What the just concluded Beijing Winter Olympics tells us about China and the great Indian complacency


I have been a defender of India for three decades. In thousands of articles, numerous books and videos, I have been telling my country of origin, France, and the West in general, that India — not China — is the country of the future, and that the French should invest there, not only economically, but also in a geopolitical manner. For, India — a vibrant democracy — is at the crossroads of many extremisms: From Islamic fundamentalism, born in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or even Indonesia, to Muslim hegemonism which wants to dominate the world.

In the same way, I have been for three decades an enemy of China, a communist dictatorship, which killed nearly one million Tibetans, and millions of its own Chinese, through Mao Zedong’s violent, bloody, and megalomaniac Cultural Revolution. I have also repeatedly said that India has a good karma because it never invaded other countries, except peacefully, as Angkor Vat is a testimony of, and never sought to impose Hinduism by the force of its armies like Christianity and Islam did. And that China’s bad karma would soon catch up with that country.

I have been an avid skier, and I’m watching on television the Beijing Winter Olympic Games which just got over on Sunday. I marvel at the flawless, impeccable, and dazzling way they are conducted, by a nation that knew nothing about winter sports 20 years ago. Even if there must have been a lot of Western support and know-how brought in, it requires immense technological, electronic software, and practical skills to conduct them in this way.

The lattice-shaped "Bird's Nest" stadium took centre stage, just as it did at the 2008 Games— seen as China's coming-out party on the world stage— as Beijing becomes the first city to host both a Summer and Winter Olympics. AP

In contrast, India has a background in skiing, whether at Gulmarg in Kashmir or Auli in Uttarakhand. Yet, I wonder why there is no promotion of that sport in India, whereas Xi Jinping wants 300 million Chinese kids to ski by 2025, and has invested billions of dollars in skiing facilities and even artificial skiing resorts.

Then, coming home, I see Indian political leaders on television: they look so happy with themselves, so complacent and self-satisfied… Where is the drive, where is the ambition, where is the hard, unwavering will to project India in the 21st century as a superpower, economically, politically, militarily, and even sports-wise? We see that China, even amid COVID-19, has started producing full stream, and is flooding the world with goods of quality. But does India produce any laptop, any mobile, any hardware electronic, like computer chips, air conditioner, fridge, or airplane (like Brazil) of international quality?

Yet, Indian politicians still look very happy with themselves. The Indian 2022 Budget has been feted everywhere — I am not an economist, but it seems to me that there are many grey areas. Where is all the money going to come from for all the subsidies which are doled out to nearly everyone? From borrowing? From more borrowing?

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents the Budget in Parliament. ANI

The media is not asking the right questions: Why do middle-class and upper-class Indians still send their children to American, English, or Canadian universities after 75 years of Independence? Why do these young eventually settle in the US or elsewhere and never come back, the greatest brain drain in the world? Why do the very few NRIs who want to come back and invest in India return to the US, because they find it so difficult to do business in their own country?

The Chinese President laid a golden carpet for the Chinese Americans, even if they were Christians, to bring back their skills into mainland China and invest there. But we see here in India that so many restrictions have been put on the OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India), that the Indian government has even stopped issuing five-year visas, and is applying a Nehruvian suspicion-first policy towards Westerners wanting to work in India.

Coming back to sports, cricket has stifled all other sports, and eleven spoiled brats hog the limelight, the media attention, the corporate sponsorship, travel first class, stay in five-stars, earn crores of rupees, while track and field athletes, hockey players, or footballers have to rough it out. Why is India so obsessed with cricket, a colonial sport, whatever its values, and neglect other sports like skiing?

People will say that I’m negative, but I am a lover of India. I want India to succeed, I want India to overtake China because Indians are better people, more tolerant, more open, more spiritualised. But looking at the Beijing Winter Olympics, I have my doubts.

Sri Aurobindo says that in the hour of God when the breath of the Divine is upon a country, progress can be made in a few years that usually would take centuries. It is my belief that this is the golden moment for India. It indeed started with a bang, and we saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi showcasing his far-reaching vision and dynamism needed to make transformations that bode well for the future. But Delhi is a golden jail that was made by the British for their own glory, far away from the rest of India, so imbued with its own taste of power — and the BJP seems to have settled in these VVIP shackles as the Congress did before.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

We need to get rid of this complacency, and, like the Chinese, but with an added inner quest and loftiness that was set by the rishis and so many contemporary saints like Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo, and embark upon an ambitious, but also ruthless, non-Gandhian drive to project India as a superpower. We may look not only towards President Xi, who has fashioned China into a superpower in sports and otherwise, but also towards President Vladimir Putin, who is hated by the West, but loved and respected by Russians themselves because he thinks about Russia first. It’s time for India to wake up and make up for the lost years.

The author is a French journalist and author of A History of India as It Happened (Garudabooks.com). He is also building a museum of true Indian history in Pune. Views expressed are personal.

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What the just concluded Beijing Winter Olympics tells us about China and the great Indian complacency
What the just concluded Beijing Winter Olympics tells us about China and the great Indian complacency
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