Opinion » Lead

Updated: February 18, 2013 00:29 IST

The global village that is not

Hasan Suroor
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With even progressive leaders talking about protectionism and anti-immigration, and right-wing parties enjoying a revival, the world has actually become more parochial

Way back in the 1990s, when it first became fashionable to talk about the wonders of globalisation, I attended a lecture in Delhi by a British expert who told us how the world was rapidly “shrinking” and we were all about to become citizens of a “global village” with a common stake in free trade and travel.

Some 20 years on, the world bears little resemblance to that optimistic scenario. No doubt, it has shrunk in the sense of faster communications and travel though even now the “breakfast-in-Delhi-and-lunch-in-New York” boast remains the stuff of airline brochures. But in many other ways, it has actually become more “distant.”

Protectionism has grown leading to bitter rows over trade, environment and immigration: think of the Doha round of talks and the first word that comes to mind is “stalled.” Likewise, the world climate change negotiations are perpetually “deadlocked.” And increasingly stringent immigration controls mean that for ordinary people who are not blessed with deep pockets to buy “fast-track” visas, it is becoming harder to travel beyond their own national borders. The ugly foreigner has become uglier with drawbridges going up everywhere to keep him out. “Gaining control over our borders” is the new mantra in western capitals.

Proved wrong

Those who thought — and that includes pretty much all of us — that a more “connected” and interdependent world would necessarily lead to a fundamental shift in our attitude to other fellow denizens of the global village have been proved wrong. Instead, people have become more insular. Anyone who has closely followed the ill-tempered debate in the West on immigration and outsourcing would not have failed to notice a whiff of xenophobia.

Even progressive political leaders are speaking the language of protectionism, attacking businesses for hiring foreign workers instead of looking after the local “boys.” Britain’s former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown famously launched a campaign to give “British jobs to British people” offering incentives to companies to train native-born Britons for jobs that were being “taken away” by immigrants.

Across Europe, right-wing parties are enjoying a revival on the back of a new nationalism which sees all outsiders as a “threat” to European values and way of life. Immigrants are accused of “stealing” jobs and of being a “drain” on national resources.

In Greece, foreigners have been attacked by thugs of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party allegedly with the covert support of security forces. In the parliamentary elections last June, the party came from nowhere to grab some seven per cent of the votes on an anti-immigrant agenda; and the support for it is reported to be growing. Almost every European country — Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Denmark — has its own domestic equivalent of Golden Dawn terrorising immigrants and especially targeting Muslims.

In France, Socialists may have won the presidency because of widespread disillusionment with Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right government but immigration remains high on the French political agenda. The issue dominated last year’s presidential campaign and the number of people who voted for Marine Le Pen, candidate for the poisonous far-right National Front, was staggering. She polled more than six million votes (17.9 per cent) in the first round finishing third behind François Hollande and Mr. Sarkozy.

A few months later, French voters went on to elect her 22-year-old niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen as a member of Assemblée Nationale, the lower house of parliament, making her the youngest MP in modern French history. The fact that she ran on a shamelessly jingoistic agenda and still won represents a triumph for the French right which will encourage it to spread its tentacles deeper.

In an interview with The Guardian, Ms Le Pen warned immigrants that they should know their place in society. “Integration is no longer possible. When you’re the single French person in the middle of 10 Tunisians, the majority will impose their way of life on the minority,” she said.

Meanwhile, Britain is embroiled in a diplomatic row with Romania and Bulgaria over its plans to extend restrictions on their citizens working in Britain. Currently, only highly-skilled Romanians and Bulgarians can work in the U.K., but from next January they will have an automatic right to come and settle there as their countries become full members of the European Union.

However, the British government sees it as a bad idea to allow a new “wave” of immigrants to come in at a time when it is desperately trying to reduce immigration. There is much scare-mongering how “hundreds of thousands” of desperate Bulgarians and Romanians will land up in Britain putting “intolerable” pressure on jobs, housing and public services. It is claimed that some 400,000 Poles “flocked” to Britain when it opened its borders to Poland in 2004.

