ON January 26, 1950, India became a republic. It was an important date, since it marked a complete break with the British colonial power.
At that time India was in a desperate position, the country was partitioned and hundreds of thousands died in communal violence.
Economically, it was one of the poorest in the world. India’s share of the world economy was just three per cent in 1947. A fall from 27 per cent in 1700, when Great Britain colonised her. Its manufacturing was almost non-existent, just seven per cent of GDP in 1947 and manufactured exports just two per cent.
Starvation and faming were the main news that came out of that country.
This year India is celebrating its 71st Anniversary in another desperate time for the world.
COVID- 19 has been devastating our world, killing more than a million and damaging the world economy greatly. Millions are unemployed.
India, even though it too is facing great problems caused by COVID, has not isolated itself as some countries in the world have done. It is not just thinking selfishly but helping the world to overcome this dreaded disease. Already, it has donated more than a million vaccines to its neighbours and are fulfilling requests farther afield, including the Caribbean.
India is doing this while the West is buying up and trying to hoard vaccines for their own populations. Canada, for instance, has bought more than five times its population needs.
But India is more than a vaccines power.
In the last 71 years India has become a major power in science and technology — one of the world’s leaders in ICT.
It has sent probes into outer space at a cost way below other countries doing the same.
It is a manufacturing power, producing high-quality machinery and equipment.
This country was able to achieve this due to the quality of leadership, the enlightened leadership provided mainly by its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a gentle giant.
Nehru concentrated on building India’s human capital. He began building world-class educational institutions that has made his country so respected today.
Even more important, he sunk democracy deeply in India society. His respect for democratic norms, for Parliament, for the courts, is legendary.
He was more than just an Indian leader. He was profoundly internationalist.
On the world stage he organised the former colonies to defend their sovereignty against super power politics of the post-war period. He with Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Tito of Yugoslavia and Sukarno of Indonesia organised the Non-Aligned Movement that made an important contribution to international relations during the Cold War and helped defend post-colonial societies’ independence.
Jawaharlal Nehru was a profound thinker, an internationalist and humanitarian of gigantic proportions.
On this anniversary, I salute the Great Soul!
Former President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana