Winds of Change

By Sunil Kumar

Watching Netflix and Obama with Letterman. So; flashing back to one of the final events I attended last year; a discussion on China featuring an Australian Richard Rigby; an ex-diplomat and Pramit Pal Chaudhari; who was I believe a journalist turned think tank head.

Impressions: Informative. Touching on the long authoritarian history of China from the Spring and Autumn Annals chronicling the State of Lu to its present overpowering, sneaky, deceitful presence; Rigby seemed quite sympathetic to the Chinese cause. Personally; if it were not for that country’s belligerent stance and open antipathy to India; I am quite fond of understanding an ancient civilization.

In his own words;Rigby stated that with nearly 1 and a half centuries of humiliation heaped on China by the West; it is quite natural that it is now an aggressive contender to the throne. Comparing India to China is often done; but our country sadly does not seem to have the patriotic fervour and robotic conformance I have seen in many people.

On the flip side; India’s much lauded virtues of innovation, creativity, free thinking have been known throughout the world from antiquity. Most of the intelligentsia claims that China is in a hurry to emulate the West and eventually overshadow it. Many years back; a MIT professor interviewed by me mentioned that he would like to see India and China retain their own identity.

I can dismiss this as a typical Western White Man sermonizing on cultures which are not his own; but there is a certain degree of truth in what he said. Looking at the thorough mess education, judiciary and the servile sycophantic nature of many Indians makes me despair; but with 5000 years of ferment and change in our DNA; maybe we’ll come out tempered by experience.

Like every contemporary Westerner; Rigby expressed consternation at Trump’s unpredictable foreign policy and mentioned that according to him; waters were muddied around the world after his becoming the President of the United States. Chinese investment models are heavy industry-based although they recalibrate strategies quite quickly and alter course. Xi Jinping(the current China head)’s personal history was discussed with a mention that his father was a liberal who suffered in the Cultural Revolution.

The country’s muddled straitjacketed thinking was not analyzed by Rigby; as he seemed to be a typical apologist. The country has a history of disputes with nearly everybody post the Communists taking over; but it has resolved only with a powerful one; the Soviet Union. According to him; India does not figure prominently in the Chinese consciousness but the country knows that it has a cultural debt to India.

Chaudhari mentioned that not many people would be aware that India is the third largest trading partner of North Korea; and even in that region the country had scope; but looking at our sometimes good; sometimes awry foreign policy; India’s leveraging of its foreign policy relationships needs to move up a notch.

The Doklam dispute was also discussed in some detail due to a question; with the Chinese consulate official striking a peaceful note when he mentioned that he was aware of the Indian ambassador to China flowing back and forth to Delhi and attempting to resolve the issue. Surrounded by an Indian audience; he mentioned that with both countries being ancient cultures and interested in trade and development; war was not an option at all.

Summing up as the evening concluded; I spoke to both Rigby and Chaudhari; and headed back. Another interesting conversation in store in the long drive back with an opinionated CFO who was a staunch Modi supporter. Although he was right on a lot of points which I already knew and agreed with; his largely obstinate talk put me off only for a bit. With the guy getting off; the driver who had been listening to the conversation gave his own two cents; and that finished that day’s proceedings.

The blog for today ends.

Some photos from the day;




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