Two Indias -- How Class Colors Public Opinion

Bush's approval ratings may be high overall in India, but the country's class differences play a significant role in coloring the reception of American ideals there.

An editorial in today's edition of The Hindu, one of India's largest circulation newspapers, suggests that while the burgeoning middle class seems to embrace the "American Dream," this country's poorest citizens remain suspicious, if not indifferent, to the U.S. agenda. The editorial speaks to the polarized reader commentary that followed yesterday's posting about Bush's high approval ratings among Indians.

The editorial, "From Eisenhower to Clinton to Bush," by Harish Khare, sketches how relations between the U.S. and Indian governments have blossomed since India liberalized its traditionally state-dominated economy in the early 1990s.

"After initial fears and apprehensions about globalisation, the Indian elites -- political, economic, and bureaucratic -- have developed a knack for standing up to the demanding American," Khare says. "Perhaps nothing has helped more to produce a mental comfort level than the experience of former American Ambassadors returning to New Delhi as salesmen for assorted business interests... The India to which Mr. Bush comes is a country that is curiously self-assured, able to take in its stride any visitor, however pretentious."

But as India has moved into the world economy, Indian nationalism has taken two very different forms, he says.

"First, there is metropolitan nationalism, which can be sited in the new Indian middle class. The 300-million-strong group is often inclined to define its interests mostly in economic terms. These Indians have aspirations to improve their lifestyle many times over in their lifetime, and they believe that a serious and sustained economic engagement with the U.S. is the key to those aspirations."

The metropolitan nationalists, Khare says, "have bought into the American dream and its partial replication in India -- shopping malls, computers, cell-phones, metro trains, shining cars, and comfortable apartments."

But they are not uncritical of Washington. They remain "sceptical when it comes to American intentions on accommodating the hardcore Indian sovereign agenda like a nuclear state status, Kashmir, and national unity."

The other kind of Indian nationalism, he says, is found among the country's poor majority.

"This part of India remains unimpressed and uninterested in the U.S. for the simple reason that the 'American dream' has no relevance for 700 million Indians who struggle everyday with deprivations and discomforts," Khare says. For them "the U.S. remains a distant country that can only wish ill for this nation... It was this streak of suspicion that has even questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ability to protect our national interests in the on-going nuclear deal negotiations."

"To this reservoir of traditional suspicion has been added intense discomfort over what the U.S. has shown it is capable of doing to a country -- Afghanistan, Iraq -- in the name of 'a regime change,' Khare adds.

As Bush's visit gets underway, the warm official welcome and the widespread street protests embody the reactions of these two Indias.

By Jefferson Morley |  March 1, 2006; 2:06 PM ET  | Category:  Asia
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Comments

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I'm not sure that this division is as pronounced as the article suggests. The Indian elite and middle classes are accurately described: they understand that the US is a largely benevolent superpower with whom India shares both interests as well as perspectives.

India's poor are generally uninterested rather than hostile. They're more concerned with daily sustenance and loca politics than foreign affairs, never mind the US.

A recent Pew poll found that 71% of Indians had a favorable view of the US and 54% had a favorable view of President Bush. That's a pretty consistently positive picture for America that is also among the most favorable for the US around the world. It also highlights as near a consensus as could be realistically asked for in a democracy over pursuing strong relations with the US.

Posted by: H Juneja | March 1, 2006 03:02 PM

The potryal of the divide by the author is more a fantasy than a reality which is rightly pointed out in the comment by an user. The middle class in India, which supports US, but keep in mind not unconditional, does because it is well informed about the positives of the US system. The opposing or rather indifferent class which consists of the poor are mainly not informed regarding the good virtues of the US system. If well informed I bet any country and class in the world would agree, that US as a country has not the perfect but the still the best system comparable to any current system in the world. Hence the divide is more between those who are informed and those not informed. So informing the masses regrding the good things about the US should be the mission of all.

Posted by: A Kumar | March 1, 2006 03:36 PM

The Hindu article is erudite in its analysis. It is a bitter fact that as the members of the metropolitan Indian middle-class (of which I grudgingly claim membership) are burgeoning since 1991, they are ignorant (or really don't care) of the struggles of the rest of the "mofussil" Indian population. This fact was highlighted during a recent state election in Andhra Pradesh. Chandrababu Naidu, the incumbent Chief Minister, who was acclaimed as a great pioneer statesman who developed the state by bringing high-tech business to the state, has also been tacitly blamed for his disregard for the farmers and the poor of Andhra Pradesh --- he lost the election although the economy of the state had blossomed under his a watch --- a telling judgement! And guess what, there was a deja vu in the national elections when the incumbent, pro-reform BJP government lost.

