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Such a long journey, but India is getting there

Today, an economic superpower, an Information Technology giant and a custodian of nuclear capability, it has been such a long journey for India.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2008 20:47 IST

The beautifully decorated floats from the states, the exuberant contingents, the heart-stopping acrobatics of several army units, joyous schoolchildren and, of course, the military might of the Indian state. All this will make its way down Rajpath today, 59 years after President Rajendra Prasad declared India a Republic. The pageant was a validation every year that we would get by despite all our crushing problems of poverty, backwardness, social divisions and threats from beyond our borders. Many wrote off the great Indian democratic experiment but India has surprised all its detractors.

Today, an economic superpower, an Information Technology giant and a custodian of nuclear capability, it has been such a long journey. So, don’t we need to reinvent our parade to reflect the changing paradigm of India? It is no one’s contention that we do not showcase our achievements, we must. But given the overwhelming security, how inclusive is this parade when it comes to the very people it is meant for? And do we really need, like some totalitarian State, to display our military hardware to convince the nation that it is in safe hands?

Such a spectacle would be more at home in the erstwhile Soviet Union where it was very necessary for the state to show the people that it called the shots. The father of our nation once said, “Strength comes not from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” And India has shown it has plenty of that. Witness the number of powerful leaders who have dropped by in recent times — one of them, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the guest at this Republic Day celebrations — and it is clear that India’s time in the sun has come. Simply put, our achievements speak for themselves, we no longer need to convince anyone that we matter, least of all with tanks and missiles. Gone are the times when investors steered clear of India and made a beeline for the Southeast Asian tigers. Today, our stock markets can take a beating of millions of dollars and still dust themselves off the next day and get back to business. India no longer hyperventilates about foreigners coming to take over Indian business but is today aggressively taking on the best of them on their own turf. This is not to say that enormous disparities don’t remain. But if from being an economic basketcase a few decades ago, we could pull ourselves by our bootstraps, surely it can be done in the problem areas as well.

So, let Republic Day be one of rejoicing where people can let their spirits run free. Let it not be one of regimented festivity and, most certainly, let our military prowess not be the centrepiece. The tryst with destiny that our first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru envisaged at the birth of our nation is still a way off. But the good news is that we are getting there.