Bizarrely, the government is reportedly planning an unremittingly negative campaign to discourage prospective Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants from coming to the U.K. by portraying it as a country where it always rains, jobs are scarce and public services are bursting at the seams. One minister said that a negative campaign would “correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold.”

Not surprisingly, the Romanian and Bulgarian governments have hit back and warned that any attempt to restrict the rights of their citizens on the basis of “scare stories” which have no basis in fact would be in breach of EU rules. They have sought assurances from the British government that there would be no dilution of their citizens’ rights.

“These rights come from European citizenship status. Once you are in a space, you cannot have limited rights. If you start limiting health, why not limit other public services? That will affect the freedom of movement of people in the EU space,” said Cristian David, the Minister for Romanians Abroad.

Ordinary Bulgarians and Romanians have accused Britain of “racism.” My Romanian cleaner, Maria Olteanu, says she feels “humiliated” by the way some people react when she tells them that she is from Romania. “They think all Romanians are gypsies and that we are all here to have a free meal. We work hard and like everyone else, we pay taxes,” she says.

Maria is a trained car mechanic but under current rules, she doesn’t qualify for a job permit. She was hoping that she would be able to get one next year, but is now worried that she may have to wait longer if the restrictions are extended.

‘Insulting remarks’

A young Bulgarian woman Ralitsa Behar has apparently made quite a splash after she wrote a long letter on behalf of all Bulgarians protesting against “the untrue and somewhat insulting” remarks about her country. She “invited” Britain’s Bulgaria-baiters to visit her country “as a guest of me and my family, so that we can explain to you how much our country has changed over the past 20 years.”

There have been anti-U.K. protests in Bucharest and Sofia with calls for boycott of British products. In Sofia, hundreds of activists of Bulgaria’s ultra-right Ataka group — dressed in military uniform — laid a siege to the British embassy demanding an apology from London. They threatened to retaliate against British interests if the U.K. went ahead with its plans.

“British people coming to buy property in Bulgaria should be given a hostile reception. Russians should be given visa exemption for Bulgaria but, in turn, Sofia should require visa applications from British people,” demanded its leader Volen Siderov.

Analysts have warned of a “year of heated political exchange” ahead with the issue likely to go right up to the European Commission if Britain doesn’t move quickly to defuse the row.

Britain is also involved in a running battle with non-European countries, including India, over its new stringent visa regime for workers and students from outside the EU. The controversy is too well known to bear repetition but it is yet another illustration of the chasm between the idea of a happy-clappy global village and the reality on the ground.

Forget Europe, things are not exactly rosy in our own backyard with India and Pakistan engaged in their little visa wars. Perhaps not many know that if a British-Pakistani with a dual citizenship applies for an Indian visa, the Indian authorities recognise only his Pakistani passport leading to lengthy inquiries and delays that a British citizen does not have to endure. India, of course, doesn’t grant dual citizenship — so Pakistan is denied the pleasure of returning the compliment. But now that we have OCI (overseas citizenship of India), I think I’ll apply for a Pakistani visa just for the heck of it — to see how it goes.

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One of the reasons of this protectionism and anti-immigration is the exponential increase in population around the world. The population increased but the size of the land did not and there was a scarcity of resources. Most of the European countries are smaller compared to many of the African and Asian countries. The number of jobs also did not increase significantly during this time. Also, there have been a lot of security issues during the last couple of decades, which resulted in the creation of more stringent rules against immigration. Compared to European countries, immigrants are more welcomed in North American countries (USA and Canada) since they are basically immigrant countries and hugely sized.

from:  Swaroop das
Posted on: Feb 20, 2013 at 13:12 IST

It has been a curious invention of the developed (amassed with wealth from other countries)countries to bring in documents such as passports and visa to stop others reaching their shores to share the wealth. If one looks back in the history these documents are a new development and before that, people just moved from country to country for one reason or other, mostly for survival or similar reasons. The aspired global village can't be formed when such documents are used to curtail people movement and calling those who come without these documents as illegals!!