And regarding Juneja's earlier comment, I still have issues with poll results from India -- how can one create a representative poll sample of a billion people, in the context of a vast diversity in language, culture, religion and financial power? It is a statistically intractible endeavor, and often tends to reflect the bias of the pollsters themselves, especially if conducted primarily in the urban areas.

Posted by: Girish | March 1, 2006 03:48 PM

Another pretext to Colonize India
Indian people had been subjugated by foreign powers using different rhetoric that suits to the period. Moguls justified (with help of the old day sycophants)bringing culture,art etc to India; British used rhetoric of civilizing barbaric Indians; now USA is using democrazy, economic cooperation, terrorism etc. Present day sycophants - who supports Bush and USA( they do because their economic wellness depends on USA). Supporting USA is narrow minded and no good for long term interests of India.
Fortunately Indians will realize that they are being exploited in the name ideals and fight against USA as it happened in the past. I can bet history is going to repeat. The same sycophants will be make 180 degree turn around! That is why they are called sycophants!!

Posted by: RAJA | March 1, 2006 03:51 PM

It is simple to make blanket statements about how class is related to politics. However, the divide is not "between those who are informed and those not informed," as A. Kumar commented, nor is it even between middle class and poor. It is more complex than these stereotypical images would suggest. There is a need to recognize the fact that there has been intelligent, meaningful debate in India as across the globe that we can't classify as uninformed poor versus an informed and comfortable middle class. I highly recommend Arundhati Roy's article at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060313/roy for a welcome alternative reading of the protests.

Posted by: D. Aleman | March 1, 2006 03:51 PM

india is a country of big contrast widening gap between rich and poor,rise of hindu fundamentals,gross human rights violations in kashmir and other parts strong class system and india,s desire to become militry power.

still there is very long way to go before india gets the point where usa wants it

Posted by: jamil.abbasi | March 1, 2006 04:46 PM

india is a country of big contrast widening gap between rich and poor,rise of hindu fundamentals,gross human rights violations in kashmir and other parts strong class system and india,s desire to become militry power.

still there is very long way to go before india gets the point where usa wants it

Posted by: jamil.abbasi | March 1, 2006 04:47 PM

india is a country of big contrast widening gap between rich and poor,rise of hindu fundamentals,gross human rights violations in kashmir and other parts strong class system and india,s desire to become militry power.

still there is very long way to go before india gets the point where usa wants it

Posted by: jamil.abbasi | March 1, 2006 04:49 PM

The class opposed to Bush's visit and America in gerneral comprises of Indian Muslims and diehard leftists. And its very obvious why. Khare has wrongly attributed it to the mofussil Indian. The small town Indian may be suspicious but he is impressed and craves for economic success and American goods even more than the urban India.

Posted by: Sonu | March 1, 2006 04:56 PM

human right violations???? if ne one is violation the rights and the lifes in kashmir, its the cross border terrorists. if only the world had listened to india when she was shouting loud about terrorists...oh well...

Posted by: sabnav | March 1, 2006 05:01 PM

Sabnav, if you believe that the Indian army has not violated human rights in Kashmir, then you are listening to the muffled Indian press. There have been so many reports of the despicable behavior (incl. numerous accounts of rape) of the soldiers in Kashmir. How many Kashmiris do you personally know? If you did, and asked them an insider perspective then you would not say something like that.

But, that does not go to say that the militants in Kashmir are saints -- of course, they are responsible for the majority of the chaos in Kashmir today, but to called the army sacrosanct is totally uninformed.

