Indian leaders, and especially one with the largest number of people voting for any one man, in the history of democracy and the world, you would think have the legitimacy, more so than the EU and the US, to claim to be a world leader, a leader of the free world, a spokeperson for democratic values, the human rights that flow from the promise of free, fair elections. But no.
Such leadership does not need a UN Security Council seat – the EU doesn’t have one, Germany and Japan do not have one. It requires the will to project that power.
I write to you from South East Asia. A region which is dominated still by what happens in the White House and to a lesser extent what happens in Beijing.
Indian political leaders have never since Gandhi managed to capture the world stage, or project their imprint or thought. When I do the BBC World paper review I often ask them how come we only ever cover US, European, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Singaporean, Korean, Australian papers? Notice the missing Indian one.
Yes of course India as it celebrates its Independence has many domestic issues to resolve, but as it reaches for the stars in its space programme it surely should raise all of mankind with its unique position on Earth.
A democracy in a tough non-democratic neighbourhood. I mean, you have China, Russia, Afghanistan and Iran on your door-step. And whilst many readers of this paper will be in favour of those who stand opposed to the West on all things, remember ultimately world history does not favour the non-aligned, the neutral. You will always be forced to take sides – and the side we want is an India with a global voice on the world stage. Still too often she is willing only to play timidly in her neighbourhood.
What does this mean in practical terms? Clear pressure on Iran to comply on its nuclear non-proliferation treaty obligations – ironic you may think from India, but the US is no less a nuclear hypocrite.
A threat to Assad that he halt killing Muslims or India seeks another resolution in the UN for military intervention, because India speaks for Muslims in democracies. A clear message to Putin that destabilising Ukraine is not in the EU’s interests and therefore not in India’s – because democracies stand together – join the club or get lost in isolation.
The message to Hamas – Israel has a right to exist. She is the only democracy in the region. Bombing democracies will not be tolerated. A message to ISIS – India is the land of 300m muslims – she is against ISIS and speaks for 300m muslims when she says that.
India alone can shore up democracies at a time when democracies are under threat. An independent India means an India with a strong voice on a global stage – not an India that makes big speeches to small neighbours alone.
For the sake of humanity, India’s roles I on the global stage, not in the wings.