Time for India to command respect as a nation

I began my long career with the United Nations with an assignment in Kosovo in the year 2000.

Published: 30th January 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th January 2022 06:01 PM   |  A+A-

Border Security Forces all-women motorcycle team Seema Bhawani during the Republic Day Parade 2022, at Rajpath in New Delhi. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

Border Security Forces all-women motorcycle team's Seema Bhawani during the Republic Day Parade 2022, at Rajpath in New Delhi. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

I began my long career with the United Nations with an assignment in Kosovo in the year 2000. On a long, circuitous flight from New Delhi to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Throughout his powerful discourse, Malcolm uses crude racial categories of white, black, brown and yellow. Did Malcolm X preach reverse racism or merely endeavour to startle people out of their complacent mindsets?

During the drive from Skopje to Pristina sent to pick me up, I saw heaps of UN vehicles and those belonging to innumerable charitable organisations. In the following weeks, I witnessed first-hand how the UN for the first time in the recorded history of the organisation was actually governing a territory.
The United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo comprised a large multinational presence, including many Africans and Asians. Within the civilian police (or CIVPOL) were employed several hundred policemen from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Three months prior to my arrival, a chartered flight from New Delhi brought in 300 policemen from various parts of India.

During my first days in Pristina, a UN compatriot Jutta from Germany remarked to me how strange it must feel for a Kosovar, who commits, say, a traffic violation, to be descended upon by a black, brown, yellow and white assortment of nationalities. What struck me, however, was that a white population was being administered, governed, ruled by a (partly) brown, black and yellow administration. That was unusual!

The Kosovars started out with preconceived and uncomplimentary notions about Indians but gradually learned to respect them for their hard work, experience and intelligence. Scores of Indians working in the police and civil administration collectively succeeded in gaining their admiration. That overall positive impression of Indians remains intact to this day.

Indians are respected across the globe for their individual merit and excellence. The most common example circulated by innumerable WhatsApp groups is of Indians heading the world’s largest corporations, most recently Mr Parag Agrawal, CEO of Twitter. Kosovo made me realise that Indians can also be respected for their teamwork.

What follows after gaining respect for individual excellence and teamwork? During this year’s Republic Day, the thought came to my mind, that it should be wider, global respect for the Indian nation, its people and its leaders, by no means an easy task to accomplish. Neither is it unsurmountable. Just like the Kosovars, the world too has certain preconceived notions of India and Indians—and it is now time for us to start doing things that gain us sustained global respect if not acclaim amongst the community of nations.

Rajesh Talwar is a writer, lawyer and former UN official. He can be reached at rajeshtalwarr@yahoo.com


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