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My Expectations Toward The Major Power India in The Coming Decades

FICCI, August 2007


My posting in India has already exceeded 6 years, counting my previous stint in the early 1980s. As I shall soon be leaving India after completing my tenure, this would most probably be my last speech as Ambassador in New Delhi. While the topics of my speeches in the past have mostly concentrated around Japan-India relations, today I wish to express my frank views vis-à-vis India.

What I am most impressed with about India is not its progress in the field of IT or the phenomenal success story of Maruti-Suzuki but the generosity and tolerance manifested by its people evident in the peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims as well as the harmonious coexistence between human beings and sundry animals in the midst of a bustling town. I find that the core concept of the Indian people is the philosophy of harmonious coexistence. Behind this, I suppose, there exists a belief that the Buddha-hood or the Deity dwells in everything and everywhere in the universe. While the western Christian thought is that the human being should govern this world under the authorization of God, the Indian thought is that an individual should coexist with others in nature, because he is merely a part of it, and also because Buddha-hood or Deity dwells in everything and everywhere in the universe.

It is rather difficult for anyone to properly recognize by himself his national characteristics. For instance, the Japanese do not consciously recognize themselves as punctual people, taking it for granted to be on time always. But by living here in India, we recognize well our punctual characteristics in contrast to the Indian habit. Likewise, Indian people also do not recognize by themselves their characteristics and virtues. However, to the eyes of foreign observers, it is unique to witness the peaceful coexistence of Muslims with Hindus in India. Needless to refer to Prof. Huntington’s "The Clash of Civilizations", a mere glance at the plight of the Iraqi people, the confrontation between Iran and the international society, or the problem of Muslim immigrants in Europe, is sufficient to show us the difficulties of harmonious coexistence between various religious denominations. 

Against this reality, it is almost miraculous to find here in India, not only Muslims and Hindus, but also various people of so many diverse religions and cultures, coexisting peacefully within the same society under the democratic system.  

Indians have another remarkable characteristic in their relationship with nature. If a monkey is seen walking in a street of Tokyo, it would immediately cause a big commotion and uproar in the town. As a matter of fact, only two years ago, an escape by a pet monkey into the street became big news with huge media coverage, and a large-scale chasing game involving hundreds of policemen over several days. Hence, it is very extraordinary to witness monkeys, cows, elephants and many kinds of animals living so harmoniously with human beings in the middle of a city here in India. 

I believe that such Indian thoughts and wisdom hold the key to our challenge to overcome major problems of the human race in the 21st century. Among many problems, the two most important ones are how to guide international society towards peace by severing the vicious chain of hatred and violence and how to save the earth from environmental degradation and realize the harmonious coexistence between human beings and nature. It is evident that in the 21st century, India will enter into the Major Power Club of the world. I sincerely hope, however, that India will not merely be one of the major powers, but the Major Power which can lead international society with its lofty ideals to overcome challenges. This is the theme of my speech today and my farewell message to you.  

It is often stated that the most cruel act by men is religious warfare. The witch-hunting of the Medieval Age can be cited in the same vein. Though it is naturally abnormal for men to kill other men, it could be done in the name of God, if one can believe of others as devils. The western thought basically manifests in dualism, such as God and Devil, Heaven and Hell, Goodness and Badness. While Christianity can be considered as a religion of benevolence, European history reveals the occasional appearance of its severe face vis-à-vis heretics or atheists. On the other hand, Asian thought, in particular, Indian thought, is pantheism with the belief that everyone inherently has the Buddha-hood or Deity within its being, regardless of whichever religion or thought he subscribes to. Thus, even devils can realize Buddha-hood (Buddha-charita) or Deity in their lives, if they happen to attain enlightenment about inherent Buddha-hood. How can men kill others without hesitation, when they believe in Buddha-hood or Deity within other beings?  

I. Peaceful co-existence with others in human society  

This thought to seek peaceful coexistence can be considered as "the Spirit of Tolerance". I believe that tolerance is not an act of passivity only to accept reality; it should, instead, be perceived as strong activeness. Tolerance is, first of all, to recognize other's existence and to accept it. If one considers himself as a part of the society or the universe, it is a logical consequence to recognize other’s being also as an equal part of the universe. Tolerance is, in the second place, an act to try to understand other's claims or thoughts, as well as to communicate one's ideas and claims to others through a dialogue. And thirdly, tolerance is to seek a peaceful coexistence with others by imposing self-restraint.. 

