TECH TALK: The New Quit India Movement

My Tech Talks on Rethinking Enterprise Software will continue tomorrow. Today, however, I want to write on something that has been bothering me about the reporting that has been going on in Western media about the sub-continent. 12 million people may be killed in nuclear exchange, American and British citizens asked to leave India and Pakistan, US makes plans to evacuate its citizens in India scream the headlines. The exodus is beginning. The only people that seemed to be concerned about a nuclear war are the ones who wont even be impacted. The ones living in the cauldron go about living their life as normally as life in India (or for that matter, Pakistan) can be.

This is not to say that there is no danger of confrontation. Or that cross-border terrorism isnt an issue. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost in Kashmir over the past decade. A million soldiers eyeballing each other across the border is not a joke. When revenge becomes the primary motive for fighting, reason and rationality can easily take a backseat. India and Pakistan have little to gain from a war except that the politicians and generals can consolidate power.

So far, India has been remarkably patient. A person I was speaking to had a very interesting point to make: India will not start the war. Historically, India has always been a defender, never an offender. But, patience has its limits and another incident in Kashmir or Delhi may just push matters over the brink. Indias strategy has succeeded to the extent that suddenly the world has woken up to what was happening in South Asia and every major leader has an opinion on the matter. The Empire of today (US) is also sending its emissaries to the region after the Empire of yesterday (Britain) failed in its efforts.

Take a look at daily life in India. There is no panic. There is plenty of discussion, yes. Life is as normal as it has been. No ones stockpiling rations, no ones packing bags to Quit India — not even the ones who have the choice of living anywhere in the world. Life, business, entertainment, the daily struggles they all go on. By living in India or Pakistan, we all accept certain risks. The risk of extinction through nuclear war is certainly not any more at this point than it has been in the past.

Amidst all this, what has gone off the boil is the hysteria that is being created outside the region. South Asia is not a war zone. Every country has the right to fear for the safety of its citizens and protect them. Asking their citizens to leave is going too far. India and Pakistan did not ask their citizens to Quit US after 9/11.

For a world that anyway watches the sub-continent through blinkered eyes, this sensationalising of the situation should have been expected. So, also, the reporting in the media which makes Indian and Pakistani leaders to be madmen with their fingers on the nuclear trigger. Lets not forget that the only nation in the history of civilisation to have used nuclear weapons remains the US. It is fashionable for the world, especially the Western media, to exaggerate matters beyond what the ground realities are, especially in emerging markets far far away from their lands.

South Asia may not still be as tightly integrated into the global economic world, so a few thousand foreigners leaving may not make much of a difference. But over time, the loss of business confidence will do more harm to the region than any good which comes from getting attention. This is what Vajpayee and Musharraf need to realise. The game today is improving quality of life and living standards for our people. The sooner we get to that, the better.

I am not a journalist, I am an entrepreneur. I believe that emerging markets like India have a great opportunity in the coming years to use new technologies to make their countries Great, like they once were. Indias and Pakistans future lies in using our skills in technology not in flaming the Kashmir Valley, but in fanning the next Silicon Valley. The coming discontinuities in technology driven by innovations like Web Services, Weblogs and WiFi offer an opportunity to leapfrog. [I wrote a Tech Talk series on Indias Next Decade recently.]

Let us wage a war not on each others people, but on poverty and corruption. Let us fight not to gain land, but to increase our exports. Let us battle not for the bottom but for the top of the economic pyramid. The world of tomorrow has plenty of opportunities to create wealth for our people. Let us apply our intelligence to not outwit each other in games of war strategy but in games of technology monopoly.

The emerging markets of the world offer a market of 4 billion people like the ones that live in India and Pakistan. Our people hold the answers to creating the next huge markets, not building graveyards. Let us use this Quit India (and Pakistan) movement to our advantage. The solutions to our problems are not going to come by looking Westward, but looking Eastward and Inward. It is time to show the world that Hum Kisise Kum Nahin.

Tomorrow: Rethinking Enterprise Software (continued)

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.