While welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver the keynote address at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 23, Prof Klaus Schwab, the president of the World Economic Forum very eloquently put forward, "India's philosophy of the world being one family — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — is closely aligned with the mission of this annual meeting." He laboured while pronouncing Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam as “Vaasuuu-dhaivaaa-kutumbuukam”, but he did get it right in the end, which is commendable and will make it easy for others to pronounce it.
Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech at the same plenary session elaborated upon Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam while speaking about the oneness of the universe quoting Purnamadah Purnamidam from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad saying - "In terms of physical world also, ages ago, we echoed the same thing by saying Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam. Though there were hardly any means of reaching from one part of the world to another; still the feeling of oneness existed. This is because the spirit of co-existence was strong enough to overcome any barriers of knowledge or distance. The search for peace in the universe was paramount. This is the reason that our sacred prayers always end with a prayer for peace. Not only that, a meaningful prayer always starts with a prayer for well-being of all."
On January 26, on the eve of the 69th Republic Day, President Ram Nath Kovind in his address to the nation again evoked Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam as he said, “And of course the highest stage of India’s nation-building project is to contribute to building a better world – a composite and cohesive world, a world at peace with itself and at peace with nature. This is the ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – of the world being one family. It is an idea that may sound impractical in today’s times of tensions and of terrorism. But it is an ideal that has inspired India for thousands of years – and that ideal can be felt in the very texture of our constitutional values. The principles of compassion, of assisting those in need, of building capacities of our neighbours, or even of those further away, underpin our society. These are the very principles that we bring to the international community."
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is a lofty vedantic thought from Maha Upanishad, an ancient Indian scripture. Mahatma Gandhi's Ahimsa (non-violence) both as a creed and a strategy is considered an extension of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It envisions unity of mankind as one single family. Nothing validates this ancient thought more than today's interconnected world with instant satellite communication, swift air transport and the internet. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam imparts a sense of oneness to our common humanity, our common development goals, and our common quest for a rule-based global order and international peace. It conveys succinctly that we prosper or sink together as one family. It broadens our consciousness by underlining that human beings are one family. It is with these noble thoughts India's political leaders decided to engrave Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam at the entrance hall of Parliament of India.
It is a very often-quoted phrase now as evident from the above three examples. Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier quoted it in his speech on previous occasions. Speaking at the World Culture Festival in March 2016, he said, "Indian culture is very rich and has inculcated in each one of us great values, we are the people who have come from Aham Brahmasmi to Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, we are the people who have come from Upanishads to Upgrah (Satellite).” Earlier, addressing the UNGA in 2014, he had said: "Every nation's world view is shaped by its civilisation and philosophical tradition. India's ancient wisdom sees the world as one family. It is this timeless current of thought that gives India an unwavering belief in multilateralism."
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj also used the expression in her speech at the UNGA on September 24, 2017: "We truly believe that the world is one family and we hope that every member of this family deserves that elixir of life, happiness."
Professor WPS Sidhu in an article titled “Vasudhaiva Kutumabkam for the 21st century” asserts that Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam has been evoked earlier by the former prime ministers of India on different occasions in different contexts. However, he does not provide any information on its use by different world leaders.
June 21 was unanimously declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations in 2014. Diwali was commemorated for the first time at the United Nations on October 29, 2016. In line with these, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam may find resonance among the nations and people all across the world. It may be worthwhile to consider projecting Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam in more sustained manner at various global forums.
The following actions could be considered regarding this:
One, as a unique thought of the Indian civilisation, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam could be projected on the UN building and could also be considered to be engraved on the wall/central rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) or in the chamber of United Nations Security Council, reminding delegates of our commonness each time they enter the United Nations building.
Two, as the root of Vasudhaiva is Vasudha, our planet earth, and therefore, an extension of the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam could be to initiate a draft resolution at the United Nations General Assembly for a common earth anthem. Singing that will be a noble way to celebrate ancient Indian thought of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam highlighting India's concerns for the environment, express solidarity to the idea of our commonness and pay tribute the planet. Such an anthem will not only connect all of us across the world through a common musical thread, but will also inspire the next generations across the globe to appreciate core thoughts of the Indian civilisation. It will also rightly showcase India as a country that cares about the whole planet. It will also add on to our initiative of International Solar Alliance for generating clean energy to save our planet. An earth anthem fits well at all levels, from the local to the global. School children can begin the day by singing the anthem while the governments can play it whenever they play their national anthems and the United Nations General Assembly can begin its session with it. It could be a minute-long piece of music, commissioned by the United Nations from a group of four to five leading music composers representing different continents. Countries could put their own lyrics to the common piece of music if they wish so.
Three, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam could also provide a set of norms to which the countries commit themselves to adhere to such as sustainable development, opposing terrorism in all forms etc.
During the past 70 years of India's Independence, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam has travelled a long distance from the pages of Maha Upanishad to the rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly and to being a celebrated thought at the 48th annual meeting of World Economic Forum to heal our fractured world. Sustained global evocation of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam will help the world to come together as one family and understand better the wisdom and philosophy of India, an ancient civilisation and a confident modern nation working not only for its own development but also for the development and the well-being of rest of the world.