Malaysian Indians are Malaysians

The Indian government must not intervene in Malaysia. But surely India is more than just its government.

The Indian government should not intervene in Malaysia’s domestic politics…

So the Malaysian government is using strong-arm tactics to suppress protests by the country’s ethnic Indian minority. The good citizens of India would be appalled not only to see non-violent protestors (carrying placards with images of Mahatma Gandhi) being teargassed and water-cannoned but also to hear that country’s highest leaders threatening to arrest protesters under internal security laws. The manner in which the Malaysian government is handling the protests grates against democratic political norms that we are used to. Since the protests involves people of Indian origin, Tamil ethnicity and Hindu faith, should India intervene or intercede on their behalf?

That depends on what we mean by “India”. The Acorn has strongly argued against a foreign policy based on racial, communal or ethnic interests: French Sikhs are French and Fiji’s Indians are Fijians. Similarly, Malaysian Indians/Hindus/Tamils are Malaysians. The Indian government is obliged to protect the interests of its own citizens wherever they might be. It has no such obligation to protect the interests of people of Indian origin who are more often than not proud nationals of another country. Unless India’s national interests are involved—for instance, as in Burma—India would do well not to involve itself in the domestic affairs of other countries. Those who argue that the Indian government must do something about the plight of Malaysia’s marginalised ethnic Indian minority are perhaps unable to shed the mindset that sees the state and the government as the Grand Solver of Problems.

But it does not mean that the Indian media, civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)—like their counterparts across the world—cannot play a role in bringing the Malaysian events to wider international attention. Indeed many Malaysians themselves disagree with their country’s systematic discrimination:

For the information of all and sundry, those temples that were bulldozed were not ‘Indian temples’ but Malaysian temples, built on Malaysian soil, frequented by Malaysians, paid for by Malaysians and they were part of the Malaysian landscape. There are no ‘Indian Temples’ in Malaysia- Indian temples exist in India and if you don’t believe me then fly to India and check them out yourself. Likewise the only ‘Indians’ in Malaysia are the tourists, expats and workers who come from India and happen to be Indian nationals bearing Indian passports. Those Hindus who marched in the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Sunday happen to be Malaysians…. [Farish Noor/The Other Malaysia]

As Farish Noor writes, “the plight of Malaysia’s Hindu minority is a singular Malaysian problem and the responsibility for it falls on the Malaysian government itself. In the meantime, while the government wrestles with yet another instance of people’s power taking to the streets, another local demonstration has gone global”. Whether this will be sufficient to compel the Malaysian government to better engage the protestors is difficult to say. But it will certainly make the Malaysian government more aware of the costs to its own international reputation.

Update: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh makes a bizarre (clever?) statement. “‘This is a matter which concerns us. Whenever people of India run into difficulties, it is a source of concern,’ Singh said when asked to comment on the developments in Malaysia”. Huh?

Update: As predicted, the Malaysian foreign minister volleys back. This was an entirely avoidable diplomatic row.

54 thoughts on “Malaysian Indians are Malaysians”

  1. I agree with this argument overall.

    However, the Indian government must express its concern and should consider mobilizing the world’s opinion against the use of force on protesting Malaysian Hindus. Not because they are of Indian origin but because any conscientious government anywhere in the world should be concerned by the use of brute force by another government to suppress its minorities.

    Taken to an extreme, their-minorities-are-their-business logic could mean, for example, that the world remain (as it did) mute spectators as Nazi Germany sends its Jews to gas chambers. The situation in Malaysia is far from being that ugly, sure, but there is no good place to draw the line.

  2. That’s right – they are not ‘Indian temples’ (aren’t Indian temples made up of steel and concrete to promote a different religion?), they are ‘Hindu temples’. And Hindus, not just Malaysian Hindus, should be concerned.

    Of course, our secular Indian government has no business getting in the middle of Malaysian Hindus fighting against discrimination by an official Islamic country, but our apparent secular Indian Prime Minister worries (or was that tears in his eyes) about discrimination against Muslims, not even of Indian descent, in an ultra-liberal Dutch country, not because of discrimination by Dutch people against their newly immigrated Muslims, but because of apparent blasphemous cartoons!

    I suppose we shouldn’t have bothered about discrimination of blacks in South Africa and perhaps in any other country on humanitarian grounds. May be they were lucky not to be Hindus.

