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Force of peace, progress and prosperity

india Updated: Nov 18, 2006 01:42 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi see India emerging as a global force of "peace, progress and prosperity" that plays by the rules without hegemonic designs based on military might.

Singh believes the very notion of superpower will undergo a change as nations become more interdependent. “Size does give us a certain weight in global affairs and this will get recognised across the world,” he said on Friday at the Fourth Hindustan Times Leadership Summit devoted to the theme India: the Next Global Superpower? “We will be seen as a growth engine. But this has to be tempered by the realisation that the ultimate goal is to work for rule-based rather than power-based relationships. Such an approach is in line with our history, culture and civilization.”

Singh’s comments mostly echoed those made by Sonia who did not associate tomorrow's India with conventional superpower images -- of hegemony, aggression, power politics, military might, division and conflict.

The observations of former British foreign secretary Jack Straw matched those of the Indian leaders. “There are many superlatives now written about India: the offshore IT centre of the world, the sixth nuclear weapons power and the second largest generator of science and engineering graduates,” he said. “But there is one superlative which matters more than all of the others. That is India’s values, and above all its position as the world’s largest functioning democracy, and the most complex multi-racial and multi-religious society.”

Straw said the best for India was yet to come as it built on the values of its founders described by Singh as a “vision of a world order whose pillars are peace, harmony, cooperation and development”.

Sonia too visualised India as a prospective “global force” synonymous with peace, progress and prosperity. “India's external strength will derive from its internal cohesion and the manner in which we nurture our secular values and strengthen our capacity to manage our diversities in harmony."

Against the backdrop of suicides by farmers and a sluggish agriculture sector, Singh and Sonia pitched for inclusive growth. "We need to collectively think as a nation to ensure equity in growth -- equity across regions, states, sections of society and gender," said Singh. "We cannot walk boldly into the future with only one half of our nation shining."

The prime minister voiced concern over the widening rural-urban gap and inter-regional disparities. Saying that the income ratio between urban and rural India had risen from 1:2 at the time of Independence to 1:4, he said: "Can we allow such a trend to persist without its ill-effects on our society and polity?"

Sonia said India's standing in the world would be determined by the extent to which the weaker sections led a life of security and dignity at home. "India's global pre-eminence will come not from faster GDP growth alone," she said. "It will depend crucially on how fast we expand productive employment opportunities, achieve universal literacy and improve the quality of primary health care."