How India Should (and Should Not) Be the Vishwaguru: Need for Strategic Decoloniality in Asia
The idea of Vishwaguru for India seems to be so beautiful, and yet lucrative. Despite this, most of the people in India do not understand the essence of the term Vishwaguru and its significance. This article examines what should be an approach towards civilisational Renaissance and how sustainable development and self-reliance must be observed from a pure strategic point of view, for Bharat as a civilisational society and a nation-state. The attempt is also to explain why India should be an Asian vishwaguru first, and then the global vishwaguru it intends to become, either out of pretence, or out of diplomatic morality.
Self-reliance is not reconciliation with the Past
Most of us believe that if we are going to reconcile with our past and see it the truest way, maybe we should also be eager to achieve it. However, this nostalgia to love the past is not new. The United States became something when it realised it has to follow ‘American exceptionalism’, an idea earlier of the Italian-Americans. Now, I know about the coloniality theory and the treatment of the West towards the native people. However, let us not forget: exceptionalism is about what is led forward, and morality does not matter so much. Yes, India had terrific contributions in the sciences and arts, which were taken away or could be taken away by the West and the Middle East, but still, it does not make up for any revisionist tendency to take revenge against anything in an abstract manner. Winston Churchill once said it so right:
If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.
Trust me — a smarter India would surely learn from its past wounds, but shall not fall into the trap of revisionism and ethnocentrism.
Generally, arguments are kept about the problem of hypocrisies and the unjust actions by the people who belong to some ecosystems. I agree on that, but spreading ruthless divisive rhetoric is what obsesses and despises the cause of the Indic civilisation. The idea of freedom and liberty in India is definitely beyond the binary notions of Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau. The Social Contract Theory is anyways based on the notions of binary concentrations of power, rights and duties, which cannot be directly applied in India. The Kautilyan model of governance specifically focuses on rule of law and minimum government. Capitalism as Mises and Hayek propose works in India and is fruitful for the communities and individuals’ economic liberties when it specifically comes to entrepreneurial creativity. However, the aesthetics that is applied changes, and so does some values. India does have a different value system, but it does not mean it has to appropriate subjective universalisation from other countries. What Indians need to do is to test, track and then evaluate the “good things” the West or any civilisational society has inherited or created. It has literally nothing to do with any language theories or origin theories. Those good things can be of Indian/Indic origin or are based out of some other civilisational construct, which we never know.
Thus, let us discuss these questions:
- What is the ideology of sustainability and development? Is it structural ontologically, or individually atomised?
- How Intellectual Property Concentrations and Knowledge Systems Matter for Civilisational Societies and Nation-States? Especially for Bharat?
- Do you really need a common ideological fold to come up with solutions and innovative approach?
The “Ideology” of Sustainability and Development
Ideology in politics is usually considered different and even separate from different schools of thought. This is the common notion accepted. However, in some cases that is never possible. In mathematics, you can try avoiding this unsustainable linear relationship, because logic and reason can disprove the politico-theological leaps and bounds. The example which I can provide is the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his amazing contributions to Mathematics, especially 1729, the Hardy-Ramanujan Number. Now, there are sure cases where separation is impossible. The example which I can reasonably mention is the Bangkok Declaration on Human Rights, 1993, in which many Asian and MENA UN member-states including India had made it clear to American and European countries that their approach of human rights is subject to Asian values, Asian diversity and so, Asian conditions. Usually, the Asian understanding is that without development and economic stability, democracy and egalitarian form of government is not sustainable. This has primarily nothing to do with the usual fears that democracy does not matter, because democracies, however all being flawed, have their own particularisms. Those particular features can be seen anywhere. Russia has a semi-presidential system, France has a unitary system, the United States follows an Electoral College system. However, the way their statutory bodies or let us say, federal bodies work, shows they are a pseudo-democracy and more of a technocracy. India follows the Westminster form of government, and despite serious issues, has a stable Civil Services cadre in Administrative, Police and Foreign Services so to mention especially.
