India and the Future of South Asia

— Kosha Shah


Price: Rs 100

Pages: 84
Dimensions (in cms): 14x22
Soft Cover
Publisher: Kosha Shah, Auroville

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About India and the Future of South Asia

The author examines some of the fundamental issues which are of central importance to South Asian countries and in the context of efforts made so far in developing a regional identity. The aim is to find a new light with which to view the current conflicts and uncertainties, a light drawing inspiration from what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have said on the future of the region. Using historical perspectives and illustrative passages from their works, she discusses how culture, civilisation, religion, spirituality, and secularism impact the development of national and regional identities. The final chapter offers an overview of both the problems and possibilities of a South Asian confederation, with the emphasis on India to lead the way towards a greater integration.


This slim book India and the Future of South Asia is interesting for three important reasons. First, it reminds those who study political science and international relations that Sri Aurobindo is not just a spiritual writer but a great visionary with brilliant insights on international relations and politics. His major works The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity and War and Self-Determination, along with letters and conversations, form the primary sources for the passages quoted here and show us how keen and futuristic his approach was.

Second, it demonstrates the existence of a vision based not on the ordinary reactive intellect of a purely surface understanding but drawn from planes of consciousness existing above the mind. In reference to the rejection by Indian leaders of advice given by Sri Aurobindo on the Cripps proposals, the author quotes an observation by K. M. Munshi:

He [Sri Aurobindo] spoke again when Sir Stafford Cripps came with his first proposal. He said, "India should accept it." We rejected the advice … but today we realize that if the first proposal had been accepted, there would have been no partition, no refugees, and no Kashmir problem.

This example bears testimony to Sri Aurobindo's spiritual genius and vision, which embraced all aspects of life. This kind of perspective is still an enigma for the scientific temper of an industrial society or the self-aggrandizing life of a consumer society. It is inspiring to read this book, nicely compiled and annotated by Kosha Shah, because it reveals in full measure the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the world situation, the nature of political power, regional equations and the predominant role which Asia has to play on the world stage. Books like this will certainly remove from the general mindset the impression that spirituality is something divorced from life and its day-to-day problems.

Third, the author brings out one of the core teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother —that man must learn not to live in the outermost reality of his external self but move to a deeper reality within; to find, and unite with, his psychic being, whose innate nature expresses only unity and peace, equality and brotherhood. Political powers and international organizations around the world claim to work for peace, equality and brotherhood, but unfortunately we see no real changes or results, as they focus only on reconstructing again and again the external measures and ignore the need for a complete change of consciousness and a new orientation.

Had additional passages from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother echoing these ideas been included here it could have brought their teachings more fully alive to the reader. However, we do find Sri Aurobindo's words from The Human Cycle on the practical method of achieving this unity and peace, equality and brotherhood, which are basic constitutional norms in legal systems around the world, although not yet fully understood and practiced. This selection from The Human Cycle finds an echo in one of Sri Aurobindo's "five dreams", the dream of "a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind", that he recorded in his Independence Day message, with which this book begins. By the way, the author's choice to bring the voice of Sri Aurobindo proclaiming his dreams is grand and adds vibrancy to the whole book. In all five dreams India's role is important, but especially the last two highlight India's spiritual gift to the world and her leadership in the spiritual evolution "which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness".

Reading the first chapter along with the third, fourth and fifth gives us a clear understanding of what South Asia and the Indian Sub-Continent are in their culture, civilization, religion and polity, all invariably mixed with a spiritual essence at the core. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, who made spirituality life-affirming and life-motivating, gave humanity a new hope and faith in the resurgence of life. They expressed clearly that the apparent sordid state of the world we are seeing now is only a transitional phase. It is evidence of the churning that takes place as the earth prepares for the emergence of a new mould as its next step in the evolution. The present transition is towards the spirit of oneness and the dream of a perfect society. The author echoes these ideas of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother that the political world that is currently caught up in this state of transition is only a part of this collective universal churning. This will manifest a new international order of peace and unity among all the nations and especially those in South Asia, as this new spiritual wave in its movement around the world takes its birth from this region. This role for the South Asian region in general and India in particular gives added meaning to the Mother's map of true India that also includes Pakistan, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka. The picture on page 16 of the Mother seated before this map along with the then Indian leaders evokes something deep and convincing that cannot be explained in words. Also the three quotations from Volume Thirteen of the Collected Works of the Mother which appear next to the title page make the reader feel a force of spiritual assurance like that of the Pythia over the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi.

Chapter Six deals with conceptual ideas about the federal system, nationalism and statehood. Sri Aurobindo's views are self-sufficient and self-explanatory and to put them into practice is the only real solution. Sri Aurobindo's endorsement of Tagore's suggestion of a federal system for India recounted on page 45 is relevant even today when we see how unstructured federal and constitutional powers can be usurped for the personal gain of political leaders and bureaucrats.

The author has explained on page 10 that her aim is not to get into every detail of each problem this region is currently facing but only to make a connection between the vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the present situation. In the later chapters, however, she does present her own political analysis and suggested solutions. Some readers may not agree with her interpretations and conclusions, but given the new line of development in the field of writing on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, which is an application of their vision to today's practical problems, one has to appreciate what she has written about regional groupings such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the South Asian Confederation. The book is not the usual rendering and interpretation of their teachings or a bare compilation. For example, Sri Aurobindo's simple description of the principle of self-determination found on page 43, which is the basis for any confederation, grouping or association in the assertion of its rights, is something yet to be found in international legal and political literature. It is noteworthy to see how the author has made use of this description in her analysis of the EU, ASEAN, AFTA and SAARC. But it remains to be seen how her application of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual dream, the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and India's return to her great role in the progress of human civilization, through these confederations and cooperative efforts would come true.

India and her contribution to the future of South Asia figure prominently in the present system of international relations. The world has recognized the role of South Asia and India in particular not just in terms of political power and economic strength but very much in terms of social, cultural and psychological developments, which have their roots in a spiritual culture that is native to the soil of India. The last few lines by the author in the concluding chapter give the reader a real challenge:

Perhaps in this world of today when money rules, this may seem out of touch with reality. But there is another reality growing behind what we see on the surface. If we can make an effort to understand that, then we can bring both of these together. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have given a glimpse of what humanity is moving towards. If we can take their hints and act consciously, then inevitably our way forward will be not only easier but it will also be a fuller progress.

The annexure provides an excerpt from Sri Aurobindo's Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest, and a short bibliography supplies notes for further research. This book is a must for students of political science and international studies, legal pundits and historians.

— K. Parameswaran

K. Parameswaran holds a Masters degree in International and Constitutional Law and a doctorate in International Law. He taught International Law and Relations, Constitutional Jurisprudence, and Administrative Law at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels at various universities, including the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
May 2008