Trudeau is delivering the foreign policy Canadians deserve: David Mulroney

Good commentary by our former Ambassador to China (and former foreign service colleague of mine). Not unique to Chinese and Indo-Canadians, comparable issues arise with respect to Ukrainian Canadians and Canadian Jews with respect to foreign policy:

The best that can be said about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India is that it may prompt a review, if not a complete rethinking of a Canadian foreign policy that appears to be seriously off the rails. We have some hard lessons to learn.

At the very least, the Prime Minister’s debacle in India should encourage smart people in Ottawa to zero in on what isn’t working.

Most worrying is a fundamental and puzzling failure at the level of policy implementation, something that appears to be compounded by the Prime Minister’s own impetuosity. Flying to India before the big meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the bag, much like heading off to Beijing on a free-trade themed visit without any reasonable expectation that a deal was doable, exposes Mr. Trudeau to a degree of prolonged public skepticism that comes to define the visit itself.

Ottawa’s obsession with exotic photo-ops is a less likely candidate for serious review, given its long and undistinguished lineage through such past devotees as Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien. But we can at least hope that the Trudeau version of this practice may get dialled down. Through his rapid succession of exotic costume changes, Mr. Trudeau managed to do to his own image what Alec Baldwin does, through similarly comic exaggeration, to Donald Trump’s on Saturday Night Live.

Even harder to banish will be our obsession with diaspora politics. No one is denying that we derive wonderful advantages from our multicultural society. But other multicultural countries, such as the United States, Australia and Britain, are far less inclined to view their international interests so completely through the prism of diaspora communities. We need to understand that Canada’s interests in India are not entirely the same as those of influential portions of the Indo-Canadian community or of the Sikh-Canadian subset of that community. Worse, our continuing insistence on the political importance of diaspora groups makes it more likely that their countries of origin – and this is particularly true of China and India – will be inclined to interfere in Canadian affairs.

These persistent problems point to an inconvenient truth: The problem isn’t with politicians, it’s with all of us. We’re getting the foreign policy we deserve. We seem unable to grasp that our engagement of countries such as India and China ultimately needs to be about something more than reminding them of how much they admire us.

India isn’t our friend. It is a rising regional power beset with a range of domestic problems, including serious human rights issues. It takes a prickly approach to global issues that is often at odds with traditional Canadian policies in areas ranging from trade policy to nuclear disarmament.

The Indian diplomats I worked with could be wonderfully pleasant after the official day was done. But, for the most part, they brought a formidably ruthless precision to their pursuit of India’s interests in the world. While they might ultimately agree to grant Canada a concession, this was always a product of hard and often heated negotiations. They never conceded a point because they liked us or because we are home to a large Indo-Canadian community.

My experience with Chinese diplomats was entirely similar.

Long before the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, it should have been clear to us that the world is changing in ways that do not align with traditional Canadian views, interests and values. If we’re smart, the rise of countries like China and India can certainly contribute to our prosperity, and with hard work, we should be able to find common cause on important issues such as global warming.

But the rise of these assertive and ambitious Asian powers will almost certainly challenge global and regional security. Both will also continue to reject traditional Canadian notions about global governance and human rights, and neither will be particularly squeamish about interfering in Canadian affairs.

The Trump era should convince us that we can no longer rely entirely on the protective cover of a globally engaged America. We need to be smart and hard-nosed when it comes to promoting and defending our own interests. Photo ops and costume changes won’t cut it any more.

via Trudeau is delivering the foreign policy Canadians deserve – The Globe and Mail


Trudeau with his Indian culture overkill came across as patronizing | Shree Paradkar

It seems like everyone is piling on the gaffe-strewn trip of PM Trudeau to India. Paradkar’s is one of the best:

If apparel oft proclaims the man, then Polonius who uttered those words in Hamlet would have quite literally given our prime minister a dressing down this week. From the viewpoint of the Shakespearean character, Justin Trudeau would have broken the basic rules: his clothes were as costly as money could buy, but gaudy, too, proclaiming him unserious.

