A complicated cocktail of disdain and familiarity
Over on my substack Joining the Dots, my former BBC colleague Henri Astier offered a sharp and insightful riposte to my earlier piece on India’s pointedly big yawn at Charles’ big moment.
“From this ‘don’t-mention-the-coronation’ mentality,” Henri wrote, “I conclude that Indian nationalists are still obsessed with the Raj. If they were truly over it, they would not make a point of ignoring these ceremonial vestiges of empire.”
It’s hard to disagree. We all know that indifference is always more hurtful than hatred, so why isn’t India schooling itself to ignore Britain? More to the point, why isn’t it automatically attuned to ignoring its former colonial master?
Considering that India now meets Britain as an equal (or possibly, as the rhetoric goes, as superior to the old coloniser) why are Indians not more blasé about ol Blighty? Or, to use the idea advanced by writer, former diplomat and politician Shashi Tharoor, Indians “don’t need to seek revenge upon history. History is its own revenge”. It has to be galling for Britain that the Indian economy has overtaken it and that it is India that’s being wooed by the US as a geopolitical weight?
And conversely, why should India care overmuch about Britain?
To be honest, I don’t think it does. India’s attitude towards Britain is, if anything, a complicated cocktail of disdain and familiarity. There isn’t much expectation of anything to be gained by the relationship other than the faint chance one might guilt trip the British into
- easing visa requirements (though not really)
- Returning the Kohinoor (one can but hope)
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