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Five Lessons World Should Learn From India

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Patrick French, writer and historian. Photo:  Outlook India

India is a vast nation now considered as a military and economic giant of Asia. In past fifteen to twenty years Indian growth story has changed the complete geopolitics of the region and how the rest of the world looks at this nation. Just recently until 1980s the country which was known as the country of snake charmers today the same country is ruling the software and service sector of the world with its mouse charmers “highly qualified engineers” making undisputed fast delivery services to the end users in US, Canada, Britain and other European countries.

India’s growth story is different than many others, India is largely diverse. Hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects, ethnic differences and variety in religions and food. Large number of riches, larger number of poors, and a big size of middle class population, India has somewhat managed to keep them all together in the growing path. Having so many people below poverty line and literacy rate 74.04%, if India can be one of the fastest growing country in the world, then what will happen if India improves its above statistics. All these gives us great lessons which the world must learn from India and implement.
This article is based on the views and the research done by award winning writer and historian Patrick French whose video is embedded in the end of the article for your reference. These are the lessons which he believes Britain should take from the good or bad conditions in India. Please note that any reference to any particular community, religion or caste is only for the purpose of example.
The growth story of India in the world outside India has become so popular that everyone in Europe and the US is attracted to India. However, on reaching India the first impression which it gives cannot support the argument that India is third largest economy by GDP (PPP). Unplanned infrastructure, damaged and dirty roads, shortage of basic amenities like water and electricity in some of the major cities gives a negative impression.
Indeed growing with the pace of 7% to 9% has changed a lot in the country which has generated world class economic regions like in Bangalore and NCR (National Capital Region), etc. Somewhere in the growing process nearly one third of the India’s poor population has been left behind who are still struggling to find their ways to eat two times a day. If India is able to check that in coming days, it can make progress smoother and faster.

Lesson 1: Idea of Managing and Dealing with Diversity

India is a country of Indians, but it is better to say that India is a multi culture, multi ethnic, multi lingual and multi religious society. People are ethnically, linguistically and religiously diverse and still living in harmony since independence for past more than six decades. There have been severe conflicts around the world on ethnic and religious issues, and India too had to struggle when it was partitioned in the name of religion that resulted into religious violence during mass migration between a secular India and Islamic Pakistan. Once the formation of a secular India happened, the nation continued getting stronger.
Today religious practices and festivals are celebrated in India that encourages collective security and peace within communities. It is common to see Muslims and Hindus decorating and lighting their homes on Christmas, people of all religions celebrating Christmas in their office or in shopping malls. Similarly it is common to see people of other religion celebrating and enjoying playing Holi and Diwali which are fun filled Hindu festival of colours and light respectively. Celebrating Eid is a friendly gesture and wishing their Muslim brothers with a hug and then having delicious sweet at their homes made with vermicellis and milk is a wonderful feeling.
You are not only exposed to various cultures and customs but another interesting thing in India is that religious holiday of any religion is a public holiday and hence you get more holidays in a year to get a day off from work.
In the 21st century when people are leaving their religious and ethnic differences to grow together, there are instances where ethnic or religious hatred are creating problems resulting into wars, whether it is Israel or Palestine or Tamilians and Sri Lanka or North and South Sudan. The world must take this lesson from India for their benefit.

Lesson 2: Flexibility

Flexibility can be in anything, flexibility can be in time, in religion, in politics, or in society. Those who have done business in India or who have to deal with Indians always complain about time that Indians fail to be on time. Those who schedule meeting with Indians often experience delays. When most of the world has defined time limits and schedules and strictly bind to it. Indian believes in infinity, In the broader perspective, Indians will finish their work on time, but in narrow perspective how do they do it, what timings they follow, leave it on them. Importance of time and self discipline is taught in many religious teaching. The idea of flexibility comes very much from the religion that most of the Indian follows, which doesn’t prohibit you from alcohol or non vegetarian food, and leaves  decision making ability and philosophy on you encouraging you to feel the god within yourself.
The concept of flexibility also comes from the centre. In the true sense, democracy is in India that involves nineteen to twenty two political parties based on different ideologies forming one central government in alliance in Delhi. It requires you to be very flexible in thoughts as you need to make and run a government that is formed of various ideologies. There has been times in India when communists and capitalists co-existed in the central government of India.
Dalit comunity of India, which is one of the backward community came up with an idea of learning and teaching English among themselves to improve the employment conditions in the community. For this they invented a new god, English goddess, showing the flexibility in the religion. They made temples around and encouraged dalit children to come and learn English that would give a better image and job for their community.

