Seven days may be a long time in politics, but eight years is too short a time in a nation’s history. Yet, in this short time Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised the global profile of India and restored to the nation, in large measure, its lost pride, prestige and glory as Vishwaguru. As we enter the ninth year of his leadership as Prime Minister, not only will India rise further at home but also in the world. The course of India’s destiny has been firmly set.
PM Modi’s ‘India First’ policy – of placing the national interest above conventional geopolitics – has no doubt propelled India’s rise abroad. A deft mix of hard and soft power projection, coupled with a robust demonstration of India’s expertise in technology and its application that will ensure the Fourth Industrial Revolution does not pass us by, has added heft to the ‘India First’ policy architecture. PM Modi’s thrust on unabashedly promoting India’s civilisational heritage and its culture has provided it with clout.
Previous Governments have tried to project India’s soft power, but those efforts had a limited impact. Promoting tourism without focusing on tourism-related infrastructure, or restricting India’s many-hued appeal to only one monument, or, worse, showcasing the lowest denominator of popular culture as India’s heritage, restrained India’s rise on the soft power front. PM Modi has brought about a sweeping change in this approach, enlarging the canvas and including complementary elements. For example, Yoga is now a household name around the world, thanks to PM Modi’s initiative in getting the UN to declare June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’ and backing it up with multiple initiatives to popularise this unique civilisational inheritance of India and turning it into a gift to the world from this ancient land.
In the past, ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ had become a vacuous slogan, a cliché which had lost its strong moral connotation. Saying the ‘World is one family’ and living this eternal truth anchored in India’s civilisational ethos are two different things. PM Modi has shown that India not only believes in this dictum, distilled from the wisdom of its ancient sages and contained in its ancient texts, but also lives it. Hence, when the developed world showed its reluctance to help others with COVID-19 vaccine, PM Modi stepped forward to help neighbours as well as distant countries. ‘Vaccine Maitri’, in many ways, was India’s finest moment in recent times when we showed to the world that we are different as a nation and as a civilisation; that we do not subscribe to the developed world’s view that ‘the devil take the hind most’.
‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, for PM Modi, is not only about pandemic assistance. India was the first country to reach out with disaster relief when a terrible earthquake struck Nepal, even before other countries in the region stirred themselves into action. At a time when Sri Lanka is going through turbulent times, India has unhesitatingly stepped forward to help tide over the crisis. The world has turned its face away from Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul and the rise of the Taliban. Regardless of the security implications of this momentous event, India has chosen to provide food relief to the people of Afghanistan. In the past, it was India which had gifted Afghans with a Parliament House and built one of Afghanistan’s most important dams.
The list of India living the lofty principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum’, of reinstilling values in how we perceive and engage with the world, is long, just as PM Modi’s vision is vast. For instance, even while placing a restraint on the export of wheat for compelling domestic reasons, India has made it abundantly clear that countries which need wheat will be provided with wheat on a case-to-case basis. Underlying this decision is the deeply moral view that if the world is one family, food security cannot be for India alone. While other world leaders pay lip service to values and principles, PM Modi ensures values and principles guide India’s engagement with the world.
The story of ‘Digital India’ is too well-known to be recounted. We now host the third largest number of startups and boast of 100 Unicorns. We have one of the finest UPIs which has made digital payments far more popular than in other countries. The world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive was managed and monitored digitally. Digital inclusion has been the cornerstone of PM Modi’s ‘Digital India’ policy. Unlike others, we are willing to share technology. On climate, India has led the way on renewables, especially solar energy, resilient development and green investment, serving as a lighthouse to the reluctant. This burst of exuberance we see, the confidence among Indians that they can do it because PM Modi believes it can be done, is all pervasive. Our sportspersons, among the finest examples of ‘Young India’ and inspired by the ‘can do’ Modi Mantra, are excelling and bringing home trophies that we could only dream of earlier.
Bollywood is no longer only about popular culture of a certain variety. Our hugely talented film industry has stepped forward to combine creativity, culture and technology to produce world class content that can compete with the best globally. Entertainment media and technology have merged seamlessly to make India a content sub-continent, an ideal platform for content producers around the world. India is poised to be both the largest consumer as well as producer of content. Recognition has come, most recently, by way of India being designated this year’s ‘Country of Honour’ at Cannes.
The vastness of what India ia – and what the world is yet to discover about this great nation – is exemplified by the gifts PM Modi carries with him for world leaders. No two gifts are similar, no two gifts come from the same place. Each is unique, each symbolises a tiny piece of the great mosaic of India’s soft power in its truest sense; each celebrates the greatness of India’s achievements and accomplishments as a civilisational nation. Today, India can send a mission to Mars and Moon; India can make supersonic missiles and aircraft carriers; India can produce the finest creative minds; India can rapidly cover the infrastructure gap; India can manage a debilitating pandemic better than other countries and restart its economy faster than anybody else; India can effectively reduce poverty and inequality; and, India can stand tall as the world’s largest democracy.
As India celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence, it must be recognised that in these eight years PM Modi has laid the foundation for India’s unrestrained rise for decades to come. India shall continue to prosper at home and India’s stature shall continue to rise in the comity of nations. As an ancient civilisation takes its rightful place in today’s world, India shall be acknowledged as Vishwa Guru – a self-confident and self-reliant nation that leads and inspires. PM Modi has truly and irrevocably changed the course of India’s destiny.
(The author is India’s Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting and Sports & Youth Affairs)