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Feb 19, 2013 at 09:24 IST

It seems U.K. is more concern about stopping immigrants only in some selective sectors.Only highly skilled Romanian and Bulgarian are allowed to live in U.K. It shows it's selfishness.
Today every country is interconnected with other for resources and other needs.If the will be a stringent rule for immigrations than it will badly affect developed country like U.K. And developing countries like India will be beneficiaries.Because many of its talent has drained.

from:  Arvind singh
Posted on: Feb 19, 2013 at 02:01 IST

I was wondering why the author highlights mostly Western nations, when
the world is a very large place. How about the immigration policies of
the gulf nations? How about commenting on China, India, Japan, Brazil,
Russia, South Africa? Will the author care to comment on them?

from:  Kalyan
Posted on: Feb 19, 2013 at 00:01 IST

Sadly politics today entwine protectionism in their agenda to bulge their vote bank making people chauvinistic for no reason. Politics it always a hinder to growth.

from:  Harish Kumar H S
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 20:20 IST

Mr Suroor has presented a thoughtful piece without taking any sides
over the Britain-Bulgaria or Britain-Romania issue. However I feel that
the situation is slightly more complex. Britain is going through a
period of uncertainty and its own people are cynical of the government.
Their lives are disturbed and so they feel that immigrants will further
put the pressure on them. The British Government can do either of the
things: either it should persuade people and assure them that their
place, their jobs and their benefits will not be taken away and
immigrants will help in developing the economy further, or should work
extremely hard to get back to the pre-2008 period when the economy was

from:  Manas
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 18:14 IST

When Rao-Manmohan model was proposed in the 1990's, everyone expected
that some magic is going to happen through the 8th five year plan(1992-
1997).our economy was opened. Globalisation,liberalisation and
privatisation (policy of LPG)was adopted. we anticipated rapid economic
growth, high growth of agriculture and allied sector, and manufacturing
sector, growth in exports and imports, improvement in trade and current
account deficit and so on. Eventhough we have improved slightly in
these areas, the policy of LPG is not very favourable to India, instead
big giants of developed countries started exploiting our resources in
the other way.The term Global village is being used by these giants in
their own flexible way. The term "global village" is also privatised.

from:  vinothini kathish kumar
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 18:14 IST

is it really happens in Europe?

all are protecting self interests, talking what suit there interest
economically and politically.

hope one day, govt.s will understand human value, at least people will
be able to go abroad without much hassle.

from:  anupam swain
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 17:19 IST

Human beings are by nature xenophobic, as history has proven time and
again. The lowest common denominator in any developed society will
never digest the fact that an alien enjoys a more prosperous lifestyle
than himself in his own country, while he survives on welfare payouts.
And then, by nature of democracy, someone or other inevitable arises
to incite the anger for his ambitions. It happens everywhere, whether
Europe or even Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Expecting tolerance in the
wake of scarcity would be expecting too much from our species. The
white man may have had the first mover advantage and used us as a
resource bank first and a market later, but it doesn't work vice

from:  Harsh
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 15:55 IST

India is now a Ecnomic Giant..

but india should focus on building real economy ..rather than totally rely on speculative / fluctuative economy that is Finance . Just Mumbai stock exchange is not india. last agricultural minister for india was Karunanidhi's son. Karunanidhi son alagir does not have any educational background to be managing - indias agricultural sector. Farmers all across india are dying left and righ. Monsanto corporation is selling GMO seeds and are keeping farmers in india ransom. Indian Agricultural department should be able to provide - robust- infrastructure, water-desalination , and good organic seeds to farmers..

Barack obama gives Manmohan singh a state dinner, and mr.singh becomes a sell out to FDI.

