Mahatma Gandhi

As the world enters the third millennium, violence of all kinds seems on ascendance. The last year of the 20th century was possibly one of the bloodiest. Campus killings by school children in the US, bombings in Kosavo, medieval passions being encouraged in East Timor, terrorism in South Asia and tribal feuds in Africa, all portend a bleak future for the mankind. This despondency is reflected in the Hollywood films that depict future as either a dictatorship or chaos!

Gandhi and his methods of non violence are the only answer to the problems in 21st century.


Given the hold that old ideas of security has on nations, a total transition to global security framework as envisaged in the Palme Commission, may take a while. But the horizontal proliferation of various technologies, not just nuclear, is already evident. The Sarin gas attack on Japanese commuters in a Tokyo subway by a fanatic sect , showed that these weapons could be produced in any backyard. The growth of nuclear weapon programme in an industrially and technologically backward country like Pakistan, shows how the nuclear threshold is lowered. Can India with its espousal of total nuclear disarmament suggest an interim measure that will address the nuclear dilemma in a constructive manner ? Will a diplomatic initiative taken in this regard strengthen India's stand at Geneva ?

The answer may lie in the adoption of Gandhian system of trusteeship applied to the international state system, non state groups, trans-national corporations and even terrorist groups outside the pale of international law. The techniques used by Gandhi in his fight for India's independence relied for success on the high moral position that he held. Gandhi elevated India's freedom struggle to a higher moral plane- a fight between right and wrong. Similar moral pressure needs to be brought on nations of the world stressing that the earth belongs as much to the poor South as the rich North. At least through this it should be possible to win over those in the North who are sensitive to the dangers that imperil man's survival on earth. India should propose constitution of a trust. This could either work thorough a revitalized UN or outside of it.Needless to say that India must practice this concept at home before preaching it abroad.

In the final analysis , the dilemma faced by world originates in the absence of sharing and caring attitude amongst the nations. In contrast Gandhi advocated the mental approach of a trustee who regards all possessions as held in trust for good of all. Ownership, in the eyes of a trustee is an attempt to create an illusion of security through permenacy of possession and succession. This selfish grasping not only `violates the deeper purpose of human odyssey on earth but breeds possessiveness, greed , exploitation and violence on an unprecedented scale'.

Gandhi approached the concept of trusteeship at four levels.First, trusteeship is the sole means of continuously redistributing wealth. It is not only a corollary of the principle of non violence but way of regeneration and intelligent use of wealth. Even if wealth could be coercively redistributed, it would lead to resentment and further greed amongst the dispossessed. All this would lead finally to violence, wars and alienation. Trusteeship encourages owners to see themselves as vigilant guardians of the accumulated wealthfor the larger community without threatening themselves. Secondly, Gandhi saw that fear losing possession would prevent other means of economic distribution succeeding in the long run. Collapse of communism has proved him right. A trustee on the other hand feels a sense of joy in fellowship. He feels a positive sense of solidarity with hapless human beings everywhere. Thirdly , Gandhi held the view that the idea of trusteeship could be put in practice non violently, because it could be introduced gradually. Finally , he believed that social and international conditions were ripe for an imaginative application of the principles of trusteeship. That time is now in the field of international relations. Replace wealth with power, and the Gandhian paradigm is applicable to international security relationships. Gandhi and A. J. Toynbee, both felt the inevitability of a form of world government coming into being. Trusteeship concept can well be a half way house to that illusive goal.

What does it actually mean for a nation to be a trustee in the present anarchical world system? Such a nation would selfconciously assume responsibilities for upholding , protecting and putting to good use its existing power because it is morally sensitive. Because such a nation sees its power and abilities as belonging to entire mankind and its future generations. Clarity in understanding this psychological dimension of non-possession will lead to elimination of arms race as opposed to the current craze and race for using technology to make ever more advanced weapons. Greater destruction is hardly better is hardly better when it can only lead to greater insecurity.

Once the concept of security trusteeship is accepted by the developed world, their exploitative policies will also have to change to those of co-operation wherein the concept of trusteeship is made applicable to the field of economics. The trustees should then train less privileged people to utilize the available resources for a healthier and better life. This two pronged approach to international relations will deal with cause as well as symptoms simultaneously.

India must therefore appeal to the nations of the world, specially of the rich North, to express their support for common weal through actual deeds. Ideally, the US, Russia and Japan should act as the world trustees . They could in turn co-opt other nations in various regions to check the dangers due to ecological degradation and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Trustees should not shy away from intrusive inspections and punitive sanctions against errant states or non state actors. Use of force of appropriate magnitude and could be used, not as punishment but as a corrective.

In effect such an arrangement in the interim will bridge the wide gap between those who insist on total nuclear disarmament and NWS, who want to retain their arsenals and see not alternative to nuclear deterrence in regulating international relations. India must take initiative and open a dialogue with US, Russia and Japan, as without their co-operation not much headway could be made. The time to re-bottle nuclear genie is now, and the nuclear haves are aware of it. The US has a significant group with faith in its Wilsonian tradition of faith in collective security and open diplomacy. The US still has the intellectual and moral resources to rise to the occasion and act as a true world leader. Indian diplomacy should attempt to raise the debate on nuclear disarmament to moral level, where it ought to be conducted. There is nothing more immoral than the idea of using nuclear weapons. Applying the Gandhian ideas of trusteeship to global security , Indian intellectuals and policy makers can help the world to grasp this fleeting opportunity in world history when there are many factors in its favour. This must be our approach at Geneva.