How Manjhi – The Mountain Man gave Congress the hand it doesn’t deserve

Manjhi executes the improbable task of tearing apart a mountain over a period of 22 years, while braving several hardships including constant taunts from his father, extreme weather conditions, political corruption, police abuse and most importantly, physical torment and pain. (Image: Viacom 18)

Manjhi executes the improbable task of tearing apart a mountain over a period of 22 years, while braving several hardships including constant taunts from his father, extreme weather conditions, political corruption, police abuse and most importantly, physical torment and pain. (Image: Viacom 18)

A near fourteen-month long hiatus came to an end on August 27, 2015! I last visited a movie theatre in March 2014 to watch Kangana Ranaut starrer Queen. This time around I accompanied two colleagues to see Manjhi – The Mountain Man. The film is inspired by the life of Dashrath Manjhi, a labourer belonging to Gehlor village in Bihar. Manjhi’s role has been enacted by none other than Nawazuddin Siddiqui who is fast climbing the ladder of recognition in Bollywood, an industry which is constantly under the lens of hard-to-please film critics.

After a long absence from the cinema hall, an entry into one provided a grandiose feeling. The film’s plot revolves around Manjhi’s obsession to avenge his wife’s accidental death, which occurred after falling off a mountain in his native village. Manjhi executes the improbable task of tearing apart a mountain over a period of 22 years, while braving several hardships including constant taunts from his father, extreme weather conditions, political corruption, police abuse and most importantly, physical torment and pain.

The film has an accompanying theme of caste violence, which manifests itself in the form of murder, sexual assault and exploitation of backward caste villagers by the dominant upper caste. Eventually, a villager turned rebel initiates a Naxal attack to seek retribution. Even amid all this deviation, Manjhi keeps his eyes firmly set at destroying the mountain that took his love away from him.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s performance is praiseworthy as he has effortlessly depicted an ageing but raging man’s desire to fulfil his only ambition. His body language and dialogue delivery kept changing through various portions of the film as time progressed and turned Manjhi older. However, a silly factual error left me a little miffed!

There is a sequence in Manjhi where then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visits village Gehlor and delivers a speech. What needs to be criticised is not the apparent comic picturisation of the said sequence, but the content of Indira Gandhi’s purported speech in which she is shown referring to the Congress party’s hand symbol. The election symbol depicting a hand was brought in by the Congress in the post-Emergency era as my acquaintance correctly pointed out during the course of the movie. The sequence showing Indira Gandhi was shown as having occurred prior to the Emergency, which is also a part of the movie.

This leaves the viewer with a very important question: Why do Indian filmmakers leave research and facts bhagwaan bharose? Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s much acclaimed Bhaag Milkha Bhaag also had several significant errors, which included a thrilling race during the climax inside Lahore’s Gaddafi stadium at a time when the stadium was not even named after the Libyan dictator! Research cannot be compromised when one is dealing with a film that has been inspired by real life figures like Milkha Singh or Dashrath Manjhi.

A filmmaker cannot afford to get the spelling of a city wrong on screen as had allegedly happened in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Nor can he make Indira Gandhi speak about an election symbol which did not exist at that point in the movie. These mistakes don’t alter the course of the film as they are negligible in stature, but they definitely make the filmmaker appear a bit foolish in front of his viewer, who expects solid background research.

Nevertheless, such mistakes are common and ingrained in Indian filmmakers. It’s about time that they took their research more seriously. There should also be a debate when it comes to the length of Bollywood films, in particular, the biographical ventures. My two colleagues were of the opinion that Manjhi – The Mountain Man should have received a more documentary-like treatment. The run time could have surely been shortened as the second half becomes a bit harsh to bear for the viewer, who is subjected to two back-to-back sequences of political corruption and police arrest, which almost prevent Manjhi from completing his task. But the film is a memorable one-time watch.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the obvious reason why one should pay the nearest movie theatre a visit so that they can become acquainted with the “shaandar, zabardast, zindabad” spirit of the man called Dashrath Manjhi.

http://www.dailyo.in/arts/mountain-man-dashrath-manjhi-nawazuddin-siddiqui-ketan-mehta-radhika-apte/story/1/5934.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Can Modi sarkar give DU a vice-chancellor without controversy?