Posted by: Girish | March 1, 2006 05:10 PM

i dont want this to denigrate into a tussle but mr abbassi i feel compelled to respons to mr abbasi.
its obvious indias rise as a power is rankling ur heart to a certain degree.all the points u raise are valid but your myopic(or astagmistic rather)view assigns them larger significance than they deserve...in short,in ur dislike for india u have lost ur perspective.
to counter ur arguements,
1.contrast between the rich and the poor:-nowhere is more apparent than the worlds biggest superpower usa.the contrast is bound to accentuate as more and more capital flows into indian economy but eventually there will evolve a socio-political system to check that accentuation.
2.rise of hindu fundamentalist:- please stop crying the hindu fundamentalist bogey.that rise has seen its peak....the political expression of that fundamentalism(BJP) is in shambles.so sleep assured,i am not saying there wont be any further incidents/nastiness from the hindutva brigade but it has done its worse,their philosophy is redundant and the majority of indians realize that.
now if only i could say the same about muslim fundamentalism which is not only present but growing,thriving and coming up with sphistic justification for its existence.
3.gross human rights violations in kashmir:-dont even get me started.i certainly cannot give a clean chit to indian government as far as kashmir is concerned but the biggest fumble in the kashmir equation was the pakistani government.what interest could pakistan possibly have in kashmir other than a game of revenge?i would continue to protest against army excesses as and whn they occur but also keep it in the same perspective as the rest of the world keeps human rights issu of china.things could be better but lets not cry wolf.
4.its strong desire to become a military power:-and ur problem with that is?in case it escaped ur notice,india IS the worlds second most populous country and the worlds biggest growing economy.unlike japan and germany,it also does not carry the guilt of previous military misadventures.if anything,indias becoming a military power is but natural given its rising influence.
5.strong class system:- stop giving urself a pat on the back just because hindu society has a history of cast system and islam does not.change always takes time no-one can wish thousands of years of hierarchy away.the good thing is india has eveolved a pattern of development where the re is no place for such equations.lines exist but there is a gradual and definite blurring.
have u even seen cast-system at work first-hand?have u been in idnia and seen how people's priorities have changed/are changing in the past 50 years.

to me it seems like u picked up a few articles,zeroed in on a few themes u felt were anti-indian enough and felt urself qualified to proclaim to the world how and why india should not be a superpower.

and next time please try to not post the same post 3 times.repetition(intentional or accidental) doesnt lend any strength to ur anemic arguements.

Posted by: what_ever | March 1, 2006 05:56 PM

i definitely wudnt argue your point about indian army....but its for people to point that out and forget the point that the whole kashmir issue is fueled and kept alive by cross border terrorism....if there are no terrorists there is no need for the amount of army tats there in kashmir now

Posted by: sabnav | March 1, 2006 06:11 PM

Loved the comments of what_ever.
If not for any other reason this should be seen as a helping hand to the vastly poor sections of India.Present effluent indian middle class has evolved from the past lower middle class sections of the society.So if not for any thing else we should apploud whatever is happening for the benefit of those 700 million people .Talking about the divide between rich and poor , It exists even in the rich countries,but lets hope that the good for the rich will eventually go down if not fully then by a small fraction ,to the poor .If the entire society can even boast of the basic amenities (by our standards and not the standards of rich countries),we must feel happy.

Posted by: India_lover | March 1, 2006 07:15 PM

Bush is coming to India just make a ground for US to counter balance China and for this reason it is wooing India with nuke deal.

Posted by: Guest | March 1, 2006 07:16 PM

Hey, lets all be honest for one moment and agree with sonu. His's is the most straight forward comment here. I also loved what_ever's retort to abbasi. Good for him.

Fact: Most (belive me most!) in India love America. We might have some misgivings, about some aspects of the U.S government's foreign policy and may be a bit uneasy of corporate america's tactics to capture the Indian markets. But we all love the american people and the role they played in world history (including the silent role they played during the Indian Independence movement!). Lets not forget that most kids of even the so called anti-american 'muslim clerics' and the 'left' leaders are in America for all obvious reasons. So why beat around the 'bush' :) instead for simply saying....kool sonu!

And just in-case someone thought it worth to waste their time to go and read Arundhati roy's article in the nation. ( I did thinking it must be a balenced suggestion from an american sounding D.Aleman's comment). Oh! but that was just another of leftist Bush bashing. Did I forget that Ms Roy does not like India doing anthing 'big' be it dams or nuclear power. She would(and so would D.Aleman I guess) love India to turn into a big Gandhi's ashram and use the wheel to make its own clothes. You can dream Ms. Roy good luck.

Bush is no saint. But, he is the president of a great nation call America! For heavens sake, lets respect him for that if not anything else. The Indians are not weaklings to be bullied into toeing America's line. Look at the aggressive way they are negotiating the Nuclear deal. Get any clues form that? And Mr. Bush is definitely trying to get the worlds two biggest democracies closer. Wouldn't that be a step towards a better world? Com'on guys give me a break. Learn to see the good in the worst senario, your day will just get a little brighter. Thanks Sonu!