Though it sounds rather strange for a foreign envoy to try to give a lecture on Indian history to Indian friends, I strongly believe that the governance of King Ashok in accordance with the Dharma that extended to entire India after the Kalinga War should be a model of governance by tolerance. And the fact that India attained independence through Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi without taking recourse to violence is the perfect example of the victory of tolerance. I also served as Ambassador in South Africa. The freedom fight against Apartheid is another case for the victory of moral power. An independence or democracy attained by the victory of moral power does not leave any feeling of hatred on both sides. It was impressive to see the existence of a sort of mutual respect among the ANC leaders and Afrikaners after the democratization. Likewise, it may be due to the victory of moral power that Indians and the British share with each other the sentiment of mutual respect after Independence.
Having seen Attenborough’s film "Gandhi" during my first posting in India in the early 1980s, I was very much moved by the greatness of the Mahatma. Before coming to India this time as Ambassador, I had a chance to watch the film "Gandhi" again on video. This gave me another idea: Mahatma was of course great, but the Indian people, who fully understood Mahatma's teachings and followed them in action, were equally great. I wonder if the Indian soil itself has some magnetic power which makes the people living on it tolerant, and guides them towards a peaceful coexistence with others! 

II. The thought of "harmonious coexistence with nature" 

The Genesis Chapter of the Old Testament reads; “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’.” As the founding basis of western Christian civilization, there evidently exists a thought that human beings were authorized by God to govern the nature and the world. By contrast, the Indian thought is that the universe exists as it is, without being created by God, and that the human being, who is only a part of the universe, should be in harmony with nature and others, which are equally a part of the universe. 

Last year, I had the precious chance to visit the Gir National Park in Gujarat, which is famous as the last home of the Asiatic lion, having clearly distinct features from the African lion, with a smaller size and the male's shorter mane. As sculpted in the ancient Persian Relief, the Asiatic lion was once widely distributed in Asia, from Asia Minor and Arabia, through Persia to India. In the Indian sub-continent, its range extended over northern India, as far as Bihar in the east, and with the Narmada River as the southern limit. While the Asiatic lion became extinct in the 19th century in one region after another, finally the Gir forest remained as the last abode of less than 12 lions. Though the then Nawab of Junagadh provided protection to the population of lions at the end of the 19th century, the number of lions fluctuated up and down within a small range. When the then Viceroy, Lord George N. Curzon, visited the region for hunting, the local people headed by the Nawab implored him not to kill lions which they felt were divine beings. Lord Curzon was moved by the sincere petition from the residents and decided to provide adequate protection to the lions, resulting in the issuance of an order to ban their shooting and provide strict protection to the Asiatic lion in 1911. This policy has been succeeded even after the Independence, resulting in the increase in their population to 359 in 2005. 

I was really touched by this real story. Over a vast area of Asia, only this region of India saved the Asiatic lion from its total extinction. In other words, the strong belief of local people in the divinity dwelling in the lion's life saved the Asiatic lion. 

I think Indian thought on the subject of relation of man with the nature has common features with that of man’s relation with others in the society" or "tolerance". Namely, the first common feature is to recognize the existence and value of others or the nature in the universe. This is the logical consequence of the thought that a man is only a part of the universe. The second is to listen to the message from the nature and to respond to nature through a dialogue. Today, the message from the nature may be mostly the scream against environmental disruption. And the last is to seek harmonious coexistence with the nature, with self-restraint.  

The major topic of the G8 Summit this year was climate change. At the next year's Tohya Lake G8 Summit in Japan, this topic should be taken up as the main one. It may be needless to mention in detail here about how serious the world environment disruption is, including climate change. The modern world in the post-Industrial Revolution era has experienced the predominance of optimism, under the overwhelming influence of the western civilization, and the fact that the human being can make best use of the nature with technological development for materialistic desire and convenience. The belief is: science and technology can make everything possible. The current reality tells us that the abuse of nature has already exceeded nature’s allowance, incurring its revenge

