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Mar 19, 2005
Elements of India’s emerging success

India has been posting around 6% growth for a decade. It’s knowledge proficiency has been known for a little more than that. It has been a democracy for half a century and has cherished family values for millennia.

So what’s new that’s causing this new chorus of India praise? In the past six weeks a slew of columnists have been ‘discovering’ these long known virtues.

John Pesek [International Herald Tribune, Feb 15, 05] cautions the G7 nations against “down playing India’s potential relative to that of China.” Economists have a poor record of predicting winning nations says Morgan Stanley’s Danial Lian. Even as they betted that Japan would lead the Pacific Century, it’s economy tottered and China arose in the Nineties.

Pesek goes on to imply that the world has been into denial about China’s fragile systems - political and economic. India’s on the other hand are robust. Its “entrepreurial vigour is more impressive than China’s”. Its well developed financial markets are fueling capital formation. “What China must build from scratch, India has up and running”. He concludes that. “Western investors ultimately could favour India over China”.

Not just investors, the US government too must serenade India ,says David Kirkpatrick [Fortune, Feb 23, 2005]. He merely adds to the rising clamour for closer ties between these two countries. Typical of American sensibilities, the writer’s enthusiasm is due largely to how Citibank ATMs, Dells and other American brands are comfortingly ubiquitous in India. He also marvels how he was able to video-conference his family from a Bangalore hotel lobby using his laptop.

Kirkpatrick does eventually get to the substantive part of what makes India really tick: “I would walk into an office filled with fresh-faced young people and be so struck by their energy and enthusiasm that I had to believe the infrastructure problem could somehow be overcome. The will to succeed there is so strong”. And then he declares: “I found India so enthralling that I could imagine living there someday”. How nice.

Ali Al-Baghi, a former UAE minister for oil, writing in the Wall Street Journal, is more direct and pertinent about why India will be a success story: “The difference between us and a country like India is our Arab mentality. Our mentality has led us to where we are now, while the mentality of Indians has pushed them to their current high position.” He then admires: “It has achieved huge success and amazing developments in a variety of fields because it favoured democracy, peace, development and is strongly against any kind of extremism. Isn’t it enough that hundreds of millions of Indians, who are mostly non-Muslims, are being ruled by a Muslim President”.

Well, you wouldn’t quite say ‘ruled’ but a pardonable error in one who doesn’t live in a democracy. By the way, is it only such people who will adore India’s democratic ways, whereas the ‘Free World’ would adore China instead and look at India only when it ripens as a market for its brands?

The prestigious New Scientist is not given to such political discussion but to reporting science readably. Still, its Special Edition [Feb 19, 2005] on “India - the next knowledge superpower” carries almost nothing totally new that has not been noted widely in the last couple of years. May be our self-assurance has so grown that we no longer gloat over western raves as we did a decade ago.

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