India as a precedent for World Federalism


 

To most people, a world-government seems like an overly-idealistic goal, something so unfeasible it might as well never be achieved, and if you were to not put much thought into the idea, that makes complete sense. “Humans are tribalistic and materialistic beings, there is no way all people throughout the world could get along with one another when there is so much that divides us, and as such, a world federation is bound to fail.” How could someone dispute something so blatantly obvious?


As it turns out, not only is a world federation possible to create, but something very similar to a stable, flourishing and peaceful world government already exists. To solidify both of these statements, I will weigh in the arguments used against world federalism against the reality of the Federal Republic of India, a microcosm of the Earth in of itself, the nation with one of the highest levels of linguistic, cultural, religious and social diversity in the whole world.


India as a civilisational entity


To draw a fair comparison between a Global Union and India, we must recognise the fact that India’s conception wasn’t caused by external factors such as foreign invaders or even native unifiers. While India had multiple periods of unity prior to independence (under the Mauryans, the Guptas, the Delhi Sultanate and Mughals, the Marathis and finally the British), none of these unifiers aimed to create a whole new national identity for their subjects. Rather, the three indigenous unifiers intended to unify a fragmented people, meanwhile the imperialists intended to exploit and erase the already existing Indic civilisation. As stated in the book The Fundamental Unity of India by Radha Kumud Mukherjee, India owes its existence not to top-down attempts of forming a coherent national identity, but to its uniqueness and diversity, setting it apart from the rest of the world. In a sense, India today isn’t an example of “unity in diversity”, but rather of “unity through diversity”, that is, an identity characterised not by uniformity and xenophobia (namely the pillars of conventional, European nationalist movements), but by acceptance of differences and love towards fellow people.


Now, take a moment and think about the goals of world federalism (uniting the world through peaceful methods and teaching the many different groups of peoples to co-exist with one another in harmony). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?


As history shows, India has for millennia been a land of diversity, where all peoples lived together without hierarchies based off of race, religion or ethnicity, while being Muslim in the Mughal Empire or White under the British Empire may have granted you unfair benefits, these inequalities were attempts to divide society for the benefit of the ruling class, and not reflective of the vast majority of the population, who remained united despite these impositions. If India could foster a society that was tolerant of all types of people regardless of these differences, why would it be impossible or impractical to replicate this process elsewhere?


The “practical” argument against global governance


An often used argument against world federalism is that ruling over nearly 8 billion people is bound to be inefficient and impractical, but this thought fails to hold ground against two of the largest democracies in the world, both of which are flourishing states even today. India and the United States, together accounting for over a fifth of the global population, show not only that it is possible to maintain an efficient government and keep the populace happy even in the face of major logistical challenges, but also that an individual can possess multiple overlapping identities. That is to say a Muslim individual doesn’t have to sacrifice their religion in order to be a fully fledged citizen of India, and individuals from, say, Assam and Gujarat, can proudly share a common nationality and heritage without the suppression of one group or another, all the while maintaining their own unique traits and cultures.


In a similar vein to the previous argument, one can say that a united world government may cause the eradication of certain traditions, cultures and languages, if not through violent means (as discussed above), then through subconscious prioritisation and/or movement of peoples and ideas. This, while true, isn’t exactly an argument against world federalism as a concept, but at best a critique of a potential problem a world federation may have. Even if that weren’t the case, protecting culture doesn’t entail severely limiting population or ideological influx, which would occur regardless of whether a world federation forms. A good example of what I mean would be comparing Europe and India, both being land masses with similar sizes and population, with one main differentiating factor: a common nationality; Europe even with the European Union, isn’t as politically united as India, and yet, the Dutch and the Germans are closer to one another than, say, the Marathis and the Gujaratis.



Conclusion: Unity through Diversity


While it may be comforting to learn that the Western ideals of nationalism, homogeneity and universalism have a major antithesis in the form of the Indic Civilisation, we must remember that not even a nation characterised by peace, harmony and love for all life is free from the impediments our current model of Westphalian sovereignty puts upon all the peoples who inhabit this world. Since the dawn of time, humanity has been divided, if not by physical realities such as geography, then by artificial constructs such as race and nationality, we have been too engrossed in seeing the world through a tribalistic lens, too focused on what differentiates us than what unites us, and that very attitude is the cause of most of our suffering, be it on the individual or the global scale. Hinduism states that everything which forces us to imagine the world and its people as intrinsically different from ourselves is mere Maya, and to break free from that illusion of tribalism and belligerently enforced uniqueness is to achieve Nirvana, that is, to attain complete peace. The current state of the world is certainly not enviable, but the insights we gain from Indian history and culture give us a whole new perspective on what we can do to fix these issues and how exactly we need to go about bringing change. This world needs to realise that Westphalian sovereignty has failed at maintaining peace and has caused untold harm to the humanity and the rest of the world in many forms, and that not only do we have a viable alternative to global anarchy (namely world federalism), but also that many of world federalism’s principles, despite seeming novel and utopian, are millennia old.


Humanity is diverse, and while that may cause one to believe that a global federal union is impossible to implement, what we need to learn is that we don’t need world federalism because all humans are exactly the same everywhere, but precisely the opposite. We are all unique, and that is what binds us together.


 

This opinion piece was kindly provided by a member of the Young World Federalists. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.