Trust the history guys - do not let the foreign Vulture banks and finance in india. it is not for the betterment of india but for the vampire capitalists.

India is now at crossroads.a good tax system. kick out FDI provide good seeds.

Bharta Mata Ki Jai

from:  RPS Mohan
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 14:56 IST

All these incidents are just a result of insecurities of these societies, like many across the world. These reactions and oppositions are but normal looking at the increasing economic crisis and the level of inequality that have slowly risen owing to the unfair trade practices and irregularities in governance. And not the protectionism but the very same globalisation and free markets can provide the solution for these problems if controlled and guided with honest and serious efforts by the world nations.
As Joseph E Stiglitz has said "Free markets have enormous powers but they don't come with any inherent moral character. They need to be tamed and controlled."

from:  Anand
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 14:23 IST

The language of the article is quite similar to the primitive Indian press where the editors in order to escape colonial repressions use to quote from international stories(depicting a latent analogy to our domestic condition). Similarly the much talked about international intolerance or Xenophobia could be (unfortunately) witnessed in every corner of our country.

from:  Rahul Shahi
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 14:22 IST

Irrespective of the politicians' rhetoric, I would only blame the
people to be gullible enough to let these politicians use them to
serve their interest. Most of the scare mongering originates from
illegal immigrants smuggled into countries like US & EU from China,
and other poor nations, who have been employed by the business houses
for paltry sums much lower than the allotted minimum. These immigrants
don't have rights and hence couldn't protest against them being
treated as slaves (they are!). However, the politicians used it to
their advantage and have branded all immigrants - US, which is now the
most powerful country, is because of the immigrants but have forgotten
the gratitude it owes the immigrants and have started to adopt
protectionist measures that too under the reign of migrant leader.
Many of these nations are harping the wrong bark but India, as China,
could use to its advantage but is still in its enslaved attitude and
considers its human resources as worthless !!!

from:  Bharat
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 13:22 IST

Mr Hasan Suroor talks of a 'global' village, but singles out only France, UK and Greece.He says "Anyone who has closely followed the ill-tempered debate in the West on immigration and outsourcing would not have failed to notice a whiff of xenophobia." What about the immigration policies of, say, Saudi Arabia, The UAE and Iran? What about their treatment of minorities? Are they not part of the 'globe'?

from:  Vir Narain
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 12:31 IST

When within our own country educated Telangana separatists have become xenophobic,and hateful of outsiders based upon Bhumiputra concept how can any body expect some person in Belgium or Finland to open up borders for somebody from Chennai or Calcutta to come settle and buy lands and establish business? Definitely we need to set our house right first. A free mobility should start within India. Charity starts at home.

from:  Sree
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 12:18 IST

When there is an healthy competition in the nation by the influx of immigrants it always does more good than evil, but these protectionists leaders belive otherwise. Instead of nurturing harmony in the society, their unfound comments and attitudes towards the immmigrants invoke grudges in the common people minds against the immigrants and make them to see immigrants as someone who commandeer their jobs. If employers employ people who increse productivity of the company and contribute diversity to it which is a win-win sitution, then the meddling of the goverment in this process by intoducing unfriendly measures is unfair and it would affect both.

from:  santhosh k
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 11:47 IST

let's not go to the world scenario now. Let's talk about our own country, the amount of regionalism and dirty politics,which we have is enough to scare us.people from one geographical location cant work in other and you are talking about the outsourcing.
Now if the other countries are having the same sense of insecurity then how do you expect them to allow others to come and work in their country when their own local "boys" are unemployed and added to the if the leaders want to be in the power and please the public for vote to stay in power then the first victim will be the immigration.
So Mr.Hasan rather than going for the neighboring country VISA,first experiment with in this Land, enjoy your stays and then we will think of how to make this world a "Global Village" , where getting the VISA to foriegn land won't be just the cup-of-tea of the deep pocketed people.

