Published August 15, 2022
Some years back, during a public event in Washington, D.C., I was asked whether democratic India or Communist China would be more central in the future of the world. I had no hesitation in responding then that it would be India. My response was not to placate India but to highlight what India means to the international community.
As someone who considers himself very much part of Indian society for many years now, it gives me much pleasure to be able to share my thoughts on the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.
I am greatly encouraged by the strides this great country has taken since 1947. The Indian people have shown, both at home and abroad, that they are second to none in many of the fields of modern human development, including in science and technology.
Foremost among India’s contributions to the world is the evidence it regularly shows of the value of democracy. Since its independence, India has faced many challenges and has gone through quite a few upheavals. However, its fundamental structure has remained stable because of the strong foundation of democratic governance laid generations ago. This firm foundation has enabled various sections of society to co-exist as equal partners. For over a thousand years, almost all major religious traditions have been living together in harmony here. I am writing this while on a visit to the beautiful region of Ladakh in the extreme north of India, and I see first-hand how followers of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism, live together peacefully, practising religious harmony on a daily basis. Thanks to its vibrant society, India has been making steady and consistent progress over the years.
Obviously, by its nature democracy cannot be as subdued and predictable as an authoritarian system. In 1954/1955, while visiting China, I was able to observe the functioning of China’s national people’s congress at close quarters. A few seasons later in 1956, I was able to observe the functioning of the Indian parliament when I came for my first visit to New Delhi. In India, unlike China, I saw noisy but lively discussions on matters affecting the people. Parliamentarians were able to speak freely without fear or hesitation.
India, being the largest democratic country in the world, has the stature and the aspiration to be one of the leading nations of the world. This great nation has the moral authority which comes through transparency and respect for the rights of all citizens through democratic institutions, including an independent judiciary and free media.
India can also call upon its ancient wisdom of focusing on ahimsa and karuna, which have much contemporary relevance. Mahatma Gandhi made the principle of non-violence spread far and wide. In fact, I have adopted the promotion of awareness and interest in ancient Indian wisdom as my fourth commitment to complement the cultivation of positive human values, the encouragement of inter-religious harmony and the preservation of Tibetan culture and ecology. I am convinced that the rich ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions, as well as its traditional techniques of mental training, such as meditation, can contribute greatly to the development not just of India but of the world at large. I am committed to trying to create greater awareness of this treasure, particularly of the power of compassion, among my Indian brothers and sisters.
An invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition, Yoga has emerged as one of the key means to improving physical and mental well-being. It is fitting that June 21, 2021, was declared International Yoga Day by the United Nations General Assembly.
I would like to reiterate a suggestion that I have been making about incorporating the study of India’s ancient knowledge, viewed from a secular, academic perspective, in the curriculum of its schools.
India is, in fact, specially placed to achieve this combination of ancient and modern modes of knowledge in a fruitful way so that a more integrated and ethically grounded way of being in the world can be promoted within contemporary society.
I am glad that initiatives are being taken on this in some states, and I hope that this can become a national movement.
In over 75 years of independence, India and its people have repeatedly given proof of their maturity. Today, as I had the opportunity to mention in my congratulatory message to the newly-elected President, Shrimati Droupadi Murmu, the international community is becoming ever more aware of the importance of India. The country has much to contribute to the peace and development of all humanity.
Published by Onmanorama