success and strength of the Union of India.

In this context, it is important to take a moment and remember Sardar Patel who managed the enormous task of bringing together principalities and kingdoms with a history of sparring, distrust and non-connectivity into a cohesive union that we call our nation today. We must always remember that there is a great strength in unity and the progress of our nation automatically means the elevation of all Indian citizens before we fall victim to the next divisive strategy launched by forces inimical to Indian interests.

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A nation’s enemies always strike at its weak points. So what are India’s weaknesses? We have a great military force that is battle hardened, we are blessed with the demographic dividend, our skilled citizens have contributed significantly to the success of developed countries and our economy is on a roll. India’s weaknesses can be singularly summed up as- an attitude and a state of mind. Centuries of suppression, oppression, and colonization have made us forget the virtues that made us one of the world’s largest economies from the 10th to the 15th century. It is simple, if India did not have infinite possibilities to offer, it would not have been a target! Going ahead, there is a strong possibility of history repeating and we must learn our lessons from history this time instead of falling victim to it.

India’s long suppression and colonization has made us passive and weak mentally. This also reflects in our foreign policy. We still hyphenate ourselves with a country that is barely surviving from quarter to quarter and that too, with hand-outs. We hesitate in taking decisive action against countries that we empowered in the past when they openly rebel against us for our security. Years of acceptance of unfairness and NAM post-independence has made us afraid to take a stand. Our foreign policy witnesses frequent flip flops due to “an illusionary moral compass” whereas in geopolitics and foreign policy there are no permanent friends or enemies; only strategic interests. Does this mean we should become bullies? The answer is an emphatic no but we must also not hesitate in taking action when our interests are threatened and in these moments; we must stop dwelling on the “what will other nations think about us” passivity that regularly derails us!

Nations have never become great by being punching bags or walkovers. There is a very clear line between initiating bullying and responding to it and it is important here to acknowledge that while grandstanding and statesmanship may win us “the nice country prize”; it will certainly not win us a seat at the high table. That seat will have to be fought for and when the fight gets dirty, which it most certainly will; we will have to shed our mental non-violent attitude and play ball. Great Britain, the United States, USSR did not become powerhouses by only playing nice and thus, it is time that we shed some Gandhi to make space for Chanakya.

This can be easily achieved, we only need to dig deeper and shed the unnecessary layers that obfuscate us from achieving greatness. After all, India pulled off the Liberation of East Pakistan in 1971 in less than three decades post-independence! Hence, in 2018, as we celebrate the completion of 71 years of independence, let us also remember the other significance of 71 going forward and pledge to become citizens of a proud, resurgent India which acts and thinks like a winner. Let’s remember and honour founding father of the Research & Analysis Wing Rameshwar Nath Kao and Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw who showed a newly independent India how it can be done and gave our foreign policy the wings to fly. Let the metamorphosis begin. Happy Independence Day, India!

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