75 Years of Freedom

The 75th Independence Day of India is going to be celebrated today, 15th August 2021. 75 years ago, India was one of the first countries in Asia to become independent. A lot has been talked about India’s freedom struggle against British rule. Now, let us focus on the history of independent India, which stood up from the burnt ashes of conflict and fostered a sense of peace and unity.

After World War II, two world’s superpowers, the USA and USSR, started dominating the politics of smaller countries under their influence. The former centred around the idea of democracy and capitalism, while the latter was keener to protect Communism and Communist influence across the globe. Indirect civil wars started in China, Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Afghanistan, and many more nations around the globe. However, India chose to side with neither of the two superpowers and promote ideas of peace and co-operation through Jawaharlal Nehru’s Non-Aligned Movement.

India emerged as the leader of the third world, a cluster of small, backward countries mostly across Asia and Africa. Non-Aligned Movement policy gained ground in Indonesia, Ghana, Yugoslavia, and Egypt. The NAM policy guaranteed the countries full independence and helped them develop and co-exist peacefully with other sovereign states. The NAM policy today has been ratified by 120 countries around the world after having its first summit at Belgrade, Yugoslavia on 1st September 1961.

However, the dreams of India coexisting peacefully was mired with disturbances from its neighbours. India and Pakistan bitterly fought 3 wars in 1947, 1965, and 1971, while China attacked India in 1962. Despite emerging victorious both as a military power and through diplomacy, these wars, together with problems of partition, slowed down the development of India as a superpower. The Indo-Pak wars centred more on the western border of India, with the main hostility around the fate of Jammu and Kashmir, an independent princely state joining India. The conflicts with China are mainly in the eastern and northern sectors, where unclear border demarcations between British India and China resulted in a strained relationship between India and China.

India was instrumental in helping Bangladesh gain independence in 1971 from Pakistan. India also fought the Siachen and Kargil war with Pakistan. India gave refuge to thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama when Tibet was annexed by the expanding China. Bloody insurgencies in Punjab up to the 1980s, and in Kashmir since then did not help in India’s economic growth. The biggest fight of India throughout its history, and even after independence was poverty. A mass influx of refugees from Pakistan and emigration to Pakistan continued along the Indian border. Also, the pre-partition train and bus communications were severed between the two countries owing to decorating diplomatic ties.

However, India has stood strong with time. It has an active foreign policy, good diplomatic ties with most other countries, and it has also conceived to address its internal problems. Perhaps the biggest achievement of India was the introduction of democracy by Jawaharlal Nehru, which ensured multi-parties, other than the Indian National Congress, can participate to take India forward. India has undergone many ups and downs since its independence. But as long as India remains a democratic country, a secular country for all religions, and maintains close ties with countries around the world, India will rise as the world’s next leading superpower.

Exactly 75 years ago, the father of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru said on the midnight of 14th August 1947

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

At 75, India is ready to take on challenges and be the developed country our nation’s founders dreamt to see. Come, let us take it forward to our future generations.

Written by – Himadri Paul

India at 75: A Nation Marching towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat

Better late than never. It took us 75 years, but we have finally begun our journey towards self-reliance. An ongoing pandemic overflowing with uncertainty, Covid-19 has impacted lives and livelihoods across the globe. Even as the best minds in the world race towards finding preventive and curative solutions to combat and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the current crisis has been an eye-opener to several opportunities that have presented themselves during this time. To this end, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi made a much-needed call for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat or a self-reliant India that would be a source of local ingenuity creating global impact. He exhorted fellow citizens to utilize this time of crisis to be vocal for local and be self-reliant. Atmanirbhar Bharat is the vision of making India a self-reliant nation.

The first mention of this came in the form of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharata Abhiyan’ or ‘Self-Reliant India Mission’ during the coronavirus pandemic-related economic package announcement on 12 May 2020.[1] This self-reliant policy does not aim to be protectionist in nature. It does not mean isolating away from the world. Foreign direct investment is welcome, technology is welcome, self-reliant India translates to being a bigger and more critical part of the global economy. He eloquently identified five pillars on which Aatmanirbhar Bharat would stand and on which a New India could pole-vault to an era of sustainable economic prosperity and societal good, bridging the financial as well as digital divides between the haves and the have-nots. Creating a nation of job-creators and not just job-seekers is the key. And central to this is the need for extensive collaboration between corporate industry, academia, and governments at the village, district, state and central levels. Such synergies have indeed gained momentum with the Covid-19 crisis and need to be further capitalized on. We begin with the pillar of demographic dividend. With over 65% of our country under 35 years of age, more than 1.4 million schools and 10,500 engineering and related institutions, a whopping 39,000 colleges and universities, India enjoys a demographic dividend like no other in the world.

We must enable the channelization of this youthful energy towards nation-building activities by focusing on developing vocational, technical and managerial skills while fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the school, university and industry levels. The recent announcements of private sector participation for innovations in space and defence sectors open up a flood of new opportunities for the MSME industry. Any solution developed for 1.3 billion people can also be a possible solution for the 7+ billion people on the planet. The recently launched Bharat App Innovation Challenge by MeitY, MyGov, and Atal Innovation Mission is a welcome step to identify and create world-class apps that can be used by the rest of the world too. India has the perfect environment. It has over 1.3 billion people, a youthful population, a growing middle class, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and affordable, available advanced technology to re-imagine new solutions to existing and emerging consumer needs. An ideal situation for thousands of startups and companies to capitalize on and fulfil pent-up demand for new solutions and consumer- or citizen-centric services in every vertical— agriculture, healthcare, education, water management, clean and renewable energy, affordable housing, defence, space, transportation, or retail. The following few examples prove the need and efficiency of a long due movement which will go on to rake supreme growth for our country:

1)The growth of India’s personal protective equipment (PPE) sector from zero before March to 1,50,000 pieces a day by the beginning of May, is considered a fine example of a self-reliant India. The PPE industry in India has become 7,000 crores (US$980 million) in two months, the second largest after China.[9]

2) The largest fund in the country worth 21,000 crores (US$2.9 billion) was set up by the IIT Alumni Council with the aim of supporting the mission towards self-reliance.[10]

3) India’s own ‘Made in India’ 5G network was also announced in July 2020 by Reliance JioMukesh Ambani announced in mid-July that “Jio has created a complete 5G solution from scratch, that will enable us to launch a world-class 5G service in India, using 100 per cent homegrown technologies and solutions”.

4)For the first time, in July 2020, it was announced that Apple would manufacture one of their premium iPhone models in India.[12]

5)August 2020, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced that the Defence Ministry is “now ready for a big push to Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative” by imposing an “import embargo on 101 items” in a staged manner over a period of 5 years. 

 Aatmanirbhar Bharat provides a truly watershed moment in our history to ignite the innovative entrepreneurial spirit of New India by focusing on strengthening the above pillars, which will ensure an unprecedented wave of long-deserved growth, prosperity and well-being that can serve the interests of the rest of the world as well.

Written by – Radhika Ahuja