A charitable supposition would be that maybe — just maybe — since Canada is barely a blip on Indian consciousness, Trudeau decided to lean on his celebrity status to make an impression.

That much he did. So groan-inducing has Trudeau’s visit to India appeared thus far that it merits being rated as a cliched Bollywood drama.Over-the-top sherwanis and kurta pyjamas, Bhangra sequences, overly choreographed family time overdoing the namastes.

Then a touch of villainous melodrama in the form of a mistaken invitation to Jaspal Atwal, a man convicted of attempting to kill an Indian cabinet minister on Vancouver Island in 1986. Atwal was also charged, but not convicted, in connection with a 1985 attack on Ujjal Dosanjh, a former Liberal health minister and former premier of British Columbia.

That faux pas for which the Liberals apologized would be a terrible development during any official visit. On this one, it gave lie to Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s appeasement of the Punjab chief minister’s concerns of official Canadian support for the Sikh separatist movement.

The demand for a separate nation of Khalistan is an issue that has little support among Sikhs in India. It does not enjoy unanimous support here, either.

The concerns were fair: Trudeau’s appearance at a Sikh parade in Toronto last year with yellow and blue Khalistan flags in the background and posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale — the leader of the Khalistani movement — was not looked upon kindly in India.

Nor would Canada be sympathetic to a visiting foreign leader who posed with Quebec separatists.

Many of the poor first impressions would have been avoided had planners simply switched Day 6 to Day 1. Trudeau, finally wearing a business suit, met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, got that equally cringe-inducing, but in this case gratefully received, trademark bear hug from Modi, and was received with state honours.

Was there really no adviser in our PMO or the Foreign Office who said before the trip, “Meet Modi first. Go easy on the clothes. Wrap up the visit in 3 days. Be prepared to deal with the separatist issue”?

Earlier in the month, an expert told Global News, “There’s no question that the whole Khalistan question will overshadow this trip.”

Then an unnamed government official told the news outlet it was not expected to be a big issue.

If he had a chance to counsel Trudeau, Omer Aziz, a former adviser at the Department of Global Affairs in the Liberal government, says he would have said, “It’s going to come up and you need to make sure you know what you’re going to say.”

Before going to India, Aziz would have suggested Trudeau make a speech in support of united India and draw comparisons to separatist movements here.

Trudeau’s trip was billed as one to bolster economic and cultural connections. Because Canada’s minorities of colour are consigned to hyphenated labels, and never viewed as simply Canadian, Canadian leaders end up viewing foreign policy through the lens of diasporic politics.

And so, Indo-Canadians and Sikh-Canadians have come to expect images of a leader’s visit to New Delhi, the requisite visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, perhaps a Hindu temple or two.

But carry it too far and the symbolism of “we care” can become tiresomely reductive.

Religious and cultural observances such as a cloth on the head may be seen as a sign of respect. Wearing clothing from the host nation could be seen as a bit of charming politicking on the sidelines of trade deals and policy development.

As a main dish, overshadowing a $1 billion trade deal, it’s unpalatable. Neither Indians nor Indo-Canadians are quite so unsophisticated as to not detect being patronized.

Aziz sees this trip as evidence that governments should hire and empower more staffers of colour who understand the complexities of the world. “Literally all this was avoidable,” he said.

For all the talk of Trudeau’s diverse cabinet, behind the scenes decision makers, staffers and bureaucrats remain monochromatic.

“I think that frankly minorities, brown folks, people of colour should say this is enough,” says Aziz. “It’s time that millennials (like me) said either you’re going to share power with us or we’re going to mobilize and you’re going to suffer at the ballot box.

“We’re not going to be treated as any one’s vote bank.

