India, the home of one of the world’s oldest civilizations and cultures, has come a long way in the 75 years since gaining independence. From being proudly portrayed as the “country of snake-charmers” by the first Prime Minister, to his relationships with Western girlfriends, often overlooking the negative impact on the nation’s overall image, to securing Banaras as the first-ever Tourism and Culture Capital of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for the 2022-2023 period, India’s journey has been remarkable.
Presently, the Prime Minister of India proudly introduces visiting counterparts or heads of developed countries to sites like the Sabarmati Ashram, Banaras Ganga Aarti, Lotus Temple, and Metro rides, showcasing the nation’s proud heritage, achievements, and advancements.
The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has achieved the title of the “world’s top research university,” scoring a perfect 100 out of 100 in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World Rankings 2022. Ben Sowter, QS’s Director of Research, acknowledged the positive progress of Indian universities in enhancing their research prominence, boosting their global reputation. Indian graduates are now highly sought-after as Chief Executives in top Multi-National Corporations.
Meanwhile, India has emerged as a global Information Technology powerhouse, aligning with the prediction made by US President Bill Clinton during his visit to the Cyber City in Hyderabad in 2000. India boasts the third-largest economy in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) and the fifth-largest economy in terms of dollar value, surpassing its two-century-long colonial master, the United Kingdom (UK), which exploited India and was responsible for numerous genocides.
India’s military prowess ranks third globally in conventional terms, and it has also earned the title of the vaccine capital of the world. India has supplied over 25.44 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses to 101 countries, effectively managing its domestic needs despite initial raw material supply constraints. It is important to highlight that when India began providing free vaccine doses to underprivileged countries, the liberal Western nations, often known for advocating human rights and liberal democracy, chose to stockpile their vaccine production, disregarding the urgent needs of poorer nations.
Recent achievements also encompass India’s efficient management of the Covid-19 pandemic. India has administered more than two billion vaccine doses, developed domestically and through imported formulas, in less than two years. This comes after skepticism was raised by some quarters, such as India Today’s headline on April 22, 2021, predicting a 12-year timeline for vaccinating the entire population and achieving herd immunity. On July 18, 2022, even BBC, which previously criticized India’s pandemic response, acknowledged that “India becomes the second country to cross two billion Covid jabs.” This remarkable feat was largely accomplished without cost, despite challenges like vaccine hesitancy and destruction.
International Yoga Day, a global observance, is now an integral part of India’s soft diplomacy, as initiated by PM Modi’s appeal during his first appearance at the UN in 2014. The question arises: Why was this powerful tool of soft diplomacy, not explored earlier to build a positive global image? Today, India exercises its strategic autonomy and confidently questions superpowers’ policies impacting global economics, security, environment, and international laws. India has exhibited its commitment to global welfare by rescuing its citizens and others, including those from rival countries, from conflict zones like Yemen and Ukraine.
With these achievements, India seems poised to claim the status of Viswaguru, or the world’s teacher, a concept envisioned by great seers like Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore. However, despite these accomplishments, there seems to be a trend of mocking and denouncing efforts made by the present government to fulfill these objectives. While diverse opinions about government policies are expected, national matters require a sense of unity.
Since the 2019 General Election and during the pandemic, more than 600 articles in Western print media, and numerous electronic media campaigns, have criticized and belittled India’s government, civilization, and culture. This derogatory language, ranging from “intolerant” to “fascist,” challenges the noble vision of becoming Viswaguru envisioned by these visionary seers.
Amidst these challenges, India’s claim to Viswaguru status remains justified. The nation’s contributions to science, mathematics, astronomy, Ayurveda, and education are unparalleled, thanks to the wisdom of ancient sages and scholars. India’s ancient universities, destroyed by invaders, were pioneers in education. This rich heritage was destroyed due to invaders’ disdain for Indian culture and values. Hence, India’s rich history, rooted in knowledge and benevolence, lends itself to a rightful claim of Viswaguru status.
The Author is a political analyst and Sr. Research Fellow, at DRaS & Trident Group of Institution, Bhubaneswar