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How India Shapes the World

What is India’s leadership role in the age of globalization?

February 18, 2004

What is India's leadership role in the age of globalization?

India has burst onto the world stage as a fierce competitor in the global services industry — and the rest of the world is taking notice. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin shares his views on India as a model for religious and ethnic diversity, as a leader in fighting global terror, and as an economic success story in this excerpt from a recent speech.

India has been able to make the most of globalization and has gained a pivotal role. It provides the example of an economy that has allied dynamism and equilibrium.

The past year offers the two-fold satisfaction of a spectacular 7.5% growth rate and inflation under control. Thanks to the size and dynamism of its domestic market, it can project itself into the future with confidence.

India is now the biggest international service provider in information technologies — and this at a time when the Western countries are experiencing a real shortage of manpower in this very field.

A scientific power, India today is also a key player in space research. Thanks to the excellence of the Indian Space Research Organization, it is in the forefront of technologies for launchers and the construction of satellites.

This economic vitality has developed on the basis of a strong concern for social justice. In the face of inequalities that still remain — and could be increasing — India has given priority to poverty reduction, job creation and support of the agricultural sector. The country has shown that economic growth and concern for the greater good are not incompatible.

India, however, does not only offer an economic model. It stands as an example of the respect for cultural identities. This represents a major challenge. Globalization has inherent in it a two-fold risk.

First of all is the risk of the domination of certain forms of thinking, of certain ways of life and expression.

The diversity of cultures, religions, traditions and memories is an essential component of the richness of our world. If we are not careful, it could die one day.

Second is the risk of confrontation of identities. Lack of respect for what people stand for can nurture claims of nationalists and fundamentalists.

The more an identity feels threatened, the more it tends to be inward-looking, rejects diversity — and finally gives in to confrontation.

These are the patterns that we saw in action in the worst post-cold war confrontations, from the explosion of the Balkans to the genocide in Rwanda.

With 18 official languages and over 1652 dialects, India is at the forefront of cultural diversity. It is a proof that openness to the outside world and preservation of its own roots can go hand in hand. The movement of exchange between cultures must not lead to silencing the polyphony of voices and views.

In the heart of its democracy, India has been able to define an identity respectful of each and everyone's specificity.

It is home to one of the largest Muslim communities of the world, with over 120 million believers. The religious patchwork of India offers to each minority — whether it be the 2 million Christians, the 16 million Sikhs or the Buddhists, Jains and Parsis — the possibility of keeping alive their own religious beliefs in harmony with the Indian identity.

This original and exemplary synthesis is difficult to achieve. The will to promote democracy is undoubtedly the strongest political message of the Indian nation.

At the heart of the new world geography lies the democratic challenge. Thanks to India's example, we know that the size of the population, that the force of history and traditions is not an obstacle.

India is a proof that the universality of human rights is a realistic emotion. It shows us that state secularism can be reconciled with the vigor of identities and beliefs.

Despite the big differences inherited from our respective histories, France and India both have the same hopes for today's world — and support the same principles to guide them.

In 1998, we launched a strategic partnership. This is a great asset to help us meet the challenges of the world that we intend to build together.

Today, all subjects of concern are dealt with in this framework: proliferation, the strengthening of the fight against terrorists, regional crises. We are also striving to meet the expectation of India in areas of technological development and autonomy in the field of energy.

India is a continent in itself that has, for example, to supply electricity to over a billion inhabitants. It is therefore quite natural that its closest partners assist it in meeting this challenge.

India and France, together, defend the same principles of organization of the international community.

No country alone can ensure the stability of the world at a time when the balance of power has undergone in-depth changes.

Today, nothing threatens the strong more than the blind determination of the weak.

The terrible succession of terrorist attacks in India, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and again very recently in Russia show that extremist groups can maintain a climate of fear and lasting instability. To face up to this new situation, the unity of the international community is the best guarantee of efficiency.

In all multilateral fora, this shared conviction is something we want to defend together. This is why France supports the Indian project of a global convention on terrorism at the United Nations.

In order to remain efficient, the multilateral system must adapt itself and better reflect the balance of power in the world. In this new global governance that we all call for, India has an important role to play.

We are convinced that India is a power with a global reach. The proof is brought to us every day through its enhanced sense of responsibility. I have the firm conviction that India is already at the heart of the new international system that is taking shape.

I formulate the wish that France, Europe and India — true to their fight for liberty — continue to strive for a world free of fear and oppression.

We can do so. We must do so.

Excerpted from French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin's address at the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on February 13, 2004. For the full text of Mr. De Villepin's speech click here.