Vice president Hamid Ansari said on Wednesday that secularism was one of the basic characteristics of India’s Constitution and despite “societal difficulties” a “great majority” of the people are committed to it.
Ansari said India adhered to secularism and the people of the country were also committed to a just society.
“We have societal difficulties which sometimes lead people to use the self licence for violence. But secularism is one of the basic characteristics of the Constitution of India. And great, great, great majority are committed to that,” said Ansari in response to a question on violence linked to religion in India.
Ansari, who is on a three-day visit to Armenia, was speaking at the Yerevan State University.
He stressed that Armenia and India might be geographically distant but there were many cultural and historical links between the two countries.
“I myself was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and spent many years in the city. Amongst its historic features are Armenian churches and other signs of its Armenian inhabitants. Father Michael Chamich’s History of Armenia was translated and published in Calcutta in 1827,” he noted.
“More recently, historians like Mesrovb Jacob Seth and George Bournoutian have recorded the Armenian contribution in India to trade and commerce as to various cultural and charitable activities.” said Ansari, who was conferred an honorary doctorate by the prestigious university.
Ansari also said that a part of the spiritual history of India was the personality of Armenian descent known in medieval chronicles as ‘Sarmad’, a mystic who travelled from somewhere in this region to India.
He highlighted the influence of Sarmad’s free thinking and humanitarianism on Indian freedom movement leader Abul Kalam Azad.
“It is thus evident that well before modern times; the flow of people, trade and ideas was not an unusual occurrence,” he said.
Ansari stated that he had a very “productive” visit.
“The older generation in this audience knows and the younger ones have been told that the 20th century was a period of organised insanity characterised by metamyths and megadeaths,” he said.
“These led an eminent historian to conclude that ‘our world risks both explosion and implosion’ hence ‘it must change’,” Ansari said.
The expectation that the changes in the last decade of the century would bring forth a more harmonious world in which international cooperation in solving global problems would be addressed by peaceful means in conformity with the principles of justice and international law did not materialise, the vice president said.
He stated that on the contrary, older patterns of thought and practice persisted and aided by newer technologies, resulted in “explosions as well as implosions” in different parts of our world.
He asserted that the promise of globalisation also showed its limitations like the financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated, in the words of one analyst, a “systemic vulnerability to unregulated greed”.
Ansari said that the crisis was not just limited to matters strategic and financial as climatic catastrophes and pandemics demonstrated the vulnerability of human existence to forces beyond its control despite the immensity of scientific advances.
“The conclusion is unavoidable that individuals, societies, and the global community as a collective, need to re-think the parameters of their future,” he said.
Ansari noted that the first step that needs to be taken was to identify the likely challenges, then assess the impact that scientific and technological advancement would have in resolving them and finally assess their impact on people’s lives and patterns of behaviour.
Ansari said the general categorisation of challenges to the world of today was premised on a “normal desire to live, live well, live in peace, live without human or natural threats.”
“The devil, as always, is in details. The right to live, universally conceded as a basic human right, implies the right to breathe, to food and water, to health. These, together, necessitate sustainable development and the need to address the totality of challenges of climate change. Alongside are the problems of population, disease, energy and resources,” he said.
Ansari stressed that all such challenges can only be addressed through global cooperation in which burden sharing was equitable.
Consequently, the old doctrines and dogmas of national decision-making, and state sovereignty stand abridged in good measure, he asserted.