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India's Predicament and Why Bharat Matters
By Kirtan Bhana - TDS

Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar -EAM presents PM Modi with the first copy of his book 'Why Bharat Matters'

25 March 2024

The Indian subcontinent has long been a crucible of civilizations, where the echoes of ancient wisdom mingle with the clamour of modern challenges. From the majestic remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization to the timeless epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, India's journey through time is marked by resilience, innovation, and the quest for identity.

At the dawn of human civilization, the fertile plains of the Indus Valley nurtured a sophisticated civilization that rivaled its contemporaries in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The ruins of Mohenjo Daro stand as evidence of the ingenuity of ancient Indians who mastered urban planning, trade, and craftsmanship millennia ago. Yet, the legacy of the Indus Valley Civilization also serves as a poignant reminder of the transience of human endeavours, as its decline remains shrouded in mystery.

The epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, composed centuries later, offer a glimpse into the ethos of ancient India. Through the trials of noble heroes like Rama, Sita, Krishna, and Arjuna, these timeless tales weave together strands of morality, duty, loyalty, camaradrie and sacrifice. Whether it be the pursuit of dharma in the face of adversity or the complexities of familial and societal obligations, the epics continue to resonate with contemporary audiences, offering insights into the human condition that transcend temporal and cultural boundaries. Powerful ten headed and multi armed beings, gods, goddesses and demon manifestations, flying chariots, all manner of weapons of mass destruction are depicted in these texts of the battle between good and evil that are still being told all over Asia.

In the annals of modern history, India's partition in 1947 stands as a traumatic chapter, seared into the collective memory of the subcontinent. The division of British India along religious lines gave birth to the nations of India and Pakistan, unleashing unprecedented violence and displacement. The scars of partition continue to haunt the region, fuelling tensions and conflicts that reverberate to this day.

India's predicament in the aftermath of partition was further exacerbated by the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which culminated in the liberation of Bangladesh. The conflict gave rise to the enduring geopolitical rivalries and ethnic complexities that define the Indian subcontinent, leaving a legacy of mistrust and animosity between India and Pakistan. India truly understands, and has experienced the hardships and humiliation of occupation, the terror and intolerance of extremism and has had to develop policy and governance in the face of these unique challenges to maintain peace, security and stability.

Amidst these historical traumas, India has emerged as a stable nation of progress and modernisation in the region. Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s, current Minister of External Affairs of India since 2019, seminal work, ‘Why Bharat Matters’, elucidates the importance of embracing India's civilizational heritage while negotiating the complexities of contemporary geopolitics. As India's Foreign Minister, Jaishankar emphasizes the need to leverage Bharat's cultural and historical legacy to forge meaningful partnerships and advance India's strategic interests on the global stage.

India's foreign policy calculus is shaped by a complex mosaic of alliances, trade blocs, and regional groupings. From the BRICS and SCO to initiatives like the Quad and partnerships with regional blocs such as the GCC and BIMSTEC, India seeks to foster cooperation while safeguarding its sovereignty and security interests. The challenges of navigating this alphabet soup of diplomatic engagements require deft diplomacy and strategic foresight, as India seeks to balance its aspirations for global leadership with its commitment to regional stability.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was instrumental in the African Union joining the G20 and welcomed the continental body as a full member when India hosted the summit last year. These regions share much in common, including population size, a youthful demographic dividend and similar GDP.

“There is enough for everybody’s need and not for everybody’s greed”, a poignant statement made by Mahatma Gandhi acknowledging the abundance of the planet to sustain not only the human population, but all life which is part and parcel of a thriving environment. The statement also admonishes those who accumulate much much more then is required which leads to unnecessary socio economic disparities, and distorted and unfairly manipulated monetary, financial and economic systems, when a balance in distribution of resources will lead to a conducive and responsive eco system and a sustainable environment.

The connection of ancient civilizations which interacted with each other many millennia ago, and the a pre-historic land link which joined the continents at the hip, has culminated in a modern context of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) which, once again, bring Africa and Asia together. The India-Mozambique-Tanzania joint maritime exercise in March included harbour training drills with Indian Naval vessels in the ports of Zanzibar and Maputo following a planning and strategy conference, is an indication of growing Indian – African collaboration.

The special relationship between India and China ‘Chindia’ is discussed at length in Jaishankar’s book. It was, after all, in Beijing, China, when Jaishankar met current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi for the first time. Jaishankar was India’s Ambassador to China and hosted Narendra Modi who, as Chief Minister of Gujarat State, was on a visit to China at the time. It was India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who, after Independence, supported China’s UN Security Council seat. As debate of the UN reforms continue, the question of China reciprocating remains. Or has the UN become anachronistic and the Security Council beyond reform and should steps be initiated to create a new global institution to reflect the new geo politic.

As China makes significant acquisitions in the USA with its huge foreign reserves, and while Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) occupy CEO positions in major US multinationals and take up senior posts in the US administration, glimpses of the Asian Golden Age are emerging.

India’s traditional relation with Russia is a stable and reliable cooperation forged in the Soviet era. Indian nationals were evacuated to Russia when the military conflict with Ukraine began and then repatriated to India. Service to the ordinary Indian citizen is at the core of India’s international relations, which has the greatest impact at home on domestic relations, the significance of which came to the fore during the COVID pandemic. The recent cowardly extremist terror attacks in Moscow soon after the re-election of Russian President Putin, shares deep concerns with India who also experience these dastardly violent acts. As a Slavic language Russian, like other Slavic languages, are closely related to Sanskrit, the ancient and sacred languages of India, is another reason for the close relationship between these Eurasian and Asian nations.

Economically, India's trajectory is one of promise and potential. With a projected growth rate of 8.5% in 2024, India's burgeoning economy is poised to elevate its global stature and influence. The eradication of extreme poverty within its borders reflects India's commitment to inclusive growth and socioeconomic development, with ripple effects that extend beyond its borders to the broader Indian subcontinent.

In the realm of politics, India's upcoming general elections symbolize the exercise of democratic rights on an unprecedented scale. With over 950 million registered voters, India's democracy stands as a commitment to its pluralistic ethos and democratic values. An extraordinary voting process that begins on April 9th and continues into the month of June ensures an inclusive election process allowing the electorate free and fair access to vote. The anticipated victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will for the third term place public confidence in his leadership and vision for a modernized India.

As India negotiates the complexities of the 21st century, the significance of Bharat remains central to its identity and aspirations. From the ancient wisdom of the Vedas to the imperatives of economic growth and geopolitical influence, India's journey embodies a timeless quest for progress and prosperity. In embracing Bharat's heritage and ethos, India charts a course towards a future defined by resilience, innovation, and the enduring spirit of its people.


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