A Year in India


Mumbai Conversation
December 7, 2008, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Mumbai | Tags: , ,

Yesterday, my dad and I had a long conversation about how India and the US should react to the Mumbai attacks.  I was telling him that there has been a lot of rash talk from Indians here about attacking Pakistan with help from the US.  My dad took a different approach, citing the problems that arise when the US tries to impose its ways on cultures it doesn’t understand.  Given his professional background, my dad looks at this issue from an international business perspective.  He uses his cross-cultural business experience to shape his ideas on foreign policy models.  For context, take a look at Geert Hofstede’s research on international business strategy and culture.

Based on Hofstede’s research, my dad used US foreign policy in the Middle East as an example during our conversation.  Invasion and war, he explained, is not always the smartest long-term option.  War can draw attention to and provide quick fixes for certain situations, but it often cannot solve deeper, cultural conflicts.  If peacekeepers are to get to the root of these conflicts, they have to be able to understand them.  The US mindset is so different than the Middle Eastern mindset that it’s virtually impossible for this understanding to exist.  Therefore, a middleman is necessary.  For example, a better idea than sending US troops to Iraq might have been creating a Middle Eastern peacekeeping force supported in part by US funds.  The force would be made up of countries that understand Middle Eastern culture – countries that are in close proximity to one another and have large Muslim populations themselves.  With the right monetary support, the force would create effective peacekeeping strategies because its perspective would be closer to the Iraqi mindset than the American perspective could ever hope to be.

Maybe this approach could work in India and Pakistan as well.  That is, the US could be involved in providing funds to enable India and Pakistan to create their own ground-level, culturally specific ways of peacekeeping and negotiating in order to handle terrorism and Hindu-Muslim conflicts.   A tall order, I realize, but something to consider.

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