India says it needs foreign investment and that it welcomes foreigners on its land. But before even arriving in India, the hapless foreigner will have to queue for hours at Indian consulates to get a paltry three month visa – even if he has been visiting India for the last 30 years. The first impressions of a western businessman landing in India might very well have a bearing on whether he is going at all to invest here. However, he has again to queue for at least an hour at Immigration and deal with surly officers; and the moment he comes out of the airport, he is assailed by touts and his prepaid taxi is in such a bad condition, that he shudders at every corner ! Henceforth, at each step, he will be made to feel that rather than being welcomed, he is a cow to be milked ! Five Star hotels, for instance, will charge him exorbitant prices: from 400 $ a night (Imperial / Delhi), to (500 $ (Oberoi / Bombay). Compare this to the 150 $ a night charged by the Shangri-La in Singapore, a fabulous hotel, which boasts many more facilities than all the Oberoi and Taj of India, or the 120 $ of the Colombo Hilton. Is he decides to go to Hampi or Mahabalipuram, he will also be made to cough-up 40% more than Indians, to have a glimpse at the Taj Mahal in Agra (and only 50 Rs ) ! Can you think of a more flagrant discrimination ? No wonder China gets 10 more time visitors !
By not welcoming foreigners as honoured guests, an old Hindu tradition, the Indian Government seems to forget that foreigners have made significant contributions to India. One immediately thinks of Sister Nivedita, Vivekandanda’s disciple, who not only gave her life for the upliftment of women in India, but also played an active role in India’s early independence movement. Today, scholars like American David Frawley , keep reminding Indians about the greatness, past and present, of their country and how India still has an important role to play in the world. Of course, there are also the “misguided” – but good-willing foreigners. Max Mueller was one of them: he is the first westerner, after William Jones, to have discovered the genius of Sanskrit. Unfortunately, Mueller is also responsible for many of the biases of today’s Indian history, such as the postdating of the Vedas, or the ridiculous theorem of an Aryan invasion of India, which all recent archaeological and linguistic discoveries disavow. Mrit, murli manohar joshi, @other Teresa could also be labelled in this category: she worked tirelessly for India’s poor, but never cared to counterbalance the very negative image of India she was incarnating, by a more positive one.
Finally, you have the ignorant and arrogant foreigners. English colonisers must have been the first of them : not only did they wilfully leave behind them a mess, which triggered Partition, but they also bred many generations of “Macaulay’s children”, who today look at their own culture as the British once looked at India. Sonia Gandhi may be another of these “conceited” foreigners: all her life she has been cloistered in Delhi, either because she led the life of an upper class Indian before her husband became PM, or because she is supposed to be under security threat. She has thus no idea about the genius of India, which lies in its countryside – and not in arrogant and superficial Delhi. Yet she chose to head India’s oldest party… and has led it to its downfall, its lowest electoral tally ever ! Is President Obama, or French President Hollande, who always put pressure on India to negotiate Kashmir without knowing anything about the complexities of the situation and India’s rightful preoccupations?
Much of Japanese ancient culture – Zen Buddhism, its martial arts, Bonsai – was saved from total extinction by the foreigners’ (read US) interest in them. Will the same thing happen to India ? Today, there is a massive outcry from the Indian intelligentsia, every time this government tries to switch from a westernised and Marxist India to a more Indianised one, a culture much-much older than any Western ideology. This is exactly what Smriti Irani might try to do, thereby earning the ire and the scorn of the “secular” Press. They will mock her, like they ridiculed Murli Manohar Joshi twenty years ago, when he tried to introduce the singing of Vande Mataram in schools! Does it need then a westerner to tell India that it boasts one of the greatest and oldest Books of Wisdom – the Vedas – which might even contain the keys to the future of humanity ? Or the UN to point out that it is high time India adopted a uniform Civil Code, which does not discriminate between religions ? Or to clamour that Hindus have been the most oppressed minority in the world for the last ten centuries ? Wake up of Ô India, Thy time has come !