Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Myth of the New India

Pankaj Mishra likes to swim against the tide. When the world is singing paens to India's economic miralcle, Mishra writes an op-ed in the NYT questioning the fundamentals behind the assumption of India's miracle. And he marshalls some convincing data to prove his point:

"INDIA is a roaring capitalist success story." So says the latest issue of Foreign Affairs; and last week many leading business executives and politicians in India celebrated as Lakshmi Mittal, the fifth richest man in the world, finally succeeded in his hostile takeover of the Luxembourgian steel company Arcelor. India's leading business newspaper, The Economic Times, summed up the general euphoria over the event in its regular feature, "The Global Indian Takeover": "For India, it is a harbinger of things to come — economic superstardom."

"This sounds persuasive as long as you don't know that Mr. Mittal, who lives in Britain, announced his first investment in India only last year. He is as much an Indian success story as Sergey Brin, the Russian-born co-founder of Google, is proof of Russia's imminent economic superstardom."

"...The main reason for this is that India's economic growth has been largely jobless. Only 1.3 million out of a working population of 400 million are employed in the information technology and business processing industries that make up the so-called new economy."

I agree with Mishra's conclusion--we need to do a lot of work before we can rightfully claim that the 21st century is the century of India: "Many serious problems confront India. They are unlikely to be solved as long as the wealthy, both inside and outside the country, choose to believe their own complacent myths."


Susan Abraham said...

Hi Zafar,
Mr. Lakshmi Mittal is highly regarded in Great Britain for his Indian heritage as well as his international vision - the kind that holds no fullstops, doubts, barriers or limitations to one's heritage or culture, anywhere in the universe.
A rare trait but an excellent one.

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks, Susan. Mittal is definitely a well-celebrated Indian industrialist.

Mishra, as far as I can see, was making a telling point: he would perhaps been fine if Indians celebrated the success of a homegrown industrialist (say Tata or ambanis), and so, the desi euphoria generated by Mittal's aquisition of Arcelor was, in Mishra's eyes, a wee bit weird, maybe a case of misplaced enthusiasm. Of course one need not agree with Mishra on this point.

For example, Indians take pride, and rightly so, in Dr. Hargovind Khurana's discoveries and his Nobel prize win, even though he achieved these things while living in the West.

Susan Abraham said...

Hello Zafar,
Just writing to say how very sad I feel over the Mumbai blasts and what it has done to beautiful, majestic India. I am literally shocked!
My prayers stay you and your family during this difficult time and here's hoping too that your loved ones and friends back home, are all safe.
God Bless

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks Susan. The Bombay blasts have come as a shock but thankfully, the city is back on its feet from the next morning of the event itself.