Posted by: Avinash | March 1, 2006 10:23 PM

India and Indian's pretty much love the USA. No argument there. CNN showed "people" protesting Bush's visit but forgot to add though clearly evident, that all those were muslim men - who judging by their clothes were not the educated / urbane muslim men - but were in all likelihood poor people definitely not very educated and possibly believing that they belong to the Muslim community across the world - rather than India.These riff raff were paid maybe 10 bucks and a free ride to N. Delhi to show up and shout slogans and hold up placards by people like the Imam Bukhari etc. Discount those persons. They are not representative of India.
As far as India and US is concerned I believe that we are natural born allies.EOM.

Posted by: tushar | March 1, 2006 10:28 PM

Let's be real here. There AREN'T 300 million middle class Indians, the actual number is more like 40 million. China has 350 million cell phone users; India has less than 40 million. China has first-world highways connecting its countryside to its coastal metropolises; India has one of the world's most hideous roads, even in its major cities.

Bush is courting India to contain China. We Americans should be cautious. India has the world's second largest population of muslims and its society is highly socialist today (more so than China). We should be encouraging China to become a freer society, not try to contain China with India (the result of the latter choice will be a more belligerant and xenophobic China, a threatened India, less stability in Asia). Plus, India is in no position to contain China, because 75% of India's energy needs are imported, and the Chinese have been outbidding every single oil field against the Indians, to the point that India has agreed to cooperate with the Chinese on the bidding.

India is also a nation highly divided in class AND religion. From the comments above, it seems like the Indians don't feel that muslims in their nation are Indians, even though they number some 170 million people and are found mainly in more developed cities of India. This reveals the myopia of the optimism most Indians have of their country today.

Posted by: toshiro | March 1, 2006 11:54 PM

Toshiro, I see your comment here too, and can't help but respond. Again, what do you know about Indian secularism? Have you ever been to India? Have you lived in India? If anything, India flaunts a diverse religious demographic -- Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists. The current President is from the minority Muslim religion, the Prime Minister is from the minority Sikh religion, the head of the political party in power is a Catholic, and the head of the opposition is Hindu. The same goes to the entertainment and economic sectors. Tatas, for example, the leading industrialists are Parsi; Azim Premji, the CEO of a leading Indian IT firm, Wipro, is Muslim; the biggest movie stars today are Muslims.

The imprint of religious diversity is visible in every sector of Indian life. The religious demography of India has been this way from the time of its birth 60 years back. And, from this diversity, India has demonstrated how religious tolerance can be the dominant sentiment, and how a truly secular democracy can be run.

So, get your facts straight before you make xenophobic statements.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 10:26 AM

India is democracy. Bush is not even popular in America. There are reasons for protest against BUSH. India is not protesting against US , just BUSH only for his dream of "making democracy" in Iraq.

America is best country, it try to establish close relationship with india to counterwight to china. What ever the reson may be , i strongly believe India needs USA to improve their social class culture. More money comes in , the more people informed , class culture will be diluted slowly and slowly. India always look for self interests in the region. India should support USA on future atatck on IRAN's Nuclear reactors. IRAN goal is different from india , with worlds major oil resources there is no need for nuclear power for Iran except to make nuke bomb and bully israel and other countries. India should not let Iran blackmail irrespective of Indian muslim population unhappiness. That will be first responsible act. If you wanted to be called next super power or close to it , you can't be neutral. You can't have both sides. India need to understand it has to take hard decision in future.

Posted by: Alex | March 2, 2006 12:43 PM

I am indian. So let me explain india's class culture. There is a symbol of class castism connects to India's oldest culture. it is the temples. it still symbolizes upper class and lower class. There is no one stopping lower class to be president if he has the power to do it. There are exceptional cases that muslim as president and so on. The reality is different in india. That class culture is still bad. You also need to understand the same kind of discrimination still exist in USA with BLACKS. Even though MJ is most famous athlete in the world. What india need is more inevetsment and infrastructure. It will slowly release the tight leesh on INDIAN Scoiety by UPPER CLASS (BRAHMINS). As much as i say INDIA's class culture is worse than race issue in USA, India is growing , it is learning from USA. India need to protect lower class with CIVIL liberty laws more stronger. Ensure that it is not misused also. India is growing for sure. I also believe India and Indians need to be confident and should n't back away from taking imprortant and brave decision with respect to freedom. Freedom comes first before HINDU or any religion. Religion(GOD) and state separation has to the Pillair of any democracy.

