Thursday, August 02, 2007

Globalization and it's varied impacts..

Globalization has been a very hot topic which has been discussed many times over on different platforms and in conferences and seminars. This article tries to understand the process of evolution of this global phenomenon across centuries and millenia and attempts of state that this is a phenomenon which has been there for thousands of years can only bring about good to mankind.

The main points in this article are being borrowed from a recent book by Nayan Chanda, from Yale Uty, "Bound Together - how the traders, preachers, adventurers and warriors shaped globalization" - in which pre-historic link to globalization has been made out. In his book Nayan Chanda talks of the different factors which were responsible for globalization from ancient times.

The first group of traders in the olden days travelled across borders and helped countries trade in exchange for what they wanted, either by barter or for the currency of those times. They paved the way for opening up sea routes which led to the other exploits by preachers and adventurers later on. India was famous for it's spices, pepper and ivery. We exchanged it for silk, chinese porcelain, paper and so on from China, Arabia etc.. This trade continues even to this day. Sea Links between Arabia, China, India, South East Asia, Europe, America were all discovered by brave men and their disciplined sub-ordinates who braved the seas and the vagaries of nature to present us with our present day knowledge of the world and it's wonders.

The present day traders, similar to their counterparts of yesteryear are the multinational corporations of the world ( there are many from India too..) who are establishing in different countries going across borders and helping in the trade, manufacture of goods at different places and consumption by different people. Rise of living standards in different parts of the world have automatically given the push and raised the demand for such products which require to be manufactured not in their own countries of consumption but from across the globe, utilising abundantly available, good quality raw materials employing skilled labour.

Global sourcing is a hot word for supply chain professionals which implies procuring the cheapest and best raw materials from the best sources from across the world at the lowest costs of transportation, at the right times with assurances of quality and so on. For computer hardware, we find the cheapest sources in the world are in China and Malaysia. Computer assemblers and manufacturers from across Asia and the rest of the world procure from these sources to give the maximum value to customers at the best price. Traders thus have played a pivotal role in the globalization process and even to this day continue to do so. Simultaneously we find that this gives the necessary impetus and push for development of local, national and international infrastructure.

Preachers were the second group who travelled across borders and sailed the oceans hundreds of years back and spread Christianity, Islam, Budhism, Confucianism and other religions. The preachers were later accompanied by people with vested interests who later on moved to establishing channels of trade and then pursued colonialist desires, for example the Portuguese, English, Dutch missionaries switched over from their core competencies to other areas. This interaction helped in the acceptance of modern thoughts, ideals and beliefs by the people of the world. The world was getting more networked and a livable, united place.

If the old day preachers turned into colonialists with time, the present day preachers are the more aggressive, fundamentalist, intolerant born-again groups representing Christianity and other religions. Also included are the more sober intellectuals representing human rights and environmental activists who are fighting for human rights of the people in the world. This includes specially children's and women's rights besides the rights of HIV patients and so on. Amnesty International, Green Peace are some of the major players in this arena. They are also worried about the impact of global greenhouse gas emissions leading to global warming and melting of glaciers, raising ocean water levels, submerging coasts, destruction of pristine forest cover and the accompanying flora and fauna. A real panicky situation!

The third group are the Adventurers who moved across nations in historic times exploring nations, peoples and this led to the discovery of new lands and sea routes to prosperous lands leading to growth in trade between nations. James Cook, David Livingstone are examples of such personalities. The travels and writings of Marco Polo, Ibn Batuta all point to this natural urge among the people to explore and learn about places and people.

While their effort helped us to explore unknown lands and learn about it's specialities and resources which could be explored, the present day adventurers are more interested in exploring, seeing and feeling new places and experiences than any exploitation. Today we see millions of tourists visiting different countries and learning and experiencing cultures and civilizations. In the process there are lots of interaction of ideas and thoughts among the people. This develops better understanding and tolerance of different cultures, beliefs and ideologies and peoples. A vital component of the present global world order.

The fourth group represented the people who went out in aggression, conquering lands, killing people who opposed their exploits. Warriors like Alexander the Great led their armies to invade foreign countries and demolished cultures and civilizations. We read about such invasions right through history and history is full of such exploits of nations destroying civilizations and cultures. Even though time has passed and education levels have improved, this notion among people has reduced very little.

The present day warriors are from the militarily advanced countries and the lone super power US, trying to establish it's hegemony in other countries, getting countries to accept their supremacy. The attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq was necessitated by factors like religious fundamentalism besides this urge to expand and conquer. In countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and other fragile parts of the world we see that such aggressions are least in the modern world order, thanks to the formation and active participation of multi-lateral bodies like the United Nations and financial arms like World Bank, IMF and so on.

From the Human Genographic Project, sponsored by National Geographic Society of US and IBM, we get insight into how people moved from their base in Africa thousand of years back and spread to other parts of the world by the help of modern technologies like DNA mapping. Humans first moved out from Africa, about 2000 of them, some 40 - 60000 years back and migrated to different parts of the world and set up colonies and civilizations. That is the story of mankind. All evidence points that globalization has been there right from those times. If it were not for the globalizing spirit of our ancestors, we would not have reached where we are presently, doing what we are doing and staying with whom we are staying now.

Globalization is thus not a recent phenomenon, it is as old as mankind and it will be there as long as man walks on this earth. It was known by different names and exists in many forms, some exploitative and some understanding, some helpful and some hostile.

A realisation that this networking of nations and their peoples is what is needed for accelerated development to raise the standards of living of the about six billion inhabitants on this earth has prompted many countries to embrace globalization with open hands. Though India was a late entrant in this process, our progress has been fast and steady. We have integrated so well with the global community like nobody else has. We are today being looked up to for not only serving the back office functions of the western world, but also for leading the world in innovations and research and development. Bangalore and Pune are becoming the research hubs / idea incubators of the world. It can no doubt be stated that Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai form the most vibrant, potential and happening triangle in the world. It is slowly overtaking Ireland and the Latin American countries of Brazil and our immediate neighbour China. The pace and fervour with which China has embraced this process about twenty five years back is there for the whole world to see. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist in his famous book "The World is flat" published by Penguin books, has given a splendid insight into how globalization is presently being pursued with great fervour and vigour in different parts of the world, especially India and China.

The way different countries of the world have embraced this phenomenon, pursuing their areas of strength and overcoming their weaknesses in co-operation, or at times competition with other countries, has increased importance to this global process of migration and interaction. When there is properity all around finally from better utilization and consumption of resources, it ensures world peace and stability, making it a win-win situation for all stakeholders in the process.


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