Delhi University should not be content with the tag of the best in the country. It should aspire to become the best in the world. (Image: Wikipedia)

Delhi University should not be content with the tag of the best in the country. It should aspire to become the best in the world. (Image: Wikipedia)

In 2014, when the Indian electorate handed Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party a simple majority in the Lok Sabha, one expected the new government to act with a sense of independence which was clearly lacking in the case of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) as it suffered from political fragility due to opposition from coalition partners. But so far instead of independence the Indian public has only seen this government act with brazenness. And in no sector has Modi sarkar been as brazen as it has been in the sector of education.

It all began with the appointment of a political lightweight like Smriti Irani as the Union education minister. During the wave elections in 2014, Irani contested against Rahul Gandhi and finished a strong second in the intense electoral fight that ensued at battlefield Amethi which also saw Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Kumar Vishwas woo the voters on account of his shayari and promise for clean governance. Like a large hearted boss, Modi appointed trusted aide Irani (who formerly opposed him on account of his alleged role in 2002 Gujarat riots) despite the fact that she failed to get the job done in Amethi by dethroning Shehzaada Rahul.

But the problem is not that Irani lost the elections. Arun Jaitley too lost the Lok Sabha elections but has been handsomely rewarded as he lords over Union finance, corporate affairs and information and broadcasting ministry. The issue is that Irani might have faked her educational qualification under sworn affidavit. The matter is now before the judiciary and there can be no bigger embarrassment for an education minister if she is found guilty of having lied about her educational qualification.

Secondly, Irani’s appointment as HRD minister was opposed by Modi bhakts like Madhu Kishwar who comes from an academic background. A ministry as significant as human resources development required a visionary who has proven excellence in academia or academic administration. Irani was none and neither is she someone with exemplary electoral records to her name. Her appointment was a farce and so far her term has also been nothing short of being farcical as no concrete steps have been taken to overhaul the nation’s much criticized education sector.

Following the HRD debacle, Modi government went in for a confrontation with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Harvard economist Sen not only quit as the chancellor of Nalanda University citing political interference but has also spoken out extensively in the media regarding the imposition of certain political thoughts by Modi government. That political thought is none other than Hindutva. That’s the reason why academics like YS Rao have been appointed to head the Indian Council of Historical Research. Such appointments are aimed towards the “fictionalisation” of history as termed by noted historian Irfan Habib.

There is a great desire among Hindutva ideologues to rewrite history from a supposedly Indian perspective. Prime Minister Modi himself appears to be a part of the plot as he has mentioned how Lord Ganesha underwent plastic surgery to get an elephant head. Lokesh Chandra, a new recruit at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, has gone one step further and called Modi a “reincarnation of God”. Such sycophancy coupled with tales of mythology concerning flying machines in ancient India has turned us all into a laughing stock infront of the whole world.

The appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) has made matters worse. Academic activity has been crippled at the Pune-based institute and the students are undertaking nationwide protests. These agitations should serve as a lesson for Modi sarkaar. In academia, merit matters and it cannot be replaced with right wing political affiliation or overt Hindutva leanings. The mess at FTII needs to be done away with the revocation of Chauhan’s appointment as chairman and the government should simultaneously ensure that transparency is maintained during the appointment of Vice Chancellor of University of Delhi during the coming months.

Delhi University happens to be the numero-uno university in the country, an accolade which was bestowed on it for the third consecutive year by India Today Group-Nielsen Best Universities Survey 2015. The affiliate colleges of Delhi University attract the best and most aspirational students from across the country. But DU has its own set of challenges. There is a need to develop parity between on-campus and off-campus colleges. Every constituent college of the university should be the flagship college of the varsity in its own way and that will require dogged development efforts on the part of the new vice chancellor.

The V-C will also be responsible for taking Delhi University to the next level. The university should not be content with the tag of the best in the country. It should aspire to become the best in the world. It sounds like an impossible feat but a step in this direction has to be initiated at the earliest so that Delhi University at least breaks into the top 100 universities of the world. Very importantly, the new vice-chancellor should be a consensus builder. Outgoing V-C Dinesh Singh’s several initiatives failed to leave behind a mark (including his trademark Four Year Under-Graduate Program (FYUP)) simply because the consensus was lacking. It would be unwise to expect unanimity in terms of decision making but it is incumbent upon the vice chancellor to take academics and students along by devising a consultative proves that gives everyone a chance to be heard and express their opinion. Decision making should be democratic carrying the sanctions of the academic and executive councils. It should not be bulldozed with a sense of aggression and put into effect via usage of emergency powers.