“We don’t need you talking down to us. We don’t need you to begin every single speech saying diversity is our strength. What we need is at that beginning point of our conversation we need to be treated as equals, with respect. Then we can have a conversation about policy.”

via Trudeau with his Indian culture overkill came across as patronizing | Toronto Star

India cabinet backs bill to criminalise Islamic instant divorce – BBC

Welcome. However, enforcement will likely be a challenge:

The Indian cabinet has backed a bill that will make the Islamic practice of instant divorce a criminal offence.

The bill proposes jail of up to three years for a Muslim man who indulges in the controversial practice.

The government hopes to get the bill passed by parliament in the winter session, which began on Friday.

In a major victory for women’s rights activists, the Supreme Court outlawed the “triple talaq” practice in August and called it “un-Islamic”.

India is one of a handful of countries where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in minutes by saying the word talaq (divorce) three times.

Muslim women and rights groups have been campaigning for years against the custom.

Campaigners have described it as humiliating and discriminatory.

The bill, called the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, has been drafted by a group of ministers, led by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The Indian government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has supported ending the practice.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought up the issue several times, including in his Independence Day address on 15 August.

What is instant divorce?

There have been cases in which Muslim men in India have divorced their wives by issuing the so-called triple talaq by letter, telephone and, increasingly, by text message, WhatsApp and Skype. A number of these cases made their way to the courts as women contested the custom.

Triple talaq divorce has no mention in Sharia Islamic law or the Koran, even though the practice has existed for decades.

Islamic scholars say the Koran clearly spells out how to issue a divorce – it has to be spread over three months, allowing a couple time for reflection and reconciliation.

Most Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq, but the custom has continued in India, which does not have a uniform set of laws on marriage and divorce that apply to every citizen.


Trump has started a brain drain back to India

Positive impact for Canada:

So many [foreign hi-tech] workers have been frustrated that attorney Brent Renison sought class-action status for a lawsuit filed last year in U.S. District Court in Portland. He argued, in part, that the H-1B lottery was arbitrary and capricious. The suit asked the court to order the government to process visa petitions in the order they are filed and compel the government to establish a waitlist like the one used for green card petitions. The government prevailed.

“Some people are moving out of the country, taking valuable skills with them,” Renison says. “Some people are choosing not to come. If this persists, were going to lose a lot of the foreign students we educate.”

The system was barely functioning as it was. Applications for work visas already were so clogged in the federal bureaucracy that in recent years even Ivy League graduates couldn’t be certain of receiving one. Getting a work visa hasn’t guaranteed stability, as Sahay, the data architect, knows.

Employers can sponsor immigrants’ green cards, or permanent visas, but the approvals process is backlogged. The federal government places caps for green cards on each country each year. Indians seeking permanent residency say it’s routine for them to linger in line for a decade or more. Up to 2 million Indian workers here and abroad may be waiting in a green card backlogthat could take a decade or more to clear if there are no changes to the system, says David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute think tank.

Those concerns may add to the shortage of highly skilled technology workers in the United States, just as Canada or Singapore vie for those same people.

Every other startup company, says Vish Mishra, an investor with Clearstone Venture Partners, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, has operations based overseas or recruits workers in India, Eastern Europe, Canada or Israel.

“You’re not going to have, all of a sudden, 200,000 [American] people filling the gap that exists. What are businesses going to do? Businesses have to import talent,” he says.

Canada has become more attractive just since the U.S. presidential election. The country granted temporary work visas to 1,960 Indian nationals in all of 2015, and 2,120 total in the fourth quarter of 2016 and first quarter of this year.

In November, Canada announced that as of June, the country would speed the processing of standard visas and work permits to two weeks for highly skilled talent working for companies doing business in Canada. The move, the government says, will help companies grow and fuel job growth for Canadians.

Meanwhile, in the United States, tech workers and engineers are bound to established companies that filed paperwork for them years back. Almost everyone in the Indian tech community knows a weekend entrepreneur who desperately wants to start his or her own company but can’t quit work because they would be visa-less. Meanwhile, friends and family in India beg them to come home and bring their ideas to India’s own booming silicon valleys.