    But we all know the game secular Indian government plays (and not just in international scene) – it’s secular when it comes to Hindus – as it should be, but not when it comes to other religions – as it shouldn’t be. So any neutral stand by Indian government in this case, especially on secular grounds, would be laughable.

  3. Chandra,

    So any neutral stand by Indian government in this case, especially on secular grounds, would be laughable.

    Indeed. India’s has a long, distinguished record of taking unwise foreign policy positions, and the trend lives on in contemporary times.

    On a related but different note, expecting or insisting that foreign policy should be ‘secular’ (in either its actual and Indian interpretation) is inconsistent with a foreign policy based on realism. Secularism is an entirely domestic principle; it is doesn’t make sense in the anarchical international system.

  4. Oho…

    Not only are we secular but also we have a $10 billion trade to look after,no?

    That is why our secular protests will only end with
    MMS calling Danish-Mo cartoons as “blasphemous” and “conveyed his “outrage” to the Government of Denmark”.

    http://www.newswatch.in/specials/the-cartoon-row/3479.html

    But isnt that Denmark’s internal matter?

    Oh, the trade is not even a billion $ and then arent the affected people our own “Holier – than- thou ” people..

    And if MMS doesnt protest those “internal affairs” of Denmark , wont he lose face in front of 150 million ( oh ! ) of our people not to speak the champions of their cause ?

    Such simple things, people dont understnd, no Chandra ?

  5. Not sure I agree on this one, Nitin.

    Malaysia is not Guyana or Fiji, distant shores where I can see your argument holding. Instead, it is literally next door and a major power within ASEAN, a focus of India’s look East policy. What happens there is clearly a matter of our national interest.

    Malaysia’s racist attitudes towards its Indian-origin citizens reflect its attitudes towards Indians in general. If we are, for example, to trade with Malaysis, our people will have to travel there. It’s not clear how Malaysia’s institutional racism will distinguish between Indians and its own discriminated citizens.

    As a secular writer, I have poured a great deal of scorn on Saudi Arabia and its religious discrimination. I believe you agree with that posture. Malaysia’s ethnic discrimination deserves no less.

    Finally, because this matter is of deep emotional and pragmatic concern to Indians (both who travel there and everyone else who cares about them), this is a matter that the Government of India needs to take notice of.

    If Malaysia doesn’t knock it off and get some civillization injections quick, then it has only itself to blame for a long-term and painful chill vis a vis India. It may a barbaric state but surely can still do the math on whether this is in its strategic interests.

    Best regards.

  6. PR,

    Yes—India needs to be very concerned about the treatment meted out to Indian citizens traveling to Malaysia. But that is not the issue here.

    A separate issue is whether Malaysia’s trade and foreign policy positions are pro-India (or not anti-India). But that too is not the issue here.

    I don’t think foreign policy realism precludes bundling of unrelated issues to achieve a quid pro quo; but the opportunity cost of such bargains is very high, and the simpler, less costly options have not been exhausted. In this context, an official Indian reaction would be uncalled for at this stage.

  7. I agree with you-

    French Sikhs are French and Fiji’s Indians are Fijians. Similarly, Malaysian Indians/Hindus/Tamils are Malaysians. The Indian government is obliged to protect the interests of its own citizens wherever they might be. It has no such obligation to protect the interests of people of Indian origin who are more often than not proud nationals of another country.

    Media has to play its role as it is a human rights issue. As far as the govt and politicians are concerned- Where are these netas when adiwasis are being illtreated in Assam or when water cannons are being used against doctors during anti-reservation protests.They just cater to their vote banks and have nothing to do with the Indians or people of Indian origin.

  8. First a rant about Malaysia…
    It is the only country in the world where one can change his race. Yes if tomorrow a Hindu indian or buddhist chinese were to convert to Islam, he will become a bumiputra. And so did many Muslims who came from South Asia (affectionately called Mamaks).
    Secondly
    The only proactive action our Government can take is to educate Indian Origin Malaysians about Indian citizenship requirement (or atleast PIO card) and abolish the steep fee for PIO card. By the actions of Malaysians from the last 40 years, it is certain that they don’t want hindus living in their country. It is better to at least give these people an option malaysian government cannot provide.

