India: Becoming a superpower rooted in Dharma

India-a-supoerpower-rooted-in-dharma | ChineeKum
Ashok Stambh Park at Topra Kalan

India is a superpower in the making. It still has a long way to go, but is steadily inching towards that goal. But before that, the question we need to ask ourselves is, what kind of a superpower should India really be? Do we want to be a superpower like China, that uses its power to bully and overpower smaller countries? Or do we want to be a superpower like France, that is largely focussed on itself and its immediate neighbourhood?

It should be neither. When India attains its superpower status, it will be the oldest civilisation to do so. It will bring to the table its vast and in-depth knowledge of running a vibrant democracy that is as diverse as it gets. It will benefit from the bank of ancient knowledge that is recorded in our ancient scriptures that are thousands of years old but are relevant to this day. India should aspire to be a superpower that will be based on the eternal concept of ‘Dharma.’

The role of Dharma

There are two things about Dharma that need to be clarified right at the very beginning. Firstly, Dharma is not religion. Secondly, Dharma doesn’t have an English equivalent, because it means different things in different contexts. A great definition of Dharma is found in the Karna Parva of Mahabharata. It says “Dharma protects and preserves the people. So it is the conclusion of the learned that what maintains is Dharma.” An extension of this idea of Dharma is found in Buddhism, which defines it as the “cosmic law and order.” It is from this perspective that one should see why ‘Dharma’ is the foundation on which India needs to build its future superpower status.

Let Dharma lead the way

The Ashoka Chakra in our national flag is a depiction of the ‘Dharma Chakra’, a wheel represented with 24 spokes. Our robust judicial system has proved more than once that there is a difference between enforcing the law and using Dharma for the greater good. 

Back in 2013, the Supreme Court had refused to uphold the patent for a cancer medicine developed by Novartis, a large pharmaceutical corporation. The verdict resulted in the reduction of the price of the drug from 1.5L to just Rs. 6,000. The price difference would have helped save thousands of more lives in our country. In theory, the law should have sided with the pharmaceutical company and its set of ironclad patents, but Dharma mandated the verdict to be on the side of the greater good of humanity.

The Delhi High Court had delivered a verdict on the same lines in 2016. It dismissed a suit filed by five publishers (Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom (UK), Cambridge University Press India , Taylor & Francis Group, UK and Taylor & Francis Books India) against the sale of photocopied books by a shop located in Delhi School of Economics (DSE). The Court while rejecting the plea said that, “Copyright, specially in literary works, is thus not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public. Copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public.” Once again the difference between the law and the application of Dharma are quite evident in this.

The Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam factor

Dharma is not focussed on only us as a country. It focuses on all of mankind. A superpower that believes in Dharma will act for the benefit of all of humanity. The COVID-19 crisis has shown the world a glimpse of how India believes in the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or ‘The World is One Family.’ India was at the forefront of supplying medicines and medical equipment to the entire world while fighting a nationwide battle against the Coronavirus. It should also be noted that at the very same time, China as a superpower used the crisis as an excuse to rekindle territorial conflicts in its entire neighbourhood.  

India looks for peace & coexistence

India has always had a measured approach to its regional power. It believes in protecting its borders and its people, but is also mindful of the countries it shares borders with. Barring a few exceptions, India doesn’t believe in using military conflict as a bargaining chip with any of its neighbours. Even in its rich history that spans many millennia, India has never been the aggressor in any form. It has been a land of peaceful coexistence, where everyone was welcomed from every part of the world. It is this ethos of peace and Dharma that needs to be the core of any country that envisions itself as a superpower. It is simply because power cannot be used  only for your survival, it has to be used for the sustenance of all of humanity.

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