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인도의 기독교활동가들, 세계화와 클린턴의 인도방문 반대시위

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2000-03-29 00:21
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Globalisation and Clinton are not welcome here, say activists in
India
ENI-00-0111

By Anto Akkara
New Delhi, 24 March (ENI)--Although this week's visit to India
by United States President Bill Clinton is being described by
some Indians as the "greatest ever" visit by a foreign dignitary,
some prominent Christians are supporting protests against the
presence of the US delegation.

Other leading Christians, however, believe that the visit could
have major benefits for India and boost its place on the world
stage.

The protests began shortly before Bill Clinton and his daughter,
Chelsea, arrived in New Delhi on 19 March, as the government
carried out a last-minute "emergency beautification" of the
cities and villages on the Clinton itinerary.

Communist politicians, the most vocal critics of the visit,
described Bill Clinton as an "agent of imperialist forces" and
boycotted his address to the federal parliament.

The widespread protests, which included Christians, culminated
in a gathering called the "People's Parliament" in New Delhi on
23 March, at which President Clinton was denounced as an "ardent
advocate" of globalisation.

Six activists, including Church of North India (CNI) pastor
Valson Thampu, are staging a protest fast for the duration of the
Clinton visit which ends tomorrow 25 March. "I am not against the
visit of Bill Clinton the person. But, I cannot endorse the
system he represents," said Thampu, who is a member of the
Minorities Commission of the state of Delhi.

Speaking to ENI on the lawns of New Delhi's Constitution Club,
where the fast is being held, Thampu said that the US president's
visit to India would "boost the globalisation that renders the
poor poorer".

"The media hype over the Clinton visit has nothing to do with
the lives of ordinary people," said Thampu, who is also vice
principal of New Delhi's St Stephen's College. "It is a collusion
between the outside forces and [India's] ruling elite who have a
common agenda inimical to the interests of the poor."

India' business community has gone to great lengths to welcome
the US delegation. The Confederation of Indian Industry placed a
full-page advertisement in the Times of India, which sells a
million copies daily, with the heading: "WELCOME BACK CHELSEA.
And thanks for bringing your father."

Ambrose Pinto, a Jesuit priest and commentator, told ENI: "If
anybody is to benefit from the Clinton visit, it is going to be
the social elite."

Referring to business deals worth US$2 billion being signed
between India and the US during the visit, Pinto said that the
agreements were confined to "high-tech industry".

"The further entry [into India] of MNCs [multi-national
companies] will have its cascading impact on the poor," said
Pinto, who is executive director of the Jesuit-run Indian Social
Institute in New Delhi, which supports the anti-globalisation
protests during Clinton visit.

Swami Agnivesh, a prominent social worker and Hindu cleric who
is taking part in the fast, told ENI: "Clinton is the biggest
advocate of free trade prescribed by the WTO [World Trade
Organisation], WB [World Bank] and IMF (International Monetary
Fund)."

The fast, Swami Agnivesh said, was intended "to create awareness
on the unholy alliance between the WTO and MNCs to plunder the
developing nations".

Raghu Thakur, another activist taking part in the fast, said:
"More than 600 000 small-scale industrial units have been closed
down since India embarked on the path of globalisation [in the
early 1990s] and over 30 million [workers] have been thrown out
of jobs."

He added that the federal government, under pressure from the
WTO, had taken several decisions which severely harmed the
nation's poor, such as the recent abolition of a subsidy for
foods items distributed to the poor. With Clinton's visit, Thakur
said, globalisation "will gather further momentum".

Ipe Joseph, general secretary of the National Council of
Churches in India (NCCI), the nation's leading ecumenical
organisation, was also critical of the visit. The "real" flight
of the Clinton entourage was not US Air Force One, the plane
which brought the president here, but the second flight carrying
almost 200 US business people, Joseph told ENI by telephone from
NCCI headquarters in Nagpur, central India.

Pointing out that "business is very much a major concern of the
Clinton visit," Joseph said that "it will benefit only the upper
segments of Indian society, while the majority will have to pay
for the prosperity of the rich."

However, Alan Basil de Lastic, president of the Catholic
Bishops' Conference of India and Archbishop of Delhi, told ENI he
was not sure of the "impact of the business deals. If they are
going to affect the poor adversely, the government needs to
modify them." The leader of India's 16 million Catholics pointed
out that the Clinton visit had "several positive sides". The
visit had "brought the largest [Indian] and most powerful [US]
democracies on the earth closer. This is a big achievement."

Mani Jacob, general secretary of the All India Association for
Christian Higher Education - a forum of 270 Christian colleges -
said that Clinton's visit had "strengthened the bonds of
friendship" between India and the US. However, Jacob added that
"sufficient care [needs] to be taken to ensure that the forces of
the market economy which he [Clinton] represents do not lead to
policies and actions detrimental to the interests of the common
masses."