Pankaj Mishra lives in London and India. He is the author of The Romantics, winner of the Los Angeles Times’s Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, and An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The Guardian. Mishra’s recent books include Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond and From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia.
Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries
by Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya
Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya claim that India has been transformed “from a basket case into a powerful engine of growth.” They are convinced that faster growth and freer markets remain the best remedy for poverty, inequality, pollution, and ill-health. A contrasting view—that “there is something defective in India’s ‘path to development’”—and a very different list of priorities appear in Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze’s An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions.
“Let some people get rich first,” the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proclaimed a generation ago, inaugurating a strange new phase in his country’s—and the world’s—history. It now seems clear that nowhere has capitalism’s promise to create wealth been affirmed more forcefully than in post–World War II Asia. Three new novels examine the deeper perils and fantasies of an economic system that Asians themselves deem mandatory across the continent.
Lyric poetry has long been the most popular literary form in South Asia and the Middle East; poets rather than novelists became the unacknowledged legislators of the new nations that emerged after the breakup of European empires in the mid-twentieth century. As late as the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of …
Growing up in India in the 1970s and 80s, I often heard people in upper-caste middle class circles say that parliamentary democracy was ill-suited to the country. Recoiling from populist politicians who pandered to the poor, many Indians solemnly invoked the example of Singapore’s leader Lee Kuan Yew. Here was a suitably enlightened autocrat whose success in transforming a city-state into a major economic power was apparent to all: clean, shiny, efficient, and prosperous Singapore, the very antithesis of squalor-prone India. Such yearnings for technocratic utopia may seem to have little in common with the middle class protests against “corruption” that recently gained much attention before abruptly losing steam at the end of the year. In fact, all along, there was little about Anna Hazare and his conspicuously middle class followers that suggested support for greater democracy.
Is Asia about to enter a new cold war? Accusing the United States of undervaluing the dollar, China has, after its mainly “peaceful” rise, recently assumed an aggressive posture toward its neighbors. In recent visits both to longstanding American allies (Korea, Japan) and to erstwhile enemies (Vietnam, Cambodia), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has proposed the US as a counterpoint to China. Seeking to match the Bush administration’s landmark nuclear agreement with India in 2005, Barack Obama is also supporting India’s case for permanent membership on the UN Security Council.
The columnist Thomas Friedman interprets such moves as “containment-lite,” invoking George Kennan’s proposal in 1947 that Soviet expansionism “be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.” Apparently, such counter-force against China is already being applied. An Indonesian political scientist told the New York Times last week that his government feels the US is putting “too much pressure” on Indonesia and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “to choose sides.”
In New Delhi last week the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met for the first time since the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008; the official talks concluded with both sides arguing over what they should talk about. India demanded that Islamabad prosecute the Pakistani militants responsible for the Mumbai attacks more vigorously. Pakistan insisted that the core issue between the two countries remains the India-held Muslim majority valley of Kashmir, where, out of a population of some 7.6 million people, more than 80,000 people have died since an insurgency supported by Pakistan began in 1989.
Obama’s long speech on Afghanistan did not refer even once to India or Kashmir. Yet India has a large and growing presence in Afghanistan, and impoverished young Pakistanis, such as those who led the terrorist attack on Mumbai last November, continue to be indoctrinated by watching videos of Indian atrocities on Muslims in Kashmir. (Not much exaggeration is needed here: an Indian human rights group last week offered evidence of mass graves of nearly 3000 Muslims allegedly executed over the last decade by Indian security forces near the border with Pakistan.) Another terrorist assault on India is very likely; it will further stoke tensions between India and Pakistan, enfeebling America’s already faltering campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda.