Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Endorsement or Sound Bite?

So we Indians think we have the US' and President Obama's ringing endorsement for a permanent UN Security Council seat do we? I'm not so sure. Let's look at a few of the statements made (clicking on the title of this post should get you to the text of the speech to India's Parliament):
1) "... in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member"
This is the statement that has attracted all the attention with some speculation as to how long UN & Security Council reform might take. However, he went on to say:
2) "... with increased power comes increased responsibility.  The United Nations exists to ... and advancing human rights.  These are the responsibilities of all nations, but especially those that seek to lead in the 21st century.  And so we look forward to working with India—and other nations that aspire to Security Council membership — to ensure that the Security Council is effective; that resolutions are implemented and sanctions enforced; and that we strengthen the international norms which recognize the rights and responsibilities of all nations and individuals"
The emphasis to the quotes above and below have been added by me - the message, people, is very clear - in short we still have work to do & other nations are in the race too. The last line is very clear - we have a responsibility as a nation that aspires to be a global leader to work for human rights internationally and our own people's human rights aren't always respected. He goes on to illustrate this:
3) "... It is unacceptable to steal an election, as the regime in Burma has done again for all the world to see.
Faced with such gross violations of human rights, it is the responsibility of the international community—especially leaders like the United States and India—to condemn it.  If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often avoided these issues."
Pretty clear - we need to look beyond our selfish interests if we want to truly be a global leader! The speech then discusses our domestic human rights issues in words that could quite conceivably be interpreted as praise:
4) "We believe that no matter who you are or where you come from, every person can fulfill their God-given potential, just as a Dalit like Dr. Ambedkar could lift himself up and pen the words of the Constitution that protects the rights of all Indians.
We believe that no matter where you live—whether a village in Punjab or the bylanes of Chandni Chowk…an old section of Kolkata or a new high-rise in Bangalore—every person deserves the same chance to live in security and dignity, to get an education, to find work, and to give their children a better future.
And we believe that when countries and cultures put aside old habits and attitudes that keep people apart, when we recognize our common humanity, then we can begin to fulfill the aspirations we share."
Quite brilliantly written - the above. Note the implication that Dalits need to lift themselves up, that the protection of human rights isn't always respected, that every Indian should enjoy the same rights per the Constitution and that our culture (the word "countries" was included for dilutive impact only I suspect) needs to put aside old habits and attitudes.

So basically, we got a shellacking - and the dispenser of this was spot on wasn't he? My applause for the speech continues though - we need to hear more of this kind of thing.

A belated Happy Diwali and have a good week ahead!

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