Democracy, Demography, Diaspora & Divinity: A Story of Re-emerging India
South Asian Heritage festival
Vedic Cultural Centre
7pm on May 14, 2011
India is being hailed as “emerging” power but what we are witnessing is “re-emerging” of India. Before 18th Century, India was a dominant player in the world economy. At their peak, India and China together accounted for close to fifty percent of the world GDP.
It is the interplay of democracy, demography, Indian diaspora and Spirituality that makes the story of re-emerging India a most significant one for the betterment of the world. India will have unique answer to the four debates facing the world at the beginning of the 21st century:
* Economic liberalism versus liberal democracy debate;
* The pluralism versus fundamentalism debate;
* Globalization versus democratization of prosperity debate;
* Global Diaspora versus net gain for adopted and native countries debate.
There is an essence to India, which tells us that behind the diversity of life, there is spiritual reality called unity. To some, it is “unity in diversity”: an entity in which some immanent common spirit transcends apparent differences. To others, India represents “diversity in unity”, a centrifugal state reined in by only the very loosest and most fragile of bonds. Hinduism is that locus of unity. The most obvious misconception about Hinduism is that it is also just another religion. Whilst, Hinduism in fact is a way of life; it doesn’t have any one founder or a Bible or a Koran to which controversies of life can be referred to for resolution. Consequently, it doesn’t require its adherents to accept any one idea as it is neither sharply articulated nor has clear-cut set of beliefs and practices like any prominent religions of the world. It is thus cultural, not creedal, with a history contemporaneous with the peoples/religions with which it has associated itself.
All other great religions of India: Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and host of persistent animism and magical cults have close connection with Hinduism and yet they are distinct. Buddhism was founded by distilling Hinduism same way as was other great Indian religions Sikhism and Jainism avowing the Brahminical tradition of the time. The very pluralistic and ever evolving nature of Hinduism portrays Buddha as the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu during later period.Sikhism has many familiar and common beliefs as in Hinduism like Karma, Dharma, Reincarnation, and meditating on God’s name to break the cycle of birth. Most of the Hindu families in Punjab and Haryana till middle of the 20th century would enlist their eldest son to the Khalsa panth as Sikh and Hindus like Sikhs visit Gurudwaras with great reverence. India is also the adoptive home of many more:Judaism and Zoroastrianism have long been welcome, while Christianity and Islam have been present in India for almost as long as they have been present anywhere. Hinduism, like India should be best seen as a crucible of cultures,peoples and rituals, which has flourished, fought, fissured, and then re-configured. Ideas from India helped shape the culture, law, philosophy and science of the time. India has thousands and thousands of years of practice at harmonizing differences. Unlike many countries, India neither seeks nor is claiming new territory. India is a “status quo power”, whatever India’s vulnerabilities or faults, territorial and religious expansion can almost be removed from the checklist.
What we have witnessed over the last two decades; it is the power and energy of the human capital that has been central to the Indian transformation. India has vindicated Malthusian despondent vision- that great population growth inevitably led to great famine and despair. Since becoming a democracy, India’s population has continued to grow but it has not seen famine. The larger working population has helped push the country’s savings rate as proportion of GDP to34 percent in 2008 growing to 40 percent by 2015. Such savings create additional capital for investment across the economy. India is coming into its demographic dividend as unusually young country in a greying world and it will stay so till 2050. It is growing rapidly into a consumer market for the world economy, with a middle class that is already larger than the population of the United States and two thirds the size of the European Union. Over the next two decades, India’s middle class will swell to more than 580 million people. At the same time, the smaller number of dependents will enable phase of guilt-free consumption in India. These multiple forces are expected to drive a growth rate of 5 percent for India till 2050,which will be unprecedented in the economic history of the world.
Various studies have concluded that the “freedom deficit” in countries is one of the major causes of economic backwardness. Democracy, development and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. What is also unique and heart warming, India is the only large democracy in the world today, where the turnout of the lower orders is well above that of the most privileged groups. There are several countries today although at the later stage of demographic sweet spot but lack the democracy they need to exploit it for democratization of prosperity. No country in the world today has the combination of democracy and demography that makes the Indian opportunity so significant for India and for the world.
