Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cultural neighbors

I was reading an article in The Hindu about a parliament debate on India's foreign policy. It was a lot of hot air and politicians doing their thing. However, one comment by Mulayam Singh Yadav (wisdom comes from the most unlikely sources) struck me. He said that "India had no real friends in the international community".

As a person who has felt a little jealous of the US special relationship with Britain (who can forget Fowler's line from Chicken Run: "Americans! Always late for every war!") I started thinking about this.

I've taken the neighborhood map from Wikipedia, and color coded it according to cultural closeness. Three of the cultural contacts are religious based, while the fourth is based on shared British occupation.

Obvious (but granted, lazy) explanations reveal themselves. Most of India's cultural connections with our neighbors are weak. Those that are strong, are canceled out by the fact that our diverse country is also, almost uniquely, Hindu majority. Even though we share so much with our neighbors, perhaps they don't trust us (or we don't trust them?) because of this difference.

But its interesting to note that India does have this patchwork of mild cultural/culinary/musical/linguistic bonds with a large variety of countries. This explains why traveling anywhere between Dubai and Singapore could result in a sense of "this smells/tastes/sounds/feels vaguely familiar".

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