Look east: why we must educate ourselves about India

By sandeepa chetan1

We are ill-informed about the world around us.

Those of us who have experienced the British education system are severely limited when it comes to knowledge of the non-Western world. This is only to our, and our country’s, detriment. In a world which is growing ever-smaller, we must force ourselves to take notice of what happens outside of our Western bubble, and a good start would be to focus on India.
Barack Obama’s recent appearance in Delhi at the Indian Republic Day celebrations is significant. Never before has a U.S. head of state been given this honour, and it is a sign of things to come. Strengthening relations between Washington and Delhi is now a high priority. Once shunned by the U.S.A for being part of the ‘non-aligned movement’ during the Cold War (America allied with, and sponsored, India’s historical enemy Pakistan) relations with India are now improving dramatically, with countries from all over the world vying for India’s affections. Britain is no exception. The difference, however, between Britain and America is that while Modi will visit America, drawing a crowd of 19,000 at Madison Square Garden – a hefty feat for any rock star let alone a politician – the Indian Prime Minister has never visited our shores. This reflects the diminishing status of the UK in international affairs.

The perception of India as a lacklustre nation is a relatively recent phenomenon. Boasting riches culturally, spiritually and economically; this ‘jewel in the imperial crown’ has historically represented a huge opportunity; first for the East India Trading Company, and later for the British Empire. The cycle of history is repeating itself as the world once again becomes interested in India. Whilst India is rich in culture and diversity, the main reason the World is turning its attention towards India is due to its growing economic strength and prospective growth. It is predicted that by 2050, India’s economy will be the same size as America’s. TATA is just one of the Indian conglomerates dominating the economy globally, with its acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover one of the many notches in its belt. Bangalore is often compared to Silicon Valley for its technological innovation.

So what does this mean for us? Its population of 1.25 billion represents around 25% of the future global workforce. It is an advantage for us to understand their cultural and historical background. As global citizens, we must take it upon ourselves to fill in the vast holes in our western-centric education. Read a book, or, better yet, travel to India. The UKIERI Study India Programme is a government sponsored opportunity to experience of this vibrant country, and one that I couldn’t recommend highly enough. Spending two hectic weeks in Delhi and one in Mumbai gave me a glimpse of what this glorious country has to offer. Meeting High Commissioners, numerous politicians and businessmen, leaders of NGOs and the children I spent a week teaching gave me an albeit brief, but fulfilling and emotional, insight into the highs and lows, challenges and opportunities India has, and will continue, to face.

Knowledge of India will help almost any career you wish to pursue, and you never know, it might make you a better-rounded person in the process.


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