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Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral

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'Third Way' and Emerging Countries

Address by Mr.I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India, at the 11th International Symposium, organised by the Constitutional Democratic Rally, Republic of Tunisia [5 November, 1999]

Your Excellency Hon'ble President of the Republic of Tunisia and

Chairman of the R.C.D;
Le Secretary General of the R.C.D;
Hon'ble Ministers;
Distinguished participants;
Excellencies;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

May I extend to you Mr. President, fraternal greetings on behalf of my country on this historic occasion when you are celebrating 12th anniversary of the 1987 change.

Excellency, we are assembled here to learn from you at some length saga of the travails and sacrifices made by the Tunisian people in the liberation struggle. As a free nation, Tunisia's contribution in strengthening the bonds of cooperation amongst the Non-aligned nations has been significant. Also as two sovereign nations, India and Tunisia have jointly built an impressive edifice of friendship and cooperation.

I had the privilege of visiting Tunis a decade back as Foreign Minister of India and had seen for myself how your nation was successfully coping with the challenges of the 7th November Constitutional changes. I had then learnt from your Ministers details of the threatening postures of the fundamentalists. It is a matter of satisfaction that all that is behind you and the Tunisian people under your leadership, are consolidating democracy and impressively progressing in socio-economic spheres.

Mr.President, a few months ago, the Secretary General of United Nations had deputed "an Eminent Persons Group" to visit your neighbouring country Algeria to study the torments and sufferings inflicted by terrorism on the peace-loving people. The sights that we saw and tales of their woes that we had heard still haunt me. I am hopeful that recently held elections - backed by a popular referendum - is succeeding in getting better of the fundamentalist terror. In today's world, terrorism is the biggest threat to civilisations, cultures and democratic institutions.

Mr.President, we are gathered here to share our visions of the next millennium. What options and orientations does it offer for ushering in an era of a secured peace and sustainable economic development to our societies. In a way every nation is trying to identify contours of the future based on the prevailing levels of social growth. We live in a diverse world with pronounced inequalities - both nationally and internationally, hence the concepts of our futures are based on our respective historical experiences. This century - to which we are about to say bye - has witnessed mind boggling technological achievements and also two social revolutions in Soviet Union and China that radically changed the socio-economic philosophies. This may not be an occasion for me to examine historical reasons for collapse of the Socialist State nor would I like to discuss the adjustments made by China that has ensured its prosperity.

Of all the earth shaking changes that have distinguished this century, the most important from our point of view, and from the point of view of the vast majority of humankind, is the decolonisation revolution. For the first time since recorded history, the planet is virtually free of colonies. The few exceptions - small territories like the Falklands and Sao Tome and Principe - do not in any manner diminish the immensity of the human liberation from foreign rule that has taken place since the last forties. Only 50 nations signed the Charter of the United Nations when it was founded in 1946. Now the UN has close to 200 members, each one of them sovereign and in theory equal to each other in the World Body. I call it an illusion - for example - it would be folly not to see that while we all may have one vote while deliberating the U.N.General Assembly and its committees but when the chips are down, we see the stark reality of inequities that prevail not only inside the impressive mansion of United Nations, its gravity asserts far more in the Brenton Wood organisations and the W.T.O.

Excellency, I mentioned a while ago about the revolution of decolonisation whose life span varies from three to five decades. It is time for us to take stock of how far we have succeeded or failed to build the new nations that dot today's map of the planet? In some of our countries, there were long struggles for independence, violent or non-violent. Some of our peoples fought, revolutionary wars to secure their emancipation. To many, power was peacefully transferred by the colonial powers to the nationalist elite. In the geopolitical region of South Asia alone, we have several types of decolonisation. India fought the British non-violently for forty years under the mass mobilizing leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Freedom came with the partition of the country that created the new sovereign state of Pakistan. The partition involved one of the largest displacement of humans in history and millions died. Still, in 1947, well over 400 million people freed themselves from British colonialism.

I need not recapitulate the manners in which the 50 countries of Africa, the 20 Arab and non-Arab countries of what is known as the Middle East and the 20 countries of Latin America got their independence. There were three broad patterns. In the first , power was transferred by the departing colonial power to a post-colonial nationalist elite. In the second, the reluctantly departing colonial power got involved in armed conflicts with mutually antagonistic nationalist forces and the intervention of the United Nations was necessary to work out decolonisation. The Congo, Kinshasha is the major example. The third pattern was armed Marxist revolution. South Africa stands out in its own tale of immense sufferings and glory. Here a united African National Congress led by Mandela from the prison, made the fullest use of the global abhorrence for blatant colour discriminations. The world pressures ultimately succeeded in dismantling the racially divisive regime that enabled the entire people to usher in a new era of democracy and majority rule through elections.

