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The idea of a post-national age, reified to some extent by the EU, was a cause célèbre for many. It was a contrapuntal to narrow ethnic and national identities, liberating individuals and even groups from age-old yokes. There were economic and financial consequences too; larger unions meant expansive trade areas and movement of peoples. The EU, epitomizing this idea, was held to be a harbinger of a brave new world.
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The West is dying because the leader of the pack, the United States, is in decline -- of course, in relative terms. I will not go into the causes and reasons for this decline of the West but will attempt to tease out the implications on the world at large.
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If there's one sensible policy statement that Donald Trump has made until now, it's his stance on nuclear weapons. A few days ago, Trump told the <em>New York Times</em>, "If Japan had that nuclear threat, I'm not sure that would be a bad thing for us." Nor would it be so bad, he said, if South Korea and Saudi Arabia had nuclear weapons, too. Essentially, Trump is saying that nuclear proliferation is not a bad thing. I agree.
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As I ambled towards the immigration counter at Dulles Airport, Washington DC, I overheard a Black police officer talking about "self-discovery" to his White female colleague. And then something strange happened. I, reflexively, began musing aloud on Islam and paradoxes. I looked the Black police officer in the eye and said, "I know myself through you because you are so different... but, in the final analysis, we are all the same. And this is one of the central insights of Islam, in the nature of a paradox."
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Lee Kuan Yew, one of the greatest and tallest leaders that Asia produced, postulated and articulated the theme and idea of 'Asian values'. Asian values--broadly speaking, commitment to family and society--were understood in contradistinction to ' Western values', which stood for individualism and the nature of social organization accruing from these. It was held that Asia corresponded and moved to a certain set of values that could present a challenge to dominant and aggressive Western values.
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There were two Indias on display. One was the India that my uncle was so morose about: an India which gyrated to the rhythm of Hindutva - where ideology was sought to be reified in the country's institutions and political Hinduism made central to its civic, social and political life. The other was an India where consumption and consumerism were the norm or were at least sought to be elevated - a departure from socialist and autarkic shibboleths of the past.
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The encounter at Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI), Pampore, stands eerily as a metaphor for why development cannot be a panacea for conflict. The encounter which has claimed nine lives, including three militants, is testimony to the nature and denouement of the conflict in and over Kashmir.
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The Hindutva 'Idea of India' seeks create a utopian society but as the drift of events in the country suggest (and more importantly as the history of socially engineered utopias indicate), this approach usually leads to a dystopian reality. The major contradiction of the idea is that the Hindu self -- both collective and individual -- is too fragmented and disparate to be united by an overarching idea. The Nehruvian Idea of India, on the other hand, is not only an import, but a flawed one.
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On the face of it, the life trajectory of my depressive barber Mustaqim Ahmed and the deaths of Shaista and Danish in Srinagar are unconnected. But, look deeper, and a connection emerges. The connection stems from the inability of the state in India to stay true to the dictum of "life, liberty and happiness"-- the cardinal tenets of a liberal democracy.
We inhabit a fluid, porous world, with hyper-mobility of peoples, what has been called deterritorialization, and rather seamless communications(s). The conditions that define this world have an indelible impact on the nature of our selves, community, identity and politics. This was brought home to me after I returned from the West or after my "Enigma of Return" to invert Naipaul's phrase. My return was a profoundly disorienting experience: the world that I was familiar with had turned topsy-turvy for me.