Monday, March 18, 2013

But didn't we know all along that Italians were more equal than us?

Italy is India's made-for-each-other soulmate. The similarities between the two countries are amazing. Rome, like Mumbai, is home to gifted pickpockets. Italians, like Indians, are chaotic, break traffic rules with pride and always shout at the other fellow for bad driving. Cops become as forgiving as their Indian counterparts at the sight of money.

Corruption is the insignia of both countries, recognised as a universal phenomenon and therefore as highly desirable. Italian politicians, as abominable as their Indian brethren, abuse power with a sense of achievement, divert public funds to private purpose, promote crony capitalists and do business with the mafia. Tax evasion is practised in both countries as a birth right. Even bunga bunga is a cherished political pastime in India as in Italy, though Indian politicians are yet to develop Silvio Berlusconi's public machismo about it.

Such umbilical links eliminate differences between Indian and Italian politics. Both are impressively degenerate. Indian and Italian politicians are of the same stock, the same cultural traits, the same worldview. That must be why The Economist once described Sonia Gandhi as "Italy's most successful politician".

What a pity there is an explosion of public anger now in India against Italy's refusal to send its killer marines back to India as pledged to the Supreme Court. All that Italy did was to make a fool of the court, run rings round the Indian Government and generally tell India to go to hell. What's that between made-for-each-other friends?

Actually, "friends, Romans and countrymen" can argue that they have been helping Delhi. For the Sonia-Manmohan Government, surviving scandals has been a fulltime occupation. It would have floundered but for the fact that each time a scandal looked close to devouring it, another came up and gave it breathing time.

Parliament convened this time with P.J.Kurien's woman-related scandal raging high. Does anyone remember it now? It was neutralised by the Italian helicopter scandal. When that began to damage the Government, the CAG's "coalgate" report opened an escape latch. The CAG report was a nasty one revealing massive corruption. But in the nick of time the Italians again came to the Government's rescue with its decision to tell the Supreme Court to go fly a kite.

This time the Government can try to ease its way by empathising with the angry public and leaving half the job to the Supreme Court. But can it, really and truly, get away this time? Its track record is one of kneeling before the West in critical moments. Remember, the only issue on which Manmohan Singh acted with firmness was the US civil nuclear agreement -- which gave the US what it wanted. More injurious to India's health is the latest Delhi decision to bow to America and stop crude oil imports from Iran despite contracts that are long-term. By contrast, Pakistan which is a virtual US dependency defied America and formally inaugurated the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project a few days ago. Iran will now help build a refinery in Gwadar port already under Chinese management. The all-round benefit to Pakistan will be huge.

Economic interests apart, India has swallowed its pride when white men turned offenders even in criminal acts. The Government provided state facilities for the Bhopal gas-leak culprit Anderson to escape. A grave security breach occurred in 1995 when an unauthorised aircraft dropped large quantities of arms in Purulia. Its Danish kingpin was allowed to escape while a British associate was jailed, then released on the request of the UK Government. The case remained uninvestigated and unresolved.

Then of course there was our all-time hero, Ottavio Quattrochi. When the law was about to catch up with him, he was informed by ministers of the Congress Party and he escaped to Malaysia. We must be the only country in the world where ministers sworn to defend the country work against its interests.

Italians don't play games with their national pride. The lesson to learn is clear to all. In India white men are more equal than Indians. Among whites, Italians are more equal than others. We deserve to be ruled by them.