  9. PTI reports:

    “This is a matter which concerns us. Whenever people of India run into difficulties, it is a source of concern,” (Dr Manmohan) Singh said when asked to comment on the developments in Malaysia.

    He, however, refused to speak further on the issue saying Parliament was in session and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee would be making a statement on the matter there. [IE]

    It’s either bizarre or an attempt to be clever. He should know that it’s not about ‘people of India’. So, he might be doing this to assuage his DMK allies and blunt criticism from the likes of the BJP, while ensuring that he doesn’t say something that the Malaysian government will be compelled to respond to. Too bad for him—his allies and BJP will contend that he didn’t go far enough. Malaysian politicians—who have already demonstrated a lack of tactfulness in responding to criticism from Indian leaders—will almost certainly hurl something back.

    To be fair to MMS, he was forced to respond at a press conference where the EU president was also present.

  10. Nitin
    UPA runs a eatery with no menu, they prepare what people want at that time!!
    Should I say – the moden art of (political) cooking?

  11. What if hundreds of thousands of boat people from Malaysia started landing on the shores of Tamil Nadu, A.P., and further north?

    India should muster the will to exercise its diplomatic clout to condemn violation of human rights around the world, and not reserve it only for Israel. When there is a potential threat to its strategic interests, it should go further than condemnation – perhaps sponsor a resolution in the UN, propose sanctions, and more. Not because such violations involve Hindus or people of Indian origin, but because what’s happening in its neighborhood (?) can spill over its own borders not in the distant future.

    Btw, Malaysia is an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council. Did India vote for it?

  12. Curious.
    Was this not the same blog that said India should make a concerted effort to propagate an Indianized version of Islam throughout the Muslim world?
    If that is acceptable, why not use the same power to protect and propagate an Indian (e.g. Hindu) sensibility abroad. nothing overbearing, but merely the kind of soft-power influence that the United States enjoys by framing the terms of debate.

    In another sense, as an NRI and proud citizen of the USA, I still feel some loyalty to the motherland. I liken this sense to be somewhat like the Jewish diaspora’s residual connection to Israel. Indeed, India’s recognition of PIO status for NRIs is a good indicator that the government of India does see itself as having some responsibility to Indians abroad as well.

    But still more generally, injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere. So how can we hope to maintain India’s national security when all around us the world busies itself oppressing and repressing Indian people? Nobody respects a pushover, and can India ever be really secure when it is the sole Hindu country amid a sea of Islam? Does it not behoove us to maintain some population of Indians abroad simply as transmitters of the kind of soft-power that will make neighboring countries reluctant to come into conflict with India? Don’t underestimate the power of cultural connections in forging alliances and protecting interests.

  13. While this story is about the Malaysian government mistreating its own citizens, that does not make it off limits for criticism, by India or any other country. When India was criticized in 2002 for the Gujarat riots, it was that diplomatic black eye that contributed to subsequent quick deployments of federal forces when communal tensions threatened to get out of control. Governments do not do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of concerted pressure. T

    Perhaps Bollywood should find new settings for their movies? Australia is lovely this time year – they will welcome the spending.

  14. Well I agree that indian goBarment shouldnt do anything, but I reach my conclusion for a different reason.
    Indian goBarment has its head stuck up a dung heap and I am not an optimist in the short run that it will get any foreign policy issue right. So my reason is due to its incompetence.
    With that said Malaysia with its 8% ethnic-hindu-indian population.
    In case you need history revision
    Malaysia and indonesia are geographic entities created by Europeans, they were muslim(more recent a very curious while they were muslims they had better womens status as well as a degree of sexual freedom that would drive the Arab-emulators in india crazy),hindu,buddhist and animist(i hate animist label, but thats all I have with this label)
    And then there is Geographic distance which concerns me more?
    Look around you have nutcases in Iran, in pakistan, cruel dictatorship in burma, a military coup in thailand, and trouble in malaysia.
    So it is an Issue that indians should be concerned with regardless of what jibberish Farish Noor says. My issue is with the general incompetence of Indian government wrt foreign policy.
    So in the near short term Indian government shouldnt do anything

  15. Pavan,

    On the contrary, the argument about exporting Indian Islam was made to counter the very religious radicalisation that people hold responsible for worsening of communal/ethnic harmony in Malaysia. Btw, that post was inspired by a look at a bookstore in a Malaysian airport. [The radicalisation of Malaysia (‘Islamisation’ is a wrong word, for it was always a Muslim majority state) is a text-book case of how a relatively tolerant and syncretic version of the faith now takes its cues from the Middle Eastern version. But let’s keep this discussion on the topic.]

