A major and monumental effort must be mounted in providing healthy food, health-care, drinking water, primary education, and basic necessities to a large segment of population. How can we do it? If India is to avoid unrest or discontent, India must confront these hard facts. The forward movement of India depends upon her successful handling of these problems.
As The Wall Street Journal on May 4, 2007 stated: Despite the economy growing at 8 per cent or more a year for the past three years, India is falling behind in several basic measures of human progress?. The latest family health survey, conducted by India'sMinistry of Health, showed child malnutrition levels even higher than in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the survey, 46 per cent of children under three in India are underweight. (UNICEF figures show that 28 per cent of Sub-Saharan children under five are underweight.) Anemia, linked to poor nutrition, is prevalent in 79 per cent of India'schildren aged 6-35 months, up from 74 per cent seven years ago.
Closely associated with issue of poverty is the challenge that India faces regarding her youth. A majority of India'spopulation is under the age of 30. This is truly an extraordinary resource, but it is also potentially a grave danger should the youth of India remain under-employed or unemployed. Proper engagement and direction can determine the positive impact of that resource. India must keep these young people from pursuing anti-social activities.
Fifth, India'spolitical stability and economic progress also depends on her place on the world stage and the likely threats she may encounter from other countries. In her international relations India'sfirst concern must now be China.
China and India are often mentioned side by side by opinion leaders. Donald Berlin writes: The recent trajectories of China and India suggest strongly that these states will play a more powerful role in the world in the coming decades. One recent analysis, for example, judges that ?the likely emergence of China and India?as new global players?similar to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the early 20th century?will transform the geopolitical landscape, with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the two previous centuries.?
India'sfuture will be very much affected by the moves China is making. China is not only a major economic power, it has expansionist motives also. For example, China'smovement in the Indian Ocean is a major concern: China is building ports in Bangladesh and in Sri Lanka. It has also built a large naval base for Pakistan in the Arabian Sea. Recent reports indicate that these initiatives may be part of a definite and long-term strategy to encircle and contain India. It is well worth remembering that India and China are competitors for the energy resources found in the Middle East.
India has to be careful; the world has to be careful. China'sassistance to Pakistan and China'sworld-wide activities raise concerns. Furthermore, China'spolicies currently, and for the foreseeable future, are determined not by the people of China but by its ruling ideologues. It is a warning signal not to be ignored.
As to Pakistan, it may never permit a resolution of the Kashmir issue. Pakistan remains a threat to the stability of South Asia. This is clearly one more geopolitical problem that the Institute must address.
On India'snortheastern flank, Nepal poses a significant challenge to India'sforeign policy. Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world. It is facing immense challenges. In 1996, the Maoist political party unleashed an armed revolt that has claimed 13,000 lives. Since then, the monarch was ousted and the economy battered. Maoists in the hill districts control a large segment of the population. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and his government are seeking a solution to this problem. Meanwhile, the situation of the monarchy and the place of democracy in Nepal remain uncertain.
What steps should India take? How can India best help Nepal resolve its internal problems? One thing is clear, until the conflicts and controversies in India'sown neighbourhood are resolved, India'spath forward remains uncertain. The Institute should undertake an in-depth and ongoing analysis of this situation.
The United States and India now have a special relationship. These two democracies have similar, open, civil societies in which fundamental rights, a vigilant court system, freedom of faith, and equality of opportunity are all guaranteed. Since the end of the Cold War, and after 9/11, these two giants are coming together. They have to develop a genuine alliance to advance their mutual prosperity, to fight against terrorism, and to usher in a new era of global peace. The momentum for friendship and co-operation should continue based on mutual respect and knowledge. As one Western scholar has stated: A strategic alliance (between the United States and India) must rest on strong, enduring, and shared interests and friendships: there must be a degree of trust and coming together of goals between the strategic elites of both states.
The Institute could play a vital role in advancing these objectives.
Now I would comment on India'semerging relations with Russia, the Europeans, Israel, and the Middle East and how those relations reinforce one another or potentially undermine future connections. The international arena is complex and choices have to be made based on common or competing commercial interests, compatible security interests, and a shared vision of the future. Such connections require constant review and analysis, which the Institute will provide.
In view of her changed status in the world economy and in world affairs, what new role should India play in regional and international organisations such as United Nations and the Security Council? India has to assert her vision, consistent with her interests and position in world affairs.
Global warming is now recognised as a geopolitical issue. For instance, the DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme, 2007-2036?a United Kingdom Ministry of Defence document?highlights the probable geopolitical significance of climate change for the availability of water resources, a decline in available crops, the oceanic inundation of the coastline, etc.
The latest UN Panel Report on climate change forecasts that India would be amongst the countries most affected by rising temperatures. The magazine India Today, in its issue of April 23, 2007, presents a dreadful picture. The study predicts that over the course of the 21st century the following may occur:
1. Mumbai'sNariman Point will be submerged.
2. About 40 per cent of Himalayan glaciers will vanish.
3. Ganga delta will turn infertile.
4. Around 25 per cent wildlife will perish.
5. Food and water shortages will be the norm.
6. Dengue and cholera will spread.
Although the science of climate change may not be exact, it is critical that India, other governments, and this Institute seriously consider the impact of climate change. This should be done for the sake of the citizens of India and the world population.
In conclusion, India'seminence and continued survival have been based upon its value system. Any effort to destroy this value system would hurt India. Western civilization, while interacting with India, has to be cognizant that India'slife blood is its culture. India should never allow its heritage to be undermined. Without these values, India would be rudderless. This would be disastrous for India and the world.
Acquiring economic power is surely important but India has always to remember its vision of the world. India must provide moral leadership to the world. For example, India has to redefine the meaning of ?globalisation? to make its benefits more equitable. The world should be considered a family, not just a market. As the Vedas proclaimed thousands of years ago, ?Vasudhaiva kutumbkum??The world is one family.?
(The writer is former Indian Ambassador-at-Large and Senior Advisor, Institute for the Geopolitics of India.)