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The relevance of China to India

Now that the World Bank has applauded China's anti-poverty record, Indians must rejoin the debate.

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This mid-summer 2004, it is introspection time in India. The recent general elections, have triggered many streams of debate. Every stake-holder has an interpretation of convenience.

Of the many subjects that are up in the air now, the economy is the one most glibly commented upon. In the space of just three months, the public mood has gone from sanguinity to doubt. The 'public mood' in India, one must hasten to explain, radiates from just about 100 million or so Indians—not necessarily,the well-to-do— who are given to opinions. However slight their weightage in the poll process, they do actively affect the political process that follows a poll. Their minds—happily— are open to facts and logic. It is worth addressing them for they influence the choices India makes.

No more fuzz:

India in the 21st century, is a different place. Several sections of the society—hitherto sullen— have seen change and improvement. Others—even as they remain outside the loop— are witnesses to those changes. No longer is India, a hopeless nation. Charismatic sloganeers may have thriven in bleaker times. Today's Indians ponder the public life. And the economy has a huge share of their minds. Within it, concerns are of unevenness or lack of access to the prosperity pie. Not of, despair.

So, India is assessing solutions that will enfold more citizens. Must it reverse or slow the modernisation process, undertaken in the last decade? Or whether the economy should be broadened and deepened. Should the economy be muscular or cuddly. Can it be both? The time has come for everyone to make a choice regarding a development model suited for India. The era of ambivalence is over.

More so, in the light of China Shining. News from there has always swayed Indians. In their eyes China has been shining for a long time. When an Indian tourist comes back from China in awe of its visible prosperity, it matters little to the overall mood. Indian businessmen's enduring admiration for China's ways can be explained away by their impatience with procedures in India. Left leaning politicians and commentators wear their loyalty on their sleeves and their views can therefore be annotated.

But when the London Guardian headlines an article [by Jonathan Watts], "World applause for Beijing's record achievement in creating and spreading wealth", it's time to sit up. There are more amazing statements to contend with.

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