Globalisation and us

Excerpts of the Dudley Senanayake memorial oration delivered by Yashwant Sinha, senior BJP leader and former Foreign Minister of India, on Thursday, at the BMICH in Colombo

I am honoured to be invited to deliver the 13th Dudley Senanayake Memorial Lecture today. I am grateful to the Foundation for conferring this honour on me. The subject I have chosen for discussion today is Globalization and Us. ‘Us’ includes you and me, all the people of the developing world; indeed all the weak and deprived people on this planet.

Before I proceed I would like to join you in expressing my deep sense of sorrow at the passing away of Mr. Desmond Fernando, the President of the Foundation, at whose invitation I am here today. Let me also offer a few words to commemorate Mr. Dudley Senanayake. I remember in the sixties, if Indians wanted to purchase foreign goods, they came to Sri Lanka. In those days, for us, Sri Lanka was a haven of globalization. This had much to do with Mr. Senanayake’s economic policies, which are credited for making the economy of the country strong. During this term, he laid high stress on agriculture and revived the farm economy through a green revolution. He was an outstanding and witty orator, a true gentleman in politics, and a statesman that Sri Lanka can be justly proud of.

Yashwant Sinha delivering the Memorial Lecture. Pic by Nilan Maligaspe

Now, I come to the subject of our discussion today. Our planet which we all share is but one unit, one entity. Technology has made globalization comprehensive and all pervading. When we speak of globalization and discuss its merits and demerits, we must remember that it is not a homogenous or uniform phenomenon. In this talk, I propose to touch upon the economic, the political and the cultural aspects of globalization which to me are the more important dimensions of globalization and impact on the life of the common man throughout the world.

Economic globalization manifests itself in various forms through trade, technology, investment, capital flows and movement of skilled personnel. Integral to economic globalization are issues of the environment, natural resources, migration, ethics and equity. The Millennium Development Goals, presently stalled, need our urgent attention. By themselves they may not constitute a comprehensive development plan, but they are a measurable set of benchmarks which could provide indications of whether the world is moving towards a more inclusive and equitable globalization.

We need to wake up to the dangers of global warming, the disastrous results of it which are staring us in the face. If the polar ice melts and so do the mountain glaciers, can we still pretend that we are safe on this planet. It is a well known fact that the highly globalised nations discharge more carbon dioxide per capita than the less globalised countries. Among the world’s worst polluters per capita are the US, Australia, Canada and Singapore. China and India are still low in per capita emissions but need to be careful in future.

In trade and aid, we are skating on thin ice. Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) levels are falling and protectionism is on the rise. So are disparities. Billions of people are forced to live on less than a dollar a day while the richest one percent of the world’s population receives as much income each year as the poorest 57 percent. Industrial country tariffs on imports from developing countries are four times those on imports from other industrial countries. The Organisation Of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries provide $ 1 billion a day in domestic agricultural subsidies which is more than six times they spend on ODA for developing countries.

In the political field, globalization means democracy, rule of law, good governance and elimination of corruption, proper treatment of minorities and of the different religious and linguistic groups, both at the national and international levels. The international community can convince member countries to adopt the above values only when it incorporates them in its own institutions and organizations at the international level. There is no reason why the Security Council of the UN should consist of only five permanent members, four of whom represent the victors of the Second World War.

There is no reason why a country of over a billion people like India should be out of this Council. Similarly, there is no reason why the whole continent of South America and Africa should go unrepresented compared to Europe which has three out of the five members. The power to veto is an entirely undemocratic and, therefore, dispensable arrangement. The same applies to the Breton Woods institutions also. The reform of the UN system and of the IMF and the World Bank has been long overdue and can be postponed no longer.

Democracy is a delicate plant which needs the right kind of soil, the right climate and a great deal of care to grow and flourish. Democracy, if imposed from the outside is a negation of democracy. It is for experts to determine why democracy was a failure to begin with, in most newly independent countries.
I am often dismayed by three lines of thinking in the West regarding democracy.