It shows at least this that the notions of power and competence cannot be universalised, which is why public international law is only decentralised in enforcement from a United Nations perspective, and not from the Permanent Member countries’ perspective. Public international law also stems from the notions of power-competence, originating from Europe mostly. American international law changes the course. Yet, the European model has its own suzerainty. Therefore, it is important to attest that there are no ideal standards of a developmental democracy. The Kuznets Curve in Europe, embraced by the European Commission could be a model for eco-friendly capitalism. However, in generality, there is no possibility & necessity to impose any common conception of “democracy” anywhere, because as I had discussed in my monograph, persona ficta, or fictional sovereignty is not based on “Puritan” understanding of what constitutes a civilisation. Of course, if a current nation-state is violating international law, like the Art. 2 of the Charter of the UN, then legally, questions can be raised. Or maybe they might not be, if the realpolitik is an overweight. Still, there are existing machinations in customary and general international law on traditional sovereignty, which can be used to handle legal matters. However, from a policy perspective, if India states it is a federal civilisation, as Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and many other leaders of the Indian national movement believed in, with utmost clarity, then having Act East as a foreign policy measure is justified and not illegal. Why? India is the home to Indic and Asian religions, from those in early Confucian China to countries in South-East Asia like Japan’s Shintoism and others. Recognising that is realism. Then, religion in the East is not based usually on the rugged-up and linear notions of power and competence, where the divine is in the masses.
Asian countries believe in the realisation that for them, as facts and myths together form the gossiped culture of customary enculturation of their subjective experiences and realities, they are naturalised, and individually subjected to mutual respect and dependencies. The tendency of being ontologically codependent — which means that the main tributaries make the rivers, lakes and so on to “federalise” the Indo-Asian realm of cultural economy and even spiritual cohesion, recognising the fact that there is one intrinsic feature which unites them.
It can have a political basis, when that factor of unity is neglected, through abrupt political means. Otherwise, leaving political obscurantism, in India, that is something we called as Dharma. Dharma therefore does not mean religion — it means the naturalised ethics, which programs and reprograms its own self. If we take Roger Brownsword’s analysis of administrative law and tech’s stages, then it is even a better form of Coherentism (much nuanced and evolved than legal positivism) in governance, and not even technocracy. However, it is safe to assume that legal positivism belongs to age of Modernity.
The programmability is federal — since the encultured relationship between the individual and the civilisation is cohesive. Also, since India and most Asian civilisations are heavily diverse, there cannot be consolidated “minority” groups, because nearly plurality defines un-atomised yet present diverse differences in the cultural components of the mores, folk cultures and relationships that unify the Indic fold. For example, the culinary diversity of India is varied, and cannot be stereotyped by mere mainstream dishes such as Chhola Bhatura, or that regular Masala Dosa. Within Dosai and Chhola, there are many variants, of Indic nature. Ironically, even the same applies with Hindi and Urdu. The impositionist tendency of English has been transpired into some of the supporters of Hindi and Urdu as well, leading to the impositionist tendencies of promoting Urdu and Hindi in Pakistan and India respectively. This example is a way to explain that since India has been a multilingual civilisation, we should endorse diversity.
Diversity is not top-down and easy to manage often, but is not weak enough, because it embraces its own aspects of unison in many ways, which are not expected usually. It is a kind of strength, which is, in Asiatic societies, based on natural semblance. This affinity with nature’s divinity and the role of an individual in the civilisational juggernaut itself is amazing to see in Asia. You will not find that in Europe.
Therefore, you do not need ideology as a way of life. You can have ideology as a tool to commit to short term and long term goals for unification, unison and even cohesion wherever possible. Thus, liberalism, socialism, secularism or any of these isms are the tools that might be used, but are not without flaws, structurally and in practice.
Why is the Usual Indian Psyche Defeatist? A Knowledge Economy Perspective
Many people have addressed this usual mainstream problem under the perspective of “pseudo-secularism” and not realised that by stating something like this, it is kind of a vindictive approach towards a weak, defeatist means of statehood and even envisioning sovereignty as a public policy basis. I would therefore not even get into this useless debate.
However, from two perspectives, you can read these articles and get some context:
- The Psychotic Leviathan of Non-Aligned Movement & the Harsh Need to Heterogenize India’s Heteropolar Foreign Policy and Dehyphenation Strategy, by me; and
- Perception of Power Through the History of the Indian Subcontinent, by Kartikey Misra
The Indian psyche suffers from defeatism because of (1) lack of courage to rediscover history; (2) lack of innovative thinking in the current milleu; (3) considering that electoral indications bring European-style revolution or “kranti” (which is unplanned linear consequentiality); and (4) not learning and developing credible institutions for now. This has a lot to do with our education system — I agree. Post-coloniality is not perfect, and we cannot be stuck in one timeline forever. However, that does not justify any laze of the common people to not act reasonably.