While fully convinced of the importance itself of science and technology, I cannot associate myself with the utter optimism that science and technology can resolve all environmental problems. When science and technology resolves one problem, it creates another, thus continuing an endless game. Once, the use of ethanol as a substitute for gasoline fuel was considered as the savior to the exhaustion of crude oil. The reality is, however, that ethanol production has incurred, for instance, a loss of vast areas of the Amazon forest by expansion of soybeans fields. Ethanol production is also compelling the human beings to choose grain resources for fuel use rather than for food consumption purposes. We may have to drastically alter our way of thinking. One easy example is a change of life-style. At present in Japan, a large-scale campaign is under way with the Government's initiative to reduce air-conditioning temperature by introduction of the so-called "Cool-Biz" attire.  

I presume that Indian friends may in fact be puzzled by this kind of a story, because the Indian traditional way of living has always been eco-friendly, taking it for granted to harmoniously coexist with the nature. I believe that this Indian way of thinking has the key to resolving the environment problems we are now faced with. 

III. The critical challenge from the real world and my expectations toward India

Though I have stated until now, with admiration, the value of the Indian way of thinking, I cannot render unconditional praise to India. Despite its traditional rich philosophical heritage, India is also struggling with the harsh realities of the times, with a number of problems. 

To begin with the thought of peaceful coexistence with others in the human community and the spirit of tolerance, just one example of the India-China Border Conflict in 1962 is enough to demonstrate that the ideal of Peace Diplomacy alone cannot ensure national security. The 1962 War has drastically changed the Indian defense policy, to upgrade in a massive way its military capability to become one of the world's major military powers.  

Although I praised the peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims, it is an uncontestable fact that there have occurred, a number of times, communal conflicts in various places in India. The Ayodhya and Godhra incidents can be cited as recent examples. Mahatma Gandhi who preached tolerance was himself assassinated by a Hindu fanatic.  

Unless we retreat to a monastery, we cannot escape from the harsh reality of this world. It is essential to constantly seek the ideal of a peaceful coexistence with others without escaping from the reality. Not every country can, however, can be qualified to become a leader in this endeavour. But I am firmly convinced that India, deeply embedded with ideas of tolerance, should be one of the few countries qualified for taking leadership towards peaceful coexistence of the world. There is no doubt that India will be a Major Power in economic, political and military sense. However, I do not wish India to be merely a major power in the world; instead, I very strongly expect that India would emerge as a respectable leader who would be able to guide the international community with ideas towards peaceful coexistence.  

            It is primarily in the hands of India herself how to put this mission into actual action. However, I expect India to undertake, for instance, the following initiatives:  

First, India may place the idea of tolerance as a foundation of Indian diplomacy, and put this into a theory in an appealing and easily understandable manner to the international community. The "Soft Power Theory" of Prof. Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is well-known as a claim to better utilize spiritual values for diplomacy, such as moral persuasion or cultural attraction, rather than coercive measures such as military power. I myself once listened to his lecture at FICCI. Though the content of his speech was excellent, I felt somewhat uneasy to see the Indian audience admire him unreservedly. This is because I believe that the authorship of the soft power theory should belong to India, which has the glorious achievement of independence through moral persuasion or Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha. If I go back farther in history, King Ashok's governance by virtue of Dharma should be an ancient typical model of soft power. A good deal of attention may have been paid to Prof. Joseph S. Nye’s soft power theory for the reason that an American who once served as a high official in the Defense Department, a symbol of hard power worship, was conversely preaching soft power. However, it seems to me that the value and originality of this attractive theory wanes somehow in the presence of the most eloquent achievement of India thus far. Nonetheless, I have to question whether Indians exerted enough efforts to present their idea of tolerance to the world in an easily understandable way. Though Indians are usually self-assertive, as far as Indian culture and philosophy are concerned, they are apt to innocently believe that all others can understand the excellence of these values without any explanation; and if others cannot understand this, that is their fault. If some Indian, whether philosopher, politician or diplomat, had presented the idea of tolerance in a manner as Prof. Nye had done, they would have been going all over the world lecturing, with a high reputation. And Indian leadership of tolerance, with theory and practice as most convincing material to others, should have been welcome everywhere. 

