What is a Better Asia?
What is a Better Asia? What do we mean by this phrase? What approaches must we take to reach this goal?
BUILDING A BETTER ASIA, expresses fairly correctly and clearly the intent of this programme which is to contribute to the promotion of a region that is global and inclusive in terms of its cultural, economic, political, social and intellectual life. Invariably, as citizens of this large continent we envision an Asia that is at peace, that is free from small and big wars, exploitation and diseases, an Asia that is economically vibrant, tolerant of diversity, and where people are economically, politically and legally empowered, and an Asia that can play a role with her friends in shaping the world of the future.
This means that it should be an ASIA that is more open, just, egalitarian, and more environmentally more livable, an Asia that promotes the values of Human Freedoms, Press Freedom, Regional Integration, Greater Political Participation, Education of Minorities, Intellectual Cooperation, and Human Development in general. This ASIA that we envisage must, therefore, be an Asia THAT IS BETTER THAN HER PAST AND AN ASIA THAT IS GREATER THAN HERSELF.
Asia’s diversity is expressed in many different ways but it is imperative now and in the future that we believe that Asia’s strength lies in its tolerance and acceptability of differences. The dangers arising from intolerance and poverty are obvious but what is important is that Asians should come together to contribute to finding solutions to the problems of Asia and the world. Let our diversity be a source of strength, not our weakness or to embody our fears.
We should also appreciate the context of this particular retreat. India is the largest democracy in the world and Goa, in particular, is probably one of the most if not the most cosmopolitan states of India. When you live in a land of a thousand mutinies which India has been once described as you will begin to understand why the values of freedom and democracy must be at the core of our societies in Asia.
The major countries of Asia have reached a level of development where we can build upon our economic successes by adding a new layer of humanism, culture and spirituality. Development should have a soul. We should also be fully committed to protect the environment in which we live. While a market economy is desirable as a mode of development we should not allow the freedom of the market to operate at the expense of the people and of our ecology.
Eight of the largest companies in the world are Chinese while 7 are American. China Mobile is bigger than Microsoft. The numbers of Chinese billionaires, for instance, have increased from 15 to 100 last year. Similar statistics can be mentioned for India. China’s rise and India’s emergence are about the ability of less developed countries to escape from poverty and joining the ranks of the industrialized world. Societies and nation-states don’t need to be trapped in poverty forever. But many people will continue to be mired in poverty and disease if Asia does not use its new found strength to bring about change and transformation.
This will require a revolution of the mind. Moreover, it will require leaders who are capable of governing well, effectively and honestly. Finally, we must also have champions of these big ideas.
Programs like the BABA retreat are an effort in this direction.