Hard to change colonial thinking

Hard to change  colonial thinking

Thank God, an Indian Cardinal was not elected the Pope. With the tension between India and Italy over the Marines issue unabating, India would not...

Thank God, an Indian Cardinal was not elected the Pope. With the tension between India and Italy over the Marines issue unabating, India would not acknowledge the election and insist that Italy send back the Marines to stand trial in India. Italy, naturally would refuse to oblige. Catholics all over the world would protest and the right wing parties led by the BJP would demonstrate against Italy and the Vatican and call for the derecognition of Roman Catholic religion in India. In issues like this, the smaller nations could try to arm twist the more powerful ones. Many years back tiny Iceland almost went to war against England over fishing rights of Cod, which came to be known as the Cod war. Hollywood caught on to this quixotic situations and made a delightful comic movie, 'The Mouse That Roared' starring Peter Sellers leading an army of fat, bedraggled archers landing in the US, keen to capture New York and teach a lesson to the world's most powerful nation f0r violating a minor trade agreement. Whether Britain likes it not, it figured more in such situations and often found itself unable to maintain its famous 'stiff upper lip' attitude. When the power of the British Empire was at its zenith, it captured Falkland Islands close to Argentine. The almost barren islands had more sheep than people who enjoyed the privileges of being citizens of the Mighty British Empire. The monarch's Birthday was declared a national holiday and the Union Jack fluttered proudly. Perhaps, the rulers of Argentine did not bother with the tamasha. As Argentine became one of the strongest nations in South America, this attitude began to change. The military juntas and its rulers who ruled Argentine most of the time suddenly awoke to the fact that Falklands which geographically and demographically should belong to them was a British colony and no one seemed to bother. There were no signs of any 'freedom struggle '.The shepherds just wanted to be left alone to graze the sheep. But the Argentinian generals had had enough of British colonialism and launched diplomatic protests demanding Britain grant independence to the island. Looking at the absurdity of the situation, a Labour government would have agreed to this demand. But not the 'Iron Lady 'Margaret Thatcher who saw herself in the mould of Queen Elizabeth I or Winston Churchill. It should be remembered that had Churchill been in power, Indian independence in 1947 would have been delayed. The Labour government under Clement Atlee was more understanding and moved with the times. The war of words between the two nations intensified and in 1984, Argentine forces invaded and captured Falkland's. The sheep did not protest, nor the shepherds. But Thatcher was one tough lady, initiated angry debates in the UN and threatened to go to war. The US was in a dilemma. President Ronald Reagan who boasted of a 'special relationship' with friend, Margaret Thatcher initially hesitated to back her because Argentine was a Latin American friend and ally. With both nations and Thatcher generating a kind of militant patriotism to cover up her economic failures, and pushed on by the rabidly pro-war right wing tabloid media, went to war. Proximity to the islands favoured Argentine, but then Britain was a major power led by a ruthless Prime Minister who did not hesitate to order her Navy to shoot and sink a huge passenger ship killing more than 600 civilians. Well, Maggie would even have used the atom bomb to 'liberate' Falklands. As celebrations reverberated all over Britain, one more glorious chapter was added to the history of Thatcher. Britain, who had been reduced to the level of 'Also Rans' in world power hierarchy, suddenly began to bask in some of its past glory
Today, the gung-ho' Thatcher days were over. Britain today did not have any 'special relationship with the US. Falkland Islands were safely under British custody. Perhaps, even Britain felt the time had come to shed is colonial image. Two weeks back it conducted a referendum offering the local people the choice of remaining with Britain or go back to Argentine. More than 95 per cent of the inhabitants voted to retain the status quo, remain Her Majesty's subjects. The referendum clauses. But one thing was certain, Falklanders did not want any 'independence' Seriously or otherwise, Argentine could now try and play the Pope card. Late on Wednesday, the Cardinals who had assembled at the Vatican Sistine Chapel and failed thrice to elect a new Pope, finally came up with a new one. He was the Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio who took the name of Pope Francis. At the time of writing not many details were available on him, though he was the first Pope from Latin America. Though head of the State of Vatican, Pope Francis like most others before him may keep aloof from international politics. He had enough problems within the Catholic Church �demand for doing away with celibacy for priests, Church attitude who priests who erred and found guilty of sexual affairs, the present harsh attitudes towards abortion and family planning, acceptance of donations from questionable sources and so on. Yet, once Pope Francis settled down and ready for his onerous tasks he could consider favourably requests from Argentine to offer unilateral freedom to Falklanders as a goodwill gesture and a sense of moving with the times. Whether Falklanders voted for Britain or not, the stigma of old world colonialism still hangs over Britain. Britain would like to move ahead and earn the respect of the world. Whether the new Pope took any initiative on the issue or not, it all depended on the British political leadership. While on a tour of India, Prime Minister David Cameron, while admitting that the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 was a shameful episode, did not think it fit to issue a formal apology. Such an attitude would not bend sufficiently and offer unilateral freedom to the Falklands. Who knows, Pope Francis may still not be listened to because of the 'Hand of God' goal scored by Diegeo Maradona in a 1986 World Cup football match. Sometimes football memories remained longer than political ones. Cameron and his cabinet may choose to forget Argentine's Falklands aggression but not the 'Hand of God' goal in a crucial soccer match. OPINION
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