Lastly, it goes without saying, the new vice chancellor should be an academic of international repute. He should necessarily command a praiseworthy academic background and other essential requirements pertaining to research publications in international and national journals. His profile has to be impeccable and complete with years of academic experience in the realm of higher education. The advertisement for the post is out but if Modi sarkaar’s track record is to be believed, the new vice chancellor might not possess any of the qualities listed above. He/she will be appointed through a non-transparent process full of political interference and will follow the government’s diktats instead of maintaining the university’s autonomy. The new vice chancellor might not have many research publications to his credit but he will certainly be an unflinching advocate of Hindutva and a sincere BJP bhakt.

The capital city might just witness a new round of protests. I hope not!

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/delhi-university-vice-chancellor-modi-sarkar-ftii-sangh-parivar/story/1/5856.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Muslim countries are not as bigoted as world may think

While we often hear of the bigoted and conservative nature of theocracies and so-called Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, we are mostly unaware of the religious tradition prevalent in other Muslim majority countries.  (Representational Image: Wikipedia)

While we often hear of the bigoted and conservative nature of theocracies and so-called Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, we are mostly unaware of the religious tradition prevalent in other Muslim majority countries. (Representational Image: Wikipedia)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has led to the Emirati government allocating land for the construction of Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple. This move of the UAE government is bound to accelerate religious pluralism in the Gulf nation which is home to nearly 2.6 million immigrant Indians. The Emirati city of Dubai currently has two temples, one of which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to Lord Krishna. These facts introduce us to an altogether ignored reality in certain Muslim majority societies.

While we often hear of the bigoted and conservative nature of theocracies and so-called Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, we are mostly unaware of the religious tradition prevalent in other Muslim majority countries. Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, is a secular nation. The Indonesian constitution is planked on the philosophy of “Pancasila” which is pluralistic in its outlook. The drafting committee of the constitution categorically decided to replace the word “Allah” with “Tuhan” so as to ensure that the minorities in Indonesia did not feel neglected and all communities could relate to the phraseology of the constitution.

Indonesia’s national carrier is called “Garuda Indonesia” whose name has been inspired by Hindu mythology. Garuda is the steed or “vahan” of Lord Vishnu. In fact, the Garuda Purana details the conversation between Lord Vishnu and Garuda. Some of the Indonesian currency notes carry pictures of Lord Ganesha and it is a common sight to come across statues of Lord Krishna, Arjuna and Ghatotkach while paying a visit to the Main Square in Jakarta, or the city of Bali.

There are examples from many other nations which can be recounted. Foremost among them is Turkey, which was built on the lines of fundamentalist secularism by none other than Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk brought in sweeping secularisation measures and cultivated the notion of Turkish nationalism. Lebanon is another mutli-faith country where the law mandates equality between Muslims and Christians. Following their independence from the erstwhile Soviet Union, the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, despite their Muslim majority societies, chose to embark on the lines of Leftism and secularism instead of Islamism. The same is the case with Bangladesh.

After its liberation in 1971 which effectively buried the dubious theory that Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations, Bangladesh chose to ingrain “secularism” within the preamble to its constitution and decided not to replicate West Pakistan by proclaiming itself to be an Islamic state.

Interestingly, several of these nations had been led by women. Megawati Sukarnoputri served as the president of Indonesia, Tansu Ciller as the prime minister of Turkey and Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia as prime ministers of Bangladesh. This is not to suggest that these states do not suffer from their respective set of domestic issues which are a challenge to the kind of secularism being practised in these countries. We’ve been reading about the brutal manner in which many secular and atheist bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh. The word “secularism” was expunged from the preamble to the Bangladeshi constitution during military dictator Ziaur Rahman’s regime, but was thankfully brought back owing to a high court ruling in 2010.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a known Islamist, and the Pancasila philosophy is often criticised in Indonesia courtesy its secular grounding. No country is devoid of religious politics or communal discrimination, but the very reality that secular Muslim majority countries exist should be an eye opener for many. But at the same time, let us also recognise the reality of countries like Saudi Arabia which masquerade as “Islamic states.” The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) does not even provide its non-Muslim citizens the right to freely propagate their religion and build their places of worship.

How absurd can a state get, especially when it claims to rule under the pretext of Islam? Doesn’t the Quran explicitly mention religious freedom? Of course it does! Chapter 109, Verse 4 of the Quran says, “I have my religion and you have your religion.” Another much quoted verse is Chapter 2, Verse 256 which says, “There is no compulsion in religion.” These two verses from Islam’s most significant religious document clearly hint at how ignorant the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is regarding the teachings of Islam when it prevents non-Muslims from professing their faith freely and puts to death anyone who converts from Islam to any other religion.

