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Going global, the gobble-isation way

Ash Narain Roy. The name may not force you to pick up a book. However, if you do happen to read the writings of this Delhi writer on West Asia, you are likely to find genuine concern for a world about to be gobbled up by forces of globalisation. < I>ZIYA US SALAM speaks to the prolific writer who lets his pen do the talking....

HE TALKS a lot of sense. His words are both measured and well proportioned. No practised ease with the spoken word, but just the desire to get across in a manner both polite and precise. Only problem is he does so with an expression so pacific for West Asia as to be incomprehensible. About the only thing unruly about him are a few locks which are conspicuous by their absence, not noticeable by their waywardness. Not that he wears a vapid look, but he smiles with the profligacy of a man spending water in desert kingdoms. It is not that he does not have much to smile about. He has travelled farther in the last few years than many have done in a lifetime. Just a few years ago he penned "The Third World in the Age of Globalisation: Requiem or New Agenda". He won the Appan Menon Award, and somehow managed to lurk close to the shadows.

Now, he has just quietly put together "Globalisation Or Gobble-isation", an insight into "The Arab Experience", brought out by Konark. It is not that he just has a way with words and strings together a few to suit the occasion. He is no wordsmith with the greed of a fisherman. Rather, he is a man who values the written word, and makes sure that his is taken seriously. Meet Ash Narain Roy, an academic-turned-journalist-turned-academic, who has been focussing on West Asia long enough for us to know the two Gulf Wars as well as Bihar politics. Incidentally, Roy was born in Bihar before touching base in New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University where he did a PhD in International Studies.

Fine, but why are we talking of Roy's Samastipur origin and his doctorate? Simply because this unassuming man has been writing about a lot that concerns you and me, and millions of others across the world. He gives an insight into the Arab World: "West Asian countries are faced by a dilemma. They are cruising on information highway, they are living comfortably, there are fast cars. It is a system which works well for the monarchy or oligarchy as the case maybe. The masses get what they want - free electricity, water, easy life. The rulers get what they want - allegiance of the masses and the surety of continuing to be in power. However, things are changing of late. The comfort zone is over for Saudi rulers. Regimes are under stress in the region. There is an effort to indigenise in Saudi Arabia. The process has started with the dispensing of foreigners in certain areas. The State Human Rights Commission has been set up and anti-American sentiment is rising because of the latter's support for Israel and many anti-democracy States."

He strikes a note of caution for those given to too much optimism. "The days of Pan Arab are gone. It is time for some kind of democracy. However, democracy may have failed at many places. It grows differently at different places. But if the Arab World does not change, it will be gobbled up by globalisation. They have to stop being fossilised. In the Arab World there is a tacit pact between the rulers and the ruled. The system is functioning due to wealth. However, there is a great deal of tolerance for other's views there, the society is principally secular, though they may not have churches or temples."

Roy, who has spent a considerable time in West Asia, believes that "globalisation is just Americanisation" and Uncle Sam's men are in the Gulf for "Israel and oil". He says: "Americans have a poor record of maintaining friendship. Be it Marcos or Suharto or anybody else. Their policy is simple: `Do as we say, don't do what we do'." With words as simple as these, he exposes the American hypocrisy and all claims to fighting against the evil ways of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Why the venture?

"Mine are the views of an outsider. Much of Arab history was written by Americans and other Westerners. So, there is scope to do it differently. Of course, there is the Arab view, which is nothing but an apology of the Government. There is the exile community too. Again, the views are likely to be biased against the rulers. Mine is an Indian look at Arab history and society. It is dispassionate, well-reasoned. It is written differently. I have tried to raise the questions others have not asked."

Hey, did not we say that he talks a lot of sense, even if he does so with the air of a resigned man?

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