My second expectation is that India may introduce with confidence, to international society, the Indian reality where various people of different religions, languages and cultures live together peacefully under a democracy, and that India may more actively deploy peace-building or peace-consolidating diplomacy in various regions of conflict. Though, there do happen communal disturbances even in India, it is however very heartening to witness peaceful coexistence in community being taken for granted here in India, in contrast to the tragic reality in many places in the world such as Iraq, Palestine, Darfur in Sudan, and so forth. 

The second constraint, which is particular to Japan, is the difficulties for Japan to work upon US to reduce or eliminate its nuclear weapons, while positioning itself under the US nuclear umbrella.  Logically, it is a very tricky exercise to seek the protective umbrella on one hand, and asking for the same umbrella to be thrown away on the other hand.  Despite such constraints, Japan is expressing to US its most sincere concern over the pressing need to ratify CTBT and early entry into negotiations on FMCT.  Japan is taking adamant initiative, as I introduced, to adopt UNGA resolutions in seeking the total elimination of nuclear weapons. 

            The third point of my expectation is that India would advance its active diplomacy vis-à-vis two difficult issues, namely the Kashmir problem and its relations with Pakistan, as well as Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, which may be the touchstone to prove the authenticity of the Indian Peace Developing Diplomacy with highly esteemed ideals. Though both issues are extremely difficult to resolve, India cannot go without addressing them if India tries to undertake the initiative for peace development diplomacy. It should be noblesse-oblige for a leadership country to demonstrate model cases to others. India and Pakistan relations are much improved since the 2002 crisis and are following the right path at present. Regarding nuclear issues, India may have had a sort of paranoia that the whole international community is only pressurizing it as a result of the 1998 nuclear test and the subsequent economic sanctions imposed. However, once the India-US civil atomic energy agreement is authorized by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the status of India in relation to IAEA or NPT regime will be clearly dictated, departing from the current precarious one as a mere outsider to the NPT regime. It is expected that India will be a rather major player for the international concerted action towards nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Thus the cooperation in these fields between India and Japan will undoubtedly be much widened.  

I observe that whether or not India can attain ambitious economic development growth over decades, as predicted by the BRICs report, will primarily depend upon how much the Indian nature can withstand the increasing environmental stress. The Indian nature will be under heavy pressure not only from rapid population growth, which may reach a static situation with 1.6 billion in 2050, but also from the people's legitimate desire to seek a richer and more convenient life. A very simplified scenario of what may happen to the environment can be visualized if every family of 1.6 billion population were to have a car. 

            If political authority tries to introduce coercive family planning measures, it would incur a human rights problem, and subsequent political instability. Likewise, we cannot deny a legitimate desire of the people to be better-off. It should, however, be noted that environmental disruption in India is seriously progressing even now. The underground water level in Punjab, a leading state of the Green Revolution, is considerably lowering year by year. Air pollution as well as residual agricultural chemicals are causing serious danger to the human health. The glacier of the Himalaya, which is the domicile of Lord Shiva, is now melting down due to global warming. The water of the holy Ganga is dangerously polluted. 

            India will undoubtedly be a major economic power in the 21 st century. I do not wish, however, to see India merely as one of the economic powers flourishing at the cost of disrupted environment. Instead, I really hope that India would be a global leader to guide the international community towards economic development, harmonizing the attainment of well-being along with coexistence with nature, reflecting its traditional wisdom, teaching that human being is only a part of the universe and shares inherent Buddha-hood or Deity with all others. Can this be considered as the egoism of an envoy from the world’s second largest economic power, which reached this level a little bit ahead of India?

            The second point of my expectation is that India would present an Indian model of economic development in harmony with environmental protection, and lead the world in this direction. We often hear criticism from the developing world that it is a luxury of developed countries to undertake measures for environmental protection, and that economic development is the first priority and everything for the developing world. Nonetheless, I can assert, from Japan’s experience of many tragic pollution-related incidents, such as the Minamata disease, that economic development without addressing environmental pollution concerns would only result in postponing of multifold increased costs in the future. Such an approach would impose, after all, unbearable sacrifice on individuals, corporates, the society, and the country as a whole. In many cases, environment once lost would never be recovered. Democracy can be a guardian of environment protection, because under a democracy the politicians have to listen to the claims of residents living in respective environments. India, which is the largest democracy as well as the real author of the thought of harmonious coexistence with nature, should be one of the few countries which can demonstrate a new model of economic development in harmony with environment protection to the world. 

