India a model for a functioning multi-ethnic, multi-lingual democracy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Aug 27 15:33:08 UTC 2005

  Front Page Saturday, August 27, 2005 From the
Indian Express

INDIA EMPOWERED TO ME IS Turning fault lines into bonds, at home and abroad


Posted online: Saturday, August 27, 2005 at 0000 hours IST

 In a globally integrated, instantly connected world, foreign policy
cannot be separated from domestic policy. The empowerment of India in
international relations is only a reflection of the empowerment of India
at home. Every sinew of our internal strength is noticed by the world,
every blemish is subject to instant scrutiny. As our capacity to deal with
our challenges at home increases, India walks with greater confidence
abroad. As one more Indian child receives education, one more Indian
village gets electricity and drinking water, one more far flung Indian
district is looped into a world class highway, the image of India that is
seen by the world improves, incrementally but irreversibly. It is a good
time to be Foreign Minister.

For me, the empowerment of India has meant the transformation of this
image over the years. The snake charmer has yielded place to the computer.
What was once seen as a chaotic country is now seen as a vibrant, thriving
democracy. The population that was once seen as a debilitating burden is
now an enviable asset. The Indian immigrant, once considered an economic
refugee, is welcomed now in an increasing number of countries. India is no
longer a country seen as home to countless impoverished millions in need
of food aid, education and relief. It is seen as a country with a critical
role in the twenty first century, an economy that is both a very viable
investment destination as well as a hub of growth, a polity that is a
model for a functioning multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious
democracy. Today, it is no longer possible to ignore Indias voice; without
her, no calculus of the twenty first century is complete.

What are the factors that have contributed to this sea-change in our
standing abroad? To my mind, the most critical factor is the way we have
nurtured our spirit of freedom and enabled it to enliven all our
democratic institutions. The world today marvels at how we have managed to
transform possible fault linesbe they of religion, region or languageinto
bonds that unite. Our election process, peaceful transfers of power,
flexible federalism, independent judiciary, freedom of debatein Parliament
or in the Presshas set standards by which the resilience of societies to
handle political challenges is measured. Our billion strong democratic
experiment is unique and is seen as such. It empowers every Indian, at
home and abroad.

The growing strength of the Indian economy is another crucial element in
the process of our empowerment. Wide-ranging reforms, a determined bid
towards global integration keeping in mind our own specific circumstances
and a commitment to bring the benefits of development to every strata of
our society have set the stage for phenomenal growth. The world is paying
attention though much more needs to be done to attract the level of
investment that we seek. But the effects of economic change have already
empowered an increasing number of Indians.

The third factor that empowers us today is the quality of our education.
This has transformed our population burden into a bank of talent. It has
created and nourished our cutting edge IT industry. It has enabled India
to become a nuclear power, a confident explorer of space frontiers, a
leader in biotechnologyin fact, a giant of the knowledge industry.

When one is abroad, the true value of Indian education and scientific
temper often taken for granted at home, stands out as a major factor of
our empowerment. Our efforts have to be aimed at extending this education
of excellence to every Indian; the impact on Indias empowerment will be

And one last point: India is empowered in the world today because of the
philosophical underpinning of our foreign policy, the principles that we
have held dear, the ideals that we have cherished. The relentless pursuit
of peace, the willingness to engage, the enormous contributions to
multilateral institutions and above all, the independence of our
decision-making have earned respect and admiration for our foreign policy.

Today we continue these traditions in our dialogue with our neighbours and
in our energetic engagement with every major power and region in the
world. Our consistent efforts to achieve close and friendly political
relations, mutually beneficial economic linkages and increased people to
people contacts are resulting in tangible empowerment for every Indian.

In the eyes of the world, an empowered India is no longer a matter of
doubt; it is already a matter of fact.

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