First, that while democracy is good for the Western countries, it may not be good for the others; second, the desire to impose democracy on a country from outside; and third, different yardsticks adopted by the West in dealing with non-democratic regimes. The US policy to impose democracy through regime change in other countries is a contradiction in terms and doomed to failure. The record of the West in dealing with non-democratic and authoritarian regimes is even worse. You cannot embrace the army Generals in one country and at the same time condemn them in another.

Cultural globalization represents the softer form of globalization which is much in evidence today like the globalization of food, fashions, films and entertainment, literature, knowledge, information etc. English has clearly emerged as the language of globalization, though in terms of numbers a large number of people also speak French, Spanish, Chinese and Hindustani. Indian fashion designers are finding markets abroad. Indian films are doing brisk business in most parts of the world. Indian writers in English language including my daughter Sharmila are read with interest across the English speaking word.

Sri Lanka has long been a proponent of globalization, political, economic and cultural. Sri Lanka’s democracy has withstood the test of time, with the political will of the people reiterated time and again in a forceful manner that has had governments changing peacefully. The last thirty years have been difficult as you were mired in a protracted armed conflict that eroded many positive initiatives. With the end of the conflict, and with a strong mandate, the country can now look forward to reprising its development path and becoming more active in the global arena. You, in Sri Lanka are an island nation.

Like other island nations, globalization is extremely important for you. It is difficult to sustain and grow your economy without the availability of world markets. The terms of global trade must work in your favour. Economic globalization is an imperative for economies which have limited resources and do not enjoy the luxury of a widely diversified production base. It is incumbent on the rest of the world to offer a conducive environment for trade so that island nations too can prosper.

South Asia is at the cusp of transformation and globalization is an integral component of our development plans. India, a big market at the north of Sri Lanka, is emerging as a vibrant engine of growth for the region. We would like our neighbouring countries to be part of this exciting growth story.
India and Sri Lanka have been pioneers in establishing the free trade agreement, the first for both countries. It has produced excellent results, and has deepened our economic engagement. It is time for us to proceed to the next stage of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. India does not look for reciprocity in the CEPA with Sri Lanka, as it is keen that Sri Lanka benefit disproportionately from the deal.

In cultural terms, Sri Lanka has much to offer the world. Its rich literature, diverse dance forms, and strong Buddhist traditions along with English language place it in a unique bucket of its own. India has been partnering Sri Lanka in English language training for which the second phase was inaugurated by President Rajapaksa earlier this week. We need to develop English our Way, is your very apt slogan for the project.

The world has changed further and more dramatically in the last three years. The Mexican financial crisis, the Russian economic crisis, the East Asian melt down, the Brazilian and Argentinean foreign currency problems were dismissed as the result of the inefficiency of these countries. The World came to their help but more with the aim of bailing out their own financiers than the teeming millions of these countries.

But, three years ago the citadel of capitalism, namely the US, collapsed under the weight of its own follies. The tsunami of this crisis has affected every country of the world in a big or small way and has raised some fundamental questions which remain unanswered. One thing is clear, however. The intellectual arrogance of the West has evaporated. They are not infallible any more. The influence of India and China is not merely restricted to chicken tikka masala and chow mein, it has become far more pervasive.

The question today is not whether the decline of Europe and America and the rise of India, China, Brazil and Russia will alter the global landscape. Of course, it will. The issue is whether these developments will lead to a new kind of globalization which will put an end to the exploitation of the weak by the strong.
Globalism will have to be tempered with sanity and spiritualism.

Mahatma Gandhi said famously that the World has enough for our needs but not enough for our greed. In eastern cultures, we regard the Earth as Mother. We worship the sun and the moon, the changing seasons, stones and trees, rivers and mountains. We have a place in our hearts for other creatures. We do so not because we are uncivilized or pagan. We do so because we realise the value of this approach in maintaining the balance between man and nature.

We must remember that globalisation has not extinguished the nation state and national boundaries and is not likely to. In fact, the ill-effects of globalization have often led to greater nationalism and regionalism. Some people are even predicting a return to the decentralized but sustainable style of economic activity as a panacea for the future. The future of globalization is uncertain and tense. The relationship between India and China will have great impact on the future of globalization as globalization becomes less Western and more Asian.

Perhaps, we need a new global Gandhi to find the right answers to these questions rescue mankind and save this planet.

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