- "If there is a country on earth which can justly claim the honor of having been the cradle of the human race….that country assuredly is India”, so wrote the German Philologist and archaeologist Friedrich Creuzer (1771-1858)
- The World's Oldest Civilization: Off the Coast of North Western India - Ancient City Called Dwarka - 9,500 Years Ago Video Series
MAKING PEACE WITH PAKISTAN:
I give this topic the utmost importance as, all strides both India and Pakistan make in their respective economies will be wiped out if another war breaks out between them. Not only will it mean enormous wastage of resources, all foreign investments will dry up. And that will likely eliminate all the gains both India and Pakistan had made over the recent years. It behooves both to act responsibly in this matter; or else, history will judge us harshly.
The idea put forward in this essay was formulated as a part of an article I wrote in 1993 and submitted to The Hindu (a national daily in India) but was not published. However, some of the other ideas such as promoting tourism, reducing tariffs, taking the lead in alternative energy programs, etc. are already being implemented in India. Evidently, some people did read the text and take the topics to heart. Recent developments in both India and Pakistan hint at both countries being serious about making peace. Even now, however, nobody has suggested that the way to solve the Kashmir problem is by making peace first. That is the thrust of this segment of our introduction.
Our two countries (populated by the same people but divided by two uncompromising religions and claims and counterclaims on some choice real estate) have fought three wars and are maintaining standing armies of substantial numbers on either side of an arbitrary border. During fifty years of independence, our two countries have made significant improvement in our respective economies only to squander it in their military escapades. We have both gone to the extent of developing nuclear weapons, arguably as a deterrent. Then, when world opinion demands some movement, the leaders of both countries arrange some meeting or other gimmick. Then, they both gravitate towards renewed tension and border skirmishes or worse. Is there an end in sight? Regrettably, the answer is, of course, no! I will outline now my eminently feasible solution for this thorny problem. But first let us analyze the problem.
At the time of independence, India was partitioned according to the religious persuasion of the local inhabitants. Unfortunately, this dagger went right through the middle of Kashmir, although Muslims were present on the Indian side of Kashmir and some Hindus remained on the Pakistani side. Some of the most important relics of the Indian civilizations such as the ruins of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa and the great Hindu and Buddhist cultural center of Taxila remain in Muslim Pakistan. And, the great Mughal monuments such as the Taj Mahal and Fateh Pur Sikri are in India. The issue that drives both India and Pakistan to wars is, however, Kashmir and, when a solution is found for this vexing problem, others will pale into insignificance.With hindsight, I am tempted to blame the whole issue on the British and assume that they partitioned the country in this fashion for precisely this reason- to give both countries some very credible reasons to fight! Be that as it may, let us look for solutions. Evidently, the geography will not change. With both countries arming themselves, the border will remain a source of irritation for both countries forever. The religious make up is also unlikely to change and both are almost incompatible- especially when the masses are semiliterate.
As always, the solution lies in finding common ground. Obviously, this constant fighting is a heavy drain on the economies of both countries. And, we will never find a solution for the problems unless we take a radically different course. To this end, I searched for parallels in history. Lo and behold, we have an excellent example right before our eyes, the European Union (“EU”)!. Until the end of the Second World War, Europe was a conglomeration of constantly feuding nations. At long last they managed to come up with common grounds, to tie all the economies together and work as one unit so that boundaries do not matter and wars become unnecessary. If those small countries with centuries-old conflicts, including languages vying for global dominance, could come together as one union, solving our regional problem should be much simpler. This is an example that not only we can emulate but we must, and with some urgency.
The Union as I see it will comprise India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and possibly Myanmar. It would primarily be an economic union but, eventually progress from a free trade zone to a military union as well. When this is accomplished, the union will have the largest population of any block and could wield a significant economic prowess in the world. Once the need for maintaining large and opposing military forces and fighting wars with some frequency are eliminated, our combined resources could be unleashed on technological, financial and cultural development.
While finer details of the union and its constitution can be worked out once the concept gains acceptance, one needs to allay fears of the smaller countries that no single nation will dominate the body. To this end, representation should be equal and veto power invested in each nation’s representative (s) and enshrined in the charter. A further assurance to the member nations could be the location of the ‘capital’ of this union either on a rotating basis or in a neutral country such as Nepal Bhutan or Sri Lanka. In the global economy that we are moving into inexorably, if we have the wisdom to form a union as outlined above, we will be well-positioned to take advantage of the boundless opportunities the world has to offer.
Have you ever wondered why when a news item from India is broadcast in the U.S., they usually show a narrow street in Old Delhi, filled with people and cattle? Often the story is not even happening in Delhi but elsewhere in the country. Contrast that with a story from Britain or France; you are likely to see Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower on the TV screen. Now, why the difference? There are plenty of downtrodden areas in East London and Paris and the US news channels could have picked the Taj Mahal or the elegant Indian Parliament building for the Indian stories. It has all to do with a certain jaundiced view of the western reporters bringing the stories. One could characterize this as a certain image of India imprinted in the average western reporter’s mind.
After 300 years of British domination, the “image” Indians themselves have about us Indians is a classic example of this phenomenon. While this may appear unfathomable to outsiders, this negative treatment of Indians occur on a daily basis aboard India’s flagship “Air India”. On my first and only journey on an Air India plane (and according to most other Indians I have talked to), the treatment Indians receive from the crew of Air India planes is distinctly discriminatory…alas, not better treatment than the foreigners but quite to the contrary!This can only be explained as a negative image our Indian crew aboard Air India have about themselves! This may be augmented by the fact that Indians from different corners of India have no common language (other than English, a foreign language) or understanding of the others’ cultures. Whatever the reason (s), this discrimination is absolutely intolerable and our Government should take steps to stop this immediately, with severe punishment for those who practice it.
