Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pakistani Myths About India's Resurgence

Hardly a day goes by without headlines about India's success. The headlines proclaim the newly-minted millionaires and billionaires in India, major international acquisitions by Indian companies, the phenomenal growth of Indian economy, India's entry into satellite launch business, the special invited presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the G8 summit, etc. etc. Indian democracy also gets an honorable mention, along with its economy, particularly when comparisons are made with the other Asian giant China. However, there are many myths associated with India's recent economic resurgence on the world stage and its democracy. Here are a few that I have looked into:

India's Success in Information Technology:

There is a common misperception in Pakistan and other countries that India’s information technology(IT) success is the result of Indian government’s grand vision and smart policies in recent years. Based on my knowledge of the situation, nothing could be further from the truth. The Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have succeeded in promoting IT in India, in spite of the Indian government, not because of it. It was their own desire to improve profits by taking advantage of India’s lower costs and availability of skilled engineers and programmers. The essential role the Indian government played started back in the 1950s with the establishment of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) which have produced a lot of very good engineers and technologists. In fact, Silicon Valley owes much of its success to the availability of IIT engineers.

Indian Institutes of Technology:

The credit for the IITs goes mainly to Maulana Abulkalam Azad, India's first education minister, who conceived the IIT system and won Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru's backing to implement it. If other governments are inspired to help the IT sector or any other sector, they must focus on improving access to quality education. But the results are not instantaneous. IITs are like a tree that was planted in the 1950s and it had to be nurtured and cared for to begin to bear fruit beginning in 1970s and 1980s. But the real impact of it started to be felt around the world in the 1990s. Economic reform in India also played an important role in 1990s. Successive Indian governments deserve a lot of credit for the dramatic success and international recognition of the IIT system.

For those interested in learning about the role of India’s governments in promoting business and industry, I recommend watching the Bollywood movie “Guru” that shows the travails of Dhirubhai Ambani, the great but illiterate entrepreneur and industrialist who created the Reliance Group behemoth. Two of his billionaire sons, Mukesh and Anil, are now among the top 5 richest people in the world. The movie might not be totally accurate, but it does capture the essence of India’s socialist government’s fundamentally anti-business attitudes in the 1950s, 60s and the 70s.

India's Democracy:

India continues to be the home of the largest number of poor people in the world. It has the highest population of malnourished children. Its farmers are committing suicides at an alarming rate. It has the dubious distinction of being the murder capital of the world, with the largest number of homicides in the world recorded last year. Some Muslim holy places have been destroyed and a large number of Muslims massacred in Gujarat, UP and Maharashtra riots. In short, the Indian democracy has failed to serve the vast majority of its citizens. For those who sing the praises of India’s democracy, I would suggest viewing Bollywood hit “Sarkar Raj” that portrays the Godfather-like corrupt, criminal and murderous behavior of India’s powerful politicians. Again, I am certain India is blessed with many honest leaders and this must be a caricature of the reality of Indian democracy, but it does bring out the fact of criminals' presence in Indian politics. According to political science Professor Pradeep Chibber of UC Berkeley, as many as 30% of India's legislators have criminal records. However, the good professor contends that democracy is a messy process that must be allowed to work its bugs out. It should not be interrupted or abandoned because the alternatives are far worse. India has a functioning democracy with an independent judiciary and other institutions that are respected. I agree with the professor's assessment.

India as a Model:

It is very tempting to try and copy India's success, particularly among other South Asian nations such as Pakistan. I think it is good to be inspired by your neighbor's success but it's also important to do so smartly. Pakistanis need to think about what they need to accept from India's successful experience. For example,the Pakistani diaspora, particularly the entrepreneurs in developed world, must play their role to spur development and economic growth in their country of origin. But they should reject what does not make sense for them. In fact, Pakistanis should choose the best ideas to adopt from the experiences India and China as well as other successful emerging economies. For example, there should be an exploration to see if the Chinese efficiency can be combined with India's democracy. There should be an attempt to learn from the Chinese experience of lifting over 30% of their population from poverty and building world-class infrastructure at the same time. It is not unusual to see the rich-poor disparities grow in periods of rapid economic growth but there must be constant efforts made to minimize such disparities. And an effort to avoid the scourge of very large number of farmers' suicides that afflicts India's rural population. Pakistanis and others should learn how to embrace diversity and pluralism from the Indian experience that encompasses a large number of ethnicities and religions, while shunning the evils of the caste system and discrimination against women and female infanticide that still plague India.


Anonymous said...

Just got to your blog by chance..and I guess will be keeping in check for future too :)

Interesting piece.

Anonymous said...

