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EDITORIALS

Unrest in Northeast
The Centre must not fail
E
VEN a month after unrest spread in Manipur over the killing of a woman, allegedly by the Assam Rifles, there is no end in sight to the crisis. Far from that, the situation has only worsened with more and more incidents of violence reported from hitherto peaceful areas.

Candles of peace
A people’s movement creates some hope
D
espite the cynicism of some people, the annual candlelight border vigil ceremony organised by the Jalandhar-based Hind-Pak Dosti Manch since 1996 on the eve of Independence Day is growing into a powerful people's movement for peace in the subcontinent. Those who come to the Wagah border to participate in the function do so of their own.



EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Jaya’s outbursts
Why blame the CAG?
T
amil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s outbursts against the state’s Accountant-General (Audit) are unwarranted. Her full-page advertisement imputing political motives against the AG for having released the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report for 2002-03 on the accounts of the state government is an act of gross impropriety, unbecoming of a Chief Minister.

ARTICLE

US options in Iraq
Exit strategy not in sight
by S. Nihal Singh
I
RAQ faces two kinds of problems: the legitimacy of the present regime and nationalist forces colliding with the occupying powers. The step-by-step scheduling of events leading to elections has been set in motion but a perceived American-sponsored interim administration does not have the moral authority to impose its fiats.

MIDDLE

Remembering a Governor
by V.K. Kapoor
L
ooking through the amber sunsets of nostalgia, I have cogent reminiscences of some people, places and events. I remember my stint as ADC to Governor Mr B.N. Chakravorty. Certain episodes stand out.

OPED

Dateline London
Do NRIs need a Minister?
In any case, Tytler is a wrong choice
by K.N. Malik
T
HE Government of India has appointed a Minister for Overseas Indians who will hold an independent charge. Most observers of diaspora affairs have not welcomed either the creation of a separate ministry or the appointment of Mr Jagdish Tytler, as Minister for Overseas Indians.

Delhi Durbar
NCW top job up for grabs
T
HE race is hotting up for the post of Chairperson of the National Commission for Women even though the slot falls vacant only in January 2005 when Poorima Advani completes her term. The talk in the Congress-led UPA is that the NCW is one of many autonomous institutions politicised by the previous NDA government with the BJP in the vanguard.

  • Told to lie low on Telengana

  • Weather effect

  • Tricolour and khadi all the way

 REFLECTIONS

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Unrest in Northeast
The Centre must not fail

EVEN a month after unrest spread in Manipur over the killing of a woman, allegedly by the Assam Rifles, there is no end in sight to the crisis. Far from that, the situation has only worsened with more and more incidents of violence reported from hitherto peaceful areas. The agitation has assumed secessionist characteristics as can be discerned from the campaign to boycott the Independence Day celebrations and “Indian goods”. There are reasons to believe that it has the patronage of insurgent groups, which found in the unnatural death of Manorama Devi, a godsend to revive their sagging spirits. Chief Minister Okram Ibobi’s attempt to win them over by withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the municipal area of Imphal has not succeeded.

The State government’s capitulation has emboldened the protestors who have been adopting highly emotional tactics like encouraging women to disrobe themselves in public and young men to self-immolate. This has whipped up passions because of the groundswell of hatred for the draconian Act. Mr Ibobi is in a helpless condition as his writ does not run in the state with even his Cabinet colleagues identifying themselves with the agitation. The Centre is yet to come out with a strategy to bring Manipur back on the rails. For understandable reasons, it allowed the Chief Minister to get away with lifting the Act from Imphal. Its original sin of not sending a senior minister to the state to nip the problem when trouble broke out in early July has been compounded by its continued failure to take the insurgent bull by the horns.

