India G-20: Indian politics and its governance, since India took over the presidency of G-20 last December is abuzz with the planning and execution of events involving the member countries. For the whole year, the entire country will be agog with activities and festivities showcasing India’s assets in various sectors in order to attract world attention. About 200 meetings have been scheduled in the run-up to the Summit by the end of the year. They have begun to happen. G-20 year coincides with ‘400 days’ (396 at the time of writing this) of preparation for the next parliament elections. The government will go all guns blazing to earn glory without power within by gaining another mandate.
Be that as it may, competitive electoral politics is a part of the game in a multi-party democracy. It should all be good for Indians, at any rate, as the government will put its best foot forward at home and abroad. Prime Minister Modi has promised to make fundamental as well as radical provisions for the poor in the country in these 396 days. Admittedly, the government led by Modi, in the last 9 years, has come up with many innovative ideas and schemes in multiple sectors. Some of them have been good, and if we listen to critics, quite a few have not been so. Foreign policy has been a mixed bag too. I have repeatedly referred to such gains and losses, hits and misses in my writings on India and the World.
Today, I wish to make a tangible suggestion that may lift India, mainly the Prime Minister to the level of a Vishwaguru that he perhaps aspires for. And South Block has a chance to present it as one of India’s core cultural and civilizational assets. New Delhi has consciously coined the slogan for the G-20 Summit 2023, which is “One Earth, One Family, One Future”, underscoring the essential oneness of the world, expressed in the immortal words in chapter 6 of Maha Upanishad. They read, Ayam Nijah, Paro Veti, ganana laghuchetcam; Udaracartitanatu, Vashudheiva kutumbakam; One is a Relative, the Other Stranger, say the Small-minded, but the Magnanimous say and believe that the entire world is a Family.
It is a powerful, emotional, and social moral value indeed. The organizers of G-20 events have sounded a sensitive ethical tone, redolent of the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘Sisters and Brothers of the world’ in his speech at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893, in Chicago, that had shaken the psycho-social proclivities of those present there.
The sherpas of India G-20 may be well-advised to introduce another Indian, spiritual, civilizational, and ethical wisdom that may provide a much-needed alternative to the world. It may, in fact, begin to reformulate the global ethic concerning planning, management, and governance. That is putting people first.
According to religious beliefs, people were created in the image of God. What is the prevailing principle for growth and governance in the world? That is, to amass wealth, regardless of moral and human values. And to use the power of that wealth to control the citizens in a country, and confront other countries for territorial expansion, economic and military domination, etc. The nouveau riche China epitomizes this pernicious principle. China has validated the Marxian concept of economic determinism in a malevolent manner having scant regard for social and moral issues that Karl Marx failed to reckon with- freedom of choice, equality, justice, and a host of other human rights.
The consequences of the above strategy embraced by the world, typified by China are horrendous. Some of them were captured by our Foreign Minister in 3Cs- Covid, Climate Change, and Conflict. There are many more in myriad forms. However, such a growth strategy has created a Frankenstein-like China, thanks to the companies in the rich, western world who sought to exploit the cheap and captivated Chinese labour force.
This has also caused a universal debate and dichotomy between several contrasting concepts; democracy and authoritarianism, leaders have begun to doubt the economic efficacy of democracies, and to be enticed by the so-called gains of the Chinese authoritarian model; quantity and quality, pulled to greater production and consumption that override the need for harmony and happiness, note the Gross Domestic Happiness in contrast to GDP, propounded by a country like Bhutan, located geographically and notionally between India and China; materialism and metaphysics, embodied by the apostle of enlightenment, Lord Buddha who renounced the former and embraced the latter signified in love, compassion, and humanism; need and greed, remember the famous warning of Mahatma Gandhi, “the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed”. Heedless of such advice, the capitalist companies seduced the people for covetous consumption which led to a waste economy.
Furthermore, nature and culture, the current model of growth led both by the countries in the North and China based on ruthless and violent exploitation of nature is causing conflicts for resources and negative impacts of climate change including pandemics; men and machines, the planners mercilessly ignored men and women and focussed on machines leading to unbridled and unnecessary consumption of technologies that dismantled social structures and disrupted human interaction that is the bedrock of social harmony in and across countries.
Such consequences were prophetically warned by the legendary German-English economist, EF Schumacher who propounded the concept of Buddhist economy that made people central to planning and the use of relevant machines which he called Appropriate Technology. Buddhist Economics is also called compassionate economy as it underlines the values of empathy and compassion. When his fellow economists asked him in ignorance of the concept, “Fritz, we understand your concern for the poor, but what has compassion got to do with Economics?”. Conventional economics is driven by the logic of profit maximization etc. Schumacher stunned them with his reply, “economics without compassion is like having sex without love.”
Let India take the initiative in resetting the Global ethic — refocusing on people and reinforcing the power of fellowship and compassion that should hold together families, communities, and countries. If the world is a family, as India has pronounced to G-20, let that family be bound by brotherhood, wrapped with a universal chord of love and solidarity.
Sounds abstract and altruistic? Then examine the current trend, that is to measure the citizens of a country and the countries in the world by how much wealth they possess. If we continue to do so, we will validate Schumacher’s prophetic remark. He had said that the “conventional economists are rearranging the deckchairs in the Titanic.” Let India reflect on the thinking of Gandhi, Buddha, and Schumacher and replay some of their words and warnings during the G-20 year in the interest of humanity across the world.