On January 26, 1950, India became a Republic. It was an important date since it marked a complete break with the British colonial power.
At that time, India was in a desperate position. The country was partitioned and hundreds of thousands died in communal violence.
Economically it was one of the poorest in the world. India’s share of the world economy was just 3 per cent in 1947. A fall from 27 per cent in 1700s when the British colonised her. Its manufacturing was almost non-existent – just 7 per cent of GDP in 1947 and manufacturing export just 2 per cent.
Starvation and famine were the main news that came out of that country. This year, India is celebrating its 71st Anniversary in another desperate time for the world.
COVID-19 has been devastating our world, killing more than a million and damaging the world economy greatly. Millions are unemployed.
India, even though it too is facing great problems caused by COVID, has not isolated itself as some countries in the world have done. It is not just thinking selflessly but helping the world to overcome this dreaded disease. Already it has donated more than a million vaccines to its neighbours and is fulfilling requests further afield, including the Caribbean.
India is doing this while the West is buying up and trying to hoard vaccines for their own population. Canada, for instance, has brought more than 5 times what its population needs. But India is more than a vaccines power.
In the last 71 years, India has become a major power in science and technology. One of the world’s leaders in ICT. It has sent probes into outer space at a cost way below other countries doing the same.
It is a manufacturing power, producing high-quality machinery and equipment. This country was able to achieve this due to the quality of leadership, the enlightened leadership provided mainly by its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a gentle giant.
Nehru concentrated on building India’s human capital. He began building world-class educational institutions that have made his country so respected today.
Even more important he sunk democracy deeply in India society. His respect for democratic norms, for Parliament, the courts, is legendary. He was more than just an Indian leader. He was profoundly internationalist.
On the world stage, he organised the former colonies to defend their sovereignty against superpower politics of the post-war period. He with Kwame Nkruma of Ghana, Tito of Yugoslavia and Sukarno of Indonesia organised the Non-Aligned Movement that made an important contribution to international relations during the Cold War and helped defend post-colonial societies independence.
Jawaharlal Nehru was a profound thinker, an internationalist and humanitarian of gigantic proportion.
On this Anniversary, I salute the Great Soul!