Let me first explain knowledge management, and then come on this topic. So, what is this idea? In intellectual property law and management sciences, this field is a study of how companies develop corporate governance mechanisms intrinsically to share, spread and contain knowledge and wisdom (tangible or intangible, does not matter). In the age of artificial intelligence and crypto, how can you do that? Excellent question. The data you keep of consumer insights, the trade secrets behind your patents’ viability, or your media strategy, your litigation skills, your recipe of some dish, any code for a website or a cryptocurrency, or the design thinking modules, that you create for your employees, might not come into intellectual property protection always. However, they shall be considered under the umbrella of knowledge management.
The emergence of self-regulation in soft law shows that the way companies of foreign and indigenous origin (foreign or Indian, since this article is only on India) behave and achieve their politico-commercial goals, is an excellent way to understand how soft law itself is an extrapolated expansionist way of dealing with knowledge management, and even exploiting the same. Now, once you read an excellent case of Thaler in Australia about DABUS, you will understand how inventor and patentee are different in consideration, which means that making AI as an inventor signifies that knowledge management can go to the next level, considering the relationship they will of course have. This is innovation, weaponised and used in a specific and significant way. The judge had made it clear already that:
Now I have just dealt with one field of scientific inquiry of interest to patent lawyers. But the examples can be multiplied. But what this all indicates is that no narrow view should be taken as to the concept of “inventor”. And to do so would inhibit innovation not just in the field of computer science but all other scientific fields which may benefit from the output of an artificial intelligence system. — [Thaler v Commissioner of Patents  FCA 879, para 56]
Yes, I understand that coloniality has deprived Indians and even Asians of their ability to innovate and do much better things. That however does not mean we stop innovating or even using opportunities reasonably. What we need is not an ideological approach to counter coloniality. These are a few things, we need to take into consideration anyways:
- Decoloniality since is long-run, has to narrow-down with a sense to question, not break. It helps us earning better results to seek solutions neither from a pacifist angle, nor from a defeatist-ideological angle to validate anyone. We need to harmonise and master in innovative approaches by Indian-ising them. That — is possible when a strategic mindset is developed.
- The strategic mindset develops by decolonising: of course. But what about those who are not able to achieve that stage and yet stuck in post-coloniality? Large number of people are. Hence, for them, a better way could be to read, revisit history, through a fashion of passive experience. Studying it, understanding it, the nuances of culture, the relationship, etc., helps in understanding coloniality.
- Those who already know, must stop cribbing, and focus on creative solutions. Let us not even call them solutions. Instead they should be considered as test projects. Create small test projects, work on them, develop a purva-paksha & uttar-paksha approach, and solve them. There are a few organisations which are committed to the cause with clear vision, like Indic Academy and Rashtram School of Public Leadership. Gita Press is an initiative by all means when it comes to publishing amazing books as literal translations and descriptions of the Vedas and other texts. I have not seen many startups coming up with unique ideas in the Indic Fold, to develop ecosystems that make sense. So, cribbing with a sense of victimhood is nonsensical, and must be avoided. This is another mark of unfettered mediocrity, which does not help.
So, people should study how leaders and institutions used to create knowledge systems, and come up with approaches and solutions, to problems of specific kind, which they had to deal with. That should be done not from a purityesque mindset, but with a clear open-ended mindset. Plurality is not globalism. In fact, those who are interested in the Indic approach to law, can also contribute to the field of global governance, with a sense of pragmatism and the Bhartiya rationale, howsoever diverse and differing they are for different people.
To end this part, I will finally explain why tenets of excessive universalisation must be not be mistaken for the true plurality and multicultural beauty that Bharatvarsha as a civilisation is. Becoming a China is a failed precept. That should not be the case in policy making at all. If it is assumed that secularism is Indic, then it is a flawed understanding. Tolerance is an inferior strategy and cult of inter-religious encounters and convergences, if anyone intends to even do so. Watch this episode of Indus Think to know more about the history of secularism. What do we instead need is to develop a sense of mutual respect, which is innovative, based on realism, and the fact that cultural dignity is uncompromisable. If all these principles have to be owned, then they must be done properly the Indic way, and should not be merely done for academic prospects, to make some museum literature and leave the works in libraries for long. There should be a perspective of practicability for cohesive practices. A step-by-step suggestion, which I find reasonable is:
- Learn the Basics First.