One can cite more verses from the Quran to explain how integral the freedom of worship is to Islamic teachings. Chapter 22, Verse 67 of the Quran states, “We have appointed for every community ways of worship to observe. Let them not dispute with you on this matter.” The need to protect religious monuments belonging to non-Muslims as well as Muslims is also mentioned in the Quran in Chapter 22, Verse 40 wherein it is stated, “If god did not repel the aggression of some people by means of others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of god is much invoked, would surely be destroyed.” And here we have the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with its redundant apostasy laws and completely un-Islamic ways of not allowing non-Muslims build their religious monuments and worship god in their own prescribed ways.

There are several theocracies like Saudi Arabia where such laws are common. In Egypt, Coptic Christians are often targeted and asked to prove their patriotism. This sort of racism was regularly manifested during the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood. Didn’t the members of Muslim Brotherhood hear tales of the Christian delegation which came to meet Prophet Muhammad from Najran? The Prophet didn’t just have a theological debate with them, but allowed them to pray inside Masjid al-Nabwi or the Prophet’s Grand Mosque in Medina. Yet, we had certain elements in Egypt questioning the Coptic Christians’ patriotism simply because of their annual pilgrimage to Bethlehem. They were labelled as being part of a Zionist ploy which is indeed laughable. This kind of an anti-Christian sentiment needs to be shunned.

Anti-Semitism is even more deeply entrenched as Islamic clerics in West Asia have repeatedly called for boycott of Pepsi, since Pepsi allegedly stands for “Pay-ever-penny-to-save-Israel.” Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used to deny the holocaust and label the 9/11 terrorist attacks as insiders’ job. There is no space for such blatant lies in Islam. The Quran says in Chapter 2, Verse 42, “Do not mix truth with falsehood or hide the truth when you know it.”

The likes of Ahmadinejad have to recognise the horrors of the holocaust and treatment meted out to the Jews in Germany. Conspiracy theorists have to give up on the preposterous suggestion of US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-Mossad involvement in 9/11. We must regret the fact that a terrorist named Osama Bin Laden used Islam’s name to commit an entirely inhumane act on September 11, 2001, which led to the death of thousands. He shall never be forgiven for that because Islam teaches that the death of even a single innocent person is like the death of all humanity (Quran: 5:32).

One more thing that is essential to undo the baggage of anti-Semitism rests in understanding that not every Jew is a Zionist sympathiser and not every Jew can be held responsible for the excesses of the Zionist state in Palestine. Lastly, we have our dear neighbour Pakistan where the population of religious minorities has historically been on the decline. Blasphemy laws are utilised to frequently frame non-Muslims and forcible conversions aren’t that rare. Owing to a hostile environment, the Hindu community in Pakistan has steadily shifted base to India which is a matter of great shame for Pakistan.

Whether a country is Muslim majority, Christian majority, Buddhist majority, Hindu majority, Jewish majority or atheist majority ruled by communists, it has to realise that freedom of religion and equality of all religions before the law is a must. No person can be deprived of any privileges because of his faith which is a matter of choice. Everyone must be treated equally. Muslim majority countries, in particular, are doing fairly well in some regions but have dreadful laws in places like Saudi Arabia.

A thorough revision of the law is a must in such regions to bring non-Muslims at par with Muslims as citizens of a free state. It must also be ensured that minorities within the Muslim community, be it Shias, Sufis or Ahmadiyyas are not discriminated against, labelled as heretics, and recognised as Muslims.

More importantly, the rights of women need to be recognised, which is possible only when the state bans female genital mutilation, introduces compulsory girl education, outlaws polygamy and gives women an equal say in matters of divorce, inheritance law and judicial testimony.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/islam-muslims-narendra-modi-uae-pakistan-quran-prophet-muhammad-israel-palestine/story/1/5723.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

How India can become the world’s greatest nation

We must never allow Indian soil to be a place where justice is denied and people are massacred in the name of religion. (Representative Image: Wikipedia)

We must never allow Indian soil to be a place where justice is denied and people are massacred in the name of religion. (Representative Image: Wikipedia)

The republic of India has officially turned 69. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi once said, “India is an old country but a young nation.” During its near seven-decade long journey as a nation state, this young nation has achieved multiple feats to be proud of. Following the brutal origins of the Partition, India was successfully able to lift itself out of the economic mess which the British Raj had resulted into. Today, India is the second-fastest growing economy in the world and is busy keeping the neighbouring “dragon” at its toes.