    Pavan, RF & others,

    It’s true that human rights are getting violated in many places and in general it can be argued that these present a long term threat to democratic societies. But precisely because they are widespread, it makes sense to prioritise which ones you want to deal with forcefully. And if you are a realist, you’d use national interests to help prioritise. [I’ve argued that intervention in favour of democracy in Nepal and Burma is in India’s interests]

    For instance, the Rohingyas of Arakan, the various tribes of Burma, the Hmong in Laos, the Chinese and other smaller ethnic groups in Indonesia, the Muslims of southern Thailand, the Muslims of the Philippines: these are just some of the minorities in the region that suffer various degrees of discrimination & repression. Freedom, liberty and human rights are threatened in so many of these places. Should India intervene on their behalf? Then why not farther afield…humanitarianism does not suggest, nor allow prioritisation.

    The Indian government’s primary responsibility is to ensure the well-being of its own citizens; and any foreign intervention for any purpose, however lofty, should be in pursuit of and contingent upon that.

  16. When people in other parts of the world take the path we paved towards more rights and freedom, and rise using our ways to fight oppression and discrimination, we must not forget that we are the beacon that shines their path to freedom. They did not choose to use the American way of Freedom, nor the French, they decided to use our way. So, when they look towards us, even if we cannot solve their problems and fight their fight, the least we can do is show them that the beacon of non-violence and our way of achieving freedom is still strong, and we are with them.

    When it comes to people of Indian ethnicity across the world, I feel we need to be thinking beyond borders here. Sure they are Malaysian Indians, or Fijian Indians, but these little communities of Indian ethnicity continue to keep our culture, languages, traditions, and religions alive and thriving. If anything, we should be proud of this fact, and be supportive of it, especially in a world leaning westward.

  17. Of course, the first reaction seeing the images of
    the hapless hindus being bloodied by the malay
    police is to send a indian warship over there and
    let that two bit country understand the meaning of
    indian military power. But realize that this path
    has been followed by england in different places
    like in n. ireland and it has inevitably led to
    a big mess(colonialism, ethnic warfare etc.). The
    best policy from the government is to make some
    diplomatic noises and leave it at that. The hindu
    groups in this country can organize economic/tourist
    boycotts to let our displeasure be known. Besides
    that we can do little, except what ireland/israel does with
    it’s diaspora — offer automatic right of return.
    Within the next 20 years most of the diaspora(ex.
    europe/america) will most likely feel like coming
    back to a economically resurgent india anyway.

    As for malaysia, it’s got bigger problems ahead.
    The 30% ethinic chinese are also getting restive
    with the reservation policy and the chinese don’t
    carry around pictures of gandhi. From the malayan
    perspective the reservation policy is justified
    since on per-capita basis $0.7k, $1.1k, $1.4k per
    month is the income of malays, indians, chinese
    respectively. But it’s sister country singapore,
    with a per-capita income of 5x malaysia with 9% growth,
    shows that meritocracy along with race/caste-blind
    social welfare net, is the best way to go forward.
    Of course, such nuances will be totally lost on
    our leaders like karuna/maya who are currently
    clamoring for reservations in private sector.

  18. Anon,

    The Chinese in Malaysia are moving out slowly to greener pastures. They are unlikely to join the protests. The poor Indians are not in the same boat as the Chinese due to their weak economic position.

    To Karmadude, I too would like India to project the concerns of Malay Indians. The problem is we are not clean ourselves now , are we ?

    Without data, our reservation policy – atleast in the south – is no different from the Bumiputera scheme. If we can freely discriminate people based on stories of 2000 year old invasion, then can we comment on their policy towards people who came there just 200 years ago ? So, lets fix this scheme at home first before lecturing the world and making a general ass of ourselves in the process.

    Update:

    Today the Malay government announced that they would appoint a commission to collect detailed employment, university education, and various social data about Tamils. They also announced a call centre where everyone can call in with their grievances.