            Thirdly, I hope that India would be a global leader for the world environment protection movement, in particular, the challenge against climate change. Out of the world’s 2.4 billion ton total Co2 emissions in 2004, India's emission reaches more than 100 million ton as the 5th largest emitter. In 2006, China exceeded US to be the world’s largest emitter. India would very soon overtake Japan to become the 4th largest. It is already an irrefutable reality that we cannot hold any meaningful discussions on this subject without involving China and India. Any arguments that China and India, with their very low per capita level of Co2 emission, should be immune from the responsibility of climate change combat, seem to me unconvincing, because even a little reduction of emission per capita would constitute a decisive magnitude in the overall level by a large populace, 1.3 billion of China and 1.1 billion of India, as a little emission per capita constitutes in total a large emission in these countries with large populations. We cannot expect any meaningful effect without China and India, who together share 40% of the world population. Given Japan's energy consumption efficiency as 1 unit, the respective corresponding figure is 2 for US, 8 for India, and 9 for China. Hence, there should be a large room for China and India to improve their energy consumption efficiency. 

IV. The bond between India and Japan

Thus far, I have only stated my expectations towards India, one-sidedly. You may have a legitimate question: how about Japan? Besides, I fully understand India's strong expectation for Japan to play a much bigger role in international politics. Despite its negative historic legacy of the Second World War, Japan came to undertake an active political role, including her positive contribution to the peace-keeping operations in the present times, after more than 60 years. This is reflected in Japan's initiative taken with India for the UN Security Council Reform, and manifested in its readiness to be a permanent member of the Security Council. Japan is also one of the most advanced countries working for environmental protection with the most advanced environmental technology. As for climate change, Japan is undertaking an international initiative, for instance, with PM Abe's "Cool Earth-50" proposal, targeting the halving of Co2 emissions from the current level, by 2050. 

It is not, however, my intention to introduce here each topic of the Japanese policy. Instead, I wish to emphasize a common ground of thoughts between India and Japan, in respect to the relation of men with others and the nature. Prof. Huntington has enumerated, in his book, eight representative civilizations in the world, with three civilizations from Asia, namely, Hindu, Chinese and Japanese. Curiously, only the Japanese one is "one country, one civilization". While Japan has, thus, very distinct features of civilization, Japan received strong cultural and religious influence from India since the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century. And the Indian philosophy of "peaceful coexistence with others in the society" as well as "harmonious coexistence with nature in the universe" have been deeply embedded in the Japanese spiritual backbone. As for peaceful coexistence with others, however, it was not realized in a form of coexistence among various religions and peoples in Japan, which is a highly homogeneous society. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Japan has been very much keen to intake and digest foreign cultures and thoughts, and been tolerant in living with them. Except a few decades until the WWII, throughout the Japanese history, Japan has been very loyal to the thought of peaceful coexistence with others, both within itself as well as outside. 

            As for the thought of harmonious coexistence with the nature, living in harmony with the nature, or rather as a part of the nature, is the basic concept of Japanese culture in every respect, encompassing everything from Japanese gardens to architecture, to literature including Haiku, the world’s shortest poem style. It is also in the same vein with India, that the thought of "Buddha-hood and Deity dwell in everything and everywhere" stands as the very foundation of the Japanese culture.

Japan and India are vigorously pursuing "the Strategic and Global Partnership" agreed at the summit level. And it is often stressed that our two countries are blessed with a strong bond of such shared values as democracy, human rights, rule of law, market economy, and so forth. The bond of such shared values is not only present between our two countries, but is also valid in our relations with many other countries, including the US and the European countries. I suppose that India and Japan are strongly tied not only by the norm of democracy, but by a more profound cultural and philosophical bond at the bottom of the cultural structure. I am convinced that the thought of "coexistence with others and the nature" based upon the belief that "Buddha-hood and Deity dwell in everything and everywhere" is the underground water that firmly unites India and Japan.  

I wish to conclude my speech by expressing my high expectation that India and Japan should work together hand in hand, with the common philosophy towards challenging the two major problems of the world, namely, peace-building by severing the vicious chain of hatred and violence as well as "leading to harmonious coexistence with the nature by protecting the earth from environmental disruption.