Managing neighbours

Having a good neighbour is a blessing. It’s always useful to have a neighbour. Getting to know one’s neighbour comes with a wide range of benefits including enhanced safety, shared sense of community, mutual sense of responsibility, lifelong friendships and a helping hand nearby. Whether one needs to borrow some sugar or needs some emotional support, a good neighbour is always there to help. This is because they are in close physical proximity in times when even a close relative or a dear friend living at a distance may not be of much help.

Sometimes, even a bad neighbour can be more helpful than a relative who lives some distance away! There is a wise Ladakhi proverb that should give us much to think about. It goes, “Thag-ring nge nyen sang khim-tses se gra gyal” (A bad neighbour is better than relatives who live far away). These words of wisdom not only apply to individuals and families but also to countries.

We are supposed to be living in the most peaceful era in the history of humankind. It is a time when war has become uncommon, famines are rare and epidemics were considered to be impossible as progress in science meant that any disease could be treated. Humans are on the brink of overcoming the concept of mortality and may even achieve immortality. It is said very soon humans will be able to overcome aging and then find ways to live as long as one wants. Science promises to reduce age to a number. At the same time, sickness and diseases will be rare and humans will only die in accidents or through fatal injuries.

Many philosophers are of the opinion that war will become very rare as humanity has come to realise that it does not solve any problem. Instead, it only leads to suffering, death and destruction and in the end, there are no winners or losers. In the past, war has been fought over ego, territorial gain and natural resources like forest and oil. Most civilised societies have now learnt that natural resources are something to be conserved rather than exploited. At the same time, we have created alternate renewable energy sources that have made us less dependent on oil and gas. We now have the technology wherein a car can run for a year on a litre of water, rechargeable batteries or solar energy. Other causes for war include gold, diamond and other such resources, which we are now able to produce in laboratories. So, war seems to have become redundant!

India has always been a peace-loving country. It is a country that has always been concerned about the welfare of its citizens. It is a country where people have a voice, the freedom to express their views, to disagree and to question each other and the government. It is a country where the voices of people are heard. It is the world’s largest democracy where people regularly exercise their freedom and right to elect people to form a government.

India is a welfare state and its citizens enjoy a wide range of freedom and rights unlike many of our neighbours. India’s friendly attitude towards its neighbours and its yearning for peaceful relations has often been interpreted by them as a sign of weakness. We have been provoked a number of times into war by our neighbours but each time we have managed to teach them a lesson. I wish that we are able to improve our relations with ‘bad’ neighbours like China and Pakistan and resolve our differences. And this is not only my view as a citizen of India but also an emerging global consensus that a change in the attitudes of our neighbours will help improve these relationships. In my opinion, it’s better to improve our relationship with neighbours like China and Pakistan instead of concentrating solely on friendships with distant countries like the USA. All of us must learn from the example of countries that are actively working on resolving their differences and working on uniting rather than disintegrating.

That said sometimes small arguments and fights are necessary to resolve issues or teach a lesson to an annoying neighbour so that they learn a lesson in their own language. In psychological terms, this is called ‘mirroring your neighbour’s behaviour’. They should learn that a war with India will be very costly and that it will bring destruction to both sides. I hope and pray that the heroic fight and sacrifices by our soldiers in the Galwan valley goes a long way in improving our relation with our neighbours and a spirit of friendship prevails in our general neighbourhood!

By Dr. Spalchen Gonbo

Dr. Spalchen Gonbo is a Paediatrician based in Leh.

Photograph by Tsering Stobdan

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