    Is this Indian government (led by Manmohan Singh) willing to collect data like this for monitoring our quota system ?

    What if some Malaysian official throws these questions back at us ?

  19. The Catapult says that India has a duty to stand up and be counted:
    And how long it is before more and more people both within India and abroad begin to connect the dots and start realising that the Indian state simply doesn’t protect their interests the way it should, and start looking towards their own narrow sectarian groups for support when in distress? how would that affect the feeling of Indianness among them? Not very positively for sure.And we all know the end result when the Foreign agencies start fishing in all these troubled waters. Hope we have learnt some lessons from the example of the Khalistani movement.

    It is therefore absolutely necessary for the Indian state to take an active role in protecting the interests of both its citizens and diaspora abroad. It simply isn’t enough to merely hold annual “Pravasi Bharatiya” diwas to celebrate the successes of Indians abroad. It is also incumbent on the Indian state to help them in times of need. [The Catapult]

    Well, the Indian state has no such duty to stand up or to be counted. As for the Pravasiya Bhartiya Divas, those attending the pageantry would do well to understand just how far the Indian government will go. Those who organise these events ought to realise that the touchy-feely fluff is all very well during good times, but the tendency to over-promise needs to be curbed. As far as I see it, the PIO scheme or even the ‘dual citizenship’ allows win-win for the cardholder and for the country: in terms of investments and benefits. It also strengthens social and cultural capital and all that. It’s not the same as citizenship.

  20. Good post. I loved the sarcasm about the good citizens of India being outraged at the flouting of democratic norms. India should protect fundamental rights of her own citizens before bending backwards to protect those who share their ethnicity around the world.

  21. Nitin,

    I agree that the Indian government should ‘lay off’ Malaysia’s domestic issues. I also disagree that GOI has any role to play in Burma’s domestic issues. Even in the ASEAN dumps India issue, Outlook mentions that India was talking about Aung San Suu Kyi with the junta but had failed to conclude FTAs since the last summit. Misplaced priorities, huh?

    Indian media and worse the government itself is often misguided about how countries influence others. In most cases, the only action a sovereign country can take against another misbehaving country is to disengage and refuse to trade. India hardly has that luxury. The govt should better shut up. But yes the civil society can take up any cause and express itself.

    And btw did you notice that some countries have problems negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Malaysia, bcos of the 30% equity to Malays clause? I don’t think India has raised this as an issue. These guys are not even protecting the Indian investors in Malaysia and we want them to fight for Malaysian ‘Indians’?!

  22. “This was an entirely avoidable diplomatic row.”

    That’s right – avoidable diplomatic row. So much for being an emerging superpower, can’t even talk down a puny country. Let tyranny rein – and all sorts of excuses will give cover (including that we’re not perfect!)

    Allowing easy citizenship of people of Indian origin, especially from tyrannical countries – not half baked PIOs or duel, with restrictions, is an eminently sensible proposal. May be Taslima can live in peace (may be not, she’ll be hounded by our secularists).

    May be Australians are better people – they are not thinking what is in it for me but are thinking how can we help these oppressed people.

  23. Chandra,

    Even superpowers have to be careful. If they ask someone to do something, and the someone doesn’t do it, and instead talks back, and the superpower can’t do anything about it, it becomes less of a superpower. If the superpower does something about it, and screws up, then it becomes even less of a superpower.

    So talking to Malaysia without a clear strategy on what to do next should be classified as a very bad move. One should pick one’s fights wisely.

  24. Nitin

    On the contrary, the argument about exporting Indian Islam was made to counter the very religious radicalisation that people hold responsible for worsening of communal/ethnic harmony in Malaysia. Btw, that post was inspired by a look at a bookstore in a Malaysian airport. [The radicalisation of Malaysia (’Islamisation’ is a wrong word, for it was always a Muslim majority state) is a text-book case of how a relatively tolerant and syncretic version of the faith now takes its cues from the Middle Eastern version. But let’s keep this discussion on the topic.]
    That’s exactly what I was saying. If you want Indian soft-power influence abroad, you need Indians abroad.
    And you need Indians abroad who share some sense of loyalty to their motherland. Being so terribly parochial in outlook may lead to some short-run gains, but it gets you nothing in the long-term. (And focusing only on your back yard is rather parochial.)