Lesson 3: Learning and Education

Indians have extra ordinary devotion to education and academic attainment. It is in their culture to compete not only with their batchmates in the school but also with their neighbours and also with their siblings and cousins. Often students in 10th and 12th grade prepare themselves to break the records set by their seniors or cousins may be 10 years back, it doesn’t matter. The seeds of competition are sowed in much early age of a student by the parents and other relatives in the society.
India is also one of the largest producer of first class internationally accepted degree holders like doctors, engineers, MBAs and lawyers. India is one of the largest producers of high quality resources that drive companies and economy around the world.
Again this dedication towards education has a religious impact. The idea of learning is considered as a social duty and service to the goddess “Vidya mata” or Goddess Saraswati.
Still there is a big population in India who are not even literate. India’s literacy rate in recent years has climbed to 70+ mark. If India’s education system can pump hundreds of thousands of engineers, doctors, lawyers and business administrators during current conditions, its result will be enormous if India can also give  attention to the other half of its population who have not been much blessed with primary education.

Lesson 4: Environment

This is an important lesson to be learnt so that the rest of the world do not end up like how Indian natural resources and environment has ended up in pollution due to extremely fast growth. Those who travel to India are shocked by the level of public mess, garbage dumped along the roads and in the drainage, polluted rivers and deforestation in central India and Himalayas for farming or mining etc, although efforts of reforestation have also started on  a big pace. Still in many Indian cities even if you are sitting indoors you might feel eyes burning due to pollution. Some cities like Delhi have made enormous progress in reducing air pollution by introducing Natural Gas for vehicles, cooking, and heating purposes. The city where just 10 years back eyes used to burn, today you can breathe freely.
Flora and fauna holds a great impact on Indian society. For thousands of years Indians have been worshipping trees and animals as they believe in collective society where not only humans, but trees and animals also have an important place. Often in the morning and evening women can be seen tying a kind of thread on the branches of peepal tree which sets up a kind of relationship with the trees who are the pillar of the life on earth. With high demand and improper infrastructure, forests are being destroyed for illegal construction and mining, a large number of endangered animals like leopard and tigers continue to be killed by the poachers increasing the risk of their extinction.
In a moment against deforestation in north India, famous as chipko movement, local people would hug a tree if the authority or industrialists would come to cut down the trees forcing them to stop. Indians also celebrate vanmahotsav festival where before the raining season everyone plants a sapling of plant. However, the popularity of such festival has gone down in recent years which needs a promotional campaign.

Lesson 5: Idea of Contradiction

When you will reach India, you will immediately notice two Indias moving forward side by side. One is a third largest economy by GDP (PPP), a military and space power, another is an India of poor and illiterate people, who do not get to have food even two times a day. There are nearly 300 million poor people in India and on the other hand some of the most richest people are from India. Presently the richest person in Britain is of Indian origin, Lakshmi Mittal.

India has a dynamic middle class, but a static rural culture, which has been somewhat ignored in the recent years, a large part of Indian agriculture is still based on the monsoon rains which highly impacts the outcome of the crops every year resulting into unreliability of Indian farm output due to high fluctuation in the rains.
India gave attention to some of the great sectors right after the independence but failed to give the required amount of attention to some of the basic sectors. For example, primary education was not made priority in the 50s and 60s, but India came up with the world class institutions like IIT almost during the same period. India’s advancement in the space can be seen from late 60s. India started importing early computers from IBM and Soviet Union. After the technology embargo on India as a result of nuclear testing, India was forced to develop and design indigenous supercomputer and supercomputing technologies. In 1990, a prototype was developed and was showcased at the 1990 Zurich Supercomputering Show. It surpassed most of the other systems participating, placing India second only after the US.

India, one of the richest country few century ago had to start again from the scratch when most of the western world was already in their later stage of development. With large number of resources, large population, rich history and cultural heritage, when the country is moving again with the fast pace, it gives us many lessons. Some lessons which should not be repeated and to be aware of, and some lessons which should be implemented. India gives many such lessons and is a model for other developing nations in Asia, Africa, East and Central Europe.


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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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India

A Historical exploration of Khajuraho

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khajuraho temple

The UNESCO world heritage temples of Khajuraho are situated in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Built by the kings of Chandela dynasty during 950 to 1050 AD, these exquisite temples were lost to the world from 13AD onwards till they were discovered by the British in 1838 under the cover of dense date palm trees.

 This collection of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples are Khajuraho temples are famous for art on stone. Variously described as living temples, Temple of Love and consisting of unique erotic sculptures the Khajuraho group of temples are considered by many to be the pinnacle of India’s temple art. The temple complex creates an eclectic mix of spirituality, eastern philosophy, architecture and cultural heritage.

Khajuraho is best visited during winter on account of its extreme climate. Summer months can be very hot. The famous Khajuraho Dance Festival is held in March and attracts visitors from across the world.

 Khajuraho is well connected to major cities by train and by air. The airport is 5km from the city centre and links to Delhi, Agra and Mumbai. It is best recommended to use a trusted cab service provider like Savaari, where you can make an online booking by downloading the Savaari App.