Rishi Bhilawadikar, a user-experience designer in the Bay area, says that tenuous life lived by so many educated Indian workers — in America, but not really of America — spurred him to shoot a feature film.

In For Here or To Go, made over the course of more than seven years, the characters weigh whether America has lost its promise for young, mobile Indians. The idea bubbled up, Bhilawadikar says, after he read research that showed how certain laws keep some immigrants from fulfilling their potential, driving many back home or to countries with more welcoming policies, such as Canada and Chile.

Source: Trump has started a brain drain back to India

India’s supreme court bans Islamic instant divorce | The Guardian

Welcome development:

India’s top court has banned a controversial Islamic practice that allows men to divorce their wives instantly, saying it was unconstitutional.

Victims of the practice known as “triple talaq”, whereby Muslim men can divorce their wives by reciting the word talaq (divorce) three times, had approached the supreme court to ask for a ban.

Triple talaq “is not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality”, a panel of judges said.

“It’s a very happy day for us. It’s a historic day,” said Zakia Soman, the co-founder of the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, which was part of the legal battle to end the practice.

“We, the Muslim women, are entitled to justice from the courts as well as the legislature,” she added.

The five supreme court judges were from India’s major faiths – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. In their ruling, they said it was “manifestly arbitrary” to allow a man to “break down [a] marriage whimsically and capriciously”.

“What is sinful under religion cannot be valid under law,” they said.

The practice had been challenged in lower courts but it was the first time India’s supreme court had considered whether triple talaq was legal.

India allows religious institutions to govern matters of marriage, divorce and property inheritance in the multi-faith nation, enshrining triple talaq as a legal avenue for its 180 million Muslims to end unions.

More than 20 Muslim countries, including neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice while in India, the practice has continued. While most Hindu personal law has been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched.

The Hindu nationalist government of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, had backed the petitioners in this landmark case, declaring triple talaq unconstitutional and discriminatory against women. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party has long pushed for a uniform civil code, governing Indians of all religions, to be enforced.

The issue remains highly sensitive in India, where religious tensions often lead to violence.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a grouping of Islamic organisations, had told the court that while they considered the practice of triple talaq wrong, they opposed any court intervention and asked that the matter be left to the community to tackle.

Progressive Muslim activists had criticised the board’s position. “This is the demand of ordinary Muslim women for over 70 years and it’s time for this country to hear their voices,” activist Feroze Mithiborwala told New Delhi television station.

Source: India’s supreme court bans Islamic instant divorce | World news | The Guardian

International students in B.C. could be in fake marriage schemes: Douglas Todd

The ingenuity of persons wanting to come to Canada knows no bounds. No hard numbers but widespread anecdotes indicate that there is an issue (India sends the second largest number of students to Canada after China: 77,000 in 2016):

The newspaper ads in India are the visible tip of a booming underground industry in fake marriages involving would-be international students.

The prize for the “spouse” whose family buys an instant marriage with a foreign student is back-door access to a full-time job in Canada and a fast-track to citizenship.

The matrimonial ads normally promise that the foreign students’ sham marriage, plus all travel and study expenses, will be paid for by the Indian families who are determined to have their son or daughter emigrate.

The type of Indian student the ads seek is usually a teenage girl, who must have passed an English-language test and therefore be in line to be accepted as an international student.

Media outlets in India, such as the Hindustan Times, report there is a “booming matrimony market for ‘brides’ who can earn the ‘groom’” coveted status as a migrant to a Western country.

Canada is among the most sought-after destinations for Indian foreign students, say migration specialists, because it is the most generous toward foreign students and their spouses. Australia has also been popular, but recently tightened its rules.

Here is a typical recent ad from one Punjabi-language newspaper in India, Ajit:

“Jatt Sikh, boy, 24 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, needs girl with IELTS band 7. Marriage real or fake. Boy’s side will pay all expenses.”

The ad is listed by a high-caste “Jatt” Sikh male, or more likely his parents. It seeks a contractual marriage with a young woman who has scored well (“band 7”) on an international exam called “IELTS,” the International English Language Testing System. Almost three million IELTS exams are conducted each year.

