Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral
Mrs. Shiela Gujral
Excerpts from the book "A Foreign Policy for India"
by Hon’ble Shri I.K. Gujaral , Former Prime Minister of India on
Tuesday, 26th February 2002 at Aligarh.
Janab Pro Chancellor Sahib,
Vice Chancellor Sahib,
Members of the University Faculty,
members of the Academic Council, the Executive Council,
I consider it a great privilege to come to your midst and talk
about the internal and external challenges that face India today.
It is a particular honour to speak in the hallowed precincts of
this great seat of learning that in Maulana Azad’s words “...one of
the main sources which has contributed to the evolution of modern
Standing here this morning, I see before me the future of our
nation in the glistening eyes of the young faces who are venturing out for
adventures of life. Their
stay here would have familiarized them with the vision and courage of Sir
Syed Ahmed and the great traditions of this University wherein new ideas
and schools of research have made their mark.
The late Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had rightly pointed out,
“ ............The inscriptions which have been carved on the walls of the Strachey Hall may fade with the passage of time but the inscriptions which Aligarh has written on the modern period of Indian history can never fade. Future historians will discover in Aligarh one of the main sources which has contributed to the evolution of modern India”.
Like the millions,
as a young participant in the freedom struggle I had
the intellectual contributions made by many whose minds and
were shaped by this University. Your ‘Tarana’ lyrically testifies this
when it says:
( fQrjr us fl[kkbZ gS gedks
mQrkn ;gka - ijokt ;gka
xk, gSa oQk ds xhr ;gka
NsMk gS tuw dk lkt ;gka )
Mr. Pro Chancellor,
The era that opened with the end of the Mougal Monarchy in 1857, was a challenging turning point in our history. Perceptive minds, like Sir Syed Ahmad, and Raja Ram Mohan Roy had comprehended that neither civilizations nor religion could be compartmentalized into single homogenous units. People of the world cannot be categorized into commanding systems or classifications. There are so many diverse trends in every civilization as well as in each religion that one cannot speak of one Christian world, one Islamic world, one Hindu world or one Confucian world since the human affiliations are complex and diverse. People have linkages besides a civilization or a religion, with polities, languages, literatures, vocations and so on.
One cannot partition civilizations to invoke the images of a
unified, homogenous Western world or a unified Islamic world.
It betrays crudeness of analysis and poverty of vision, besides
lacking in historical objectivity and contemporary reality. For instance
to speak of a ‘Hindu India” ignores the reality of the Indian art,
literature, music and even food caused by the complex interactions over
centuries between Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians,
Jews and several other communities. Indian
civilization cannot be comprehended without taking into account this
prolonged process of cultural cross fertilizations.
As the learned friends here would appreciate the concepts of one
Christian world or one Islamic world are mythical images that do not
conform to either history or geography. Take the case of Akbar and
Aurangzeb, both Muslim emperors who had different socio-political outlooks
and hence followed diverse policies and modes of governance.
As we know, the so-called one Christian world or civilization
indulged in numerous inter-se conflicts and the two world wars that killed
more men, women and children of their own faith than any struggle between
different religions. Similar are the tales of wars amongst the feudal
lords of this sub-continent who worshipped the same gods.
The ‘clash of Civilizations’ – as it is being called, is a
myth fostered to ensure the dominance of a few over the others. Can we put
Japan and Korea in the same Confucian category as China? The falsity of it
is obvious in the very spelling of this concept. China and Japan fought
against each other in the last world war and continue to share mutual
mistrust, so does Korea against Japan. Nor can Korean civilization be
identified with the Chinese civilization, besides the fact that Japan
evolved its own unique civilizational values and achievements.
May I say that the main hope for harmony in our country, and indeed
in the world, lies in the acknowledgement of our diversities and the
plurality of our identities and rejecting the religion or language based
divisiveness. That was the
firm view of Sir Syed Ahmad as I understand it.
We face today a complex international situation, becoming messy day
by day. On the one hand there is almost universal rejection of terrorism
as legitimate tool for change or political power; on the other, a single
dominance is emerging in the world with serious consequences for various
countries cutting across geographic barriers.
cannot be accepted by civil society anywhere. No matter what the
grievances, mindless violence against innocent men, women and children
must be a rejected and combated. No country in the world is now willing to
accept that some terrorisms may
be good and some bad. There is a universal convergence on the need to
exorcise terrorism and terrorist activities in all their forms. The UN
resolution adopted unanimously enjoins upon all countries to cooperate in
this struggle against terrorisms.
Mr. Pro Chancellor, as you would see the terrorists have indeed
brought in the very consequences that they were professedly fighting
against. The world situation after September 11 attacks on the United
States’ nerve centers have led to the very results that the perpetrators
believed they were combating.
At the same time there is considerable awareness around the world that the roots of widely spread resentments must be comprehended and the sources of the maladies must be addressed. Why these repeated assaults on the ecologies of power? Are these not the symptoms of the increasingly bitter polarization between haves and have-nots. Globalization may have helped many but also left out many more. The growing distance, the social and economic disparities, between countries and peoples, what one writer has described as “the incredible quantitative difference of force and riches between North and South”, also an explosive rage in many countries against the hypocrisy and cupidity of their own rulers. These are grave issues that need to be addressed.
