CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE OF THE VISION OF SUBHAS BOSE
Netaji Subhas Foundation
1. Global Politics
With the advent of new technologies, multinationals and globalisation the impact of key events and political developments in the world is reflected around the globe and South Asia is no exception. The old imperial powers have modified their approaches, and have evolved different economic strategies. Countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, France and Germany dominate the world economy today. International organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and other multilateral organizations are also dominated by these powers. At the same time, China and Japan are emerging as major economic powers, while South Korea and countries such as India are developing rapidly. There is an urgent need for the South Asian countries namely, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well as the smaller countries in the region such as Nepal, Maldives etc. to take cognisance of the changing political and economic conditions around the globe and respond to these changes.
2. Challenges and Critical Issues in South Asia Today
South Asia is a vast region with enormous human and natural resources. This region was one of the first to achieve independence from the colonial powers. However economic growth in the region has been slower compared to many other countries in Asia, some of whom gained independence later. There are a number of factors which have contributed to this, the primary ones being lack of vision and foresight in economic planning and development policies, bureaucracy, corruption, lack of equal opportunities, and intra as well as inter-country caste and religious conflicts. These factors have not only hindered economic growth but also created a non-egalitarian society which is contrary to the vision of pre-independence leaders such as Gandhi, Jinnah and Bose. Considering the current domination of the multi-national corporations and US-led policies there is a great need for the nations within the South Asian region not only to resolve their internal problems peacefully but also to evolve more co-operative mechanisms and structures between nations to improve their economic growth and reduce conflicts through political, social, cultural and sports dialogue.
The most critical issues which need to be addressed are:
• Improved bilateral and multilateral trade in the region
• Agreements on resource and technology sharing
• Peaceful resolution of Kashmir and other conflicts
• Improvement of communication/ transport in the region
• Equality of opportunity for minorities, women and the disabled
• Removal of poverty, excesses of bureaucracy and corruption
• Access to food, health & education services and employment opportunities
3. The Relevance of the Vision of Subhas Bose
So where in this context is the relevance of the vision of Subhas Chandra Bose ? Detractors of Bose have portrayed him as a pro-fascist leader who fought with the Japanese and against the British during the Second World War. Others have at best seen him as a nationalist leader who led the Indian National Army and fought a war of independence against an imperial power. What is not known is Subhas as a visionary, a democrat, an economic planner, an administrator – a man with a clear concept of equal opportunities for all irrespective of caste, religion, gender. Above all, Subhas was a great pragmatist who practiced what he preached. His speeches and writings of the pre-war period as a leading statesman and prominent leader of the Indian National Congress, as well as his proclamations during the war as the Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army, address most of the critical issues highlighted above. He had considered many problems which independent India could face, and given the multi-lingual society even thought of a common language and script.
Bose’s vision and thoughts are expressed in his voluminous writings and speeches. Excerpts from some of his writings are given below (source: ” Subhas Bose & India Today “, by Pradip Bose published by Deep & Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd. in 1999):
In his speech at the Maharashtra Provincial Conference in Poona on 3rd May 1928 Bose said about his vision of Free India – “ Privileges based on birth, creed and caste should go and equal opportunities should be thrown open to all irrespective of creed, caste & privilege……”
Bose proposed “ that a National Planning Committee should be constituted under the auspices of Congress in order to work out a detailed plan of economic and social reconstruction ….“
As regards industrial development Bose made the following observations in his speech at …(?) dated 2nd/3rd October 1938 – “No development in industry is possible unless it emerges through an industrial revolution … any society in this world who would resist the industrialisation would have very little chance to survive in this international competition“
Much of Bose’s vision and thinking still remain valid more than half a century later. It is therefore not surprising that even today in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh , Sri Lanka, Malaysia Bose is held in very high esteem by older as well as younger generations.
4. Netaji Subhas Foundation (NSF)
The NSF came into existence in January 2000. It has a clear set of Objectives and a Mission (a copy of which is attached). The main aim is not just to eulogise Subhas Bose but to propagate his vision and thoughts which are still valid today. There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the contribution of Subhas towards India as well as to South Asia and to involve the younger generation of Asian origin in Europe as well as others in this reassessment. Since its establishment the NSF has sought to do this through a number of meetings, discussions and film shows on South Asian cooperation, race & gender equality, Kashmir, an evaluation of health systems in Europe and other issues relevant to South Asia.
5. Subhas Bose Information Centre
As part of its overall aim of dissemination of information on Bose and his vision, the NSF is seeking to create an Information Centre in London. There is a clear need and demand for such a center which will not only hold the writings of Bose in order to make them easily and widely available to interested scholars and the public, but it will also carry on the process of dialogue and debate about critical global issues and on issues of particular concern to South Asia. Towards this goal the NSF is currently approaching donors for financial support which will help to make this Centre a reality.