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Global 21 fourth quarter 2015

Arena Politics What Europe can learn from India Commentators often point to the USA as a model for Europe. They should be looking east instead Amit S. Mukherjee The EU is wrestling with seemingly insoluble human and financial crises. Political commentators routinely draw unfavourable parallels with the USA to illustrate the changes needed. They say Europe needs a stronger central bank and greater political integration. Pointing to Puerto Rico’s US$72 billion debt crisis, they note that financial markets have assumed that, unlike Greece, this US territory will have a soft landing. This technocratic prescription, though valid, doesn’t address a key fact: Europe’s diverse population will impede the creation of the ‘US of Europe’. However, India, which has comparable diversity, can teach much. But will Europeans be willing to learn from an emerging economy where corruption is rife? They should. Indians have got a lot wrong, but they got this right. There are a number of parallels between India and the EU: ■■ The EU must unify very diverse peoples. Over the course of a few years, starting in 1947, India integrated 600 independent or semi-independent kingdoms and the erstwhile British India, and consolidated them into language-based states. There are 29 today ■■ Both the EU and India have 24 official languages. The peoples in India who speak these languages live in a country that is three-quarters the size of the EU. Many Indian languages are as different as English and Greek. Because half of India can’t even read the other half’s alphabets, educated Indians of different linguistic backgrounds talk to each other in English, an official language ■■ India has greater religious diversity than Europe. It has more Christians than all but five EU countries, and more Muslims than all but two countries worldwide. Hindus, too, are diverse, with rituals differing considerably across states ■■ Like Europeans, Indians swear by their states’ cultures and foods. More Westerners eat ‘chicken tikka masala’ daily than Indians do The EU’s efforts at managing diversity have been woeful. Its politicians haven’t made a cogent case as to why diverse peoples should come together. Politicians – like Jean-Claude Juncker – who ardently champion the EU, offer technocratic rationales, not ones that ordinary people can relate to intuitively. The absence of an emotion-laden rationale for unity has produced today’s ‘what’s in it for me?’ ruptures along national and linguistic lines, as well as the alienation of European Muslims. EU politicians don’t seem to understand a basic truth taught in leadership and change management courses: when people rally around a shared vision, driving change becomes easier. Why does the EU exist? It has gone far beyond the trading bloc that its forerunner, the European Economic Community, initially envisaged. In contrast, India’s efforts at forging a common identity – ‘India’ did not exist for millennia – have been a substantial success. It adopted a national anthem that lauded, by name, every part of the country, and a flag with colours associated with the three major religions. Politicians made decisions that made no logical or economic sense, but helped manage diversity. Every child learned the message of ‘unity in diversity’ from primary school onward. And despite its periodic, ugly, politically driven religious killings, India championed religious diversity. Four of its 12 presidents were Muslims, as were four of 42 chief justices, many senior ministers and bureaucrats, and many top leaders of its armed forces. Forbes lists Indian Muslim billionaires, and India worships the many Muslims in its movies and the arts, and its beloved national cricket team. Europeans should ponder why so many British Muslims have joined ISIS while few Indians have, even though Britain’s Muslim population is 1.6 per cent of India’s. The EU policy requiring children to study two non-native languages was a solid step towards instilling appreciation of diversity. However, countries support it irregularly. The UK lacks a countrywide time commitment, while Spain devotes only five per cent of curriculum time to it at primary levels and ten per cent in 44 l www.global -br ief ing.org four th quar ter 2015 global


Global 21 fourth quarter 2015
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