It is astonishing that despite the Congress ruling both at the Centre and in the state, there is little coordination in tackling the situation. The lifting of the Special Powers Act from Imphal has whetted the appetite of other insurgent groups in the Northeast. The bomb blast at an Independence Day function in Assam in which several innocent children were killed was intended to intimidate the state so that it goes soft on the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa). It is a warning to the Centre as well that any hesitation in restoring normalcy in the Northeast will only exacerbate the situation and make it irretrievable. Successive governments have failed in tackling the Northeast question. Dr Manmohan Singh’s government must not.
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Candles of peace
A people’s movement creates some hope

Despite the cynicism of some people, the annual candlelight border vigil ceremony organised by the Jalandhar-based Hind-Pak Dosti Manch since 1996 on the eve of Independence Day is growing into a powerful people's movement for peace in the subcontinent. Those who come to the Wagah border to participate in the function do so of their own. There is no great effort to remind the people about the function, yet those interested do not forget to reach the venue. Proof was provided by the unprecedented number of these peace enthusiasts on Saturday evening. Obviously, the symbolic lighting of candles is gaining in popularity through the word of mouth, reflecting the people's urge for friendly relations. Mr Kuldip Nayar is apparently not alone in the exercise.

The idea behind the event is to spread the message of friendship on both sides of the divide. Since the venue is far away from the zero line, it is not possible for Pakistanis to see the candlelight ceremony from across the border. But those who come to this side to participate in the function realise the significance of the growing people's movement. Such people-to-people contacts can change the very climate of distrust, forcing the two governments to resolve their disputes. When the peace constituency will grow, those controlling the levers of power are bound to take its appeal seriously in the interest of their own political survival.

The spill-over from the candlelighting apart, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Independence Day speech and the new proposals like the mobile phone connectivity that he made recently are very encouraging for the peace constituency. His commitment to carry forward the India-Pakistan dialogue process initiated by the Vajpayee government should send the right signals across the border. Pakistan has no reason to fear that the new government in India may not pursue the peace process as vigorously as was done by the NDA regime. After all, it is in the interest of stability and prosperity in South Asia. Islamabad should abandon the belief that an increased emphasis on people-to-people contacts may relegate the Kashmir question to the background. Such contacts may, in fact, help find a formula to settle the Kashmir dispute. Peace must be the top priority because there is no better alternative to it.
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Jaya’s outbursts
Why blame the CAG?

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s outbursts against the state’s Accountant-General (Audit) are unwarranted. Her full-page advertisement imputing political motives against the AG for having released the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report for 2002-03 on the accounts of the state government is an act of gross impropriety, unbecoming of a Chief Minister. The CAG is a constitutional functionary and neither he nor his AGs need to learn lessons from her on how to go about their work. The CAG may have sought a report from the AG on Ms Jayalalithaa’s complaint against him. But the AG’s press meet was in pursuance of a CAG circular to all the AGs to brief the media about reports placed in all the State Assemblies. Reports suggest that the AGs concerned of other states had organised similar media briefings earlier. Moreover, the CAG’s report is not a confidential document. Nor is it the sole property of the State Assembly. Once a report is tabled on the House, it becomes a public document and hence, objections to its release before discussion by the Public Accounts Committee are not sound.

Obviously, Ms Jayalalithaa’s criticism of the AG is out of pique. The state’s finances are in a terrible mess. Without realising that her government will be left with a deficit of over Rs 7,000 crore, she rolled back several measures recently. Her malicious campaign against the AG and Dr Manmohan Singh’s government is an attempt to divert public attention from her government’s own failures on the financial front. Far worse is the Chief Minister’s veiled threat of moving a privilege motion against the AG in the State Assembly. She would do well to refrain from pursuing such a collision course. Chief Ministers should not, directly or indirectly, try to denigrate the AG. If they do, as Ms Jayalalithaa has done, they will not only disturb the delicate federal equilibrium but also bring their own institutions into disrepute.
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Thought for the day

Enough of blood and tears. Enough.

— Yitzhak Rabin
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US options in Iraq
Exit strategy not in sight
by S. Nihal Singh

IRAQ faces two kinds of problems: the legitimacy of the present regime and nationalist forces colliding with the occupying powers. The step-by-step scheduling of events leading to elections has been set in motion but a perceived American-sponsored interim administration does not have the moral authority to impose its fiats. At the same time, fiery young Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has taken over the mantle of revolt because the acknowledged leader, Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani, observed silence in seeking to influence events behind the scenes while popular frustrations with lack of security and unemployment grew. His absence from the holy city of Najaf for treatment in London during the face-off between Al-Sadr and American troops is a strange comment on his leadership qualities.