Western Group of temples.

 The Western group of temples have the largest of the temples and are richly decorated and form the main area of attraction

  • Lakshmana Temple – The temple dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is the oldest of the Khajuraho temples and has some the finest sculptures that can be seen in India.
  • Kandariya Mahadeo Temple – This Shiva temple is covered with beautiful carvings, sculptures and frescos that are known for their beauty, grandeur and finesse.
  • Devi Jagdamba Temple – This relatively dainty temple dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba has three bands of sculptures and the uppermost layer has some of the most erotic sculptures that Khajuraho is also famous for.
  • Chitragupta Temple – One of the rare temples of the Sun God in the country.
  • Vishwanath Temple – The temple is unique for its colossal bull statue dedicated to Nandi, the favourite companion of Lord Shiva.

Eastern Group of Temples

  • Parsvanath Temple – The Jain temple shows an eclectic mixture of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim influences in its three roof architecture.
  • Ghantai Temple – This Digambar Jain temple has a beautiful frieze inscribed on stone depicting the 16 dreams as seen by the Mother of Lord Mahavira. The temple though gets its name from the remarkable pillars, carved with chains and bells.
  • Brahma Temple – Among the oldest temples in Khajuraho, the temple is built entirely using granite and sandstone and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

 Southern Group of Temples

  • Chattarbhuj Temple – Situated 3 km from the main city, the temple is the only one in Khajuraho without any erotic sculpture and faces west. Best visited during the sunset, the temple is known for the intricate and beautifully detailed four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu.

Do remember to attend the Light and Sound Show conducted in the Western group of temples that describes the horary past of these beautiful monuments.

Khajuraho is surrounded by other places of interest, such as the Panna National Park and the Ranneh Falls. Do plan your visit and hire outstation or local cabs from the airport to visit these temple complexes.

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Explore the royal city of Mysore

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Call it the Heritage City or the City of Palaces, the city of Mysore still emanates a feeling of au royale even in a 21st century India. A place of heritage for royal families, sultans, and legendary names in history, every corner of Mysore is steeped in stories of victory, power, and grandeur. A tour of this majestic city is only justified when you explore the royal heritage of the City of Palaces.

Getting there

Conveniently located on the southern edge of the Karnataka State, Mysore is easily accessible from major cities. It takes about three hours to travel the 152 KM distance from Bangalore to Mysore.

History and Heritage

The city of Mysore served as the capital for the Kingdom of Mysore between the 1300s until 1956. These six centuries saw the kingdom change hands of rulers and kings, from the Wadiyar Dynasty, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. But the common element of all the rulers was their penchant for art and culture. Under their patronage, they contributed to the city’s visual and cultural glory which earned Mysore the fame of Karnataka’s cultural capital.

A royal tour

If you want to experience the regal side of Mysore, you cannot but miss these structures of historical and architectural significance. You can join a heritage walking tour to explore the city on foot, or head from Bangalore to Mysore by car and stop by at monuments, palaces, and museums and learn about the legends that made Mysore. You can start your walk from the Town Hall, built in 1884, as a tribute to the first Dewan of the city.

mysore-palace-598472_1280

Mysore Palace- The official residence of the royal family of Wadiyars, the palace itself is a work of marvel. An overwhelming blend of   Indo-Saracenic, neoclassical, Indo-Islamic and Gothic architectural works, the Mysore Palace is a breathtaking sight. Built in 1912, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts delicate works of mirrors, stained glass, mosaic and more. On any given day, you will find more tourists here than even at the Taj Mahal. Every Sunday, the palace comes alive with 97000 light bulbs bedazzling its façade and the premises.

Lalitha Palace– Yet another heritage building, the two-storied Lalitha Mahal sits on a ridge at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, which makes for a great vantage point. The palace was transformed into a hotel and offers a royal stay. If you truly want a feeling of royalty, then a stay here would be an experience.

Jaganmohan Palace– One of the seven prominent palaces of Mysore city, is a stunning work of ancient Indian architecture with intricate interiors and exteriors. The palace, transformed into a royal art gallery since 1915, houses paintings of the royal family, art by Raja Ravi Varma and an array of rare and antique musical instruments.

Museums- Stop by the Rail Museum to explore the archaic steam engines, the Maharani’s saloon, and other railway souvenirs. There’s also the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion showcasing more than 6500 folk artifacts from all parts of Karnataka. The Folk Art Museum, one of the most visited in the city, is also known for its collection of toys, models, and figurines.

Crawford Hall- Built in 1947, this is a must visit historic structure in Mysore. The royal palace is now known as the Mysore University but still renders a rich heritage to its ambiance.

Small, medium or large-scale, every historical building and monument of Mysore has a majestic touch to it. And such architecture speaks of its glorious past, which has left traces for the modern civilization to explore.