    This is my trouble with self-styled “realists” in general. They discount that people identify and interact on dimensions beyond nationality and statehood. There are many different ways to self-identify and nationality is only one of them. If it is the role of the government of India to safeguard the interests of the people of India, it needs to be aware that the Indian people are better off when they are respected abroad as well as at home, whether they’re citizens or residents or not.

    When you’re abroad people aren’t going to ask for your passport before they start giving you grief. They look at your face and your mannerisms and they know. Nationality has nothing to do with their actions, it’s ethnicity. If they are that antagonistic towards people of your ethnicity within their borders, how will they ever respect you anywhere else?

  25. This is the most hilarious post I have come across in this blog, the windy pompous tone makes one wonder if one is reading an Economist article.

    “But it does not mean that the Indian media, civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)—like their counterparts across the world—cannot play a role in bringing the Malaysian events to wider international attention.”

    And the civil groups we are talking about should not make any attempt to influence Indian govt’s stand? Rich!

    “My tribe yay, your tribe boo” remember?

    Though I am a bong, these Tamil Hindus

  26. And the civil groups we are talking about should not make any attempt to influence Indian govt’s stand?

    They can. But they would be better off influencing the Malaysian government instead.

    But you are entirely welcome to what hilarity you find in my post. But that bit you write about tribes is as distasteful as it is irrelevant. I didn’t find it the least hilarious.

  27. Dear Pavan

    And you need Indians abroad who share some sense of loyalty to their motherland.

    Indeed. And you believe Malaysian Indians fit this description? What makes you think so? Btw, some are of Sri Lankan origin.

    Also, you’ve got the nationality-ethnicity issue upside down. If India goes to any length to protect the lives of its citizens (and I argue that it should) then it will create an externality that will benefit people of Indian ethnicity.

  28. Nitin,

    You rightly say :
    “Unless India’s national interests are involved—for instance, as in Burma—India would do well not to involve itself in the domestic affairs of other countries.”

    In this case, I feel that going forward, if this movement catches momentum, India would have lost a serious opportunity if it doesnt get involved at the early stage itself. The movement is currently a non-violent one. The LTTE is eyeing the opportunity to spread its wings in the region. The Malay Indian leaders are making the right noises about not aligning with the LTTE. But who knows in future, if they do not get adequate support for their non-violent path, the movement could degenerate into a violent one, with the tie-up with LTTE.

    Hence, it is definitely in India’s interest to get involved at this stage. Even if means making some supportive noises at this stage, it would mean a lot. Perhaps helping to mobilise world opinion would help disengage the problem from India alone and bring it on the world stage.

  29. Ravindra,

    It is good to see someone make an attempt to justify an intervention based on a calculus of interests. Such an analysis will have to be informed by the intentions and capabilities of the various actors involved, including the LTTE. Based on what we know, I’d say the scenario where India and the LTTE will be trying to balance each others’ influence in the Indian Ocean littoral is very far away.

    We shouldn’t put too much stock in the ‘Gandhigiri or LTTE’ oversimplification that’s making the rounds.

  30. I have no idea why we should bother about Malaysian citizens. India’s responsibility lies in protecting its citizens.

    The huge danger with what we did is that this validates Pakistan’s stand on it being the protector of India’s Muslims, which they keep pointing out whenever there’s a Babri 1992, Gujarat 2002, etc.

    Karunanidhi did it for cheap political points. No TN politician would have risked saying that they didn’t care, or that the Malaysian govt was right. So he had the entire political spectrum on his side.

    Just as Bobby Jindal becoming Lousiana’s governor has no impact on India, Malaysians of Indian origin claiming to face racial discrimination in Malaysia should also have no impact on India.

  31. Nitin,
    I think you are wrong about this. Malaysian hindus maybe malaysian citizens but if they are persecuted, it is perfectly legitimate for the GoI to voice its criticisms of human rights violations and lack of democracy. As a matter of fact, it is important that GoI does so, given the history of Malaysia’s treatment of minorities and also indian citizen professionals who go there to work. Speaking from a realistic point of view, India must project power in the region and this is, if nothing else, an opportunity to do so. Speaking from a non realist position, this is no different from other countries, Malaysia included, lecturing India about “human rights” when riots occur in India.

