In an interview to The Statesman the WPF’s Founding President Vladimir Yakunin reflects on education and youth employment in BRICS nations and on dialogue of civilizations.
“For us dialogue of civilizations is that every nation, big or small, should be able to protect their integrity, tradition and way of development of life.”
The standard of education in the BRICS nations is getting better. However, there are not enough employment opportunities. In your opinion, what should be done to strike a balance between the two?
First of all I would like to say that BRICS, which began as an idea of some financial consultants, now appears very sustainable. I am very interested in the development of BRICS policy. I believe that BRICS nations can improve employment opportunities for youth by making a comprehensive programme of developing infrastructure. All of us are lacking infrastructure, which includes railways, roads, education, water supply, electricity, etc. It is so huge that once such a programme is set up, it will give employment to many youth. Not everyone would like to be an engineer, there are a number of other jobs that people want to take up and once we start working on this, we can create many jobs for our youth. It is not possible to have high employment rate without creating jobs.
Bilateral relations between India and Russia have been quite good. There was a time when a considerable number of Indian students used to go there for higher studies, which is not the case any more. Indian students prefer the US and Western European countries over Russia. Do you think that they will look up to Russia in times to come?
This is a sad fact. Nevertheless, Indian society values its own traditions, history and beliefs that protect India from being a part of what is called western. India will always be different, and it is sustainable. We in Russia are facing the same challenge. Even if our leaders decide that we should be a part of western society, it is not possible. We should maintain the mosaic of civilizations, which is best for development. One should not try to copy either the West or Russia. But in terms of relations and values we have so many things in common with India, I think we will be back where we were some years ago. Indian students will return to Russia.
The perception about India as a post-colonial nation is changing quickly as is slated to become a super power in a few years. How do you see this assessment?
Some economic analyses are showing that India is going to overtake the speed of development of China in five years. However it says very little in itself. In my research analysis of the situation, the statistical data of GDP growth does not reflect the real situation. For example, the service in a restaurant is bringing some proportion of GDP growth, while a family feeding ten members does not reflect anything on GDP. So I suppose the model should be changed and BRICS should consider making new models to assess development.
So you mean to say that BRICS should emerge as an alternative to the bigger economies in the world that consider GDP growth as a benchmark for development?
I am not talking about bigger economies. I would avoid using the term alternative. However, BRICS should introduce a new paradigm to evaluate growth. The evaluation process should change and we should look at sustainable development.
You have been involved in Dialogue of Civilizations. Tell us something about that.
Any new idea is a well-forgotten old idea. I don’t consider it was Samuel P Huntington who gave the idea of ‘clash of civilizations’ or Iranian President Khatami, who brought in the concept of ‘dialogue of civilizations’. These ideas had been floating in society for a long time. But in practical life, we should refer to these sources and work for a better world through dialogue. The UN introduced alliance of civilizations, more than 150 countries are a part of that. They are given written material to speak about; that is not dialogue. That is a kind of negotiation. For us dialogue of civilizations is that every nation, big or small, should be able to protect their integrity, tradition and way of development of life.
What role do you think India can play in Dialogue of Civilizations?
Of course, with its rich history and tradition of tolerance, with all the major faiths co-existing for so long, India already has invested a lot in the development of mankind. Gandhi’s activism with non-violence is one of the greatest examples of that. India in my view should be playing a major role in Dialogue of Civilizations.