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India: Superpower in the Making?


Harsh Sethi

INDIA EXPRESS: THE FUTURE OF A NEW SUPERPOWER
By Daniel Lak
Penguin/Viking, New Delhi,, 2008, pp. 314, Rs. 499.00

THE INDIAN RENAISSANCE: INDIA'S RISE AFTER A THOUSAND YEARS OF DECLINE
By Sanjeev Sanyal
Penguin/Viking, New Delhi,, 2008, pp. 230, Rs. 499.00

INDIA: A CULTURAL DECLINE OR REVIVAL?
By Bharat Gupt
D.K. Printworld, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 236, Rs. 300.00

INDIA 2008
By Business Standard
B.S. Books, Delhi, 2008, pp. 286, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXXIII NUMBER 3 MARCH 2009

Not too many would have believed, even a year back, that matters could so quickly come to such a sorry pass. For most young Indians, and India is young, the immediate past had been dominated by a discourse of ‘finally having arrived’. True, we had our problems. But then which large country does not? As Ram Guha so evocatively writes, ‘India is both an unnatural nation as well as an unlikely democracy. Never before has a single political unit been constructed from such disparate and diverse parts. Never before was a largely illiterate population given the right to choose its own rulers. For India to be both united and untroubled would be a miracle. For it to be both democratic and free of strife would be doubly so.’   Yet, half a decade of high growth and dizzying stock market gains, the never-ending chatter about India as the new emerging power, not just in its backyard of South Asia, but globally, had bewitched the young, or at least those who partook of the boom, into an unusual phase of self-confidence. ‘We are as good as anyone else.’ More than secure jobs, the young were seeking out opportunity, and in arenas and occupations undreamt of only a few years back. As IT firms continued to dazzle and Indian companies went on a global acquisition spree, Bollywood started making news and the Indian cricket team started winning overseas, we believed we had become the new destination. And finally, when the Nuclear Suppliers Group put its seal of approval on the Indo-US nuclear deal, ending decades of nuclear isolation, the cup of joy seemed full.   Forgotten in all this exultation of glitzy malls and burgeoning forex reserves was the other reality, not just of the other ‘not so Shining India’—of the poor and unemployed, the farmer suicides, the urban underclass and the millions forced to migrate for survival—but of our endemic inability to fix our crumbling institutions—political, economic and cultural. What were we to make of our singular inability to imagine new institutions, new styles of working and relating, of constructing a new discourse and public culture to serve a billion plus population, one whose aspirations had been ignited. Above all, of the absence of a leadership who could inspire. As dreams clash with reality, it is not easy to be optimistic.   But then, this is 2009 not 2008. We are still to ...


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