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Global Indians and their discomfort with nationalism?

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Sunil Mishra
Sunil Mishra
Sunil is author of 3 books.

Wall Street Journal in their Indian edition used to publish one column – “Global Indian”. The column was guest articles from the Indians settled abroad. The articles were an interesting read about their experience in a foreign country, learning and assimilation in many cases. Most readers however differed (as per the comments) in the characterization and the title of the column itself. Should there anything be called as “Global Indian”? One is either an Indian or an American or British or any other nationality. Is there anything like “global American” or “global British” for that matter? The underlying theme from the editor was that the national boundaries are breaking to create single melting pot of global culture and a new way of life. The global Indians, the authors argued, were at the vantage point of this transformation. The common view in most of those writings were that they ‘enjoyed best of the both worlds’.

The fallacy of Indian by heart (Dil hai Hindustani)?

Many of our friends, I am sure go through the difficult thought process when they adopt a different nationality. Though technically it is only a change of passport or oath of allegiance to a new country, it is adopting a completely new way of life. What comes to their rescue is the thought of “best of the both world” and perhaps more respected stature of “global Indian”. This thinking has persisted for long enough that we have a large Indian diaspora. Even a small population of rich and upwardly mobile in India who could afford permanent residency in US or UK have done so, for themselves and their kids. There is nothing wrong in people aspiring to change their nationality or residential status, it has brought more glory and fortune to the country. But once they have quit a nation, they should just move on and not get entangled in the “best of the two world” fallacy.

Is there anything like “loyalty to one’s country”?

According to the newspaper reports the RBI governor was less affected by the criticism on his approach on key issues like “interest rate change”. Even if the allegations were true, it was more of a performance and efficiency issue. The RBI governor was more perturbed by attack on him for “not being fully Indian” and “working for western audience”. This is more grave and damaging because it raises the “loyalty to your nation” and hence integrity issue. He needed the government to defend this aspect before he offered to withdraw his nomination. /liberal values have reduced national ideologies, globalization has increased mobility but national loyalties are still singular. Is it not a conflicted role in that case – being the head of a key government institution in India while aspiring or adopting a new nationality? The build-up of Rexit fear was also a realization that such global Indians are no longer the favorites for public institutions that need some national loyalties. It was a perceived loss of power for many and hence the anxiety in media and Indian elites. Some of them openly contested that the residency and national loyalties should not be pre-condition to the top government jobs.

Nation states are at the right level of aggregation where a sense of co-operation and competition can be sustained in the most harmonious way. If we go one level below nation, it breaks down to communities that are fractious; if we go a level above to global super-states, it ends up destroying the unique ways of life to one monolithic/liberal value system. The globalization is definitely essential and will help the world with easy movement of people and services. However, it can’t transcend the nation states without being challenged severely. Brexit is an example that beyond a limit people don’t agree with dilution of national identities. Everyone needs one country to relate to, not more not less. No one could ever be a global citizen because there is no such thing – similarly there is nothing like a global Indian.

Role models of success?

The successful globalization run in the past has given rise to corporations that have made the national boundaries look irrelevant and sometime regressive. Many of these large corporations have some national identities, they are somewhat global. Many of these corporations are being run by Indians who are the celebrated role models of success in a global setup. They are the role models as global Indians, many believe. Their corporations have grown more powerful than the sovereign governments and have started influencing the country policies as well. The success of these roles gave them the legitimacy and privilege to make the nationalities look frivolous. The broadside on RBI governor was one off exception to this elitist line of thinking.

So definitely such global Indians would not be comfortable with rising nationalism, in India or in their adopted land. Looking at the recent events world over, however this seems to be the emerging trend. Globalization in it’s current form itself is under threat; it has to re-discover itself. Nationalities have started to feature more frequently in the mainstream discussions everywhere. This is where the global Indians will find themselves at the crossroads – they will have to choose and can’t continue with the “best of the two worlds” option.

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Sunil Mishra
Sunil Mishra
Sunil is author of 3 books.
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