It is a chicken and egg argument. The presence of American occupying forces, a year after the invasion is a provocation for nationalist forces, and the continuing and growing lawlessness makes the withdrawal of foreign troops that much more difficult. Regrettably, the United Nations is not impartial in Iraqi eyes because of the long years of sanctions and deprivation carried out in its name and its perceived bias in blessing an essentially American cast of characters as interim rulers.

Prime Minister Allawi and his team are running a race against time. He must demonstrate his independence from American overlords while he is beholden to the immense US establishment for his job. It is no secret that the Iraqi administration does not exercise sovereign authority in the true sense. He could have claimed some goodwill by giving the people security and jobs. Being helpless in achieving these objectives, he cannot win friends and influence people.

Estimates of the duration of the stay of American troops vary from one year to several years. The Democratic challenger to President George W. Bush, Mr John Kerry, is trying to gain electoral advantage by seeking a deadline for the troops’ return but no “exit strategy” is being seriously considered. Television cameras have been barred from recording the return of American soldiers in flag-draped coffins and the body counts are not high enough to invite a popular revolt in home constituencies.

Traditionally, the so-called Sunni triangle in central Iraq has been the hotbed of revolt against the American occupation. Indeed, the Sunnis have lost the most after Saddam Hussein’s downfall by being displaced from their long-time perch of the ruling establishment. But the revolt of the Shias in the form of Al-Sadr is harder to stomach because they are in the majority and the inevitable beneficiaries of a future, Saddam-banished, dispensation.

Despite the three main divisions in Iraq among the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, Americans have persistently underestimated the pull of nationalism, a significant contribution of Saddam Hussein. Iraqis are a proud people who cannot but chafe at the presence of occupation troops. And Americans have discovered the limitations of using Iraqi police and troops in policing roles to maintain security. Here again, nationalism comes to the fore, whatever the spin Americans put on it.

Although the Arab League has given a measure of legitimacy to the Iraqi interim dispensation, the organisation’s own credibility is in doubt, given its record. Some governments are in hock to Washington; others are concerned over the fall-out of Iraq developments on their own fortunes. Arab League meetings, therefore, often end up in rhetorical flourishes camouflaging the lack of choices its members have in going against American wishes.

Thus far, Americans have found no answer to these vexing questions. The Bush administration has given up promoting democracy in West Asia as an immediate goal. Rather, its urgent business is to smoothen the evacuation of the bulk of its forces while retaining permanent American bases to pursue its national interests in which issues of oil and security are inextricably mixed. Any major new initiative is on hold until after the US presidential election in November.

Meanwhile, the resistance in Iraq has escalated the cost of the occupation by undertaking kidnappings of selected foreign nationals to blackmail their governments to withdraw troops if they have them or dissuade companies from helping ferry essential equipment and food to American troops. The most striking success has been with the Philippines, which made haste to withdraw its tiny contingent to save the life of a kidnapped Filipino driver. In a situation as chaotic as in Iraq, freelance militants have got into the act for individual profit; the three kidnapped Indians are probably being held by such a group.

For Iraq and much of the world, the important question is how the Iraq issue will be sorted out and how long it will take. Americans will go through the motions of helping install some kind of an elected government. As this process nears completion, divisions within the Shia and Sunni ranks will grow because a formally elected government — whatever its credibility — will be more than an interim arrangement. The Kurds will rebel only if they lose their de facto independence nurtured through more than 12 years of American policing of the skies. In this respect, they are the natural allies of the United States.

