Thursday, January 07, 2010

Barbara Crossette is a computer (and she almost fails the Turing test)

That is the delightful conclusion I have drawn after having read her appalling "critique" of India in "Foreign Policy". Crossette seems to have been assigned a rather easy task fit for a search engine- trawl the internet and gather as many negative statements about India as can fit in a two page writeup. Even in this endeavor her failure seems to be laughably transparent.

Both Manasi and Nitin do excellent short work of the article so there's not much I can add. Among Crossette's most egregious transgressions are accusing India of being something of a rogue nuclear power who has not signed the NPT. Crossette blithely ignores India's impeccable non-proliferation record, its highly admirable success in the peaceful uses of atomic energy (India's thorium program has been praised by nuclear analysts worldwide) and the structural problems that have kept the NPT from being definitive and effective since its conception. And of course, with North Korea and Pakistan around, India should be a meek footnote when it comes to nuclear proliferation in South Asia. Perhaps Crossette conveniently forgets (or more probably ignores since it does not fit into her assumptions) that India has not been part of the China-North Korea-Pakistan club, members of which have regularly slapped quality control stamps on each others' missiles and bombs and in addition exported them.

Nor does Crossette's article hold even nanoliters of water when she accuses India of meddling in climate change legislation. As noted, India's emissions profile is significantly below the world average and it has made a commitment (non-binding perhaps but commitment nonetheless) to 20-25 percent reductions. Plus, India's achievements in nuclear power can have a very positive impact on reducing emissions. And of course the US is never out of practice when hypocritically preaching to the rest of the world to reduce greenhouse emissions while flying high on its own.

Crossette's criticism that India is "hardly a liberal democratic paradise" seems to be an exercise in making pithy, simplistic, misleading statements. Sure, incidents like the banning of James Laine's book on Shivaji sound discouraging, but these incidents are few and far in between compared to the big picture. In the bigger picture, India has survived probably the greatest assault of diversity, chaos and disagreement among its politicians and citizens of any country to remain a successful democracy, notwithstanding the serious flaws. The press in India is among the freest in the world (so free in fact that we have to berate journalists for being loose cannons who could endanger national security), the internet and other public forums in India are vigorously argumentative and even though taking offense to trivial things has become a fashion in our country, everyone is free in turn to take offense to taking offense and vociferously voice their opinions. One would be hard pressed to find a developing country where such robust and cantankerous debate exists amidst so much diversity and flared tempers.

Did Crossette sleep-walk through her tenure as a New York Times journalist in Delhi? Maybe it is another growing sign of the New York Times's waning days and their increasingly shoddy journalistic standards.

With such a fanfare of cherry picking and misleading statements, Crossette claims that India is the "elephant in the room". She needs to think twice if she plans to assault it with a spear, since if she does so she is almost certainly going to run straight through this invisible entity and smack her head on the wall. That should give her the "headache" which she thinks India is.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home