Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held up his country – its ancient traditions as well as its democratic present – as a model in addressing the great challenges facing the world in 2018 in the opening plenary session of the 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
Modi identified the three foremost challenges that humanity confronts today: climate change, terrorism and a growing trend towards inward-focused isolationism among nations.
He emphasized the “deep bond between Indian traditions and nature,” and invoked the Upanishads, Buddhism and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi in calling for a more harmonious relationship with the natural world, based on consumption according to need, and repudiating “greed-based consumption”. He noted that India has set an aggressive target of producing 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, and that India and France will soon ratify a treaty creating a new International Solar Alliance, with its first meeting to be held in New Delhi.
Modi said that “many societies and countries are becoming more and more focused on themselves,” and identified this trend as a challenge on par with climate change and terrorism. “We will have to accept that globalization is slowly losing its lustre,” he said, but blamed this in part on the inadequacies of extant transnational organizations and institutions. “These global organizations created after the Second World War – do they even reflect the aspirations and dreams of mankind and the reality of today?” He warned that the gap between these organizations and the needs of developing countries is particularly large.
“The solution to this worrisome situation is not isolation,” said Modi. “The solution is accepting and understanding change and formulating flexible policies in line with the changing times,” he said, suggesting that a globalism that does not seek to sweep away national and cultural differences is needed. “The father of India, the respected Mahatma Gandhi, said, ‘I do not want the walls and the windows of my house to be closed from all directions but that the wind of all countries come in with aplomb. But I will not accept my feet being uprooted by these winds.’ The India of today has accepted this view,” he said.
Modi underscored the openness of India to foreign investment. “We are removing the red tape and rolling out the red carpet,” he said, noting that, in the past three years, the Indian government has abolished over 1,400 “archaic” laws. “I’m sure you can imagine, in a democratic state, how difficult it is to do that,” he added.
India’s reforms will, Modi believes, drive fast growth: He targets a $5 trillion GDP by 2025. “The path my government in India has chosen is revolutionary and development-centric. Our mantra is ‘reform, perform and transform’,” said Modi. But he insists this will be done in accordance with his oft-repeated claim that Indians consider the whole world its family. “India has never had any political or geographical ambitions. We do not exploit the natural resources of any country. We believe in a multicultural and a multipolar world order.”
Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation 2018 and Federal Councillor of Home Affairs of Switzerland, also addressed the opening plenary. He warned that, in the coming year, we may well “reach the paradoxical conclusion that disruption has emerged not from the extremes but from the middle of society, while economic and social progress also comes from the majority.” Berset challenged the idea that the welfare state and the market economy are somehow incompatible or irreconcilable. “The game was all wrong, as well as the assumptions,” he said. “After all, uncertainty and social injustice do not lead to economic prosperity. Fear is not productive. Fear does not drive innovation.”
The World Economic Forum’s 48th Annual Meeting is taking place on January 23-26, 2018 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.