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Paeans to a Rising India

Harish Khare

By Dietmar Rothermund
Yale University Press, London, 2008, pp. 274, price not stated.


As a senior European academician who has devoted a whole life to studying South Asian history and politics, Professor Dietmar Rothermund is best equipped to chronicle the rise of India as an ‘Asian Giant’. He has been visiting India for nearly five decades, and is a familiar face to Indian policy-makers and leaders. He has now produced a comprehensive book that can only be called a lover’s ode, a work that he has probably been wanting to write all these years but only in the last decade did the objective conditions permit him such a romantic engagement.   The rise of China and India as the fastest growing economies of the world has captured the western scholars’ attention. But Professor Rothermund avoids the fashionable comparison between India and China; instead, he plays to his strength and concentrates on those factors and forces that have helped the Indian state order to acquire the requisite inner resilience to engage confidently with an increasingly globalized world.   The basic argument is spelt out in a very brief prologue itself: ‘The Indian giant is rising like Gulliver after being released from the web of threads with which he has been pinned down. The rise is a laborious process which is still in progress, and it is irreversible. India’s captivity was self-imposed; after attaining Independence, it experienced a long period of voluntary isolation. This contributed to the development of the inner strength of the nation, but it also fostered an introvert mentality and resulted in a lack of competitiveness. Finally, India broke out of this charmed circle of isolation and boldly faced the challenge of globalization.’   The rest of the book is an elaboration of this theme, with a comforting assumption that the giant has indeed arisen. Because of his desire to produce a comprehensive account of the new rising India, he necessarily has to limit himself to scratching the surface. He has produced excellent postage-stamp size accounts; each rich, intricate and colourful, making a very pleasing album. He relies mostly on secondary sources, though he did conduct some interviews, including one with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for this book.   In sharp contrast to the condescending tone of the American scholar and the patronizing tone of the British academician, Professor Rothermund has deployed a sympathetic tone, and in the process has managed to produce a very self-sufficient introductory book for European students who may be ...

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