chapter  11
13 Pages

India and Switzerland as multinational federations


The basic question that I seek to raise in the discussion in this chapter relates to relative political stability and unity in multinational countries. In this age of what Hobsbawm calls ‘nation-splitting’,2 the unity and integrity of Switzerland and India, and their ability to hold themselves together in the face of a number challenges are remarkable indeed. Generally, India and Switzerland do not seem to be comparable. In terms of size, population, levels of development, culture and history, they are simply incomparable. Comparing the two would mean to compare, as if, the rich with the poor, which is not usually done. In that case, the more appropriate word to be used is ‘contrast’, not ‘comparison’. Switzerland, a very small country in central Europe, population estimated to be around seven million, is one of the top richest countries in the West and the world. India, by contrast, the second most populous country after China in the world (population over a billion now), is a very vast yet poor, developing post-colonial country in Asia marked by mass poverty, a high degree of unemployment, massive illiteracy, regional imbalances in development and marked social and economic inequalities. Switzerland’s democracy is the oldest in the world, and its confederal experience was more than 600 years old before it was transformed into a federation in 1848. Both democracy and federalism in India, by contrast, are of a relatively recent origin beginning in the 1950s after two centuries of British colonial rule.