How does the world outside the borders of our country, view India? What is the image that could possibly be conjuring up in the minds of people outside India, which includes Non-Resident Indians? Before we delve any further, let’s understand why this matters. A country’s image has a direct bearing on its wealth and health. The stock market, which can be considered as a fair barometer for the state of the country’s economy, tanks when the image goes down and vice-versa. The FII and FDI flows are a reflection of the confidence people have in the country’s government and economy. Tourism, which is a major attraction for foreigners and a major revenue generator, takes a hit when the environment back home is not conducive. Above all, the long-term goodwill of any country depends on its image. And, why is goodwill important? Need I answer this?
So, what prompted me to write this article? Some recent events, sadly majority of them being negative, got me thinking about the image of India. We can keep harping about ‘Incredible India’, but is it still as incredible?
A country’s image rests on three major pillars – economy, society and politics. The recent devaluation of the rupee, government’s flip-flops on FDI, unfulfilled promises made by the prime minister and the finance minister, retrospective tax and inflation, have not only shattered the economy but also made a huge dent to the common man’s pocket. The prime minister may claim that the economy is not as bad as it was in 1991, but sitting in 2013, who cares about a comparison with the state of the economy over two decades back? What matters are today and tomorrow, both of which seem equally challenging. And what would the people outside India be thinking? The fast eroding investments in India are the perfect indicators for the eroding confidence in India’s abilities and intention to reverse the downfall.
The other important pillar of any country’s stability is its government. The current state of politics of our country is as alarming as it can be. When the chief minister of a state openly challenges the prime minister of our country on its most important day, the Independence Day, does it not show India in a poor light? Another commonplace occurrence is that of parliamentary disruptions. What would the world be thinking of us when they would be seeing how callously we debate our policies, and how political mathematics determines their passage?
India is a country that boasts of family values, inclusiveness and secularism. Is this really true? It would take just one example to break the charade. How are women, who constitute almost half of the population, treated in our country? The recent spurt in cases of rape is the saddest reality of our country. An online article that has gone viral, by a student of the University of Chicago about her experience in India that says India is a great country but women should avoid being there, is such a sad reflection about us. What makes the situation worse is that many men with such perverse thinking are getting emboldened by the abysmally low rates of conviction.
The people in power, irrespective of the political party which they belong to, need to unite against people who are a threat to our society. The soft stance taken against Chinese and Pakistani incursions is another befitting example. Warnings are effective if they are followed by some action sometimes at least, if not every time. If India wants to be taken seriously, the government needs to take some stern and swift action ‘now’.
Image, reputation, goodwill, honour, fame, prestige, standing, stature, credibility, perception, esteem and respectability may be intangible assets, but we need to realize that they form the bedrock of any country. India may have arrived in many spheres, but till the three pillars of our country are shaky, the country can crumble with the slightest of shock. The world is fast shrinking and what the world outside its boundary thinks about it, has a direct bearing on the future of our country. It is high time we wake up and smell the coffee.
Goodwill is the one and only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy. Ironically, we, who should be the protectors of this invaluable asset, have turned destroyers. My head hangs in shame as I write this, but somewhere inside I know it is never too late to make amends.
(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer.)