My generation grew up in an India where our sense of nationhood lay in the slogan, 'unity in
diversity.' We were brought up to take pluralism for granted, and to reject the communalism
that had partitioned the nation when the British left. In rejecting the case for Pakistan, Indian
nationalism also rejected the very idea that religion should be a determinant of nationhood. . . .
Though the Indian population was 80 percent
Hindu and the country had been partitioned as a result of a demand for a separate
Muslim homeland, three of India's eleven presidents were Muslims; so were innumerable governors, cabinet
ministers, chief ministers of states, ambassadors, generals, and Supreme Court justices.
During the war with Pakistan in 1971, when the Pakistani leadership was foolish enough
to proclaim a jihad against the Hindu 'unbelievers', the Indian Air Force in the
northern sector was commanded by a Muslim (Air Marshal, later Air Chief Marshal, I. H.
Latif); the army commander was a Parsi (General, later Field Marshal, S. H. F. J.
Manekshaw), the general officer commanding the forces that marched into Bangladesh was a
Sikh (General J. S. Aurora), and the general flown in to negotiate the surrender of the
Pakistani forces in East Bengal was Jewish (Major-General J. F. R. Jacob).
Sashi Tharoor is a Member of Parliament in India.
He has served as executive assistant to UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan. Upon
Kofi Anan's departure, he became India's candidate for Secretary-General. He finished
second behind Ban Ki-moon.