Friday, January 2, 2009

India Rising?

Gurcharan Das, was a CEO, of Proctor and Gamble, India, who, after retiring, turned to pontificating on the economy (pro-liberalisation, needless to say), reservations (against, needless to say, since it devalues merit, to which an economist friend of mine pointed out that it doesn't require so much merit to sell soap and shampoo) and about everything else in between and became a fixture on talk shows where he would be considered an expert on everything that came his (or Barkha Dutt's) way. Along the way he wrote a book and now he has made it to the New York Times Op-Ed column making fatuous remarks about India's economic rise (yes, yet again).

However in the middle of all the verbiage and vacuity and some (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) claims about the caste system being responsible for India's economic success (Vaishyas being the trader case are trained to accumulate wealth and more such piffle along those lines, forgetting that neither Narayan Murthy nor Azim Premji are Vaishyas) he actually manages to quote an interesting observation of Lee Kwan Yew - why is it that China's rise is considered a threat whereas India's is just considered a wonderful success story. For an explanation, he goes all the way back to the Rig Veda dismissing the influence of Gandhi and the Buddha in between.

I find it difficult to subscribe to his somewhat jingoistic ending wherein he gleefully considers the possibility of India's formidable presence being a source of worry for the Chinese. However, there is more than a grain of truth in the fact that as a noisy and overly diverse democracy (albeit a bumbling and chaotic one) rather than a monolithic political entity like the Chinese system, India is automatically less of a threat than China. Despite the muscular rhetoric of the Hindu right, it is perhaps indeed true that most Indians' primary objective is not to dominate the world but to have a good life, enough to eat and a bit of luxury. In the Hindi catchy election slogan, it is BSP Bijli, Sadak, Pani i.e Electricity, Roads and Water and perhaps a little more beyond.

I think one would be doing the ordinary Chinese people an injustice to claim that, contrary to Indians, they are all interested in a world dominating role for their country. But the actions of the authoritarian regime in the way it treats its own dissenting citizens, let alone others, creates a fear factor over how they would behave towards other peoples, in the unlikely event of becoming a superpower.

7 comments:

Anant said...

Perhaps India rising is not seen as a threat because Uncle Sam knows that our rulers are inveterate book-lickers and will never cross their path? Enquring minds want to know...

Rahul Basu said...

Come, come, Anant -- is it always necessary to be so negative about our country? Are we really so bad that we have to be trashed by our own people at every step? Do we indeed have no redeeming qualities....

Anant said...

Rahul: please note my exquisitely crafted sentence "...our rulers are...", which is to say that it does not pertain to our people!

Rahul Basu said...

Anant: In a democracy, the rulers (rather outmoded term, that) are chosen from amongst the people. There is, therefore, no difference. What is damning about the rulers is equally so for the ruled.

Anant said...

Can one but bow to such superior wisdom? I must be more circumspect in my negativity in future, it seems.

AMOK said...

Well Anant you were quite circumspect indeed. You said "Book-lickers". This, as everyone knows, means something completely different, not to be confused with "boot-lickers". Book-lickers value knowledge. Boot-lickers value power, good or bad.

Why indeed is China considered a threat and India not? It takes one to know one. There are many similarities between China and the US. India is dissimilar from both US and China.

Anant said...

Amok: this is true, indeed! [Gosh, you sure have an eagle-eye for typos, intended and unintended.]