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Vice President's Address to the Students of University of Panama and Panamanian Diplomats at Foreign Office Auditorium in Panama City (May 10, 2018)

May 10, 2018

"In search of a more Representative and Relevant World Order”

Sisters and brothers,

I am happy to be with all of you this morning to share a few thoughts on the world we want and the transformation we have to bring about to make our planet a more happy place to live in.

Three years ago, in September 2015, the leaders from all countries around the world met at the United Nations and adopted a transformative and ambitious global agenda for sustainable development.

It was a statement of hope, a candid recognition of the challenges that are confronting all of us and a collective resolve to overcome them and create the world we all want.

It encapsulated a vision, a dream, and a quest.

It is a dream and an ideal that humanity has been dreaming of for a number of years. Consider what the ancient Indian sages have said nearly 3000 years ago when they conceived of the entire world as one big family "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”.

They said:

"Let us march forward with a common goal.
Let us be open-minded and work together in harmony.
Let our aspirations be harmonious.
Let our minds be in unison.
Let us strive to reduce disparity.
Let us be bound in strong fellowship and unity.”

The quest has been for peaceful co-existence and harmony. Not only for harmony among the people of the world but also for harmonious co-existence with nature.

Let me share what some of the world’s ancient thought leaders have said in the Vedas.

"Let peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere.

Let peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees and creepers.

Let peace flow over the whole universe.”

This timeless quest finds a contemporary expression in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which the world community has resolved to create"a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.

A world in which consumption and production patterns and use of all natural resources – from air to land, from rivers, lakes and aquifers to oceans and seas – are sustainable.

One in which democracy, good governance and the rule of law, as well as an enabling environment at the national and international levels, are essential for sustainable development, including sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty and hunger.”

All of us today are citizens of a new and connected world order.

Even though we might be thousands of miles apart, technology and innovation have brought all of us together in a universal web. First, it was wired connections. Now, it is the world of the wireless and the digital. Knowledge and wisdom today have been digitized and democratized and are instantly available on our smart phones.

On the face of it, we seem to be more "connected” and "interconnected” than ever before in human history.

Having made such strides in technology and innovation, our entire world should have definitely become a more comfortable and secure place. All of us should feel more content and empowered. Unfortunately, despite expertise and mastery over the physical sciences, new and more powerful challenges have also emerged in the wake of our technological, scientific, medical and other kinds of progress.

I refer here to the mounting threats of cyber security, terrorism, nuclear and chemical warfare and other such scourges, which threaten our existence.

Another, silent but serious challenge, which seems to have got out of control, is the mounting inequality and disparity in the distribution of wealth and economic and social opportunities in different parts of the world.

Despite major UN bodies and experts addressing such problems, poverty, chronic hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy afflict large communities and systems in many parts of the world.

We have formidable, persistent challenges.

Corruption, discrimination, exploitation, violence, especially against women and violation of basic human rights continue to erode our social fabric.

It is these social evils and perceptions of exploitation and failure of established governance systems that create unrest, anger, rebellion and in some cases, extremism. Sooner we effectively address these issues, the better will be our collective future.

Sisters and brothers,

It is time for us to have a relook at the existing world order to see how far it is "representative” and "relevant”. We need to see how "respectful” is it of individual voices and how "inclusive” is it in its accommodating diverse perspectives.

While deviants and dissidents seek to propagate that the world order seems to have failed ordinary human aspirations, the solution, however, can never lie in war, violence, extremism, or other such desperate and short-sighted actions.

Rather, what we need to do is to address our concerns through international cooperation and open minds and with a willingness to accommodate the point of view of all communities, while deliberating such issues at the UN and other multilateral forums.

Human societies cannot become empowered merely through armaments, nuclear missiles, supersonic stealth aircraft or geostationary satellites. Nor do mere signing multilateral treaties and agreements necessarily provide lasting solutions to such complex issues.

The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO declares that "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed". It is this transformation in thought and action that can bring about lasting peace and foster sustainable development.

Here, I would like to recall what Mahatma Gandhi, the iconic leader who led India’s freedom movement had said.

He outlined seven sins or pitfalls to avoid:

"Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Religion without sacrifice.
Politics without principle”

Avoiding these pitfalls could make our planet a much better place to live in and improve the quality of our lives.

We need to have politics which have ethical principles embedded in every action.

We need to create a polity that that respects each individual.

We need to have a governance system that puts the people at the centre. We need to have multilateral processes and decision-making systems that are responsive, just and fair.

In the world order we want, the power and responsibilities are shared, opinions and voices are respected and wealth and earth’s resources are shared.

We should ensure that the multilateral forums are not dominated or influenced by a few powers and communities. The voice of every nation will have to be taken into account. It is this approach and perspective, which India applies whenever reviewing or addressing global issues.