    I also find this position of yours disingenuous, especially given your previous opinions regarding spreading “Indianized Islam”. For too long has India given a free pass to its muslim neighbors for their persecution of minorities, and their spreading of violent and radical ideologies in the name of religion. I am at least glad that India has chosen to make a fuss about this in Malaysia, especially given the Govt’s cravenness in ensuring free speech and expression within its borders (MF Hussein is in exile in Dubai, students at MS university were attacked, and most recently poor Taslima Nasreen was publicly humiliated and forced to eat her opinions.).

  32. Dear Pavan

    And you need Indians abroad who share some sense of loyalty to their motherland.

    Indeed. And you believe Malaysian Indians fit this description? What makes you think so? Btw, some are of Sri Lankan origin.
    I do, what makes you think they wouldn’t share some sense of attachment to their motherland? You don’t think they grow up hearing stories about Rama and Krishna too?

    Also, you’ve got the nationality-ethnicity issue upside down. If India goes to any length to protect the lives of its citizens (and I argue that it should) then it will create an externality that will benefit people of Indian ethnicity.
    I don’t see how that negates what I said. This isn’t an either/or issue.

  33. B Raman weighs in:11. These grievances should be taken up by them through local organisations of Indian-origin people and NGOS in a responsible manner. However justified their grievances may be, this is not a matter on which India can take a public stand in support of the agitators. Some of the leaders of the agitation have been irresponsible in issuing threats of the Tamils emulating the LTTE if their demands were not conceded. This literally amounts to blackmail and no Government can succumb to such blackmail.

    12. Any open expression of Indian support to the agitators can not only damage India’s friendly relations with Malaysia, but can also cause a polarisation between the Malays and the Malaysian citizens of Indian origin and between the Hindus and Muslims in the community of Indian origin. This will be detrimental to India’s interests and to the interests of the community of Indian origin itself. [SAAG]

  34. B. Raman is just plain wrong – it just becomes more evident that community of Indian origin has no backing from Indian community or Indian government.

    Next time US releases a report about persecution of Christians in India or when Dalit leaders go to US house of congress to testify how discriminatory Indian Laws are towards them, I am sure it’s detrimental to US interests in India. Forget US, as others have said, even LandofPure beats us up even while it terrorizes its Hindu population.

    I guess we have become too comfortable taking a beating but not acting, when required, shaking in the pants about national interests.

  35. Chandra,

    When you say “US releases a report about persecution of Christians in India”, do you mean the US Government or some other American organization(s)?

    I would be surprised if it is the former (any links?). If it is the latter then as Nitin said, NGOs, civil society, media (and yes, Hindu organizations as well) etc. are absolutely free to highlight the issue domestically and internationally.

  36. Chandra,

    Thanks for the pointer. I went through the DoS website and found this:
    http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90228.htm

    This is part of an annual report that DoS is required to submit (under a domestic law) on the state of religious freedom (promoting which is a foreign policy goal of the almighty US of A) in all countries. It is neither specific to Christians, nor to India.

    I did not read it in detail (too long) but I did scroll through it at a slow pace. It reads like a background summary, along with a list of notable incidents during the reporting period. Also, it is quite even-handed. It lists positive developments (ascribed to all political parties) as well negative ones (again, ascribed to all political parties) across the country.

    This did not read like a “report about persecution of Christians in India” being released by the USA.

    This kind of reporting is done by Embassies all over the world. It would probably be a good idea if our MEA started putting those things on the web.

    PS: If you were talking about some other report, you could perhaps give a link. This is all that I could find.

    PPS: This report itself is one amongst many that DoS publishes on various issues. The list is here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/dos/221.htm

  37. Well, so much for interference or the lack of it in Malaysia’s affairs.
    The ethnic Indians who participated and lead the protests have been
    charged with attempted murder. I guess this is surely an internal
    Malaysian matter on which India has no business commenting. If the
    GoI had any courage, they would say something stronger to the malaysians.
    And unfortunately, on every major issue (including the nuclear deal) this
    GoI has been cowardly and weak.

  38. BOK, it may be the human rights report. It is a country by country report. And it specifically talks about “report about persecution of Christians in India”….If you’re looking a single report singling out India for persecuting Christians, you have go through US congress hearing on human rights/religious freedom.

    But the point is larger – not about a “report”….

