Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said that one must not fall prey to the argument that India’s development requires a restriction on the freedoms of its people and a concept of nationhood which demands a contrived unity rather than embrace the reality of India’s diversity.
“The framers of India’s Constitution were wise men and women in articulating a concept of citizenship which transcended, but did not seek suppression of, India’s diversity,” Singh said after he was conferred with the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development.
“The more narrowly we seek to define our identity the less capacity we will have in dealing with a globalizing world outside our borders,” he said.
“The exponential growth of social media has undermined state authority but in the hands of a predatory state it can also become an instrument to undermine the fundamental freedoms that citizens aspire to,” he warned.
Singh rued that at the end of the Cold War, representative democracy and free markets seemed to emerge as the unassailable hallmarks of the new age, but within a generation, democracies were being “seduced by new authoritarianisms” while the votaries of free markets have become “its worst offenders”.
Globalization has created unprecedented opportunities for developing countries. India’s own recent history is an example. But globalization may generate uneven levels of prosperity. To deal with inequality, the answer is not to try and reverse globalization but to use public policy to spread its benefits more evenly, he said.
“The failure to deal with inequality is a failure of public policy, not the inherent consequence of globalization,” Singh, a noted economist and a former RBI Governor, argued.
He said that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) needed to be a “more powerful multilateral institution and the upholder of a rule-based order”.
He said it was becoming increasingly evident that regional trading arrangements were not delivering the benefits they were expected to.
If Asia is to sustain its remarkable trajectory of growth and dynamism, “acknowledging and learning to manage its emerging multipolarity will be the key”.
“If not, peace will inevitably be the casualty and so would development,” he said.