If dialogue is the live-language of a drama, it is also an integral part and parcel of democracy and diplomacy. It is a means to bring different cultures together and, thus, create a cultural collage that enriches history and heritage. It is the most worthy way to engage people with different opinions in discussion, and narrow the areas of differences and distrust.
There is no gainsaying that dialogue promotes peace whereas demagogy wages war. The former lays emphasis on deliberation and discussion, whereas the latter fuels the fires of obduracy and outrage.
In the words of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the need for a “culture of dialogue”, in the midst of burning issues confronting the nation and world at large, could not have come at a more opportune time. His appeal on the occasion of the international conference on “Dialogue among Civilisation” was not a mere ritual or empty platitude, but a crying need of the hour. In his opinion, “the more a nation can harmonise differences at home, the greater will be its ability to contribute to a dialogue at the inter-national level.”
India as a meeting point of “faith routes” is not the result of some fluke or freak of chance happening, but an outstanding outcome of consistent and constant convergence of its telling trust in the ‘culture of dialogue’.
It has been an accepted principle of human relations and bonds of friendship and understanding among nation States that it is only through the process of dialogue that something good and conducive comes about.
Whatever reservations we may have on other counts, dialogue and discussion do deliver free both individuals and social groups from the demonic darkness of discord and disharmony.
Public dialogue is a powerful instrument for expanding social opportunities. It is vital for sustaining a healthy democracy. Loud protests and public debates are essential for a collective social response in policy making and legislation. It helps to promote mutual understanding and leads to consensus and conciliation on vexed issues that have the potential to bedevil relations and provoke bloody conflicts and confrontations.
After many an armed conflict, it is the healing touch of dialogue and deliberations across the table that clinches the issue, whether that be a legacy of history or the making of perverted perceptions. If civilisation has managed to survive the deadly on slaughts of savagery and fanaticism, it is because of the good sense that dialogue breeds among people of vision and wisdom.
Worried at being linked to terrorism, Muslim scholars at an international conference (held at Putrajaya, Malaysia) proposed encouraging greater dialogue with the West and banning books that promote extremism. “Islamic nations should wholeheartedly open our arms to the people who want peace with us and reject violence against the innocent. I do not subscribe to the idea of a clash among civilisations.” (Dr. Mohammed Sayed Tantwi- Sunni Muslim World’s highest religious authority.)
There is no better tribute to the tenacity of dialogue as a most human and civilised way of reaching out to the people than the views of Muslim scholars expressed at the Conference. This approach fully endorses India’s longstanding experience and ancient tradition of fostering dialogue among communities, cultures and civilisations.
Needless to reiterate that, every initiative on a dialogue among civilisations is a hopeful sign. The determination to broaden, deepen and sustain the process of dialogue would enable us to find answers to several questions related to future, without wars and violence, besides preservation of unique cultural identity and artistic wealth of nations.
“The greatest enemy of dialogue is a closed mind.” (Dr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO). In order to break the ice or the deadlock over issues that threaten to divide communities and countries into hostile camps, there is no alternative to the culture of dialogue, however long it may take to produce the desired results.
The success of democracy and diplomacy lies in the fact that recourse to dialogue is a much better option than coercion or imposition of some concocted solution. Even in the literary genre of drama, the role of dialogue is both pivotal and paramount. Through the medium of dialogue, both critics and ordinary play-viewers aver whether a particular character is ‘flat’ or ’round’.
The present day world, plagued by terrorism, violence, hegemonic tendencies and the like, harking back to the past glories or technological triumphs of today, will not take us any further unless we are able to push the ominous forces to the sidelines.
The atavistic fears raised by academicians like Samuel P. Huntington, in his blood-curdling theory of ‘clash of civilisation’, need to be addressed by following wholeheartedly the letter and spirit of the ‘culture of dialogue’.