Modi: A global statesman
Global recognition blows a hole in the criticism against Modi regarding his governance and conviction
The Seoul Peace Prize Committee's citation gives us a real idea of how the world views Narendra Modi. Its words are an authentic assessment of the narrative that Prime Minister Modi has articulated and shaped on the world stage. Never mind the reductionism of New York Times, or the convoluted readings of Economist, or the harangues and false laments of left academics in Western Ivy league universities, the truth about Modi on the world stage has been best articulated by this citation.
It speaks of his dedication towards improving international cooperation, raising global economic growth, accelerating the Human development of the people of India by fostering economic growth in the world's fastest-growing large economy, and furthering the development of democracy through anti-corruption and social integration efforts." This is an international recognition of Modi's governance approach, his effort at inclusion and at fundamentally transforming the lives of the marginalised.
The Prize citation recognised 'Modinomics' crediting it with reducing 'social and economic disparity between the rich and the poor, it recognised the 'Modi Doctrine' which has inspired and directed a proactive foreign policy to work towards regional and global peace with 'countries around the world' and it referred to Modi's 'Act East Policy' which has further actualised India's outreach - economic, strategic, and civilisational – to the wide and complex world of possibilities to the east and southeast.
These have caught the imagination of the world, Modi is being seen as a statesman whose contribution to his people and to the world are fundamental. He is being seen as a leader who has worked to reduce disparities, cleanse the system, and reinforce social integration among his people and also as a global statesman who, with a deep concern and commitment towards the future of humanity, has also worked to strengthen global cooperation through an approach that he has evolved as India's way of dealing with world.
The recent conferment of the UN Champions of the Earth Award too demonstrated the recognition that the world showered on Narendra Modi's approach to global issues that are confronting humanity today and especially to his approach of evolving mechanisms and frameworks that speak of how those challenges could be addressed. His vision of the International Solar Alliance was a concrete expression of how a certain global challenge could be met – his approach is a problem solving one.
These two awards, in quick succession, in fact, counter the false narrative that a certain section in the West has tried to perpetuate on Modi's approach and record of governance. These recognitions have blown a hole in the motivated assessments of Modi, projecting him as a thinking statesman with an active concern for the future of the world, and depicting India as a country which is willing to shoulder responsibilities in addressing collective challenges.
Modi's concern for the environment, for example, is not a newly fangled one. His awareness that India has a major role to play in showing the way forward and his realisation that addressing the environmental and the global climate challenge will have to start from home had risen in him long ago. He was always environmentally conscious. His grounding in India's civilisational ethos and traditions, his close-connect with his surrounding gave rise to such environmental consciousness which was further sharpened during his years in governance in Gujarat. This local and regional understanding of the dimensions of the environmental challenge gradually made him realise the global dimensions.
Speaking of his early years, Modi wrote, how with his 'humble moorings in a small village ensconced in the rural hinterland of Western India', he grew up 'in an atmosphere that was more in harmony with nature than the inhospitable, polluted, and haphazard landscape of big cities'. Respect for nature 'was inextricably embedded in our culture at home, so much so that we were told by my mother to fold hands and ask for Mother Earth's forgiveness after getting up in the morning before putting our feet down on the ground.' His views of the Indian – Bharatiya – approach to the environment, on the 'complementary relationship between man and nature 'took definite' shape during his college days, when he 'studied the Prithvi-Sukta of Atharva Veda.'
This perspective, this conviction of the complementarity between man and nature drove him, years later when he guided the state of Gujarat, to base his policies on it, 'This helped me', he wrote, 'to clarify my thoughts and to choose a developmental path that would lead to empowerment of the poor and downtrodden in a way that would make the sustainable use of the bounties of nature.' It is this connect of his with the ethos and tradition of the land, and with its philosophy of environmental conservation, that saw him lead one of the most successful micro harvesting effort through public participation while in Gujarat. It saw him envision and then implement such unique ideas as the making of 'Jal Mandir' (Water temples) in villages, 'Social ethos in rural areas', he pointed out, 'is more prone to be pro-actively driven for a particular cause by invoking religious beliefs and, therefore, I have been encouraging these farmers to make 'Water Temples' (Jal Mandir) by digging farm ponds and village ponds. This religious simile of equating water ponds with temples has lent religious reverence for the preservation and conservation of water through these ponds...' Modi's tenure in Gujarat is scattered with the records of such initiatives and their success. It is a tendency that he carried forward to Delhi. The scope was wider, the challenges greater in number but Modi plodded on with greater imagination and determination.
The International Solar Alliance initiative, the advocacy of environmental consciousness and climate justice, the unequivocal articulation of India's stand on the world stage when it came to preserving the environment for posterity, all stemmed from those core beliefs which were formed and shaped in those early years, through an exposure to India's perennial thought.
In his actions, Modi continues to be driven by sets of fundamental conviction. It is those that drive him to strive for social and economic equity, for equity of opportunities, to cleanse the system, to situate India on the world stage as a country rising, conscious of her civilisational strength and wisdom. The Seoul Peace Prize recognises that. It sees in Modi a decisive, visionary, globalised, and yet rooted leader. It is only the irrelevant and the short-sighted who interpret him through the lens of paradoxes.
(The author is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)