I was recently invited to Bahrain to address corporates working on cyber securities and economic offences. It was completely a research and awareness programme. My best friend works for L&T in Middle East, so with his inputs and help I studied about the place. These days, most of the Islamic countries are restless. However, there are few places in the region which are safe for Indians.
Most Indians endure Dubai because there are many Indians residing here who are broad minded. Bahrain is a lovely country with far more open-minded people unlike any other Gulf state. In fact, it is more liberal than Dubai. Bahrain is a nice country; being woman I loved the flexibility in lifestyle there. It’s a fairly relaxed and open society. Women can dress up as they want; even alcohol is widely available unlike in other Arab countries. There are shopping malls, multiplexes and restaurants. Here summers are very hot but winters are cool and comfortable. However, people from Asia are treated poorly by their employers in the Middle East. So, before landing in this little country, make sure that your ‘kafeel’ treats you well. If you are coming as an employee on ‘work visa’ to this region, irony begins in flight only. You might be ill-treated and hated by your own Indian Air crew members. Indian bosses in Middle-east may treat you like a refugee or slave. However, Indians are treated as second class citizens, except few who are in well paying jobs and at high positions. Employers do treat their employees as slaves, making them work overtime, always underpaying and treating them unfairly. However, this scene is almost in every corner of the globe, not just in Bahrain.
Here, one point to be noticed is that, Bahrain and India have an ancient connect; our Indus valley civilisation and their Dilmun civilisation actually had trading relation. Many natives in Bahrain speak good Hindi. And if you speak or communicate in Arabic, that would be appreciated by them. Over the last few years, there’s been some hatred against deportee workers, who they feel are taking away locals’ jobs and some violence and rioting also erupted because of this. However, that was few years ago now the situation is far better. There are very few single screen cinemas that show Indian films, and in multiplexes it is impossible for Indian employees to watch Bollywood films because it is expensive. Manama is the capital city where you will get most of the Indian stuff, i.e. cinemas, restaurants etc. Health care is free at government hospitals but if you want to visit private clinics, then there are a couple of Indians doctors. Anyway, every country has one or the other problem and is struggling with its existence.
Recently, India has witnessed anti-government protests, which resulted in wiping off Congress party led UPA and people elected BJP led NDA to power. Same was the case in Bahrain too, the Arab Spring movement was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East in early 2011. However, their persistence, relative success and outcome remain hotly disputed in Arab countries. The term ‘spring’ was a reference to the chaos in Eastern Europe in 1989, when seemingly unassailable Communist administrations began falling down under pressure from mass popular protests in a domino effect. In a short period of time, most countries in the former Communist bloc adopted democratic political systems with a market economy. But the events in the Middle East went in a less straightforward direction. Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen entered an uncertain transition period; Syria and Libya were drawn into a civil conflict, while the wealthy monarchies in the Persian Gulf remained largely unshaken by the events. The use of the term the “Arab Spring” has since been criticised for being imprecise and simplistic.
One side-effect of the Arab Spring was the empowering of the Muslim Brotherhood in many of the effected countries. The Brotherhood received mixed reviews for its role in Egypt. A most revealing result was the near even positive/negative assessment that Egyptians gave to the Brotherhood’s impact on developments in their country. It doesn’t necessarily translate to a measure of the group’s popularity as it does to a growing uneasiness with the current trajectory of developments in Egypt. There is near universal rejection of ISIL and deep concern about the impact that this movement was having on the region. At the same time, the lack of confidence in the US and the low favourable ratings Arabs give to US involvement in the region combine to create less than enthusiastic support for a western-led effort to confront ISIL. In fact, only in Egypt and Iraq were slight majorities in favour of a role for the West in this conflict. In Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE majorities were opposed to.
Beyond calls for greater social justice, there was no fairy-tale for the economy. Leftist groups and unions wanted higher wages and a reversal of dodgy privatisation covenants; others wanted liberal reforms to make more room for the private sector. Some hardliner Islamists were more concerned with enforcing strict religious norms. All political parties promised more jobs but none came close to developing a program with concrete economic policies. It has also disappointed those who were hoping that the removal of corrupt rulers would translate into an instant improvement in living standards. Chronic instability in countries undergoing political transitions has put additional strain on struggling local economies, and deep divisions have emerged between the Islamists and secular Arabs. Right now, the situation is under control. Every protest has its peak and low, so is the case with Arab-spring too. Let’s see, what is written in the fate of this beautiful country.