The Role of GOPIO in Global Security

 Nirj Deva 

Member of the European Parliament [MEP]

Co-Coordinator of the Development Committee of the European Parliament

and Conservative Spokesman on Overseas Development of the European Parliament.

Member Foreign Affairs Committee

 

to the GOPIO Conference on  

NRI/PIO Business Networking for Trade and Investment and Contribution of Indian Diaspora in Europe

4 October 2004, Brussels (Belgium)

 

 

Two weeks ago I led a team of European Parliament Members to Observe the Second Round of the Presidential elections in Indonesia and joined the 250 EU long term and short term Observers who were in that country since the early part of this year.

 

In April this year the Indonesians voted in the most complex elections ever held anywhere in the world to elect a National Parliament, Regional parliaments and District Councils, thereby casting 600 million votes for 4 separate assemblies in 500,000 polling stations scattered among 12,000 islands.

 

This empowered 150 million people to vote in the first democratic Parliamentary elections held in that country since independence in the early 1960s. This miracle was repeated again on the 19th of September when the Indonesians for the first time directly elected their new President in a peaceful and totally transparent way.

 

Why am I telling you this?  I am telling you this because it is Indonesia, not Pakistan or India that is the largest Muslim country in the world. 

 

I am telling you this because a Muslim country which has been a dictatorship for the past 30 years has made the transition peacefully to a democracy. 

 

I am telling you this, because it nails the lie for ever that Muslim or Islamic countries are incapable of embracing democracy and human rights.

 

I am telling you this, because in order to get elected many Indonesian politicians had to tone down, not tone up their Islamic credentials.  The fundamentalists were not elected, the moderate were. 

 

I am telling you this because, what is possible in Indonesia, is now possible in Pakistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Iran and the rest of the Arab Muslim world.

 

I am also telling you this because it was done without the force of arms, but by the force of example and encouragement. 

 

This, I am proud to say the European Union expended vast amounts of time, money and effort and achieved this modern miracle which has not got a single world headline.

 

So what has this to do with the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin their 24 million members, the Indian Diaspora and this conference today?

 

It has much to do with this conference today.

India and the people of Indian origin which includes the people of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and, yes, Pakistan are all imbued with ancient cultural and traditional values. 

 

Lord Gautama Buddha, in his precepts asked for the following: moderation in all matters, the middle way in every act, individualism and enterprise, make profits but not excessive profits, encourage savings and investments and promote initiative and entrepreneurship but be constrained by tolerance, mutual understanding and acceptance of other peoples differences.  

 

The same philosophy underlies every precept of the Hindu pantheon: tolerance, acceptance, individualism, enterprise, family and investment and protection for the future.

 

These values, enunciated by Emperor Ashoka two thousand five hundred years ago and carved out in huge pillars are still to be seen at every crossroad from Afghanistan to the Deccan, from Bengal to Maharasthra

 

In today’s modern world, unfortunately, we have allowed these values and beliefs to be described in the western world as “liberal, western philosophy”. 

 

It is no such thing. 

It forms, instead, the bedrock of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy which has created one of the oldest and most tolerant civilisations the world has ever known. 

That civilisation spread its message to China, to Japan and yes to Indonesia through the Sri Vijaya Empire to the Buddhist Bororobudur to the still Hindu Island of Bali.   When the Taleban blew up the two ancient statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan they knew what they were doing. The statutes represented an ancient civilisation of tolerance and acceptance.

The Taleban represent intolerance and exclusion.

 

These Indian values were articulated two thousand years before Bentham, Adam Smith, Hume, Berkeley, Voltaire or de Tocquville.

 

In this regard, Milton Friedman is an Indian.  Fredrick Von Hayek is an Indian.  Margaret Thatcher is an Indian.  Tony Blair is an Indian. And even George Bush is an Indian, though not a Red Indian!

 

Because they all espouse, in one form or another, what we describe as “tolerant, open society free market social values”.

 

Today, our world, that world we now cherish and fear for, is at a crossroads and the issue will be settled one way or another for generations to come;  The choice is stark.

 

The choice will be whether the world will be run by people who believe in tolerance, moderation, liberty, individualism and free will or whether the world will be run by a cabal of intolerant, dictatorial, legalistic despotic regimes who cannot tolerate differences or any spark of creative freedom in others that they cannot sanction or licence.

 

 I  have titled this  speech, ‘The Role of GOPIO in Global Security’ and I have to regretfully share with you my gravest concern that people of Indian origin living in what is now called Pakistan were  instrumental in selling and sharing nuclear secrets with non democratic states who can now imperil our global security for generations to come.