  39. Chandra,

    What the US does is beside the point. I’d say that its biased lists hurt its interests to the extent people accuse it of hypocrisy. Take the list of state sponsors of terrorism, for instance. But they are also clever to use these lists tactically…notice how Indian firms/individuals get fingered when the US is pressing Iran or suchlike.

    The issue is not so much whether intervention is a good principle, or a policy of intervention is always in a country’s interests. Such generalisations are pointless. The issue is narrow and specific: is it justified for India to intervene on behalf of Malaysian Indians. The answer is no.

    As you can see, the Malaysian leaders thumbed their noses at the Indian PM. Did that enhance or diminish India’s influence? Let’s say India escalates, (as it seems to be doing by calling in the Malaysian envoy for a stern talk), what then? Are we willing to say cut palm oil imports from Malaysia? Let’s say India makes it difficult for Malaysian entities to invest in India, what signal would that send to foreign investors? I’m not saying that we can’t do it, or even that it will not hurt Malaysia more. But rather what’s the benefit?

    Why if we are to do such things why shouldn’t we start with countries where Indian citizens are not treated well. And stop buying oil from the Gulf countries. Ignore cost-benefit at your own peril.

  40. Nitin, I agree it’s not one extreme or the other. But to say we shouldn’t say anything at all doesn’t sound right to me, especially because we actively court people of Indian origin with sops or what not – there is tier to Indian government dealings: citizens, PIO, and foreigners (or is it the other way round). One would think if PIOs are in trouble, Indian government has something to say, especially if they systematically discriminated, precisely because they are PIOs, even allowing them migrate back to ancestor homeland, if they want to.

    In any case, I am not talking of sanctions and tough talk. Here is an example of what MEA could have said.

  41. Pankaj, Dr. Suryanarayan gives, in The Hindu, the history of Malaysian tyranny on PIOs, especially Hindus, including destruction of Hindu temples. He also points that Malaysia itself protests for the cause of Muslims anywhere in the world. It’s a classic case of one way dialouge that Islamic countries engage in – we’re, being Islamic, reserve the right to criticize, but you can’t.

  42. Chandra,

    And it is views like Suryanarayan’s that I oppose most. By implication, let’s copy bad examples! Isn’t it ironic that one the one hand we criticise them for interfering in other’s affairs, and then argue we must do so to pay them in their own coin. In the process we end up like them!

    And can anyone make a case that OIC countries’ intervention on behalf of their religious counterparts has helped the intended recipients? I’d say that it has contributed more to alienating Muslim minorities from the rest of the population than securing ‘self-determination’ or suchlike. Show me one example where OIC’s policy has improved matters.

  43. Nitin, the point is not what Malaysia does, or what a report some other country writes, or for the matter, what LoP does. All those are cursory justifications, at best.

    The point really is what should Bharat do when people who look up to her, are persecuted, when no else would help them, by their own government, because their ancestors were Indians and Hindus.

    Realism is all well and good when dealing with a rusty old air craft carrier or being a partner on 5th generation fighter project or even on border issues. Such realism is foolish, for lack of better word, when dealing with humans.

    As a famous Telugu poet philosopher Gurajada Apparao said – Desamante matti kaadoyi, desamante manushuloyi meaning dirt doesn’t make a country, people do. The character of a country becomes clear when it ignores calls from persecuted people because it’ll cause a diplomatic row or lose access to palm oil. Self interest also has to be based on character of a nation. Not our problem – because we can’t help everybody, we won’t help anybody – just doesn’t cut it.

  44. Chandra,

    High principle. But I’d just like to know whether the government of the Republic of India, should be racist when it comes to such things. Why restrict the love to people whose ancestors were from the subcontinent? Surely, all the oppressed people of the world are people too? Go back some more into history, and we all came from Africa…the government of India, if it is not to be racist, should care for the persecuted everywhere.

    I’m not being flippant here. The government of India, which is elected by, paid for and is a servant of, the Indian citizen has its task cut out.

    I fully agree with Apparao. Dirt doesn’t make a country, people do. It’s people do. I’ve advocated going to extreme lengths to protect the lives and welfare of Indian citizens. But others? They’re not our problem. The character of a country comes clear not when it pretends, like Nehru, to be the representative of the world’s wronged. The character of a country becomes clear when it spares no effort to protect its citizens.

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