Jaipur, India – The Indian parliament finally debated, briefly though, an ever so urgent issue. High numbers of students leaving the country for medical education and racism on foreign land have drawn attention internally as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues. The shortage of medical doctors and nurses has come to the fore after the pandemic, as thousands of Indian students, majorly from the medical stream, get evacuated from Ukraine amid aggression from the Russian federation. Devi Shetty, a famous health entrepreneur of India, has also been raising the issue of the cost of medical education in India and a disproportionate number of professionals. In this era of threats from economic imperialism, the colonial mindset of powerful countries, warfare, and pandemics, multiple connected issues, including refugees in India, have emerged to be addressed with the strength of policies, thrust on self-sufficiency, and assurance of equality through constitutional remedies.
Fragile Society, Global Cracks
The killing of an Indian boy in Ukraine and a brief brush with real war has exposed the fragile social structure in India as well, where deserving students from the general caste struggle for their due because of reservation policies. Unrest, dis-trust, and compromises result from the monster of caste reservation in admissions and jobs both. Students, left out in the race of competitive exams, opt for small nations for higher studies as Indian private educational institutions are not affordable for middle-class families. In contrast with the new education policy of India envisioning internationalization of higher education, studies abroad are a big draw. This eats into the local economy and raises safety concerns on foreign land in a world perennially torn by ethnic clashes other than geopolitics.
On the global front, the world is witnessing deep-rooted racism and serious population migration issues that are bound to disturb the demographic calculations and harmony. Europe and America are the seedbeds of discrimination, white supremacy, and provocations for world conflicts, and UN bodies are proving to be decorative with no profound influence or contribution to peace building or solving issues at the inter-governmental levels. Participants at a recent conference on Environment and Climate by the UN confide that they were advised not to bring war issues into discussion, as that could deviate attention from the core issue of the climate crisis. Hence, there are no questions about war munitions contributing to the rise in temperatures, pollution of water and air, greenhouse gas emissions. The hypocrisies have done no good as ‘Nations’ are no longer ‘United.’ There are obvious cracks in global institutions.
Diplomacy Test, Operation ‘Ganga’
Population migration from Ukraine is expected to be more than 4 million people, the worst ever in Europe after World War II. UN agencies are also pointing to a different treatment at the border. Indians have also expressed their angst over ill-treatment while passing through the Poland border. People of African and Middle East origin were also not spared. ‘The Guardian’ reports that Europe’s swift response for Ukraine contrasts with the response for the refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.
Diplomacy is tested in wartime, as former Indian minister of external affairs Ms. Sushma Swaraj had once said. Quoting the incidence of conflict in Yemen, she had narrated how India’s friendly relations with the Saudi king and a phone call to him resulted in special arrangements for the safe passage of more than 5000 Indians mid of the war. Airport also created a safe corridor for two hours when the firing halted, as promised. Taking advantage of this, India also helped over a thousand citizens of 43 countries reach their respective countries safely. Ms. Swaraj stated that the US, Britain, Germany, and Pakistan also requested India to help their citizens, which India certainly did. This speaks of the growing trust in India because of our political leadership, she argued. In Ukraine, students also had experiences of Indians spared by the forces seeing the tricolor Indian flag in their hands or on vehicles. ‘Operation Ganga,’ a rescue operation by the Indian government, has flown Indians safely from the fierce war zone and has earned applause back home. On the other hand, the US diplomatic mission in India is strengthening cultural ties regionally. This would play a definite role in building consensus on human development, while international politics will keep us all wary about the ambitions of major powers.
Migrants and Refugees in India
An interplay of politics and weapon industry is evident in war, wounding the entire humanity. Whatever restraint is observed by aggressors can only be ascribed to digital capturing of voices and images showing tragedies and tears of civilians despite the propaganda and media censorship in the war zones.
With Indian experience of the exodus of over 10 million people, abduction and rape of over 100 thousand women during partition of India in 1947, brutality by Pakistan army on roughly 400 thousand women and religious terrorism during the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, and exile of over 70 thousand Kashmiri Hindu population in Kashmir in the 90s and genocide of over a thousand of these, the scars are alive with the massive inflow of Hindu and Sikh population from Pakistan border. Facing religious persecution since the partition, their plight and citizenship concerns deserve a permanent solution. With more than 200 thousand refugees, majorly from Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Myanmar, India can’t afford any more burden on its population. India is only utilizing this moment of history to not meddle in the affairs of warmongers of the world and abstaining with caution to warring nations to sit across tables to negotiate and end violence. It’s also time when Kashmiri Pandits living as refugees in their own country for three decades return home, and selective criticism by intellectual class in India and double standards of Western and European world is thread-bared. Amended Citizenship act to embrace migrant population face bureaucratic impediments, requiring earnest measure now. It’s time for India to categorically condemn violence globally on ethnic or religious grounds while setting its own house in order.
Dr. Shipra Mathur
Dr. Mathur is a veteran journalist based in Jaipur, India. The views expressed here are solely those of the author.