What are India’s National Interests?
The interests have to be derived from the definition of a Nation state. Community of people living together in a piece of land that they own, where they live according to a system of governance and have built a common shared culture and above all have complete sovereignty is called a Nation. For example India before independence was not a Nation as it didn't have sovereignty of taking its own decisions. We became a nation only after 1947, well, arguably. Well we have an ancient history – greatness indeed, as per history, was a casual character of the people, kingdoms and culture that evolved in this land.
Whether one agrees or not, perhaps we can claim that ancient India and our scriptures had lot of knowledge and it's lost substantially. The fact remains the industrial revolution in Europe especially in UK started through a new way of looking at things called scientific method. Science explains the reality in deterministic and repeatable manner which can be replicated by anyone following the scientific method which is clearly articulated. Also science is open to correction, evolution and rejection of its theories based on new and contrary evidence.
All said and done our nation missed that step-change of scientific method leading to industrial revolution. Europe utilized it and in fact exploited it to the hilt. Applying science to make or build things which can perform different functions, productive functions leads to technology. Steam engine that drove the industrialization and the motor car our Nation missed. The computer or so called information based world that was born around the second world war was also missed by us as India was not a nation at that time. Below key National interests that the author feels should be protected by India as well as pursued with intensity that we have not seen in last 7 decades.
1. Sovereignty at all costs If someone had told my grandfather in 1915 that India in 2015 will actually be 3 different nations, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, he would have laughed. Let's say if I tell you if we do not wake up now India in 2057 will become 5 nations or may be more, you will laugh at me. However the momentum is clear about how the sovereignty of our Nation is being slowly divided. How do I maintain my sovereignty and sovereignty of India along with the land and its people is the major task of all of us? To carry out that task of maintaining the nation as well as forming certain rules we have the government. Our expectation from the chosen representatives is that they should articulate our national interests. Any mechanism that may lead to any threat to sovereignty of the nation should be nipped in the bud. Given the trend of division of India into three countries as well as 800 years of rule by the invaders, I am very cautious and extremely aware of forces that would like to nip out any assertiveness of the land, our people, our government, and our sovereignty. Nation by definition leads to the above national interests. If our chosen representatives are not doing their job, it is our interest and our job to help them by pointing out various potential pitfalls that may be visible to us. After sovereignty comes development.
2. Learner Nation The national interest of Indian nation today is ability of its people to raise questions and in fact ask questions that don’t have answers and questions that reject those answers that does not stand the crucible of scientific method. How to build this ability in our people is the national interest. Asking questions and using integrative thinking to answer those questions in a scientific manner rather than using the centuries old established belief system. To impart the thinking tools and techniques we have devised an education system. As of now Indian education system has huge weaknesses. The national interest is to give our people an education system which makes them learners and thinkers besides giving the known skills and knowledge. Building an education or a learning system is our biggest need. Further, proliferation of the learning system to every citizen of India is the key interest. Develop an education system which focus on questions rather than answers, learning rather than passing exams and based on science rather than one on belief.
3. Invention based Businesses Next national interest is to build what I call invention based businesses. In India traditionally business has meant trading. Someone has something I find that someone else needs it so I create a trading business and get my commission in between. I will search and then supply to the place where it is needed. I am not going to invent. In fact why should I invest my money in inventing? Our businesses are not built on inventing. Instead of make in India, we need India invent. India invent should be the business mantra with traders given low value
4. Technology creation using science is our national interest because that gives us maximum long term strength. What are the key technologies that India has given to the world in last 7 decades? How should be inculcate the technology creation DNA in our people in a natural manner.
5. Self-Reliance in fulfilling Basic needs of the population What exactly do we mean by self-reliance? We have diverse population of 1.25 billion which has basic needs. Are we self-reliant for basic needs today? All the basic needs can be met potentially from self production - meaning whatever India produce or make or create.
6. Inequality Reduction Reduce inequality especially the wealth property right through birth. Besides the basic needs there are other human needs as per Maslow hierarchy of needs that need to be fulfilled. However as per data as well as existing information in India we have a substantial population whose basic needs are not fulfilled. On the other hand we have extremely rich Indians, very few obviously, whose fraction of wealth potentially can feed the population for a generation. This is called inequality – the uneven distribution of wealth is worldwide phenomenon. Thomas Piketty has published a book - Capital in the 21st century and he produced a remarkable reason for continuing inequality and in fact increasing gap between poor and rich. The rich keeps on getting richer and poor keeps on getting poor generation after generation because of one major factor, i.e., transfer of property from one generation to the next generation - basically what my parents has will be transferred to me and I will transfer it to my children and so on. He found that poor remained poor through generations and rich keeps on getting richer generation by generation. Obviously in India with 1/7th of world population this difference is extreme. The biggest problem, as I see in the world as well as very acute in India, is the increasing Inequality generation by generation. The uneven distribution of wealth because of transfer of wealth to progeny. The right to the property of my father and my father's right to give away his property and his father's property to me. So one national interest should be to look at how to minimize the inequality or stating otherwise how to reduce the difference between the extremely poor and extremely rich in India so that we can have self reliance in fulfilling the basic needs of whole population.