Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Indian Express coincidentally answers some questions asked on this blog

In my post on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia, I had asked if any Indian university would have the courage to invite any person vociferously critical of India, its government and policies. The Indian Express in its edit on the president’s visit to Columbia on Wednesday thinks no. Here’s their explanation:

“So here’s a sobering question for the world’s largest democracy: Would one of our premier institutions — let us take this opportunity to mourn the fact that there are so few of them — have had the vision to host an event that attracted similar controversy and political opprobrium. The answer has to be no. There are two sets of reasons. One is that we are not yet a mature system in that institutions don’t have the degree of operating autonomy to take decisions that go against the supposed national grain. The few universities that take things like furthering dialogue seriously and have the brand to attract marquee policymakers are vulnerable to official interference of all kinds. Ministries can block seminars and discussion forums pretty much when they want to; ‘anti-national’ is the adjectival equivalent of a blunt instrument.

The second reason is less obvious but more important. We have developed a tendency to want to listen to only those who say what we want to hear. Would a certain well-known university known for its left-leaning academic staff and campus politics invite an unapologetic American neocon? Doubtful. Would any top-of-the-line institution host a speaker who flatly and aggressively contradicts, say, India’s position on Kashmir? Doubtful. This inability to engage with the ‘other’ has of course infected politics and is partly engendered by current political practices. Thus it is that the two national parties can barely say hello to each other. Put it this way. A US president may in the near future have to talk to Iran’s. But when a BJP president and a Congress president will have a constructive chat is anyone’s guess.”

It is a pity we did not let George Bush address a joint session of the Indian Parliament when he visited in March last year.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home