A badly done caricature of India at the most! Also a caricature is a distortion but not malicious. You shouldn't have reveal your sources(Bollywood! ;-))..that makes your post very childish. The "Sarkar Raj" type wild governance is a myth. Though there is gundaism in Places like Tamil Nadu,Uttarpradesh, Bihar etc where majority of the people are illiterate and hence unempowered. I see over and over again that caste as huge evil. Its totally wrong. Please read Gurucharandas's "India Unbound". A caste is a very sophisticated social structure constructed over times. But caste discrimination is what is evil. Caste's hierarchical system only works when the members of the community accepts their position in that structure otherwise it won't work. Indian system is too complicated for Abrahamic religious followers to understand becoz they view it from their paradigm of things. And between, I live in kerala which has 100% literacy state and standard of living better than US. You can check on Wikipedia or something(I havnt done it). Again the growth u see in media is result of 200+ million Indian middle class. That means there is more scope for development.

I think the main problem in Pakistan and theocratic counties is they don't have patience and have a culture of intolerance and have a problem standing in queue and waiting for your turn.

That is why u people always depend on military to sort out your problem who is now a problem themselves.

Riaz Haq said...

Dear Jaydev,
Though I understand your point of view, I believe I have attempted to do a fair job of evaluating India, appreciating its strengths and accomplishments while pointing out where it's lacking. And based it on data as well as common folklore to give a full picture as I see it. While I admire Kerala for what it has accomplished in terms of human development, I still see it as mainly an agrarian society, not comparable to the rich, industrialized nations of the world. It's probably more comparable to Cuba which also has 100% literacy and free education and health-care etc. But Cuba's std of living is far below even Malaysia or Thailand. I am also mystified by your defense of the caste system which has no place in civilized society. I hope you'll ponder these points. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it can learn a lot from the Indian experience, including Kerala's, to improve its situation politically, economically,socially etc. But Pakistanis need to be selective in this endeavor.

Anonymous said...

Caste system(to my limited understanding) is sophisticated social structure based on human nature. Brahmins(priests,intellectuals),
shudras(laborors).These are called 4 "varnas". As u can see its sort of descending hierarchy. The caste of a person is called "jyathi". And you can climb your "jyathi" status to the top if ur "jyathi" of the local community increases(by raising you standard of living..pure meritocracy). The higher you go..the stricter the social norms like vegetarianism,hygiene,rituals etc. Now for example my "jyahti" is called "Nair" which was a feared warrier class almost similar to samurai..therefore khatriya varna. But British Raj forcefully stopped martial arts training and now we have been demoted to "Shudras" because we don't train militarily anymore. Kung-fu and all are offshoots of "Kalaripayat" which is our martial art taken by buddists to fend of wild animal attacks. Again plz dont compare 2 Cuba,we hav not only literacy but high standard of living.(education, material comforts etc).
Madhavan Nair(ISRO chairman) A.K.Antony(Defence Minister), Narayanan(NSA,former IB dir),Shivshankar Menon(Foriegn Sec),Prakash Karat(CPM Gen Sec supporting UPA..not anymore;-)), Balakrishnan (Supreme Court Chief justice)..not to mention former RAW cief Homis tharakan, former NSA JN Dixit,former president Narayanan etc all are Keralites.

ref:(for u ..havnt myself checked all the stuff)
Check out this one for Hindu revivalist politics
I am baffled by the sophistication of your views on blog and its refreshing. Most pak blogs have this pungent and black-and-white worldview.Ofcourse u r highly educated but so is bin laden or al zawahiri.

Riaz Haq said...

Last week, I saw an interesting interview of Ted Koppel by Charlie Rose re China. Talking about basic rights, Koppel said what rights are more important than the right not to be hungry, the right to be literate, the right to basic clothes and shelter and the right to make a living. He argued that the Chinese government has been largely successful in providing these basic rights to the Chinese people. This is in sharp contrast to the situation in India where there is still widespread hunger and poverty particularly in rural India.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese Communist style is what experts now called "mature fascism". Their style was emulated in Communist ruled Bengal that lead to rapid industrialization activities and modernization but displaced people have now revolted in Singur and Nadigram in heavy scale and most likely the commies are going to loose the seat in next elections. The morale of the story is the system has to adapt to the local nature of the people. Indian ppl are very chaotic people and bulldozing away homes to create airports and stadiums(like in China) will be met with heavy resistance. Pakistan too emulates Chinese structure for efficiency minus ideology and the results are all very evident in Baluchistan. Inspite of record executions, Chinese machinery is one of worst corrupt. Unlike pak, India is heterogeneous in culture,language,religion etc and it is further complicated by difficult geography. To top it all population density is unbelievable in some places. The problem is most politicians in India never thought India would develop this way and long-term infrastructure plans were non-existent. But all that has change now. Because, in all parts of India, those who want to get voted to power has to talk about their policy of development etc(except may be J&K). No other emotive issue works today unlike in say a decade ago of caste and religion. Economists are confident that India can even survive this abnormal across the board global inflation we are currently witnessing.

Twinyogis said...