But India has its own set of Chinese walls to climb. Financially speaking, India is yet to eliminate economic inequality and redistribute wealth which has been pocketed by a few. On the other hand, a billion plus Indians have to remain committed to the mantra of secularism. What makes India unique is its plurality. The notion of our composite culture has often been challenged by fanatical elements who have unleashed a wave of violence on the society.

On India’s 69th Independence Day, let us take a pledge that we will never compromise on the principles of a multi-faith, multi-cultural India. As Indians, let us feel remorseful about the 1984 riots when innocent Sikhs were at the receiving end of a vicious campaign which can be best summarised in the words of Robert F Kennedy as a “mindless menace of violence”. We must reach out to our Sikh brethren who have lent in tremendous capacity to our armed forces and have toiled hard in their fields to grow food for us. Let us demand justice for the victims of 1984 riots and ensure that such a calamity never takes place again.

It’s been more than 25 years since Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of their homes in the valley. Isn’t that a blot on the secular fabric of our nation? Pandits have to be resettled as soon as possible in Muslim-majority Kashmir because without Pandits, “Kashmiriyat” is incomplete and so is India’s commitment to secularism. Let us demand justice for the victims of the exodus and ensure that no Indian is ever forced to leave behind his home and live in exile.

We must also come together to remember the carnage which transpired in Gujarat. The killers of innocent men and women cannot be allowed to roam around freely. Truth has to be firmly established and retribution extracted. Let us demand justice for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots. In fact let us demand justice for every untoward incident which has occurred during these seven decades. Be it the Hashimpura massacre or the Babri Masjid demolition, the Dalit killings in Laxmanpur Bathe or the anti-Christian violence in Odisha, all those who take law into their own hands need to be tried.

We must never allow Indian soil to be a place where justice is denied and people are massacred in the name of religion. Thou shall never fall prey to religious fanaticism should be an article of faith for every Indian. The barriers of sex, caste, region, religion and language have to be overcome if India wishes to see itself among the greatest nations of the world where economic progress is complimented by communal amity. We are nowhere close to it on our 69th Independence Day but let’s aim to be an example of toleration and justice by the time we are 75.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/69th-independence-day-india-religion-secularism-modi-sarkar/story/1/5690.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Why India deserves a fixed UN Security Council seat

Will the P-5 agree to share their power and authority with other nations? (Image: Wikipedia)

Will the P-5 agree to share their power and authority with other nations? (Image: Wikipedia)

Ever since taking over the leadership of the world’s largest democracy, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has doggedly concentrated on giving a new shape to India’s foreign policy. Modi’s global aspirations and desire for international recognition became known the moment he extended a formal invite to the leaders of neighbouring South Asian countries to attend his swearing-in ceremony at Raisina Hills last year.

Modi has repeatedly struck one masterstroke after another during the course of his foreign trips. Be it addressing a public meeting of NRIs inside jam packed stadiums in USA and Australia or articulating the nation’s external policy at the United Nations or National Assemblies of Nepal and Bangladesh, Modi has made the world take notice of his eloquence and oratorical skills. He has been exceedingly sharp in visiting places which were mostly off the radar of Indian diplomats be it the state of Mongolia which is strategically sandwiched between Russia and China or the energy rich nations of Central Asia ie Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Prime minister’s foreign visits have been high on symbolism and soft power. He has been quick to sight old ties by invoking the teachings of Buddhism and Islam. He hasn’t missed out on an opportunity to visit a temple or gurdwara and successfully steered the holding of the first ever International Yoga Day. Predictably, foreign policy is one area where Modi has tasted relatively more success as compared to domestic issues. The hateful rhetoric of the Hindu right concerning love jihad, ghar wapsi and forced sterilization definitely embarrassed the ruling establishment headed by Modi and the impasse in Parliament on the issue of Lalitgate has sent the much awaited reforms in cold storage. Amid all this gloom, Modi can stare at the horizon of foreign policy and give himself a pat on the back.

