North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

India celebrates Independence Day

On Monday, August 15, India celebrated its independence day. In 1947, the former British colony became an independent state, along with the "Dominion of Pakistan" to the West and East. Unfortunately, amid much violence and death, millions of Hindus fled from the Muslim regions of the colony to the center, and millions of Muslims fled east or west to Pakistan. The countries have struggled in their relationship to this day. (East Pakistan eventually seceded from West Pakistan to become Bangladesh in 1971).

A map showing India at it's independence along with West and East Pakistan in 1947

Regardless of its troubled beginnings (and as a colony for three hundred years prior), India today has much to be proud of. It jostle's along as the world's largest democracy - one that works even though additionally challenged by having to accommodate 22 to 28 languages, thousands of ethnic distinctions, and 4 major religions: Hinduism accounted for 80.5% of the population of India. Islam (13.4%), Christianity (2.3%) and Sikhism (1.9%).

A more familiar scene of India's traditional human powered cabs

India is also viewed as a rising international power - with the potential to surpass China in the next 20 years, both in population and in economic terms. The challenges are many, but August 15 is indeed a day for celebration for Indians. yet, the Sikh Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, speaking on the 60th anniversary, said the country needed to work harder to fight poverty, ignorance and disease despite fast economic growth. "India cannot become a nation with islands of high growth and vast areas untouched by development, where the benefits of growth accrue only to a few," said Mr Singh from the ramparts of New Delhi's historic Red Fort behind a bulletproof glass screen. (As reported in the UK's daily mail)

The pomp and ceremony of the official commemoration but with powerful challenges delivered by the Indian leader

"We have moved forward in the many battles against poverty, ignorance and disease. But can we say we have won the war?" India is one of the fastest growing economies, but about 46 per cent of children under three are undernourished, according to Unicef. Mr Singh said: "The problem of malnutrition is a national shame. I appeal to the nation to resolve and work hard to eradicate malnutrition within five years."

The excitement of youngsters at their country's birthday.

But malnutrition is only one aspect of India's challenges. Even as the country celebrated the day, a 74 yr old "fiesty" activist, Anna Hazare, has quickly become a 21st century Mahatma Gandhi inspiration for millions of Indians fed up with rampant corruption, red tape and inadequate services provided by the state despite the country posting near-double digit economic growth for almost a decade.

Anna Hazare - a person to watch

Hazare was arrested on Tuesday, the day after celebrations, just hours ahead of a planned fast until death against graft. Singh's government was under heavy criticism for the action, which sparked spontaneous protest across the country of 1.2 billion people. Today, when the government released him from jail, Hazare refused to go ... The beginning of the 65th year then, of India's independence, will hopefully see the government cleaning out graft and favoritism as pointed to by Hazare, as well as address the poverty and malnutrition noted by Singh.

"Democracy means no voice, however small, must go unheard. The anti-corruption sentiment is not a whisper-it's a scream. Grave error to ignore it," Anand Mahindra, one of India's leading businessmen and managing director of conglomerate Mahindra Group, wrote on Twitter.

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