Here is another ad, from the newspaper Jagbani:

“Barbar Sikh, 24, 5 feet 8 inches. Finished Grade 12. Looking for BSc or IELTS pass girl. Boy’s side will pay all expenses to go to Canada.”

In this ad the family of a lower-caste “Barbar Sikh” is seeking to have their son marry an Indian female with a bachelors of science degree, or a passing mark on the IELTS test, so their son can be allowed into Canada as her spouse.

As these kinds of ads illustrate, the parents of the male “spouse” typically offer to cover all expenses for the international student, who often end up attending one of the scores of private colleges in Canada with low to non-existent standards.

B.C. is home to 130,000 international students, the vast majority of whom are in Metro Vancouver, which has the highest concentration of foreign students in Canada.

In exchange for financing the foreign student, the phony spouse gets to live in Canada and legally work up to 40 hours a week, plus receive medical coverage and other benefits. That puts them in a strong position to become permanent residents of Canada.

The foreign-student marriage rackets are gaining attention in newspapers in India.

Indian media are reporting angry fallout when students financed by other families either fail to get into a Western college or university, or try to break up with their spouses of convenience.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist Shinder Purewal, a former Canadian citizenship court judge, says Punjabi- and Hindi-language newspapers in India run dozens of such ads each week.

“Families are looking for matches to get their sons or daughters abroad. And the most successful route to Canada is through international-student channels. It’s an easy way to get immigration,” said Purewal.

Source: International students in B.C. could be in fake marriage schemes | Vancouver Sun

Indian officer’s denial at Canadian border a mistake, federal government says

Mistakes happen. Recognition and correction depends in part about level of person affected and nature of representation:

The federal government is admitting border officials made a mistake when a retired anti-insurgency officer from India was deemed inadmissible to Canada and denied entry.

Days later, after an outcry from Indian officials, the officer was suddenly reissued a visa and flown back to Toronto.

In a statement in May, Canada’s High Commissioner to India, Nadir Patel, expressed “regret” about the incident but would not reveal the rejected visitor’s identity citing privacy protection. Immigration officials subsequently confirmed the person as Tejinder Singh Dhillon.

Dhillon, a retired senior officer with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), India’s largest paramilitary force under the home affairs ministry, was refused admission in May at the Vancouver airport on the way to his niece’s wedding in Toronto.

Canada border officials explained the refusal by indicating on a form letter that the 67-year-old had served a government that engages or has engaged in terrorism, human rights violations, crime against humanity or genocide.

The incident immediately caused diplomatic ripples between New Delhi and Ottawa, prompting Canadian officials to issue not just a new multiple-entry visa to Dhillon but a plane ticket for his return.

“Such a characterization of a reputed force like the CRPF is completely unacceptable.  We have taken up the matter with the Government of Canada,” a foreign ministry official told Indian media.

Patel said the refusal was a mistake on Ottawa’s part.

“Over the past year, over 300,000 Indian nationals have applied to visit Canada. From time to time, with such a large number of applications, oversights on visa applications can happen which is regrettable,” Patel wrote in a statement.

“Form letters in use by the Government of Canada include generic language taken from Canada’s legislation. In this case, the language does not reflect the Government of Canada’s policy toward India or any particular organization. . . The Central Reserve Police Force plays an important role in upholding law and order in India.”

Anirudh Bhattacharyya, who interviewed Dhillon and reported the story from Toronto for the Hindustan Times, said Dhillon complained Canadian officials treated him in an “unreasonable and indecent manner, accusing him of having either participated or having knowledge of CRPF’s human rights violations.

“It is very upsetting. I have seen many crises, but this is very difficult to bear,” Dhillon told Bhattacharyya in an interview.