- Then Question them, once you master them.
- Focus on self-reliance and self-confidence.
- Develop something.
- Focus on nuances, not noise.
Do you really need a common ideological fold to come up with solutions and innovative approach?
No, you do not. Nobody needs to assume that ideology is their abode, if political power and competence are controlling the ontological consequences of the same, which in most cases, many ideologies do. Considering that the world is multi-polar, requires multi-alignment as a foreign policy strategy. Similarly, in public policy, what people need is a different and foreseeable vision to commit to solutions. Things like Indo-Pacific, Indo-European, Indic, Dharmik, Bhartiya, etc., and even Asian, are a part of our fold of things, into the Jambudwipa Bharatkhande, which we adore and relish. Civilisational approaches require multi-level approaches, and something pragmatic must begin anyways. Anyone can start a business selling products based on Indic knowledge — natural sciences or anything possible, based on proper scientific estimates. Or maybe, education is a good field to go ahead with.
Lastly, I would say, that those who generally feel they belong to the group of lost causes, should realise that any lack of continuity and coherence with the civilisation, is one of the biggest reasons why lost causes are made. It has nothing to do with the alleged contempt of individuality or individual rights, which is being falsely spread like a fear psychosis.
It is so naive to even state that all Asian and African countries and their civilisations were anti-individuality, without doing any proper enquiry. If that is so, then Vivekananda, Samudragupta, Confucius, Nobunaga, Lee Kwan Yuu, Kwame Nkrumah, Bhupen Hazarika, and from thousands to millions of such minds from these continents would not have even come.
Most people who make such comparisons, never study the continental history even properly, or deliberately ignore it. Eurasia, especially Asia, led by India and China, cannot be ignored anymore, from policy aspects, because they represent the future of the Indo-European fold, the Indo-Pacific and many other things per se. In India, and so Asia, individuality is valued as an innate part of the larger collective. I quote Okakura Kakuzo, The Ideals of the East with Special Reference to the Art of Japan (John Murray, 1903), p. 1:
The Himalayas divide, only to accentuate, two mighty civilizations, the Chinese with its communism of Confucius, and the Indian with its individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy barriers can interrupt for one moment that broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and Universal, which is the common thought-inheritance of every Asiatic race, enabling them to produce all the great religions of the world, and distinguishing them from those maritime peoples of the Mediterranean and the Baltic, who love to dwell on the Particular, and to search out the means, not the end, of life.
I also quote from Bruno Maçães. “The Dawn of Eurasia”, as follows:
The encounter between European and Asian empires in the modern age had a very specific meaning to those involved: the superiority of European technology. Some Asian thinkers or polemicists like Tagore or Jalal Ahmad went so far as to make the intriguing claim that the encounter was not between Asians and Europeans, but rather between Asians and European machines. At the origin of this superiority lay a new understanding of science where nature was seen as capable of endless (or almost endless) transformation. From the very beginning, Europeans had a clear sense of what was distinctive about the new civilization they were building. […] That the Europeans found themselves in a position to control practically the whole world was a direct result of a series of revolutions in science, economic production and political society whose underlying theme was the systematic exploration of alternative possibilities, different and until then unknown ways of doing things. If power is the ability to transform reality, Europeans had discovered a method to bring about transformations on an entirely new scale. It was not just their military power that grew disproportionately, although it was always at the centre of worldwide relations; economic, cultural, even the intangible power of prestige grew as well. As a result, as Hodgson puts it, all peoples had to adjust their governments to the modern European international order, their economies to the competition of industrialized Europe, and even their mental outlook to modern science as it was studied and practised in European countries. At the root of it all were the secrets of science, and the machines feeding on those secrets.
Because modern science was seen as a decisive break with the past, including at the level of logic and method, society was understood to be in a process of being reorganized on a rational footing.
So, next time, when people say — everything is “Western”, read, read, think, rethink and work. I end this article with an amazing quote by Sri Aurobindo:
P.S.: Only civil responses and civil disagreements are appreciated. Namaste.