(This presentation is for the inaugural event of Institute for the Geopolitics of India, a research centre established under the auspices of the Centre for Geopolitical Studies, New Mexico Tech.
This event is the realisation of the dreams of many people, most notably those who have been distressed for the lack of genuine interest on the part of western thinkers for India'spresent and future. Devang Vyas was one such person. He was right for this Institute. His education, his experience, his passion desired this kind of think tank. He left us too early. We miss him.
We chose to inaugurate the Institute for the Geopolitics of India amongst this family of Non-Resident Indians. The Institute will be a think tank but the community of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) will provide a foundation for carrying the ideas developed at the Institute into action. The scholars at the Institute will contemplate, discuss, study, recommend and caution?the Non-Resident Indian communities have to be informed and educated before acting on these ideas.)
NRI communities around the world have established powerful and purposeful organisations?worship centres, social groups, groups catering to the need of every person of every background, political education groups, professional associations, and so on. They have attempted to fulfill the emotional, cultural, social and political aspirations of the Indians living abroad.
NRIs are the pride of the host countries. Their loyalty to their host countries is exemplary. They have made their mark in every endeavour of human activity?they are respected with awe and reverence. Here it is impossible to count the achievements of every NRI child, student, and adult, but our people have performed, prospered and flourished in every walk of life in the USA. They excel in education, business, and professions of all kinds. Their success stories are legendary. We have amongst us Parth, son of Shri Davindra Singh, who recently received the first place amongst 22,000 students in the Scholastic Challenge with the highest ever score in the history of the competition. And we also have with us, Poonam Sharma, who was the graduating class speaker at Wharton recently. Poonam is already a published author and I have special affection for her, because she worked at our office in New York as a volunteer.
NRIs have ample resources of all kinds?I used to exhort the members of AAPI, an Indian physicians? group, with the comment that there are 30 thousand millionaires or potential millionaires among its ranks. The facts speak for themselves:
Numbering almost two million, Indian-Americans are now the wealthiest ethnic minority in the United States, boasting a median income of $60,000 and 200,000 millionaires. Fifteen per cent of Silicon Valley start-ups have been launched by Indians, many of them first-generation immigrants who have chosen to make the US their home. Indian-Americans are also leaders in the medical and financial professions and are increasingly seeking to match their rising economic and social status with political clout.
The combined wealth in our NRI communities across the globe is estimated at 1 trillion dollars, a figure almost equal to the current annual GDP of the Indian economy.
NRIs individually and through allied NGOs are already engaged in helping India in many ways. They can do much more. If the NRI communities worked together in a focused manner by reacting to India'sproblems based on sound, in-depth and objective studies, they would advance solutions with remarkable success.
It is in this sprit that I wish to call your attention to the Institute for the Geopolitics of India. Although there are many fine think tanks?official and unofficial?located in India, there is a need for one that will enable western scholars and policy-makers to be apprised of Indian geopolitical perspectives. The goal of this Institute is to address many issues that face India as it continues to develop its economic capacity and its presence on the world stage. Today I want to refer to some of the issues the Institute may address, without offering an in-depth assessment or detailed analysis of what needs to be done. That will be the work of the Institute. As the Institute'swork progresses, books, newsletters, and reports will be shared with all concerned for their consideration, action and implementation.
I want to thank New Mexico Tech for accepting my suggestion to bring ideas and proposals, as and when developed, to your attention. I anticipate that the impact of the Institute will be far reaching and significant.
In her geopolitical context, India'sregion is a natural geopolitical region bounded by Himalayas and the sea and within it are to be found all conceivable natural resources. An advanced ancient civilisation flourished in that region with a high culture, wealth, arts and letters, philosophy, etc.?all of which have been the envy of the world.
India'swealth attracted raiders from 8th to 11th century who attempted to destroy institutions and locations associated with the history, character and heritage of that great land. Later on, the Europeans came and they tried to deplete India of her resources and undermine her sublime culture. I am not going to discuss those dark eras in detail. You all are aware of them.
With an indigenous weapon of passive resistance, Mahatma Gandhi and others helped India gain Independence. After Independence, India became a democratic, secular, and pluralistic republic consistent with India'sinherent values. Then there appeared on the scene, Sardar Patel, the master of India'sgeopolitics. Sardar Patel brought more than 500 princely states into the fold of India making a geopolitically unified region to the extent possible after the Partition of the country. Patel was the Kautilya of 20th century India.
Regarding the recent economic surge in India, everybody is chanting ?India is rising? and ?India is emerging.? Goldman Sachs in a study of this year concluded that India'sGDP (in US dollar terms) will surpass that of the US by 2050. Another projection, this one by National Intelligence Council, a US government agency, claims: India, when ranked by composite measures of national power, including weighted combinations of GDP, defence spending, population and technology growth, will possess ?the fourth most capable concentration of power after 2015,? following the US, European Union and China.
Almost every journal and newspaper reports new economic studies that predict attractive, rosy pictures. India'shi-tech sector is dominating, in a dramatic fashion, the world'selectronic and internet services. India has arrived. They say, India is a land of brains, merit, and wisdom. We are all glowing in the glory, witnessing an India of a billion people, basking in democracy, slowly but surely on the road to shining.
Then the question is: Can the momentum for economic eminence be maintained? Do we foresee some impediments or negative forces which may stop this process or may even reverse it? This Institute will study scenarios and the events that could lead to the culmination of those scenarios, with suggestions for correction and avoidance.
First, the continued progress of India depends upon the preservation of her physical integrity and the unity of her territory. The unity of India may be threatened by internal and external forces.
The US-based company Stratfor has pointed out that terrorism, exported by the neighbouring countries on the west and the east of India, is a continuing threat to her security. The ISI'sactivities aimed at destabilising India from across the border and within Indian borders are well-documented.
In addition to terrorism, illegal migration has flooded northeast India with millions of people causing concerns and well-placed fear for security and stability in the future. Studies, trends and projections coming out of this Institute may serve to alert decision-makers so they may take appropriate measures without fear of extraneous considerations.
Indian democracy is under great stress. Despite inherently slow-moving democratic institutions, India has wonderful and enviable achievements to its credit. The caste politics, vote bank politics, regional politics are a drag to the development of India, its unity, and progress. For immediate political gains the good of the country is readily sacrificed. The other day, The Wall Street Journal came up with the heading ?Lawless Legislators Thwart Social Progress in India.? In order to woo sectarian votes, nationally damaging compromises are made which may threaten the social fabric of the land.
All of India is not booming as is widely assumed. Despite the rosy picture generally painted, the majority of the people in India are still living in poverty. Currently, there are ?two Indias?: a wealthy, urban, elite India with access to technology and finance and a largely, though not exclusively, rural, impoverished India. The sunshine of prosperity does not shine in most of India'svillages.
(To be continued)
(The writer is former Indian Ambassador-at-Large & Senior Advisor, Institute for the Geopolitics of India.)