Table Speech

“Indian Traditions, Culture, and the New Economic Developments”

November 27, 2007

Professor Aftab Seth,
The Former Ambassador of India to Japan,
(Professor of Global Security Research Institute, Keio University)

 The Indian civilization, like the Chinese civilization and Greek civilization, has been in existence for a long time. It exerted its influence not only to the neighboring countries but across the world.

 The teachings of Buddha, which began some 2,500 years ago, made its impact westward to Turkey in Asia, the present day Iran, Afghanistan, Bamiyan, Taliban, and central China, Mongolia and eastward to Korea and Japan. The message passed on by Buddha was a spirit of benevolent affections, respect for knowledge, dignity of individuals, and harmony between humans and nature; this is the philosophy of Buddhism.

On the other hand, India also absorbed cultures from other civilizations, from China, Egypt and Greece, etc. During the 15th to 16th centuries, Indian vessels took a major role in trade with the world. India at that time was the crossroad of civilizations. That is why the Indian mentality is to avoid the clash of civilizations. Indian people prefer a tolerant, cohesive, and harmonious approach. They use collaboration rather than disputes to obtain their goals.

In India, 17 different languages are spoken. There are many minor and major religions that coexist. The first temple of Jerusalem was built in India. In the 8th century, Persians came to India and India was also invaded by Arabs. Even today, Arab Muslims and people from Pakistan come to India.

Buddhism was born after Hinduism, which is an India’s peculiar religion and after that, Sikhism was born. India may be said to be a country of combination of Islamism and Hinduism.

Indians accept what is being said by Christians. In Buddhism, communications and discussions and a spirit of tolerance and collaboration are important. This is the culture of India. This is what is forming present day India.

An academic has predicted that, by 2025, China’s GDP will be 28% and India’s GDP will be 22% of the world’s GDP, and added together, they will account for half of the world’s GDP.

 In the past, China and India had been the victims of being subjected to the imperialism of the stronger powers. Why did China and India become colonies? It was not because we were poor; it was because the land was rich and attractive. China and India had declined once. But now they are in a revival.
India gained its independence in the 20th century, and after many difficulties achieved growth and it is expected to become a country that bears striking riches in the 21st century. This is India today.

There are 300 million people in poverty in India. But in 1991, some 280 million people climbed out of poverty into the middle class. Wages in India has tripled in the past 5 years. The GDP is growing 8% annually.

New investment opportunities are growing. For example, the value of today’s real estate is $30 billion, but by 2025 it is expected to appreciate to $90 billion.

Retail industries have also grown. Assets of family-operated retailers total $350 billion and they employ 50 million people. By 2050, this sector is said to grow to a $600 billion industry.

IT-related industries have experienced tremendous growth in Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Bangalore.

In the automotive industry, a Japanese company, Suzuki, has the share of 48% in the Indian automobile market. Toyota is also building a new plant to make a reentry into the market.

India exports automotive parts to Taiwan and Indonesia. As India has a free trade agreement with Thailand, the two countries can trade each other without tariffs. In communication equipment, 8 million cellular phones are sold each month. This is 96 million phones a year. India has made a leap from fixed telephones to mobile phones in one jump. Cellular telephone factories are in Chennai and produce 30 million units each year.

2,500 years ago, India gained the attention of the world by its “knowledge”. Now, young people graduated from business management universities and engineering universities are harnessing that knowledge to gather the attention of the world.