American options are narrowing as developments underline the folly of their Iraq misadventure. Public discussion of troop withdrawals could prove embarrassing although it is hard to believe that private exercises are not being conducted to devise an “exit strategy”. The United States has been less than successful in getting NATO to help out with troops in view of the opposition of France to the organisation’s co-option in a war it vehemently opposed. Regime change in Spain meant its troops’ withdrawal, leading to the return home of troops of Latin American countries. Japan and South Korea have persevered in sending troops to Iraq to serve their interests vis-à-vis North Korea and ensuring the retention of the American military umbrella.

It is a telling comment on the state of play in Iraq that the UN Security Council passed a resolution to extend the UN mandate for Iraq for another year without discussion even though it has not been able to have an effective presence following the destruction of its Baghdad headquarters and the death of 22 UN personnel. Security concerns, which have slowed down the reconstruction process considerably, are inhibiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s desire to help Americans out of the Iraq quagmire.
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Remembering a Governor
by V.K. Kapoor

Looking through the amber sunsets of nostalgia, I have cogent reminiscences of some people, places and events. I remember my stint as ADC to Governor Mr B.N. Chakravorty. Certain episodes stand out.

Mrs. Indira Gandhi was on her way to Shimla for a conference with Mr ZA Bhutto. On landing at Chandigarh she was informed by the IAF that her helicopter can’t take off due to bad weather and she’ll have to wait for 3-4 hours. The Governor persuaded her to come to Raj Bhavan for a cup of tea. On the way to Raj Bhavan Mr Chakravorty related to Mrs Gandhi when Bhutto had used the expression “Indian Dogs” in the UN. Mr Chakravorty was then India’s permanent representative to the UN. Mr Chakravorty recounted that Mr Bhutto had conveniently forgotten that he had an Indian “Hindu” mother. And by using this expression he had qualified himself to what the Americans gleefully call ‘S O B’. Mrs Gandhi clapped her hands and laughed heartily.

Next day we were again at the airport, this time to receive Mr Bhutto. The PIA plane landed. Mr Bhutto emerged wearing a stylish double breasted suit. He was media-genic. He immediately recognised Mr Chakravorty and greeted him warmly. For some time they talked about their old common friends. He was accompanied by his young teenage daughter whom he addressed as “Pinky” and introduced as Benazir to Mr Chakravorty.

As Mr Bhutto moved along the line meeting other dignitaries, Benazir talked to Mr Chakravorty about her education plans in the UK.

Many years later when I went to Lahore I heard another story about Bhutto. Bhutto’s mother Nirmala, a Hindu dancing girl, who became Khurshid after marrying Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, was extremely worried about her very sick child’s survival. She asked a Hindu astrologer to cast Bhutto’s horoscope. The astrologer after reading the horoscope told her that for the coming 50 years there was lot of brightness and sunshine but after that there was complete darkness. The relieved mother remarked that she would not be around after 50 years. After 50 years General Zia-ul-Haq put Bhutto in a dark cell from where he never came out.

I remember Mrs Margaret Thatcher, MP coming and staying at Raj Bhavan. She had known Mr Chakravorty when he was High Commissioner in the UK. The Governor asked me to show “Maggie” around Chandigarh. I still have a nice photograph with Mrs Thatcher “under the tree” at the entrance of Sukhna Lake. She was vivacious, witty and sparklingly charming.

A large galaxy of celebrities came and stayed with the Governor. Among them was the famous economist couple Gunnar Myrdal and his wife, both Nobel Laureates.

My relationship with the family continued after my stint was over. After 18 years of his death I was invited to attend the wedding of his maternal grandson. The boy’s father was then the Attorney General of India. Mr Chakravorty’s son had settled in the US and had come to India for his nephew’s wedding. Next day I was again called by his son and was handed a packet. I was told that it was Mr Chakravorty’s personal revolver and he had willed it to me. I was overwhelmed and protested. Both the brother and sister insisted that I must accept it because “Baba” had put it in his will.

It is a remembrance of the happy times of my lost youth. They were different times, they were different people.
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Dateline London
Do NRIs need a Minister?
In any case, Tytler is a wrong choice
by K.N. Malik


Delegates at the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi last year
Delegates at the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi last year

THE Government of India has appointed a Minister for Overseas Indians who will hold an independent charge. Most observers of diaspora affairs have not welcomed either the creation of a separate ministry or the appointment of Mr Jagdish Tytler, as Minister for Overseas Indians.