Source: Indian officer’s denial at Canadian border a mistake, federal government says | Toronto Star

India: BJP’s Arunachal ‘test case’ for citizenship to non-Muslims runs into rough weather | Hindustan Times

Some of the challenges of India’s diversity and pluralism:

The BJP’s “test case” for granting citizenship to non-Muslims who fled or are fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has run into rough weather in Arunachal Pradesh.

Much before the issue of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh hit turbulence in Assam in 1979, Arunachal Pradesh grappled with Chakma and Hajong refugees displaced from erstwhile East Pakistan in the 1960s.

The Narendra Modi government’s decision to grant the Chakmas and Hajongs citizenship to honour a 2015 Supreme Court directive has stoked anger in the frontier state. Several NGOs have threatened to oppose the move.

Last Saturday, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), the apex students’ body of the state, organised a consultative meeting of NGOs representing indigenous communities who fear being affected by Delhi’s decision.

“The Union home ministry took this decision despite assuring us otherwise. We vehemently oppose the move to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees,” said AAPSU president Hawa Bagang. “We called an all-party meeting, where the presence of all 60 Arunachal MLAs and the state’s three MPs is mandatory.” The meeting is scheduled within a week, he said.

The students’ body, which launched the movement against the refugees in 1990, fears citizenship would reduce indigenous tribes such as Tai-Khampti, Singpho and Mishmi to a minority, besides robbing them of beneficiary schemes.

“Unlike the Tibetan refugees, who stay in designated camps, the Chakmas and Hajongs have spread out and established settlements by encroaching upon forest areas,” Bagang said.

The population of Chakmas and Hajongs was about 5,000 when Delhi had them moved to southern Arunachal Pradesh between 1964 and 1969. Their population is now about 100,000.

The AAPSU said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be using the Chakma and Hajong refugees as a “test case for its Hindutva-centric plan to embrace non-Muslims from India’s neighbourhood, specifically Hindus from Bangladesh”.

Displaced by dam, religious persecution

Members of the Singpho tribe. Singphos and Tangsas are indigenous tribes of southern Arunachal Pradesh in whose area the Chakma and Hajong refugees were settled. (Pronib Das/HT Photo)

The Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajong refugees began trickling into India in the early 1960s via present-day Mizoram — then the Lushai Hills district of Assam — after the Kaptai dam project submerged their land in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Source: BJP’s Arunachal ‘test case’ for citizenship to non-Muslims runs into rough weather | india-news | Hindustan Times

Triple talaq: India top court reviews Islamic instant divorce – BBC News

For those enamoured by the word pluralism, one used often to describe India, this is what it can mean.

Pluralism, like multiculturalism and interculturalism, can either be ‘deep,’ with separate institutions and family law, or ‘shallow,’ where religious and other community rights are balanced against other rights such as gender.

Canadian commentators who jump upon negative foreign commentary on multiculturalism need to understand clearly that multiculturalism in Canada is based upon civic integration, with individual religious rights subject to the other fundamental freedoms and equality.

Will be interesting to see how the Indian Supreme Court rules:

India’s Supreme Court has formally opened hearings into a number of petitions challenging the controversial practice of instant divorce in Islam.

The court said it would examine whether the practice known as “triple talaq” was fundamental to the religion.

India is one of a handful of countries in the world where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in minutes by saying the word talaq (divorce) three times.

But activists say the practice is “discriminatory”.

Many Muslim groups have opposed the court’s intervention in their religious matters, although the move has the backing of the current Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The sensitive issue is being heard by a multi-faith bench made up of five judges – a Hindu, a Sikh, a Christian, a Zoroastrian and one Muslim.

The bench has combined several petitions from Muslim women and rights groups into one to examine the issue.

The opposing sides have been given three days each to argue their cases, with the court saying the hearing will end by 19 May.

A judgement is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

The Indian government has told the court that triple talaq is unconstitutional, against gender justice and the dignity of women.

Muslim organisations that support the practice say it’s an issue of faith and personal law, and the courts have no role in reviewing it.

For years now, Muslim women in India have been demanding a ban on a practice they view as reprehensible.

