New Delhi: Foreign Direct Investment this year will cross USD 100 bn. Remittances from NRIs have exceeded USD 100 bn for the first time ever. 2,400 years ago, Chanakya had said that if an idea was not implemented in time, then time would ensure that the idea failed. Victor Hugo said 170 years ago that no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. Our time has come.
As Chair of G-20, India is the bridge to a better, brighter future for everybody. While the (dis)United Nations makes speeches that no one listens to, we are the respected leaders of the Workers’ Union (G-77) of developing nations and of the Management Club (G-20) of leading economies (the fifth largest in the world).
As the youngest nation in the world (in terms of demographics), we have walked the talk on tackling the virus, fighting climate change, spearheading recovery through free and open waterways, obliterating international terrorism, managing critical technologies.
I have heard our leaders make grand pronouncements from the ramparts of the Red Fort. In 2022, I heard a Prime Minister give us a concrete target of being a developed nation by 2047. The nation was electrified. We are seeing the craziest infrastructure binge in India’s history (roads, railways, airports, ports).
I have been in diplomacy for 50 years and counting. India’s many successes in the last few years stand out.
We were evicted from the Conference in Morocco in 1969 that led to the formation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. 50 years later, in March 2019, soon after the dastardly Pulwama suicide attack by one of Pakistan’s terrorist sons-in-law, we were the Guest of Honour at its Foreign Minister’s 46th meet in UAE. India’s government said that we see this invitation as a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE (and) a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world.
Did someone ask me about the success of Indian diplomacy in recent years?
Several Arab countries, that tended to support Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, have honoured India’s Prime Minister with their highest awards. Both the belligerents in the Russia-Ukraine conflict want India’s help to resolve the matter. The Russians do not trust the western world that seems bent on weakening Russia, if not tearing it apart. Ukraine is suspicious of China and Turkey and Israel. That leaves India. We have not abused or pilloried either side, but engaged in constructive dialogue with both.
Led by an outstanding Minister, Indian diplomacy has scaled new heights.
During the 2015 Nepal earthquake, our relief supplies were airborne within 8 hours. In 2020, we gifted our vaccines to over 100 countries, even when we had a shortage in India.
When we were reeling under the Chinese virus in early 2021, the world rallied to our support. What more can we do for India, asked American officials, businesspersons, academics. We have some very close friends, the Chiltons from Chicago, both converts to Hinduism. The husband died last year, and his ashes were immersed in the Ganga. The wife Georgia, in her eighties, and very fragile, sent me this email in 2021: “I think of you all every day. I miss you. Is there anything I can do to help and support from here?”
The Israeli Foreign Minister says India stood by us, we will stand by India. The US President tweeted that America would never forget India’s help, India had been great. Many international leaders expressed similar sentiments. Our External Affairs Minister was told by many of his counterparts that they would like to help if they had the ability to do so.
What more can I say?
In early 2021, we had another Berlin moment. For those who are too young to know, in mid-1948 when Soviet forces blockaded rail, road, and water access to Allied-controlled areas of Berlin, the United States and the United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin.
The UAE lit up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, with our national colours and the message “Stay Strong India”. I saw a report of how an oxygen generator from France arrived at Delhi airport and was operationalized within 18 hours.
This is the true spirit of India. In a moment of severe and unprecedented national crisis and a challenge to nationhood, people need reassurance, not unnecessary finger pointing and name calling and political tribalism.
Climate change threatens our existence. India has taken the lead in combating the menace. We have never damaged our planet—we worship trees and plants and rivers and mountains. Ours is the most eco-friendly civilization in human history. We promised that 40% of India’s energy capacity would be from non-fossil fuels by 2030—we achieved the target nine years ahead of schedule.
New technologies are emerging every day. India uses them for the benefit of humanity—our superb Cowin platform is but one example, as is the magnificent digitization of the Indian economy.
We have shown the world how to deal with terrorism, having eliminated it from our Northeast and North.
When we mainstreamed Kashmir into the great Indian family in 2019, only a couple of nations supported our Western neighbour, who compulsively opposes every progressive step that we take.
India’s human capital is its greatest strength. Nations with abundant educated young minds will lead our world. “Study one country right now…India”, Bill Gates says, “things are really exploding there and innovation…is phenomenal”.
At the G-20 Summit in Bali in November 2022, all eyes were on India’s leadership. We drafted the G-20 communique to the resounding applause of all sides. We have the best record in dealing with the most pressing challenges confronting us today: health, climate, economy, conflict, technology.
2023 will be a seminal year for Indian diplomacy. For the first time, we will host the largest gathering of powerful world leaders in September 2023.
China is understanding the significance of being friendless, as its own virus comes back to haunt it, infecting hundreds of millions and killing millions. Not one nation is coming forward to help. India is not celebrating China’s desperation, as China did ours last year. Schadenfreude is not an Indian characteristic. For us all lives matter. We can and will find a way forward out of the mess the world is in. Many of my foreign friends want to know if we can share the secret of our mantra of sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwaas. Did our ancient sages not say that the world was one family? Our G-20 theme is One World, One Family, One Future. The focus is on One. Chak de, India.
Dr Deepak Vohra is a former Indian ambassador.