from:  vikas
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 10:51 IST

Reading this article, one old saying comes to mind - "More things change, the more they remain same" -- How true is this saying in terms of present debate of Immigration. First of all, as Indians, we should not complain of racial and somewhat unjust attitude adopted by so-called Rich countries, towards Indians (and indeed towards anyone from so-called Poor countries) when we try to enter in their utopian world without poverty and squalor which has defined our way of living.
When Rich Indian states oppose migration of people from poorer parts of the country into their cities, they are just imitating Rich Countries of the world. Shrewd politicians have exploited the fears of Rich Populations and have successfully poisoned the minds and psyche of masses. I see no hope for poor Immigrant all over the world. He/she must endure the pain of humiliation/insult/injustice in order to better his/her life conditions. This is the price to be paid.

from:  Shrenik Jain
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 10:28 IST

Anti immigration policy is also due to economics. Less jobs are available in the immigrant and emigrant nations. The economically advanced countries also are tied to a standard of living which is increasingly becoming difficult to maintain and coming under strain with given resources and available tax collection. Even EU is not politically integrated for, effective economic policy to take hold.

from:  TNS
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 10:03 IST


from:  umesh bhagwat
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 06:51 IST

Highly thoughtful. I, for one, fully agree with Mr. Suroor. The tragedy
is that as human beings we are suffering from, as I submit, 'swollen
heads and shallow hearts', which is preventing us avail the S&T endowed
opportunities for embracing the concept of Global Village, 'vasudhaiva

from:  Dr. G.P.Rao
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 06:26 IST

Interesting article by Hassan Suroor, as always. While I agree that
barriers seem to be going up again after a few years of 'openness',
the question I have to ask is "can you really blame the host
countries?" Immigration across cultural and religious borders (as
distinct from national borders) is a problem when the immigrant
population does not easily assimilate into the cultural mores of host
countries. Indians ought to be able to reflect on the various
historical examples of the lack of assimilation which led to
discrimination - Africa particularly Uganda, Fiji, Malaysia etc come
to mind and then more recently there are examples waiting to develop
in Australia, Canada, UK and some European countries; even though the
migration to those countries is of educated and easily employable
persons. So, let us not worry about Romanians or Bulgarians. Let us
think about the great Indian diaspora.

from:  Gopinath Rao
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 06:24 IST

Earlier whenever there was an economic crysis, what followed
immediately was either a beggar thy neighbour policy or blaming
and attacking others.

We should notice that even though there are protectionist
policies international platforms are now emerging to ensure that
it never results into a literal 'beggar thy neighbour'. Yet its
true that we still have a long way to go before becoming a true
global village.

Further we should realise that 20 (or even 67) years is too small
when compared with the history of mankind and hence we should be
proud that so much has been achieved in so little time.

Doha stalling, in my opinion, can be viewed as a stage of
transformation-where earlier only the imposing view of the west
prevailed, now multiple polarities exist and hence an agreement
can be reached only by consensus.

from:  Naveen Emmanuel
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 04:45 IST

The "global village" was an ideal American/European concept being
sold out of American "Ivy League" Business Post-Graduate schools
since the 1960s to describe the "future" of the White Race managing
the rest of the planet in the post modern, post colonial age of
modern masked economic slavery to replace the old de facto global
slavery of the 19th century.

The Global Village is a myth unless the bankers truly adopt total
risk "free market" capitalism without protection and subsidy from
the modern state, already in their corporate pockets.

The reality of the Global Culture let alone the Global Economy is a
sad place where everybody and and everything is reduced to a
commodity for sale and barter. Where Capitalism picks and chooses
the easy profits - no sweat for the white master ever.

And sadly on the Corporate Global Spreadsheet, all humanity of
every color is discounted to less than zero on all potential profit
scenarios. Profits are all. People are nothing.

from:  Mike McShea
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 02:33 IST
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