June 29, 2006Foreign Affairs

Lousy metaphor, Mr Raja Mohan

Caste-related generalisations are in poor taste.

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Both at home and abroad, C Raja Mohan is arguably India’s most well-known writers on foreign policy. But his op-ed in the Indian Express today comes as a rude shock.

The real problem lies in the emergence of two world views in India — speaking metaphorically — one of the “bania” and the other of the “brahmin”. The banias are revelling in India’s new prospects on the global stage; the brahmins are frightened at the likelihood of India emerging as a great power.

While the Indian businessmen are conquering markets around the world — whether in the North or in the South — the brahmins are dying to merge into the more familiar background of the talk shop called non-aligned movement.

The brahmins are afraid of strategising for India’s new role in the world. If there is any serious strategy in India it is now visible only in the boardrooms of Infosys, Tatas and the Ambanis.

The banias have rediscovered their centuries-old trans-border trading traditions and are demonstrating the depth and breadth of India’s management capital.

While the banias are focused on outcomes, such as buying up Arcelor, the armies of our nuclear experts are weighed down by the brahminical obsession with the text. [IE, via WDE]His point—that there are two rival worldviews—could well have been made without resorting to the language of divisiveness. How a national newspaper allowed such an article to appear in print is unfathomable. What is worse is that this not the first time that the Express has done this. Some months ago, Shekhar Gupta, its editor-in-chief, wrote, albeit half-in-jest, that most Indian nuclear hawks seemed to be south Indian brahmins.

Politicians have long seen foreign policy through a religious lens. The Indian Express and its pundits would do well to avoid decking foreign policy in casteist colours. Not only is the generalisation shameful, but like most such generalisations, generally incorrect.

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