15th August, 2007

Can Britain learn from India?

by Anthony at 2:41 pm    

A short while ago Sunny suggested on the OK blog that Britain needed a written constitution to resolve its many different identity problems. Very kindly he suggested that OurKingdom could host the debate about this, which we would be very happy to do in partnership with sites like Pickled Politics.

But today, to celebrate independence, I’d just like to drop in a note about a brilliant must-read article published a couple of years ago on India’s pioneering constitution. It’s by Rajeev Bhargava who write it for OurKingdom’s mothership openDemocracy.net. It’s here.

Rajeev argues that the Indian constitution is a model. It created a framework for multiculturalism – long before Canada – and, indeed, before the word was coined which is perhaps why it is not recognised for its achievement. He also sets out a case for the way the Indian example redefines ‘secularism’. It has no Jeffersonian ‘wall’ between the state and religion. The latter is recognised as a public and not just a private force and is both protected and limited by the constitution. In this way the Indian constitution shows how modern democracy can adapt to the emergence of multiple religions which are themselves making public and not just private claims

The point for Britain is that a constitution and, more important still, the process of arriving at one, is not just technical or legal. Anyway, for today, let’s celebrate the way India, at least, managed to create a new constitutional settlement in 1950 which, despite some speed-bumps, has lasted and remains well ahead of Britain’s.

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Anthony Barnett writes for openDemocracy.net.
This is a guest post.

Filed under: South Asia

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