The bitter tales of French de-colonisation experienced in the 'Maghreb' countries were pointedly brought to the notice of the world by Albert Camus in his novel The Plague that gave us the first glimpses of the black side of French imperialism in Algeria. Camus kept his novel strictly a-political. But to a reader like me, the 'plague' was a Social or Human Catastrophe, it was a war of Occupation. Though Camus talked specifically about Algeria but to any perceptive mind it was clear that 'The Plague' covered the entire 'Maghreb', including Tunisia. We viewed the Indian freedom struggle as an integral part of the liberation movements of the Continent of Africa where agonies were even more painful. The sagas of epochal struggles of the people of this continent and its heroes continue to inspire us even today.

Those of us coming from Asia and Africa assembled here for this Symposium belong to the first or second generation of post-colonial ruling class in what has come to be known as the third world. We had led our respective peoples' struggles for freedom or represented their nationalist aspirations. We made golden promises when our peoples entrusted us to govern our republics or kingdoms. We emerged as the largest ruling class in the United Nations. How well or badly have we performed? Is our record of peoples' welfare and uplift something to be proud of? Have the post-colonial ruling elites achieved a satisfying record of human rights? Of frontal attacks on poverty? Have we not been trapped in what is known as enclave development? Why is there so much poverty, illiteracy, gender inequity, malnutrition, child mortality, homelessness and joblessness in our societies?

Is it because most of us continued with the colonial systems of government left behind by the colonial masters? Is it because there has been more continuity than change in our systems and styles of governance? The American colonies fought the British imperialists for many years and drove them out. Then they assembled together to sculpt an entirely new system of government -- a presidential federation which left a lot of autonomy, power and resource with the states. They did not continue the Westminster model of government. They kept what they thought was good in the British system and formed a system of governance that suited their genius.

I am not saying all this by way of criticizing any particular country or group of countries. Indeed, we who took over the reins of governments after decolonisation belong to one large fraternity. So many of our problems are similar, so similar are our cultures, societies and economies that our diversities conspire to create unities. For we have the same obligations to our people, and we went through the same process of decolonisation, of course with local variations. We may recall that the Afro-Asian conference convened by Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of Indian independence in New Delhi was called to cement our togetherness. You will remember the historic Bandung Conference where the late Zho en-lai rubbed shoulders and exchanged ideas with leaders of governments of Asia and Africa. We are justly proud of our collective success. But with the new millennium right on our doorstep, we must be humbly conscious of our slippages, mistakes and shortcomings.

We discuss a great deal these days about the relevance and role of the civil society. Creation of civil societies is the greatest challenge before us because without functioning civil societies there is no good governance. Civil societies need extensive decentralization. People have to govern themselves and then alone do they build civil societies making people aware of what they can themselves do for their own development and betterment. In my stint as Prime Minister of India, I realized how difficult it is to offer good governance and engineer relevant people-oriented social change without active participation of the civil society.

There are some basic requirements for the creation of civil societies. The first requirement is to build a legal foundation of the State from the top to the bottom and to ensure that the laws of the land are universally and impartially enforced. Secondly, an independent, efficient, honest and uncorrupted judiciary is indispensable for a civic society. Thirdly, government has to be decentralized with the people given opportunities to govern themselves and take charge of their own affairs. Fourthly, the concept that government is the giver of everything. The sole provider, is inimical to the building of a civil society. The citizen must realize that in many ways he or she is his or her own master and that a great deal of initiatives for good governance, a peaceful social order, for cooperative coexistence of different interests in society, and for better health and hygiene, for cleanliness, for greening of urban sprawls, for ensuring that every child goes to school, that teachers actually teach and doctors attend regularly on patients at rural health centres, for creating a sense of respect and equality for women in our traditional societies and a climate of tolerance in our lives, the individual citizens, separately and together must play their role. Governments alone cannot run human societies nor build nations without a great deal of active and conscious help from the citizens.

Mr.President, Excellencies, at the threshold of the 21st century we witness several new doctrines that are being sponsored. Perhaps it was inevitable since the space occupied by the Sovietism has been vacated and the harshness of Laissez Faire state - that goes by the name of Market is very pronounced. The "Third Way-ism" sponsored by a club of the Rich and Powerful is the latest entrant. Though it has not yet attracted much notice, it would be a mistake to ignore it cynically. The ideas that leading members of G-7 with massive resources articulate, does later affect our economies and diplomacies. Prime Minister Tony Blair, while spelling the new dogma has said, "……We can only realise ourselves as individuals in a thriving civil society, comprising strong families and civic institutions buttressed by intelligent government. For most individuals to succeed, society must be strong. When society is weak, power and rewards go to the few not the many. Values are not absolute, and even the best can conflict." One point in this enunciation calls for attention. The New Labour party leader is emphasising 'strong society' - not the strong state.

