Saturday, April 11, 2009

MAVNI Merceneries

It is always a painful episode for someone to relinquish a citizenship. It a kind of indication that the state has failed in meeting the aspirations of the person. But one must also accept the fact that it is the universal right of every person to relinquish or acquire the citizenship of his choice.

But a recent NY Times article on military recruitment of non-citizens (in a grand official parlance called the MAVNI program) shows to what extent some people would go to get that citizenship. Under the MAVNI program all legal aliens in US are eligible to enlist in the armed forces of US. this means that even students on F-1 visa are eligible for appointment. They have listed a few languages skills that is the only skill set they are looking for. (the list includes half a dozen Indian languages like Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Urdu etc.)

The question of foreign nationals serving in the armed forces is not new. In France we have the Foreign Legion comprised only of non-French citizens, Nepali Gurkhas serving in the British Army and even Vatican City's Swiss guards. But the carrot in this MAVNI program is assured access to citizenship after the completion of four-five years of active service. So to get the citizenship of US would a person go to that extent?

The sad truth many in the third world countries are desperate to do just that. The NY Times interviewed many Indian origin folks joining the Army, college students, poor migrants, housewives etc. They were proudly administered the oath of commissioning by General George Casey himself in the Times Square. A nice photo op for US Army. But a slap in the face for the countries to which they belong . The ironical fact that Indian people que up to these recruiting stations when there is acute shortage of officers in our very own Army, Navy and Air Force. ( I speak only with reference to India because I am come from India, these arguments can be applied to any country as well). So what should India do to tide over this crisis? Maybe we need to start recruiting our officers from African countries?