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India

India’s Victory at the International Court of Justice is the World’s Challenge to the Status Quo

Manak Suri

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flickr/romanboed

For the past week, both the Indian and British media have rigorously covered the story of the re-election of India’s justice Dalveer Bhandari to the bench of judges in the International Court of Justice on Tuesday, November 21. That the Indian judge retained his position on the bench was not the sole reason for the story’s extensive coverage; his reappointment combined with the fact that it happened at the expense of the United Kingdom’s spot on the bench is why the story is making so many rounds… and no, that many Indians may see it as some sort of a comeback against Britain’s 200 years of colonial rule over the country is not the reason why it matters. It matters because this is the first time since 1946 that the UK has no judge on the ICJ bench, and that signals possible changes in the way international bodies govern and are governed. So what does this mean for India, for the UK and for the world at large?

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice or the ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations as its principal judicial branch and is located in The Hague, Netherlands. Its job is to settle legal disputes between states that are submitted to it and give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it. The court comprises of a total of 15 judges that are elected to 9 year terms by way of voting from both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) separately. One third of the court is re-elected every three years, and no two judges of the same nationality may assume positions on the bench simultaneously. However, the rule that led to the deadlock between the candidates from India and UK is that a candidate must obtain an absolute majority in both the UNGA and the UNSC in order to be elected to the bench.

UN General Assembly vs UN Security Council: The Race in Numbers

On November 9 and November 13, in seven rounds of voting justice Bhandari secured between 110 and 121 votes from a total of 193 in the UNGA against figures between 68 and 79 secured by his British counterpart Sir Christopher Greenwood. However, among the UNSC, justice Bhandari lost out by 5 votes to 9 in favour of Sir Greenwood. In the face of uncertainty, the UK then pushed for a ‘joint conference’ under the rules of the court between the UNSC and the UNGA. Under the ‘joint conference’ three countries from each side then determine the name for the court. However, the rules do not mention the procedure to select these countries and understandably so, since the option was last invoked in 1921. Fearing not enough support from the council, criticism for invoking the charter, and harming its friendly as well as economic relations with India, the UK eventually chose to not follow through with the process and withdrew its candidature for the post. In the end, India secured the seat with a total of 183 votes out of 193 at the UNGA and all 15 at the UNSC.

There is More to the Victory than Meets the Eye

The result means different things for the parties involved and also for the balance of power and influence between countries. For the UK, there are hardly any positives to take away from this result amid already turbulent times. Many in the British media have viewed this loss as ‘a blow to British international prestige’ and the country’s acceptance of a diminishing role in global affairs. This was the UK’s second major defeat at the ICJ after it lost a vote by a margin of 94 to 15 countries in June when the UNGA voted in favour of referring the question of decolonisation and self-determination of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to the ICJ, which is currently under its control. Many within and outside the country have also been quick to blame Brexit for the situation in which they find themselves today, arguing that the other states, especially the ones within the European Union would have been less willing to snub the UK had the UK chosen not to leave the alliance. In the face of defeat, British diplomats have continued to maintain that they are happy that their close friend India has won, but have also not been shy of hiding their natural disappointment at their own loss.

For India, their victory in having a judge win the contest in getting elected to the ICJ bench against a permanent member of the UNSC is more symbolic than anything else. It reinforces India’s image at the highest stage as a major emerging global player and its ability to bring in greater reforms that push for more involvement from developing countries and emerging economies. Also, having a judge on the ICJ bench gives India an edge over Pakistan in the case involving former Indian Navy Officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on the charges of espionage. True, a judge on the ICJ does not represent his/her country or their interests. However, as suggested by repeated criticism the court receives for being biased in favour of the states who appoint the judges, having a judge on the panel is certainly an asset for any country, no matter what the rules dictate on paper.

The most important takeaway from the whole episode far exceeds the ambitions of just the two countries and a race for a seat at the ICJ. India’s victory at the court reinforces the belief that power does not necessarily reside or has to reside with the ‘few global elite’, a sentiment which was expressed clearly when most member states of the UNGA backed India’s justice Bhandari to be re-elected against the choice of the permanent members or P5 of the UNSC. There seems to be an acknowledgment among the member states of the UN of the beginning of a change which sees an increasing shift in the balance of power away from the traditional powers of the world or the P5 – Britain, China, United States, Russia, and France. Of these countries, China was the only member to not have a judge on the ICJ between 1967 and 1985 till the final decision last week, when they were joined by the UK in the list. Last year, Russia was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Council. In the 2016 elections, France lost out on securing a position in the International Law Commission. While diplomats at the UN continue to maintain that there are no winners and losers here, that it is all part of a bigger picture, these developments undoubtedly mark diplomatic victories for the Group of 77 or the G77, a coalition of developing nations at the UN that have constantly pushed for an enhanced negotiating capacity. What remains to be seen is just to what extent they bring about a change in the status quo.

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