The thirty million large Indian diaspora is the highly contributing group to the nations around the world and have increasingly taken up important mainstream roles and responsibilities in their adopted countries. The president of Singapore, Chief Justice and Governor General of New Zealand, two Governors of USA, Prime Ministers of Mauritius and Trinidad & Tobago, CEOs of Motorola/Citibank/PepsiCo, ex-premier of British Columbia & ministers in many countries and other world renowned personalities in academia, media, arts and almost in all walks of life, who are of Indian origin are helping shape the destiny of these countries. This large Indian diaspora around the world is critical to long-term economic health and social well being of the host countries.
The Indian Diaspora in the developed world has entered the fourth stage of assimilation like the early European settlers around the world.
In first stage, new immigrants are busy settling in- finding job, buying house and finding bearing for their kids and figuring out help for the loved ones they left behind. As their family is settled, in second phase they start looking around and bonding with people like themselves and participate in community organizations (temples and cultural organizations) and start organizing/ bringing back their old country cultural and spiritual activities. In third phase, their grown-up kids or those who are professionals or entrepreneurial- they sub-consciously make efforts not to be associated with ghetto kind of engagements or associations rather want to be as successful as their mainstream counter parts and want to give back to their country of origin. In the fourth phase, the diaspora members have attained success in mainstream and great deal of confidence and start asking how they can help their adopted land and how their presence can help leverage their success in engaging with their native country for the benefit of their adopted land.
Today, in the case of Indian Diaspora, we are observing their age old practice of the Hindu way of life “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (The world is my family)”.
Take example of United States of America- Between 1995-2005, Indian immigrants have founded more engineering and technology companies in the US than immigrants from the U.K., China, Taiwan and Japan combined. Of all immigrant-founded companies, 26% have Indian founders. Together, this pool of immigrant-founded companies was responsible for generating more than $52 billion in 2005 sales and creating just under 450,000 jobs as of 2005. Further, those living in the U.S. are not citizens—contributed an estimated 24 percent of international patent applications in 2006.
Indian Americans own 50% of all economy lodges and 35% of all hotels in the United States, which have a combined market value of almost $40 billion. According to the 2000 US Census, Indian American men had the highest median earnings of $51,000, while American median income was $32,000.According to the 2000 census, about 64% of Indian Americans have attained a Bachelor’s degree or more (compared to 28% nationally, and 44% average for all Asian American groups). Almost 40% of all Indians have a master’s, doctorate or other professional degree, which is five times the national average. This statistics for one country consisting of about 3 million Indo-Americans speaks volume of what Indian diaspora is contributing for their adopted country.Imagine the positive economic and social impact of the total 5 million in North America, 2 Million in Europe, 4 million in Middle East, the huge Indian diaspora presence in Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Guyana,Trinidad, Fiji, Nepal and many more countries where the diaspora is in big way mainstreaming themselves and influencing the political/ social landscape of these countries.
When the people of Indian origin are treated with great respect in their adopted land, consequently the respect and understanding of India goes up. We cannot underestimate the importance of such global respect in our increasingly globalizing world. The presence of successful and influential Indian diaspora in so many countries also become a source of direct support for India as they influence not just the popular attitude, but also the governmental policies, to the benefit of mother country India. With the phenomenal success of global Indian entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and innovators, India is benefitting tremendously through their efforts in luring of the large multi-national companies’ for their Indian footprint as well as with their entrepreneurial ventures in India.
There is truth to and great promise in statement of the famous British historian,E.P. Thompson, “India is the most important country for the future of the world”. Perhaps the most profound ongoing accomplishment is that India has stayed away from a simplistic and one sided models of development which emphasize economic liberalism over political freedom or vice versa. The Indian model is virtually unique and more holistic in approach- a democracy that simultaneously has engaged in a measured form of economic liberalism. The essential tensions that accompany a vast federal,growth driven and socially conscious structure combined with an unparalleled range of diversity in every respect- makes India a singularly shining example of development and growth for the world. It is the interplay of democracy, demography, Indian diaspora and Spirituality that makes the story of re-emerging India a most significant one for the betterment of the world.