 

The Pakistan President and military forces are of Indian origin. Kadir Khan is a man of Indian origin, everything in Pakistan is of Indian origin, and all the imbued memory of love, tolerance and freedom which underpin Indian civilisation has been betrayed, has been overcome, has been put at risk forever, by this extraordinary act against humanity.  Proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world in the hands of very dangerous people can be traced back to this one act of gross betrayal of our children’s future security.

 

The Sub Continent was at the pivot of world history. It will be the pivot of the world’s future.

 

50 years ago what started as a family fight at partition, the question of Kashmir has now accelerated to be a matter of global security concern.  It has spawned nuclear terror. Why did we, old as we are, knowledgeable as we are, ancient in wisdom as we are, tolerant as we are, allow this to happen?

 

In the same 50 years something else also quite remarkable happened.

Ignoring the historic strictures that most Hindus lived under for thousands of years  that they are not to travel beyond the Hindu Kush, millions of people of Indian origin including those born in what is now Pakistan  migrated to the far flung corners of the globe..

 

Today over 25 million peoples of Indian origin from the sub continent live in other parts of the globe.

 

And in their new countries and cities, most have settled down and adjusted. They have been respected. They were valued. They were seen to be of substance, knowledge, and custom. They are recognised as being successful and intrinsic to their new countries economic, social and cultural well being. 

 

But not all.

Some have failed to adjust, some have sought security in fundamental Islamic values, and want to become jihadists. 

 

Yet, there is still time and opportunity for them to play a constructive role. That time is not too long. It is shortening, as fears of jihadist attack and militancy grow in Western countries.

 

We of the GOPIO have now a critical and crucial role to play. Either we are seen as a force for good in the West or we will be seen as a threat.   We cannot duck out of this challenge. We are involved because we are here. We are here because we chose to be here, in Europe, in America, in Australia, in Canada. No one forced us to be here. We chose. With that choice goes responsibility. Not only responsibility to our family and children, but also responsibility to those who have welcomed us amongst them.  They now feel under threat from the jihadists.

 

But the good news is that the jihadists are losing.

In  Afghanistan, a whole country some 4 years ago given to a jihad, last month 10 million people registered to vote at the next presidential elections only some weeks away.

 

The revulsion felt by British Muslims and French Muslims at the images of cowering foreigners and grisly beheadings by jihadits in Iraq is leading to a backlash against them..

 

People in the Muslim world are becoming convinced that what is happening is the very destruction of Muslim civil society. The jihadists actions have had the opposite effect. They have not led to a triumph of Islam but rather to a state of fitna\, which threatens the very stability of Islam with disintegration,, fragmentation and ruin.

 

When the Islamic Army of Iraq grabbed two Frenchmen as hostages to demand the removal in France over the ban on wearing scarves by Muslim school girls, astonishingly the Muslim Community of France rallied behind their adopted land and demonstrated against the kidnappers.

 

The people of Muslim descent in Europe are giving priority to their French German and British identities, identifying with the liberal Indian values we discussed earlier.  In Europe the land of unbelief Muslims are experiencing personal liberty, liberal education, and the economic opportunities of democratic societies.

 

I said before that we must include within the ranks of the people of Indian origin, the people from Pakistan who now live in the West among us.

 

We must include them lest they be excluded.

We must, because they have a very important role to play.

They are the living proof that Islamic and Muslim values can live in harmony with democratic and liberal “Indian values in the West among the Westerners.

 

We who believe and live by our ancient Indian values of tolerance and respect must now put these in to effect among our own Muslim communities living among us. We in GOPIO are the bridge over which many millions will walk and join hands. That is our task. 

 

Then the family argument in the sub continent will be solved. The answers will come from us, showing those living in India and Pakistan that we are living together, making business together, making money and contributing to the wider community----- together in Europe, America Canada Australia and Africa..

 

We are the show case for our less well informed compatriots back in Pakistan and other Islamic countries who view all things western with suspicion.  India and her democratic institutions have shown this for 50 and more years. Last month Indonesia also showed the way.

Now its up to us to show that it can be done in the West,

for ALL of US.

 

 

Note to Editors

Nirj Deva was a Member of the British Parliament from 1992-97 and in John Majors Government as a PPS to the Scottish Office. He was Chairman of the Conservative Think Tank the Bow Group in 1981 and Special Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, The Rt Hon William Whitelaw in Mrs Thatcher's Government and more recently Special Advisor to the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith the Leader of the Conservative Party.

 

Elected to the European Parliament in 1999  he is the Coordinator for the Overseas Development and Cooperation Committee of the Parliament, Member of the Foreign affairs Committee and a former Member of the Regional Economic Transport and Tourism Committee and the Environment Committee. He represents the 8 million people of Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent in the South East of England. He was appointed Her Majesty's Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Greater London in 1985.

 

GOPIO is a global organisation of people of Indian Origin. The Indian Diaspora is of 24m million people. They remit over 25 billion USD per year back to India.