There is already an NRI/PIO cell in the External Affairs Ministry, which is headed by a secretary in the ministry. The same could have been placed under a minister in the Foreign Ministry.

An independent ministry will not be able to look after the interests of overseas Indians. At a time when the Expenditure Commission has suggested cut in government spending, the new ministry will not be able to open overseas offices. Nor will it ever get the required cooperation from the Foreign office. If the idea of appointing a minister, with an independent charge was simply to accommodate an individual, he could have been given some other ministry.

Even otherwise, Mr Tytler is a controversial choice as heading a ministry for overseas Indians, especially since he was linked to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Punjabi Sikh, should have known that such a person’s appointment would be challenged by a large and influential sections of Indian communities in many a country. In fact, Sikhs in the US have already said that Mr Tytler would be met with black flag demonstrations , if he ever visited the US.

At a time when the Sikh communities across the US are in a vulnerable position after the 9/11 attack, one questions the need to provide even the slightest of provocation.

One of the reasons that the Government of India started attaching importance to overseas Indians was the urgent need to assuage the hurt feelings of the Sikhs living abroad, following the attack on the Golden Temple, the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, and the anti-Sikh riots that followed killing hundreds in the mid-1980s.

Taking advantage of their deep hurt, some anti-Indian forces, especially from Pakistan, linked with pro-Khalistani elements, successfully unleashed anti- India propaganda in foreign countries, especially in the US, the UK and Canada, where there are large concentration of Sikhs. Statements condemning India on grounds of human rights violations and “genocide of Sikhs” started emanating from congressmen and senators in the US and parliamentarians in Canada and the UK. Resolutions were tabled urging the governments to cut aid to India.

Anti-India demonstrations became a regular feature outside Indian missions, especially on occasions such as Republic Day and Independence Day. Hardly any respectable member of the Sikh communities could be seen at receptions at our diplomatic missions.

The government, therefore, felt an urgent need to bring back these estranged communities into the national mainstream. Hence renewed efforts to woo the Indian communities, particularly Sikhs, by Indian missions, appointment of minister, especially charged with community relations, in important foreign missions and even appointment of lobbying firms. Starting with celebration of Sikh religious festivals, today the UK and US Indian missions officially celebrate, at least one festival connected with most religions in India.

There were of course other reasons for courting overseas Indians. These included wooing their remittances and investment to meet scarcity of foreign exchange resources.

It was to the credit of the previous government that it created a separate department for NRIs-PIOs in the Ministry of External affairs, setup a Diaspora Committee and its report was given the highest priority. A PIO card was issued to PIOs and later a legislation was passed to accord dual nationality (without the right to vote) to overseas Indians living in select countries. It also appointed an Ambassador for NRIs and PIOs.

The previous government’s policy was generally welcomed by the Indian diaspora. There were, however some aspects, which came in for criticism, though more at home than abroad. First, the policy was criticised for giving dual nationality, but without voting rights, to overseas Indians. Second, it was criticised for according dual nationality to overseas Indians living only in a handful of developed countries thus ignoring the interests of a major part of the Indian diaspora. It especially ignored interests of those whose forefathers had left India to serve as indentured labour in erstwhile British colonies and the Gulf Indians from whose remittances India benefited the most. Third, it was criticised for creating the post of an Ambassador for NRIs and PIOs, both the place he was based and the choice of an incumbent.

It is true that the government bungled the manner in which it decided to issue PIO card. The step was taken in a hurry. The fee fixed was too high. When there were no takers for the card, the government apologists tried to exhort PIOs patriotism. One thousand dollar was not a high cost for getting the card which allows PIOs all facilities which the non-resident Indians enjoyed, officials said. Then why fix a term of five or ten years for the card? It was cheaper to get ordinary visa than to get PIO card for the same duration. Later the fee was reduced. Still there were hardly any takers for the card.

