by Deepak Chopra
October 02, 2011
India could lead a global peace movement propelled by ahimsa so that
countries transcend the perils of nationalism, writes Deepak Chopra
on October 2, designated by the UN as World Nonviolence Day as
tribute to M.K. Gandhi.
The worst aspect of old-fashioned nationalism has always been the eagerness
of one nation to war against another.
It’s time now for an evolutionary leap and here,
India could play a key role. India was founded on peaceful principles and
has managed to keep the peace, more or less, among dozens of ethnic and
Yet, even as the lure of nationalism has faded in places like Europe, the
temptation in South Asia has been to become more nationalistic. National
pride is one thing, but another era of “us versus them” thinking would be
Students of economics often face the question:
Which is better, guns or butter?
The choice is between
military spending and
country can decide, as almost all do, to have both guns and butter. But
money isn’t infinite, and at a certain point, the choice becomes an
It’s easy to make the wrong choice. At one extreme, we have the ludicrous
tragedy of North Korea, armed to the teeth with a massive standing army but
facing widespread famine. Take the United States: After the collapse of the
Soviet empire, the U.S. considered scaling back its massive military spending.
George Bush Sr. and Britain’s Margaret
Thatcher promoted the idea of a “peace dividend,” meaning the benefit to a
society when it can use more money for its citizens’ well-being if military
budgets are slashed. That’s exactly what happened.
Starting in 1985, America’s defense budget was
either cut or remained level for 15 years.
The world’s super power engaged in two foreign wars,
incurred a hidden but massive expenditure on secret intelligence gathering,
and went full throttle on weapons developments.
As the world’s major arms dealer, the U.S. was already playing a double game.
It pronounced itself the peacekeeper of the world, maintaining hundreds of
overseas bases and intervening in foreign conflicts at will. Military
adventurism made it the most feared nation in the world, as it squandered
much of the sympathy and goodwill that followed from the tragedy of 9/11.
Coming to India’s position after 9/11: Like other rising economies, India
profits most from internal investment that generates jobs, incentives, and
As against this scenario, shoring up guns is a huge drain on
peoples’ lives because every bullet shot and bomb dropped is money taken
away from each person’s income.
Every potential worker who becomes a soldier is
a waste of creative resources.
Money Isn’t Infinite
The global economy needs international peace.
For 60 years, the U.S. has expended hundreds of
billions of dollars worth of funds on military assignments, so that other
countries need not defend themselves. However, many of these countries tend
to suspect that the “protection” is a ploy to further American geopolitical
Howsoever rich a country is, it does reach a point where the reality dawns
that money is finite. America may be forced to reduce its military size and
shrink the shield it uses to protect other countries.
At the same time, China is flexing its military
muscles and exploring new weapons systems, perhaps in a bid to become the
next super power, even as it emerges as an economy to reckon with.
Butter Over Guns
India ought to resist the temptation to abandon the peace dividend to go the
If it yields, that would be a profound mistake.
The ongoing border conflict with Pakistan has compromised internal peace as
well in the two countries.
Since Pakistan’s military is concentrated on the Indo-Pak border, it doesn’t
have the strength to handle the insurgency that fuels war in Afghanistan,
violence at home and terrorism abroad.
Yet the world’s future, and India’s, depends on
repairing the global economy, and the best but often overlooked option is to
choose butter over guns.
No Need For A Super
There will be no need for a super power to police the world if every nation
takes the following two steps:
First, decrease military spending and
settle old ‘scores’ through negotiation
Second, support an international
peacekeeper like the United Nations with the power to enter
conflicts and save lives
Both steps move away from the destructive side
of nationalism while boosting the hope for true globalism. I don’t know what
the future holds, but clearly we stand at a crossroads.
...want to wield global influence like the U.S.,
what better way than to become the world’s first peace bloc?