Of course, the Meccas of social democracies are moving away from their concepts of Fabian and Webian socialisms. They feel that the economic order that assigned a high status to public-sector and state interventions in social sectors have outlived their utility. Blair's doctrine does not divorce itself from importance of social justice, though its dispensation is being placed on different footing. These concepts - may I say - are still neither fully baked nor fully spelt even by all social democratic countries of Europe. Prime Minister Jospin - for instance, is still thumbing his nose while several others in the European Union have not yet heard about it. President Clinton believes that his policy initiatives are born out of this concept.

Our difficulties and tasks - I can say more specifically for India, call for a different point of view. The colonisers had exploited our resources to the hilt and made us miss the first and second industrial revolutions. Our agricultural tools were medieval and the land ownership patterns impoverished the peasantry. It is a matter of some satisfaction that the policies that we pursued in the sphere of economy coupled with democratisation of polity have helped but not fully as yet. One billion Indians are at different levels of growth. We have vastly expanded the base of our affluent middle class but nearly 37 per cent of our people still languish below the poverty line. The demarcating line of literacy and gender inequality continues to embarrass us. At the same time, I say with some satisfaction that we have entered the era of high-tech engineering, bio-chemistry and informatics. The developing world can not afford to miss this third post-industrial revolution.

The 1999 Human Development Report, more than anything else, "champions the agenda of the world's weak, those marginalized by globalization, and calls for a much bolder agenda of global and national reforms to achieve globalisation with human face. It cautions that globalization is too important to be left as unmanaged as it is at present, because it has the capacity to do extraordinary harm as well as good".

Mr.President, as you know, Informatics have acquired supreme importance. A look on the cover page of the latest Human Development Report tells us how we in Africa and Asia are still at margin regarding access to the internet highlighting the fact that "the global gap between haves and have-nots between know and know-not, is widening". India is speedily catching up but we have still a long way to go. The Report rightly says "The recent great strides in technology present tremendous opportunities for human development - but achieving that potential depends on how technology is used. What is technology's impact on globalisation - and globalisation's impact on technology"?

In the context of globalisation, the approach of "Third Way" seems to be striking a balance between totally liberal competition and selective policy intervention aimed at safeguarding the interests of the nationals. It advocates greater play of market-forces tempered by policy action to safeguard the national interests. It emphasises the need for good domestic policies which would enable the countries to take maximum advantage of the opportunities of globalisation. It recognises the need for managing the volatile capital markets which have caused catastrophic development and bust-boom cycles.

To me the 'Third Way' seems closer to the middle path, advocated by the Non-aligned Movement, both in terms of the political and economic philosophies. The concept of Non-alignment, as you know, emphasises the importance of autonomy of decision-making for maintaining the national interests. The Non-aligned Movement also emphasised the great merit of democracy, people-centric approach to development, increasing social responsibility for the government and new partnership in development. The difference between the Third Way and the Non-alignment is that the former gives relatively more scope for the market and the process of global integration. Further, the Third Way is fostered by the powerful rich nations as a new paradigm of development and global management, while the Non-alignment is cynically denounced as the voice of the poor, struggling voice-less people of the developing world.

Of course, I am somewhat apprehensive the way Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is proceeding. Their Third Way may ultimately increase powers of the powerful nations, and though there is a talk of justice and fairness, I do not know any explicit recognition to reduce the growing disparities between the rich and the poor nations on one hand and increase in poverty of the people in the developing countries.

The Third Way approach, I must say, to an extent mellows the extreme radical prescription of the IMF and the World Bank, but I think more work is called regarding its thinking on issues of structural adjustment and globalisation. The question as to how the voice and the concerns of the developing world would be given due consideration in the 'Third Way' paradigm of development deserves special attention.

May I conclude by saying that inequalities in consumption are horrifying. Twenty per cent of the world's population in the highest income countries account for 86 per cent of the total private consumption expenditure. The poorest twenty per cent consume 1.3 per cent of that expenditure. The richest fifth consume 58 per cent of total energy, the poor only 4 per cent. The richest 20 per cent consume 84 per cent of all paper, the poorest 20 per cent, only 1.1 per cent. The richest 20 per cent own 80 per cent of the world's vehicle fleet, the poorest less than one per cent.

Mr.President, in your exalted presence, may I urge that we put our heads together to orient the Third World's doctrine to cope with our problems in the midst of aggressive marketism that feverishly advances the culture of consumerism that is neither leaving a trail of happiness nor does it provide spiritual nourishment. In my country the Gandhian philosophy on one hand and the Human Development Reports on the other are favouring 'Gross Happiness Index' rather than the GDP.

This farewell message to the 20th century calls upon us in the Third World to change the old and build the new. This is the task that challenges all the ruling elites of the developing world if they are to meet and effectively deal with the deepening frustrations of our respective people.

Thank you.

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Bio-Profile :
Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral

Bio-Profile :
Mrs. Shiela Gujral

Excerpts from the book "A Foreign Policy for India"

Selected Speeches

Latest Articles