The government’s argument that it decided to accord dual citizenship in only those countries which accepted the principal of dual nationality did not convince its critics. After pressure from some quarters, the government expanded the list of countries where the overseas Indians would be entitled for dual nationality.

Most of the diaspora living in old British colonies in any way did not favour dual nationality. Acceptance of dual nationality would have thrown them open to a charge of split loyalty. It would have become hindrance rather a help for succeeding in the murky politics in those colonies.

No Gulf country allows citizenship for expatriate workers. Since they retain their nationality where is the question of according them dual nationality? They have a different set of problems, which needs to be urgently and humanely addressed. It is true that they are a major source of remittances and investment. More than that no democratic country, and in the age of globalised media, could ignore them. This was amply demonstrated by the case of three Indian truck drivers which have been held hostage in Iraq

As for the Ambassador for NRIs and PIOs, the office has now been disbanded. And it is a welcome step.
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Delhi Durbar
NCW top job up for grabs

THE race is hotting up for the post of Chairperson of the National Commission for Women even though the slot falls vacant only in January 2005 when Poorima Advani completes her term. The talk in the Congress-led UPA is that the NCW is one of many autonomous institutions politicised by the previous NDA government with the BJP in the vanguard. Will the Congress and its allies in the UPA adopt a similar pattern? The common refrain is that Ms Advani tried to bolster the BJP’s Hindutva agenda and the NCW virtually remained mum in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots despite large scale atrocities against women. The question doing the rounds is will the government of the day revert to the earlier practice of appointing an apolitical person. The names being talked about to succeed Ms Advani as the NCW chief are Ranjana Kumari, an avid campaigner of women’s rights and issues and Brinda Karat of the CPM who heads the All-India Democratic Women’s Association.

Told to lie low on Telengana

Despite the discomfort in the Congress, TRS chief and Union Minister without portfolio K Chandrashkhar Rao is continuously harping on carving out a new state of Telengana in Andhra Pradesh. Just recently when Rao and AP chief minister Y S Rajashekhar Reddy met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a delegation to reiterate their demand for Telengana, she sidestepped the issue. Instead she advised the leaders from A P to work intensively in their constituencies so that the TDP and former Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu don’t make a comeback.

There is unease on the formation of new states as the Congress has stressed this matter must first be discussed in its entirety by the States Reorganising Committee. But Rao remains unfazed and continues to bash on regardless that Telengana will be formed in the last quarter of this year.

He believes that Sonia Gandhi is going to reward him with Telengana for sacrificing the shipping portfolio in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet. Now a bird tells us that the Congress leadership has impressed upon Rao to take a back seat on the Telengana issue for some time.

Weather effect

One of the most harassed men in the national capital was the DG of meteorology S K Srivastav. The prediction of the met office in early July on the onset of monsoon in North India went for a toss. That led to inevitable panic as the monsoon played a key part in agriculture and the country’s economy. That put intense pressure on the met office with high profile callers expecting the met office to bring about rain. It had its adverse impact with Srivastav falling ill in the second week of July.

Tricolour and khadi all the way

Independence Day is one occasion for citizens to assert their patriotism and love for the nation. It is, therefore, not surprising to find street urchins selling the tri-colour at traffic intersections. Several showrooms in Connaught Place have given the tri-colour its pride of place in the window or the counter. Anybody passing by cannot miss the window of the Khadi showroom which has been dressed up in the colours of the national flag to match the mood of Independence Day. The window designer has picked up orange, white and green fabric along with cutouts of handmade paper on the glass to convey the theme of I-Day.

Contributed by Satish Misra, Tripti Nath and Gaurav Choudhury
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First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

— Mahatma Gandhi

We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.

— Albert Einstein

Nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.

— Mark Twain

India has left indelible imprints on one-fourth of the human race in the course of a long succession of centuries. She has the right to reclaim ... her place amongst the great nations summarising and symbolising the spirit of humanity. From Persia to the Chinese sea, from the icy regions of Siberia to Islands of Java and Borneo, India has propagated her beliefs, her tales, and her civilisation.

— Sylvia Levi
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