Asianism – The Indian Sub-Text

Anil Trigunayat is Distinguished Fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi. A former career diplomat, he served as Ambassador of India to Jordan, Libya and Malta.
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  • July 2022

    Going by the economic growth patterns of China, India, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN countries with corresponding decline in the Western economic heft, it was often claimed that the 21st century will be the Asian Century. This might be in doubt due to the pandemic and geopolitical contestation between China and the US, where new faultlines are being drawn. Moreover, India and China being in a potential conflict zone, the dream of the Asian Century might have receded even further. But Asianism, given its intrinsic strength, has gone through its own evolution over the centuries, as the major Asian civilizations and cultures have interacted often seamlessly and occasionally competed with one another. Assimilation has often been the result. Ancient is intrinsic to the Asian thought, philosophy, and existence. Harmony with nature and a share-and-care attitude have been the hallmarks of the quest for eternal peace and co-existence. Yet, political Asianism has occasionally witnessed conflicts and wars in the name of supremacy and superiority which was hardly the real essence of the Asiatic value systems. The battle between the West and East accentuated them through the 19th and 20th centuries and the First and Second World Wars. The Western system moved forward, as Japan was defeated but eventually became part of the Western alliance system. India became independent and avoided the Cold War with the global governance architecture by virtue of her ancient mystical heritage and knowledge, new-found democratic credentials, a moral and principled stance reflected through her non-aligned approaches and pragmatic emphasis on peace and development for one-sixth of humanity, thereby leading the newly-independent developing countries from Asia to Africa, from the clutches of colonialism. This has provided India with an authoritative international voice of reason. And this is what will combine her software, powered by the civilizational heritage and universality of her cultural ethos, to enhance and extend her soft power appeal which is the subtext of her very existence.