It is against this backdrop that India and some other countries having been asking for a more important and significant role in the UN Security Council. Equally relevant is the need to give more stature and role for all developing countries while considering international trade issues under the World Trade Organization, debating Climate Change issues or allocating development funds under the World Bank and other such multilateral assemblies.

Sisters and brothers,

India today is a vibrant economy with a GDP of US$ 2.4 trillion in classical terms and GDP of US$ 9.4 trillion on Purchasing Power Parity basis and growing every year at an average of 7%. Indian multinationals have set up business and manufacturing operations in various countries and provide employment to thousands of people abroad. We manufacture everything from needles to aircraft, missiles, satellites and high-tech super computers. Indian scientists own world patents and India-origin CEOs run global multinationals abroad.

At the same time, as a country with a population of 1.3 billion, we are confronted by varied challenges. Imbued with these remarkable strengths in our economy on the one hand, and facing huge challenges because of our gigantic population, India automatically brings a very balanced, pragmatic and tempered perspective to any world issue which is under discussion.

Inspired by this vision of universal welfare, pacifist traditions of Ahimsa or non-violence, India, as the world's most populous democracy, steadfastly pursues excellence, inclusive development and prosperity for its teeming millions through honest and diligent endeavour, while also respecting the excellence and achievements of other nations and communities.

Based on these time-honoured values, which extol the spiritual unity and welfare of all mankind, Indian representatives are diligently articulating and pursuing Indian position at multilateral gatherings that we need a more representative world order to make it relevant to the achievement of the ambitious sustainable development agenda the world community has set for itself.

All of us in India today steadfastly agree that our immediate surroundings and material welfare are a very important component in our empowerment process. Further, India believes that every country and nation has a sovereign right and duty to sincerely pursue its national interests. However, we also firmly believe that all such endeavours and aspirations can never lose sight of an overarching mandate - which requires mutual respect, regard, cooperation and understanding with all communities and nations all over the world.

This balanced pursuit of national interests while also upholding the broader duties and values mandated by our membership of the entire comity of nations, is the quintessence of the new and reformed World Order we all must establish.

As the Indian prayer "Sahanavavatu” says, "Let us use our knowledge to advance together. Let us not have any hatred among ourselves”.

Equipped with this vision and seeking nourishment from our profound cultural and spiritual foundations, India seeks partnership and cooperation with new partners.

Motivated by our aspirations for universal welfare, we are happy to share our experience and knowledge with various developing countries under the Indian Technical Economic Cooperation Programme. Under this programme, which was initiated in 1964, thousands of candidates, officials and students from all parts of the world, have been given scholarships for training in different disciplines. It is satisfying to know that Panamanian candidates too have benefitted from such facilities.

Sisters and brothers,

Panama is a dynamic economy with sustained exposure to global business. As two like-minded countries pursuing excellence in various fields, there are promising prospects for deepening ongoing engagement, especially in the economic & commercial sector.

I have gladly shared with this learned assembly our model for pursuing economic development and prosperity while imbued with our vision of universal welfare.

We are sure that all the young and bright Panamanians present in this auditorium today, who are the future strength and asset of this beautiful country, will be encouraged and inspired by these thoughts to reach out to their counterparts in India and in the rest of the world and work with them to create a better, more peaceful and prosperous world and a more Representative and Relevant World Order.

One of the key pillars of education and learning is the ability to understand each other and learn to live together. This ability requires a certain attitude, of humility, patience, understanding, appreciation and empathy.

I started my address by describing the great revolution that has taken place and is still taking place in our lives due to technology. I said that we are more connected than ever before. Yet, there seems to be occasional "disconnect” and an inability to connect with fellow human beings or learn to live harmoniously with others.

We need to constantly strengthen the human bond through empathy and respect. We must draw inspiration from the Biblical saying that "In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honour others more than yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too.”

Connecting and caring, sharing and fostering can transform our lives and the world we inhabit.

We should also "connect” with nature, respect it and preserve it. If we protect nature, the nature will nourish us and enrich our lives. Mother Nature has enough for all our needs, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, but it cannot provide us for our excessive greed.

In conclusion, let me once again draw upon the inexhaustible inspirational heritage from Indian thought.

In "Prithivi Suktam”, the hymn to the Mother Earth, the ancient Indian seers have said:

"May whatever is decided in assemblies of men, in villages and towns, be in accordance with your rules, not contrary to them, O Mother;

May we have the good sense to perform only those actions that will keep the waters of the earth pure and unpolluted;

May we, the children of Mother Earth, have the wisdom to speak to each other pleasantly and in a manner that is understood well, in spite of our different tongues and cultures;

May our interaction among ourselves and Mother Earth be harmonious.”

Thank you.


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