India’s proudest moment
India’s 61st Independence Day today will prove to be, perhaps in
retrospect, more memorable than any in the recent past. The claim may
seem exaggerated in the context of the bomb blasts in the cities of
Bangalore and Ahmedabad last month and the fear of homegrown Islamist
But terrorism, by common consent, does not pose a major long-term
threat to India’s integrity, however menacing it may seem at present
because of the suicide bombers and the indiscriminate killing of
Similarly, Left-extremist insurgency may seem a serious threat
because of the presence of these ultra-revolutionaries in the tribal
belt and their occasional attacks on police personnel. But few expect
the Indian state to crumble before them, just as it didn’t while
confronting the Sikh militancy in the 1980s.
However, it is the path-breaking initiatives on the India-US civil
nuclear deal and the continuing economic reforms that have implications
well beyond the present times.
Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
Although the terrorists and the Maoist insurgents do present major
security challenges, what will ultimately matter is the fallout from
India’s entry into the league of big powers, as the invitation to India
to attend the G-8 summits show.
What is even more noteworthy than India’s presence at the high table
of international diplomacy is how New Delhi is rapidly moving ahead of
some of the less friendly powers in the neighbourhood.
It is India’s success in moulding a multi-religious, multicultural,
multilingual country of over one billion people into a vibrant and
responsible democracy that has persuaded the US to ignore its
non-proliferation concerns and accord legitimacy to India’s nuclear
There is little doubt that Indian democracy today represents a unique
experiment. There has been nothing so successful on this scale anywhere
in the world.
India’s distinctiveness lies in the fact that while all the other
established democracies see merit in trying to retain their original
homogeneous racial and religious characteristics, India proudly flaunts
its characteristic of being a mosaic of 4,635 communities speaking in
325 languages and dialects, which is written in 24 scripts.
No other country can boast of its currency notes carrying all the 17
“official” languages, with the probability of more being added in the
But what is remarkable is that it is this very heterogeneity that
holds India together where other countries focus on the need to impose
an artificial uniformity on them for the sake of maintaining unity. Yet,
the Indian experiment shows that it is the opposite that is true.
Any step to force the various communities into a perceived “national”
straitjacket only encourages fissiparous tendencies. And the value of
this example is something that India can tell the world on this day.
Historians will say that this “unity in diversity” has always been in
India’s DNA. From the Mauryan Emperor Asoka (273 to 232 BC) to the
Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556 to 1605) the emphasis of all perceptive
rulers has been on assimilation.
As India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru said in his
“Discovery of India”, if the same policies were pursued by a Buddhist
and a Muslim emperor separated by 1,700 years, the reason was that the
voice of India was speaking through them. It is the same today.
While India can accept the applause of the rest of the world for its
numerous achievements on its 61st Independence Day, it is also raising
expectations that the tortoise will finally emerge victorious in the
race with the hares of fast-transforming Asia.
One reason for such a dramatic denouement is that economic reforms
may follow a faster trajectory. The break in relations between the
Manmohan Singh government and the Communists is a blessing because the
ideological objectors to market-oriented policies are no longer around
in the corridors of power.
If India does become a major economic power over the next two
decades, as is predicted, historians will look to the present period to
assess the individuals who were responsible for the magical
transformation from the “land of tigers and snake-charmers” to one of
information technology and nine percent growth.
And among those who will be remembered are several of India’s prime
ministers - the late Rajiv Gandhi, who inaugurated the age of computers
in the mid-1980s, (now Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh, who launched the
economic reforms under the tutelage of the then prime minister P.V.
Narasimha Rao in 1991.
Also, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a prime minister who for the first time
headed a non-Congress party government for a full five-year term and
carried on the reform process initiated by previous Congress
governments, and Manmohan Singh himself when he became Prime Minister of
the country in 2004. IANS