In the space of just a couple of days two American diplomats made statements that were bound to aggravate Indo-US relations. Both the diplomats were too experienced and distinguished not to have known the impact of their statements. The first indiscretion was committed by the State Department spokesperson Ms. Victoria Nuland. Responding to a question related to Anna Hazare’s forthcoming fast she advised the Indian government to show proper restraint while addressing a peaceful protest. She ought to have known that her gratuitous advice would anger the Indian government. Ms. Nuland has had a distinguished career including stints as US envoy to NATO and as member of America’s prestigious Council of Foreign Relations.
The second indiscretion was committed by Ms. Maureen Chao who is the Vice Counsel at the US Embassy in Delhi. Ms. Chao too is a distinguished diplomat who had earlier worked in Vietnam. In a speech delivered to Chennai students she recalled her earlier train journey in India by the end of which she felt as “dark and dirty as Tamilians”. It doesn’t require being a diplomat to know that this remark was crude and highly offensive. Yet a trained diplomat spoke these words in a formal speech. Both diplomats later offered regrets for their remarks but the damage was done. Undoubtedly public opinion in India is expected to be more hostile to America.
How should the government react to such indiscretions? It should protest by all means but remain focused. It should not allow such pinpricks to deflect its approach. It should not respond as its enemies would want. It should appreciate the true nature of America with which our government must deal. America is not a nation in the conventional sense. It is the capital of the world. It has become to the rest of the world what Delhi is to the rest of India. Centuries ago people to escape persecution and repression, or to seek fortune, migrated to America. America is a land of migrants much as India is. Only, it took five thousand years for India to become an ethnic melting post. It took just a couple of centuries for America to be the same. As a result most Americans have a strong sense of their roots. Willy-nilly they acquire a soft corner for the culture and the interests of their parent nations. They develop a dual loyalty. It should not surprise therefore if Americans even in official positions speak in different voices. America therefore is as chaotic and confusing as is Delhi while it deals with the rest of India.
Delhi is inhabited by migrants residing here from all states of India speaking different mother tongues. All residents have a vested interest in the welfare of Delhi. At the same time do they not retain some interest in the welfare of their respective states of origin? Why, even in the government such regional pulls and pressures prevail. Do not political analysts in private conversation talk about the Kerala lobby, the Punjabi lobby or the Bengali lobby while discussing personnel policies or provincial bias revealed at the highest echelons of power?
We should expect the same from America. Whether intentionally or through subconscious impulse American officials often speak more on behalf of their parent nations than for America. Ms. Nuland is a second generation Jew born to a distinguished father who struggled against odds and hardship as a migrant to America. Ms. Chao is obviously of Mongoloid descent. The Han Chinese took great pride in their hairless, ivory pale skins which justifiably they considered most beautiful. When the first whites landed in China the Hans considered them to be coarse skinned, hairy barbarians. Therefore if Ms. Chao made a Freudian slip in the light of her own flawless skin – happy fusion of white and ivory yellow – is it not understandable? So let’s remain focused on the main issue, our relations with America.
We should take a leaf from China which treats America as the capital of the world in which ultimately all global disputes are resolved. Beijing is busy expanding its influence in America. According to a recent New York Times report the Chinese are silently and swiftly gobbling up real estate in New York much as they earlier did in Vancouver, Canada. The newspaper quoted Xue Ya, president of China Center, a business and cultural organization first to sign a lease at the World Trade Center for renting six floors. Ms. Xue Ya said: “Everybody wants to come to New York because New York is the starting point for going global.” Once you are in New York , Mrs. Xue said, “You are a player.”
That’s right, sister.