By Fareed Zakaria
The most important global trend of the last twenty years has been the rise of China, which has changed economics, politics, culture and geo-politics around the world. Were India to unlock its economy, its demographics alone would ensure that its rise would be the defining trend of the next twenty years. That is what’s at stake – for India and the world – in its upcoming national elections.
Will India finally live up to its potential? Many foreign observers, particularly Western businesspeople, look at India today and despair. The country simply cannot reform at the pace needed to fulfill its ambitions. Everything gets mired in political paralysis.
This is true and unfortunate. But the India we show you in our special report this Sunday is a moving picture not a snapshot. I left India thirty years ago, but have visited it every year since, and the pictures have gotten brighter, more dynamic and more hopeful. Remember, the country’s economy might be sluggish now, but it has grown steadily for the last 15 years, faster than any large economy except China.
In states as disparate as Gujarat, Odisha, and Bihar, governments are aggressively promoting economic reforms.
This is not simply a story about one person – Narendra Modi, the controversial chief minister of Gujarat. That state of 60 million people has grown almost as fast as China for two decades – and with seven chief ministers at the helm, not just Modi.
Other states are growing fast as well. Twenty years of economic growth have transformed the country. The Indian middle class now numbers more than 250 million, while technology is giving the new middle class the power to make their voices heard. Nearly three-quarters of the population has mobile phones. Texting and similar methods have now become a routine way to petition government, organize protests, and raise awareness.
India will never be a China, a country where the population is homogeneous and where a ruling elite directs the nation’s economic and political development. In China, the great question is whether the new president, Xi Jinping, is a reformer – he will need to order change, top-down, for that country.
In India, the questions are different: are Indians reformers? Can millions of people mobilize and petition and clamor for change? Can they persist in a way that makes reform inevitable? That is the only way change will come in a big, open, raucous democracy like India. And when that change comes, it is likely to be more integrated into the fabric of the country and thus more durable.
And were India to succeed, it could have enduring lessons for the world. China is the rare case of an efficient, pro-growth one party state, a model that is rare in history and difficult to emulate. India is a big, messy, diverse democracy. If it can make the hard choices that ensure growth and progress, then many, many countries around the world can find their own paths to success.
Frankly, if India’s dysfunctional democracy can deliver, well, there might even be some lessons there for Washington, DC.
December 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm
What India needs massive investment in infrastructure both commercial and social enterprise, that alone is like Trillion dollars. Obiviously this will require atleast another 1 decade if the government can focus on it on lines similar like China, than we will be talking.
There is nothing fantastic about Indian Democracy and nothing overtly evil about Chinese communists. The skill of the cat is catching the mice and if Indian democracy cannot deliver better living standards to its citizens than its unfortunate.
As of now China is too far ahead of India but the same China was with India in 1970s so nothing is impossible, if India can get its act together, IF that is !!
Daniel Daronda says:
December 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride………… meanwhile, innocent people in a train burn to death in Anantapur……
December 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm
And nothing of this sort happens in the US or in any other country? Does’nt your country fought a worst civil war ever? Did’nt you have wishes and then worked towards achieving those? Yes, if wishes were horses, every beggar will ride one, and we are seeing that today in the developed world, how you are riding your horses, that you wished for. Just because you could write a few good sentences does not make you more developed. A developed country will have developed brains and not witty worthless ones!
December 29, 2013 at 1:49 am
Have you ever counted the number of “innocent” people behind bar falsely? I am sure it may not have occurred to you?
December 29, 2013 at 4:26 am
all because of an italian’s management, and high interest rate credit from imf and/or world bank.
December 29, 2013 at 7:30 am
Daniel all the ills you have mentioned are exiting, they happen because of lack of social sensitivity, disregard to laws by both public and officials. I think conducting a fair election at a massive scale is NOT measure of success when after 65 years of independence we are still a develping country.
To say that the foreigners looted us a lame excuse my fellow country men give. The fact is even now millions have been looted by our own people, therefore stopping the development at many levels causing the whole chain reaction.
Untill the people of India start shouting in one voice, i.e. focus on governance, these so called wishes are going to remain wishes unfortnately. I hope my fellow country men start taking building of India seriously and not fall for false promise of granduers of democracy.
India was never a full autocracy in its 5000 years or beyond. It was always called as “Gana-Ragya”, people’s rule, Pradhan Mantri (Pime Minister) was always present in the courts, the King was NOT involved in day to day ruling. People will disagree on this but as i have said earlier, why are we debating on the colour of CAT when the Indian CAT is not catching its mice while the Chinese has done it long ago !!!