Indian democracy is finally coming of age. It is ripening, flexing and maturing at the same time. I believe that what we saw on the parliament floor the other day was a glimpse of a transition. All transitions are always ugly and repulsive, yet they are necessary to create something. Do we hate babies just because they mess around and are huge responsibility? We nurture them, fathom them and wait to see them turn into wholesome human beings. Indian democracy requires patience. The churning is happening and surely will yield better results. As Indians we would like to see a strong Pakistan, a democratic Pakistan so that we do not indulge ourselves in petty mudslinging and waste our resources on futile blame game. I admire Mr Riaz contemplation and his earnest desire to see his country evolving. Only people like Mr Riaz can make a positive difference in changing the perceptions and reality. Anjali.

Anonymous said...


Good article!

Given the difference between the Indian and Pakistani experience - I would say just one thing:

You can throw the same seeds all over the city, but it grows into a tree in only a few places.

Seed is important, but Soil accepting it is critical! Tend to the soil, seeds will grow by themselves.


Anonymous said...

India has its strengths and weaknesses. I agree with Jaydev on somethings as I think that Indian society is far far more complex than what an outsider can comprehend. India is a leading force today because of its diversity and it is something that we are proud of. Bad elements are there in every society and they actually end up making us stronger. Factionalism is prevalent in every society including Abrahamic societies. So lets not talk much about casts and culture especially when when we don't understand each others cultures.

I also believe that you should not compare us with China. Because the Chinese state is not inclusive, neither is it tolerant, nor is it democratic. We are doing things that right way and remember "Slow and steady wins the race". We are probably doing it the slow way but we are doing it the right way. Remember our fundamentals are much more stronger. Risks are far lesser. Being an investor I am sure you will know this.

To tell you the truth I don't think Pakistan can learn anything from India. Because India is tolerant, secular and democratic. I am not sure if Pakistan can do all of this at the same time ever. Actually I don't think any of this really matters. Because what matters is that (love it or hate it) we are a super power in the making and probably you are not.

Ajith said...

Well I guess education in the grassroot level of the country ca eradicate most of the social evils. This so called "medicine" called education can help a human being to analyze things in a systematic and sensible way and sort things out, reduce extreme nationalism that is leading to the bitterness of other nations. Well it wont Happen overnight, it needs some time, but there will definitely be pleasant results. India is definitely an emerging power. But would have been miles ahead had there been no religious hatred, casteism, naxalism among some of the miscreants and some filthy poliiticians. Well pakistan too has a lot of problems, infact quite serious than what india does. I couldnt believe when i read news paper about the enforcement of sharia law in swat valley. What if it spread as a virus and swallow the whole pakistan. India definitely doesnt want to see a destablizing pakistan. I guess Mr 10% just wants to wash his hands off and start relaxing in his presidential palace rather than finding a solution favourable to pakistan.
I have heard my pakistani colleague commenting about the insecurities involved in raising a kid in pakistan.

About the sucess of IT industry india, we really have to thank the vision of Narayana murthy, the founder of infosys, for unleasing the concept of OUTSOURCING. It has really helped increasing the standards of living in india.

Besides that i also hail from the state of Kerala, India. I personally feel the this can taken a role model, becuase of its abudant human resources, standard of living, literacy, most importantly secularism and tolerance among different religions. One cant never see the kind of brotherhood and cooperation among hindus and muslims in any other state of india other than in kerala. You can even see a hindu christian and a muslim eating food from a same plate.

yogadhamma said...

Very interesting read. To India’s great fortune, today People are waking up to the fact that the origin of the caste system was very sophisticated and well thought off. Its only when any social structure degenerates and gets corrupted it starts showing sign of toxicity. That is the time to re-evaluate and to reinvent. India has been putting up a brave fight with many social menaces such as sati, child marriage, women’s education etc that plague the society of yester years. The good works still continues in many other spheres. Our giant leaders, reformers, ordinary citizens all need a pat on their back for this. The sleaze can be found anywhere; it can be in the society, culture, or even in religion. What we need is the will to change and transform and not to turn a blind eye to these shortcomings.
Pakistani society as well as Islam needs to go through that process. For this you will need a great leader like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, who can initiate a grass root level of movement. No doubt, it is going to be a herculean task, but things can certainly change.

Hopewins said...

1992 Annual Investment-
Pakistan Investment: 10 Billion$
India Investment: 60 Billion$
Ratio I/P: 6.0

2002 Annual Investment-
Pakistan Investment: 12 Billion$
India Investment: 120 Billion$
Ratio I/P: 10.0

2012 Annual Investment-
Pakistan Investment: 28 Billion$
India Investment: 660 Billion$
Ratio I/P: 24.0


This is NO MYTH.

This is the FUNDAMENTAL underlying indicator of future growth-potential.

This is the "ENGINE UNDER THE HOOD" of the "economy car".

You can see for yourself:

1992 Annual Investment-
Pakistan Investment: 10 Billion$
Bangladesh Investment: 5.0 Billion$
Ratio B/P: 0.5

2002 Annual Investment-
Pakistan Investment: 12 Billion$
Bangladesh Investment: 12 Billion$
Ratio B/P: 1.0

2012 Annual Investment-
Pakistan Investment: 28 Billion$
Bangladesh Investment: 28 Billion$
Ratio B/P: 1.0