THERE are two kinds of people or politicians. Those who talk a great deal but do nothing. And those who say very little and do nothing. Our friend Chidambaram belongs to the first type, and our good friend Manmohan Singh to the second. Both end up doing very little or nothing.
Ever since he became home minister at the center, hardly a day goes by without Chidambaram holding forth on this or that, as if the world hung on every word of his. I have no idea what he says, because, knowing him, I rarely take time to read what he says. But ministers are known or should be known by what they do, not what they say, which may be why he makes so much noise to make up for the paucity of action.
Now he says he will get rid of the Naxalites in three years. I hope he does, for if he doesn’t we shall have to go in for another home minister, may be another government. But why three years? Why not one year or two or four? Because three years sounds very convincing. If he had said one year, nobody would believe him. The CRP jawans are said to be using World War Two rifles, which are seen in museums all over the world, but are standard issue in India. It is because the jawans were out gunned that so many of them were butchered recently by the Naxalites. When will Chidambaram’s ministry get proper rifles?
If he said four years, nobody would believe him either, because politicians in India rarely last four years. So three years is a safe figure, neither here nor there, and since public memory is so short, very few would remember that such an assurance had ever been given.
Dr. Manmohan Singh’s case is different. He rarely says anything, even on TV, as if he was afraid to open his mouth. When he appears on TV, you have to cock your ears to make out what he is saying. For a man who says nothing, he has an ideal voice.
You should be able to make out what he is saying, or not saying, by the movement of his lips. But that is not always helpful. The real reason why Singh says nothing is that he has very little to say. Almost everything he has touched- apart from opening up the economy and helping foreign companies to buy up India—has turned to some thing less than success. The Americans, after giving him a big lift—a state dinner in Washington and all that—are now preparing to dump him. The Americans are lavishing all their love on Pakistanis and have no time for India. The Americans have always been partial to Muslim dictators—Suharto in Indonesia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and until they cheerfully hanged him, Saddan Hussain in Iraq—so it is not surprising that they should fall in love with Pakistan. But how is it that Manmohan Singh has realised this only now?
The trouble with people like Chidambaram and Singh is that they really believe what the Westerners tell them. Barack Obama once said that India was America’s best friend, something he says to everyone visiting him in the White House for a meal, and our Johnnies really started believing him. Westerners have no friends, best or otherwise, as history has shown again and again. The relationship between India and America is based on mutual interest, as it is between America and other countries, or, for that matter, India and other countries. When the interests differ, as they do from time to time, the relationship goes haywire. The fact that America and India are two of the largest democracies in the world is immaterial. There was a time when everybody was a socialist, as Nixon once said. Now we are all democrats, from Angola to Zanzibar. But that doesn’t make for a special relationship.
But that is not how people like Chidambaram see it. They really believe that the Westerners love them, and the more you scrape and bow before them, the more they love you. Actually, the more you scrape and bow before them, the more they despise you, just as the Americans despise the Britishers, particularly jokers like Tony Blair, who tried to become more and more like the Americans and became so much like a poodle that the Americans started kicking him around. He has not been seen in the White House, ever since Barack Obama replaced Bush, though Obama’s father was a Commonwealth citizen at one time.
Look at the way China is behaving with the West. It is going about as if it owned the world, and one day it may. The Chinese hate Westerners and are so proud of their history and culture that they take umbrage at the slightest offensive remark from the Americans. Recently, they forced Google, the giant network company, to leave China, lock, stock and barrel and took a number of Americans to court for taking bribes from Chinese businessmen.
Chidambaram believes that he has some kind of a special relationship with the US, and all doors open for him in Washington as soon as he says “Open Sesame”. He told us that he would bring David Coleman Headley, if indeed that is the rogue’s name, here for questioning as soon as the Americans had finished with him. Actually, they finished with him long ago, and the fellow is now in safe custody in some jail in the US, and poor Chidambaram came to know of this like you and we, that is, from newspapers. He was not told that Headley was pardoned by the Americans, and is now safely in a US jail and it is for Indians to find out where he is and go there on bended knees and persuade him to talk. Of course, he is not going to talk to Indians. Why should he? He is safely among friends that is, CIA & Co, and since he is a US employee, he is probably waiting for his pension. In fact, Headley may be an employee of Pakistan too, which means he has two patrons, which makes him perhaps the safest prisoner in the world. And what are Chidambaram & Co doing about it? Twiddling their thumbs in North Block, waiting for a visa to Washington!
Meanwhile, Indians are being ill-treated everywhere. They are being killed in Australia and Dubai, they are being murdered in Pakistan—while we treat their cricketers like heroes —they are being hounded in England and Europe and they are being lynched in Africa. But our government says nothing, does nothing. Indian leaders have become poodles, like Tony Blair, but even poodles bark from time to time. Our men have lost their tongues and cannot even bark, let alone bite. How can you bite when you have no teeth?
(The writer can be contacted at 301, Mani Kanchan Apts, Kanchan Galli, Law College Road, Pune-411 004)