Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Maldives and Sri Lanka reaffairms India's long-standing ties with these two countries. It signalled Delhi's assertion in the Indian Ocean region, where Chinese power and influence compete with its own. Indian has been helped in this by the political changes in both countries where governments seen as 'pro-China' were swept out in democratic elections and replaced with those that seem more India friendly, or at least more balanced in their foregin policies.
During Modi's visit, apart from signing a slew of agreements, India and Maldives agreed to strengthen their maritime security co-operation to maintain peace and stability in the Indian Ocean, and not allow their respective terrorities to be used for activity inimical to the other, oblique reference to Chinese interests in the Maldives. In both Male and Colombo, Prime Minister Modi made common cause on the issue of fighting terrorism. While Maldives has seen a large number young people leave the country to join ISIS, Sri Lanka is still reeling from the April 21 bombings by a group of highly radicalised Sri Lankan Muslims, later claimed by the ISIS as its own. During Modi's visit to Male, India and the Maldives agreed to set up joint working group to counter terrorism. In Colombo, PM Modi conveyed that India stood in solidarity with Sri Lankans during this difficult period.
While Delhi has managed to regain its footing in both capitals, in order to be lasting and able to withstand political changes, India will need to win influence through the hard work of trust building and co-operation at many levels - political, official and people-to-people.
Trump-May narrative: Fact of fiction?
US President Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain ruffled a good many feathers, something audiences at home and abroad have come to expect as routine worship of a bogus deity.. Even as he held talks with Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr Trump with inimical tact, anointed Boris Johnson as her rightful successor. The Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ is indeed especially disagreeable for much of humankind, notably those perceived as the lesser breeds without the law.
The Anglo-American duo spoke in ringing tones of the democratic values, the rule of law and human rights, embodied by their two nations. Tell that to the savaged people of Yemen as bombs and missiles, manufactured in the US,UK and France rain down upon them from on high. The Saudi regime, pampered by the West, much is given to ritual beheadings over weekends – 37 at one count – accuses Iran of promoting regional terrorism, a charge echoed loyally by its minders in Washington, London and Paris..
The Greater Middle East, from Iraq to Libya, is now rubble. Many of its peoples are in flight to Europe across the deep. of Considerable numbers drown en route. A recent incident involved Commander Edward Gallagher of a US Navy Seal unit. He has been charged with the wanton killing of a little Iraqi girl, playing with friends, and the shooting to death, on a whim, an elderly Iraqi man. Commander Gallagher had singled out certain areas for attack, which his superiors said were safe and posed no threat to civilian life or limb. Having monitored his activity, the US military, to its credit, accused him of war crimes.
President Trump has come to Gallagher’s defence, saying that when American soldiers do a difficult job, they are branded by the authorities of wrongdoing.. Republican Congressman David Hunter, a former Navy Seal, boasted that he had performed hundreds of such killings in Iraq in the line of duty; this went the job, he claimed.
But the laws of war warn against the wanton violence leading to the loss of largely innocent lives. A senior American peace activist exclaimed in disgust that the country was now a lawless state. The revelations of US torture chambers in Iraq and such other gross violations human rights, earned whistle-blowers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning the unyieldinng enmity of successive US administrations. Assange, the founder of Wikileaks is at death’s door in a London prison hospital. He had been subjected to torture, said a UN expert.
Rancid sermons on democracy and human rights from violators with little semblance of the basic decencies are a shameful and disturbing spectacle.
English language has its relevance
The achievements of the liberal intelligentsia and their works during the nineteenth century Bengal Renaissance, of which Rammohun Roy was the acknowledged harbinger. Roy was himself a Sanskrit and Bengali scholar of repute, famed also for his mastery of Persian, Arabic and Hebrew, not to speak of the English language in which he penned his extraordinary tracts on the desired introduction of the jury system into India, and upheld the freedom of the press, appealed for the establishment of an international body for the settlement of disputes between states, rather than seek solutions through war. An enlightened Bengali was no barrier to being an enlightened Indian and citizen of the world.
As a moderniser, Rammohun Roy argued for modern educational institutions to replace the Hindu patshalas and Muslim madrasas, where learning by rote was the norm. Hence, he and other Bengali notables, including those with a conservative bent worked to establish a modern education institution, which resulted in the foundation of Hindu College in Calcutta in 1835, to be renamed Presidency College in 1856 with Presidency College was twinned with Sanskrit College, founded incidentally, by a Briton H,H, Wilson, whose bust adorns its foyer. The College of Fort William became the foremost fount of Oriental scholarship in the early 19th century.
Rammohun sowed the seeds of the Brahmo Samaj, a reformist body which rejected the iniquities of caste and superstition, promoted modern education and gender equality. Its greatest figure was the poet, writer and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, who set up the Vishwa Bharati University in Santineketan, where Sanskrit occupied pride of place in the curriculum. Amrtya Sen, the Economics Nobel laureate, who began his education there, has a considerable mastery of classical Sanskrit literature.
This cultural renewal embraced mainstream Hindu society. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was the pre-eminent Sanskrit scholar of his generation and arguably the most penetrative voice for social reform and mass education. The spirit of the age was best captured by an incident involving Swami Vivekenanda. Told by a youth that he wanted to be a good Hindu, the Swami replied that his preparatory course should start with English and mathematics.
Surendranath Dasgupta, seminal Sanskritist and philosopher, whose six-volume History of Indian Philosophy gave him a global niche, taught at Sanskrit College and Ediburgh University, while the Professor Bimal Motilal of a later generation, who held the chair of Indian philosophy at Oxford University, was educated Sanskrit College, Calcutta.
Truth is that the study of Sanskrit has always had a special place in Bengali culture. The district of Nawadip in Bengal was famous for its Sanskrit scholars. For a party rooted in the Hindi heartland of vigilantes to denigrate Rammohun Roy and Bengal is contemptible. As ludicrous was the circular of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the state governments calling for the introduction Hindi as displacement for English. The explosive rejection of any such move, led to a prompt assurance from the central government that no abolition of English was intended. The Communist –led Let Front regime in West Bengal which relegated English in the school curriculum during its 34 year-rule, was thrown out in the State Legislative Assembly elections in 2011, losing every seat. Today, it has not a single MP from the state in Parliament. English was elitist, alleged then Left Front, and repeated by the HRD Ministry in New Delhi. But mathematics, physics, chemistry, space science and medicine are also elitist subjects, are they not? Rants against ‘elitism’ are signature tunes of mob rule.
Someone to cheer about
Jiya Vaducha, an 11-year old Indian girl, whose Gujarati parents hail from Mumbai, achieved the top possible score of 162 in the global Mensa IQ test at Birkbeck University in London, where, as the youngest entry, she sat alongside scores of adults. The test involves two papers that test different types of IQ. Cattell IIIB includes verbal reasoning. ‘A score of 162 is the highest a child can achieve on this test – it is 161for adults. ‘Jivya’s puts her in the top one per cent of the population,’ said a Mensa spokesman.
‘It was hard but not too hard. Some questions were difficult were not...was really surprised with my results,’ said Jivya Vaducha, modest and capable to a fault.