Yet another fallout of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath
has been the curtailment of civil liberties almost all over the world. It
may be a POTO here, the military tribunals in the United States, or the
new restrictive laws in Britain. The moral high ground against terrorism
is being gradually abandoned. The administrations and officials in a
number of democratic countries are making every effort not to let their
hands be tied by the traditions and niceties of legal procedures or the
rules of law. In times of fear people become more willing to cede to the
governments extraordinary authority. Can every wing of administration be
trusted not to abuse the power that may be given to meet a specific
contingency? The trend
towards constricting civil liberties and democratic rights is a highly
unfortunate development. George
Kennan once said that the greatest danger to America was the tendency to
imitate its enemies. This would be applicable to us too.
Above all, the fallout of the terrorist attacks of September 11 has
been the emergence of a single, all-pervasive dominance. Today American
bases and troops dot almost the entire world. They are now in our
immediate neighbourhood. Indeed, we in South-Asia have a new neighbour-
the United States. Its military bases have been established and
troops lodged in Pakistan as well as
in Central Asia. This is an extraordinary situation; never before
have the American armed forces been so overwhelmingly present in Pakistan.
The Bush administration has made it abundantly clear that it is
there to stay- at least for quite some time. This should be a matter of
concern for us.
The army generals who rule Pakistan have welcomed the
Americans-perhaps they had no choice. But the Islamic Republics of Central
Asia have even more cordially opened their welcome gates for them. There
will now be a new play for oil, power and influence in Central Asia that
may come to be factors for stability or sources of instability for us as
well. The proven oil reserves of Central Asia and the Caucasus are
presently pegged at roughly 30 billion barrels.
The multi-nationals have already invested much money to keep their
footholds in the region with professed objectives of strengthening the
independence and promotion of democracy.
The Russians and the Chinese now have a new presence on their
borders. For nearly two centuries Russia has been the predominant power in
the region as the Central Asian republics were within the territorial
bounds of the Soviet Union. The new Republics of Central Asia – though
rich in resources are socially and politically fragile. They needed the
presence of the Russian troops for their protection against the Afghan
based fundamentalists. Also their sizeable Russian population and the
pipelines needed the stationing of the Russian troops.
China another neighbour, has been making energetic efforts to
develop political and economic relations with these Central Asian
this distinguished audience would know, despite the inherent rivalries
China and Russia had recently co-founded the Shanghai Forum, involving
most of the Central Asian states. Security and economic cooperation was
main item of its agenda. For
China the Central Asia offers the hope of avoiding dependence in the U.S.
navy to safeguard its oil imports through the sea-lanes. It currently
imports some 1 million barrels of oil a day which could rise to about 6-7
million barrels a day by 2010.
is no secret that today the United States is virtually the master of all
its surveys. So much power and leverage in the hands of one country, no
matter how benign and well-intentioned it might be, should be of concern
since it can breed intolerance as well as disdain for the views and
interests of the others. Two recently conducted opinion surveys in West
indicate a widely spread anxiety that the United States would act
unilaterally and might employ its power with scant regard to the opinions
President Bush’s recent address to the U.S. Congress has done little to reassure the world on this account. On the other hand his assertion that if other nations did not take sufficient action to curb the terrorists in their countries, the U.S. would do it for them. This you will agree, is a troubling tendency. In this context, President Bush’s pronouncement on the “axis of evil” comprised of Iran, Iraq and North Korea puts the coalition against terrorism in serious jeopardy. To place Iran and Iraq in the same category and then to lump North Korea along with it defies logic and causes anxiety to the neighbouring countries in West Asia and the Korean peninsula. As the distinguished friends here would know, the Europeans also are worried and the Japanese are concerned. The South Koreans have come out in the streets to express their apprehensions. The Chinese have described it as “mindless extension” of the struggle against terrorism.
this stage I would like to caution the country against a facile
proposition of a so called India-China-Russia “axis”.
The very word “axis” is an un-wise term. History has passed by
the age of blocs and hostile groupings. Neither of the three countries
individually, nor the three collectively have either the military muscle
or the economic clout to bind together any such bloc. India has important
political, diplomatic and economic relations with the United States and
these need not be sacrificed
for the sake of a fictional strategic alignments. I can understand greater
cooperation, promoting confidence, with China that is a highly desirable
objective; with Russia in any case we have close, cordial relations and we
should maintain and further develop them. But the establishment of any
bloc would be a fanciful adventure.
The best course for India is to maintain and enhance its
cooperative relationships with all big countries and economic groupings
and more specifically with the countries of the SAARC.
Despite all agonising disappointments the South Asian neighbourhood
must occupy primacy in our policy frameworks. The leaders of India and
Pakistan must appreciate that convergence of security and economic
interests of two neighbouring countries cannot be and need not be avoided.
Young friends, I am sure your quest for knowledge here would have
made you appreciate that just as tolerance and democracy go hand in hand
so are tolerance and openness essential for progress.
A curious but constant feature of history is the fact that heretics
have made far larger contribution to the progress of the world than those
who stuck to the comfortable grooves of narrow conformities.
Today’s heresy often turns out to be tomorrow’s truth.
Shutting the door to dissent is foolhardiness for it amounts to
closing one of the main avenues of innovation and improvement.
If dissent had been shut out, we would still be believing that the
earth was flat and that it was the sun that circled around it.
Sir Syed had envisioned that the tendency to close
minds to new ideas and hard truths
is a failing that must constantly be guarded against.
Pro-Chancellor, distinguished friends,
In concluding, I would, in all humility, say
how grateful I am for this opportunity to visit this great seat of
learning and offer my abiscience
to memory of a leading architect of the secular India – Sir Syed Ahmad
– blessed be his soul!
Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral
Mrs. Shiela Gujral
Excerpts from the book "A Foreign Policy for India"