Campaigners say over the years, thousands of women, especially those from poor families, have been discarded by their husbands, many have been rendered destitute with nowhere to go and many have been forced to return to their parental homes or fend for themselves.

Muslims are India’s largest minority community with a population of 155 million and their marriages and divorces are governed by the Muslim personal law, ostensibly based on Sharia, or Islamic law.

The law came into force in 1937 and lays out that, in matters of personal dispute, the state shall not interfere.

Source: Triple talaq: India top court reviews Islamic instant divorce – BBC News

Multiculturalism in Sweden: an Indian’s perspective – The Local

Interesting piece by Joy Merwin Monteiro, a climate scientist, currently working as a post doc at Stockholm University [Indian multiculturalism or pluralism is “deep” with greater emphasis on communal rights]:

Why India? Well, one can provide any number of reasons, but I would prefer to make my point by way of examples from Indian history. Due to its geographical location at the centre of the Indian Ocean and its fabled wealth, India has attracted immigrants for millennia, as traders, conquerors and refugees. We have had Jewish refugee communities fleeing from Portugal and Spain, Zoroastrians fleeing the Islamisation of Iran, Buddhists (including the Dalai Lama) fleeing the annexation of Tibet and Muslimrefugees from Iran.

Communities of ChineseEast Africans and Armenians have lived in India for centuries. The above list does not even include the conquering peoples of Central Asian and Turkicorigin, followed by the more recent colonisation by European powers. In contemporary times, India has become a preferred destination for those I would term “spiritual refugees“. In terms of actual numbers, these communities may be small, but their influence in Indian society has been disproportionately large: To this day, the economic and cultural achievement of some of the communities listed above is a source of envy and respect for other Indians. Note that here I have not even considered the huge internal diversity within India, with its various communities, castes and creeds, which in itself is a daunting subject to explore.

So, do these various immigrant communities maintain their distinct identity? Yes, very proudly. Do they tend to live in areas dominated by their own kind? All the time. Do they marry outside their community? Hardly, if ever. Do they consider themselves Indians? Very much! To the Western observer, steeped in the notion of “one people, one state” – a modern notion, even in Europe: there are vineyards that predate the concept of the Nation-State by a century or two  – it must seem incredible that India can function as a modern democracy without much in terms of shared culture and values. In fact, most observers expected the Idea of India to collapse without British “stewardship”; Today, no one would dispute the fact that India is one of the most robust and politically energetic democracies to emerge from the ruins of the Second World War.

It is true however that almost all communities in India, immigrant or not, are wary of each other, and most don’t even like each other. However, they need each other to go about their daily life – most Hindus would prefer a Muslim butcher or mechanic over someone from their own community, I would bet my money on a Parsi businessman, and everyone wants to send their children to a Jesuit run school. You don’t have to like each other to respect each other; you don’t even have to respect each other to tolerate each other. If there is any such thing as a universal shared value in the hodge-podge of nations that make up India, it is tolerance. We even tolerate things that we should not – corruption, poverty and exploitation being prime examples. To my mind, these two aspects of Indian society – a dense network of interdependencies, and tolerance towards values utterly foreign to you – have not only kept us ticking, but have also provided the political stability required to build one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Joy Merwin Monteiro, the author of this opinion piece. Photo: Private

There are two ways to integrate an immigrant: The American “Melting Pot” way, where the immigrant is expected to lose her personal value system in deference to the larger national value system, however defined, or the Indian “Mosaic” way, which allows her to retain her values, which adds to the larger set of national values, while emphasising tolerance as a way towards social stability. The “Mosaic” way was probably best summarised by M K Gandhi:

“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

These are troubled times in the world. Troubled times are also revelatory, since they provide us with an opportunity to look deep within, and decide who we really are. Sweden has been exemplary in its handling of environmental and humanistic issues; I wish the Swedes all the best in their journey ahead towards becoming a truly multi-cultural society.

Source: Multiculturalism in Sweden: an Indian’s perspective – The Local