But Modi will have to do a lot more if he wishes to establish India’s position as a country wielding global clout. The simplest way of achieving that objective would be by attaining a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which Nehru allegedly turned down in the 1950s. India has served seven terms as a non-permanent member of UNSC and has echoed the need for expansion and reform in the Security Council. A permanent seat in UNSC would elevate India to the status of USA, UK, France, China and Russia in the diplomatic sphere and warrant India a critical say in all global matters that matter globally.

Interestingly, India is not the only country in the world eyeing a spot in UNSC. Other competing nations include the likes of Japan, Germany and Brazil. The very notion of a reform or expansion in UNSC leads to the rise of a few fundamental questions: How many countries will join the existing brigade of P-5? What will be the basis of inclusion of more countries in UNSC? Will it be economic status, regional parity or human development? If another Asian country is to be included in UNSC then will it be Japan or India?

India commands three distinct characteristics which make its case for a permanent seat compelling. Currently having a population of 1.28 billion, India will become the most populous country in the world by 2022. Such a large portion of the planet’s population cannot be altogether ignored or kept at a distance from the decision making table of UNSC which brings with itself the “veto” power. Secondly, India happens to be the second fastest growing economy in the world making it an ideal destination for foreign investment and future growth. Thirdly, India is ruled by a democratic, secular government which has never been upstaged by an army coup and can be labelled as a “responsible” nuclear power.

India’s last stint as a non permanent member of UNSC in 2011-12 was supported by regional rivals Pakistan and China but Pakistan might turn out to be a big thorn in India’s way if a global consensus is reached in providing India with permanent membership. Pakistan is bound to raise the issue of regional imbalance if India is in a position to acquire permanent membership and draw the world’s attention towards the persisting Indo-Pak conflict regarding Kashmir.

Despite prospects of a bright economic future, India has reasons to fear competing powers Japan, Germany and Brazil. India’s GDP (nominal) makes it the ninth biggest economic power in the world. At present, Japan, Germany and Brazil’s economic size is bigger than that of India with Japan being the third largest in the world and second largest in Asia after China, Germany being the largest in Europe and fourth globally, while Brazil commanding pole position in South America and seventh globally.

As far as per capita income is concerned, India is nowhere on the list. As per International Monetary fund (2014), India ranks 125 globally with a per capita income of mere $5,855. Japan, Germany and Brazil rank much higher at 18, 28 and 74, respectively. Human Development Index Report (2014) of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) ranks India 114 in the category of “medium human development.” Japan and Germany are countries with “very high human development” ranking 6 and 17, respectively whereas Brazil ranks 51 and is christened as a country with “high human development.”

Simplistic breakdown of facts and figures certainly lowers India’s prospects of a permanent seat when compared with its rivals. But India has a silver lining when it comes to its track record in terms of its contribution to UN Peacekeeping forces which have played a pivotal role in combating violence and maintaining peace. India is the fourth largest contributor to UN Peacekeeping behind Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Pakistan. Though India has a large physical presence in UN Peacekeeping, it finances a minuscule 0.13 per cent of UN peacekeeping operations. The P-5 has lesser boots on the ground but rules the roost when it comes to financing peacekeeping operations with USA pitching in with over 28 per cent financial contribution. Japan comes in second with 10.83 per cent followed by other permanent members.

It is a complex situation. India is growing economically but lags being when it comes to per capita indicators. Owing to its military strength, it is contributing in huge numbers to peacekeeping but cannot match up to the financing levels of P-5 or Japan in relation to peacekeeping operations. The story is a paradox. But the most important element of the story is yet to be spoken about ie P-5. A reform in UN Security Council would necessitate the need for an amendment in the UN Charter which is possible only when a resolution is adopted by two-third member nations in the UN General Assembly. It has to be further ratified by the constitutional process of two-third member nations including P-5.

Will the P-5 agree to share their power and authority with other nations? White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is on record stating “President (Obama) would support the inclusion of India in that process (reform of UNSC)” but cables leaked by Wikileaks quoted Former US Secretary of State and arguably the next American president Hillary Rodham Clinton ridiculing countries like India as “self appointed front-runners” for a permanent membership of UNSC. The two statements, one on-record and the other off-record, hint at the underlying duplicity of USA. If the “Great Indian Dream” of attaining permanent membership has to be accomplished then India will surely have to cultivate a global consensus which will include the P-5. The penultimate question is: Can Modi pull off a Himalayan miracle?

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/unsc-united-nations-security-council-p-5-india-united-states-narendra-modi-brics-kashmir-pakistan/story/1/5673.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.)