We think it’s time to change the image problem. While we acknowledge that given time, when India joins the ranks of developed nations (into the so-called “1st world” nations), this will happen naturally, we also recognize that this is a slow process and successive governments of the country have failed miserably in broadcasting the great strides the country had taken since independence. In 1947, at the time of independence from Britain, India was largely semiliterate, one of the poorest nations in the world, with high infant mortality and life expectancy of less than fifty. Most of the populace lived in villages, that were not electrified and devoid of most creature comforts. With enormous social and geopolitical problems, despite population growth per year that is greater than the total population of Australia, India has emerged as one having a highly literate middleclass that is more numerous than the total population of the US, Russia or Japan.
Back in the sixties many a western observer had written off India as a country verging on starvation and heading for famine of catastrophic proportions. Yet, India now feeds all its mouths and has surplus food to sell abroad. Other indices of progress such as the life expectancy, median household income, rural electrification and so on, have likewise shown improvement over the years. Even in the post 9/11 sluggish world economy, the Indian economic system has shown its resilience; only China has managed to out-perform.
Success in some areas is even more spectacular. India now boasts approximately 40% of the computer software engineers of the world and writes a sizeable chunk of highly sophisticated software for multinational companies. Indian Institute of Technology has been compared very favorably with such academic centers as Harvard and MIT. India also produces highly trained medical and paramedical personnel, who now can be spotted in practically any country in the world. Our engineers and consultants in other technology-related fields are in demand all over the world. India is self-sufficient in most consumer goods. Impressive strides have been made in steel, shipping and other heavy industries, medicine, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, aerospace engineering, gems and fisheries and automobile industries. Most of the industries are either already or very soon will become competitive on world markets.
The above account summarizes the achievements of modern India and points to the direction the country is likely to take in the future. We chose the name “Indiancentury.com” to acknowledge the fact that, the coming century will usher in unparalleled growth and development in this country as we are well-poised to take advantage of the information technology for the betterment of our people. This website hopes to play an important role in disseminating information about developments in India to the world at large, while also becoming the medium for communication between Indian nationals and expatriates. In these columns we also intend to inform the rest of the world about the contributions India had made to world culture through the ages.
We will remind the readers that, one of the earliest settlements of city dwellers with brick houses, paved streets, established sewage systems and commerce flourished in Mohenjo- Daro and Harappa in Northwestern India around 2500-3000 BC; that two of the greatest souls who ever lived in this world (the Buddha and Gandhi) were products of India; that volumes of Upanishads and Vedas and great literary and theological works of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagawad Gita were written long before the Europeans and others developed any literary bend; that Susruta was performing brain surgery around 300 BC; that the concept of zero and the so-called “Arabic numerals” were invented by Indians; that many of the other abstract concepts of mathematics including the decimal system, combining alphabetic letters with the numbers to form algebra and even the large numbers above 10,000 were also Indian contributions to humanity and carried to the West and the rest of the world by the Arabs; that Indians experimented with the democratic process of government long before the Greeks; that no dance routine in the world matches the exquisite quality of Indian classical dances like the Bharatha Natyam; that meditation and yoga and the highly developed cuisine are matters of pride for Indians everywhere; that three world religions originated in India (Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism).
How little does the West and especially the Americans know about the depth of influence Indian civilization had on the rest of Asia through the ages! All one has to do is to take a trip to Thailand to realize that their whole tourism industry is built around what they have imported from India; your guides take you from one Buddhist or Hindu temple to another and when they put on shows, their classical dance routines usually depict stories from Ramayana. Sri Lanka, Tibet, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, China and Korea are some of the other countries Buddhism or Hinduism and Indian culture have influenced. On the contrary, none of these countries have significantly influenced Indian culture or thinking by such interactions.
It should be evident to our readers by now that “Indiancentury.com” is radically different from the other websites. That is because its mission is different; it is not primarily a commercial venture. It is meant to inspire the Indians, educate the non-Indians. It is meant to be an intellectual site; a platform for exchange of ideas. Hopefully, all of us will grow from the experience. One could not conclude this segment without mentioning the abysmal public relations job the Indian Government and its emissaries have done abroad in both projecting a good image of India or in promoting tourism. The other day I was showing a painting of a typical Kerala scenery, with a boat in a large lake sporting a coastline full of coconut trees and I told the person that this was a scene from my home state in India. He was aghast and exclaimed: "but I thought India was dry and desert-like!" Obviously, he had seen many images of India from Rajasthan and other arrid areas of India but never one of Kerala or Goa. Another good example of this failure is evident in the answer one gets to a question such as "where did Buddhism come from?". The invariable answer is "China"! This kind of erroneous belief may also apply to the origins of Yoga and Meditation. At least in part this is due to the impressive public relations efforts of the Chinese. They have been able to garner considerable prestige and influence with the western governments, especially the U.S. While our efforts should be second to none, I think this is one area in which emulating the Chinese may not be a bad thing. We hope this website will go a long way in rectifying this gaping deficiency in our PR efforts. We hasten to note that even the Chinese have not devised a website with the special structure and features planned for this one!