Posted by: Alex | March 2, 2006 12:54 PM

Toshiro..

To finetune your rather candid comment "Indians don't feel that muslims in their nation are Indians "...nothign could be further from this insane thought.!..True..hindus are the single most common religious group in India....and are the oldest extant society in the Subcontinent, but it is a society that absorbs people of different religious and social persuasions...albeit reluctantly at times. Its also true that some hindu fundamentalists might agree with your comment, but again, they are fundamentalists and hence incurably insane. There has been communal violence in the past..and it does sadden me to accept that there shall be some in the future. But this, is an expression of angst within some factions in society, and isn't germane to the Indian people alone....afterall, there have been riots all over the world...and in most places Islam has been a factor. (and before people choose to lambast me with criticism of this last sentence, i'd humbly ask them to think about every major conflict in the world today, and reason about it. The very establishment of this religion was on the blade of the sword. But yes, the Holy Koran does abhor violence and mandates it only in the most extreme circumstances.)

On the contrary, it is more commonly believed that many muslims in India don't feel Indian enough, the partition of India being the prime reason for people to think so. Do note that this is a qualified statement and is in no way representative of all the people of this religious persuasion..after all..we've had three muslim Presidents (the current one including..)and quite a few muslim freedom fighters who chose to remain in India and abhor the very idea of a partition of their motherland on petty religious concerns.

It bodes well for us today to align ourselves with western democracies and work towards making this world a saner place to live in. Do note that i said align, which does not in any way mean to be an unconditional ally. We should seek to deal with issues..not nationalities here. Had Chamberlain and Roosevelt dealt with Hitler back in 1933, there wouldn't have been Auschwitz, or Treblinka to mourn for.

Had Bush, the elder, finished the job in the Gulf in '91, we wouldn't be seeing Iraq at the threshold of a civil war now.

Had America repeated what it did in Germany post WW2, in Afghanistan after the Russians left, there quite possibly wouldn't have been a 9/11.

So yeah..we ought to deal with issues, and do it in an effective manner. Enough with narrow visions of the future,petty persuasions and the 'capitalist/imperialist/hegemonist' rabble.

Posted by: Aadarsh | March 2, 2006 01:05 PM

In todays world everbody looks for its own interests and... USA and India are not doing anything different.
As far as oppostion to bush is concerned, it is predominantly from Muslim and leftist parties. Let me put one point here. If you ask a normal indian about USA and its impact, He will say that USA is very cunning and talented country. This country will look for its interest anytime anywhere. He will also add that american culture is ruining local culture. but he will also praise america for its economy and its good impact on india and indian lifestyle which is improving day by day.

Posted by: Subhash | March 2, 2006 01:09 PM

To further qualify my argument..

How can you not question the patriotism of anyone who puts their adherence to religion above their love for their motherland?

Posted by: | March 2, 2006 01:10 PM

Toshiro & Abbassi : Shove it!

Posted by: Anil | March 2, 2006 01:17 PM

Girish, my point was that India is indeed diverse, but their diversity does not translate to collective power but rather internal xenophobia toward each other. It would do you good to read some of the posts before mine, at least 4 posters commented (more like reacted) that these "protestors are not real Indians, but muslims." That is discrimination at its best. Imagine a white protestant American today saying that blacks are not Americans, but blacks. And yes I've been to India, the Japanese have a good relationship with India.

Anil, grow up, if Indians can't handle even mild criticism like mine, they're not going to become a world power.

Posted by: toshiro | March 2, 2006 01:33 PM

Toshiro,

I admire the Japanese and a lot about Japanese culture, and have met many great Japanese tourists to India, but cultural diversity and openness to a heterogenous society has never exactly been one of Japan's strong points or hallmarks. Chinese, Koreans and others that I know who've been to or lived in Japan don't always feel exactly welcome and find many Japanese highly xenophobic.

India, despite intermittent tensions and internal differences (natural in a society that has been highly diverse for millennia), is far more tolerant of cultural diversity and differences and has been for centuries before many Western countries and most other Asian countries.

Anyways, don't want to turn this into a "he said, she said" contest. Yes, India is not perfect, no country is. But I'll take her vibrant, if at times chaotic, democracy and culture over many other countries' systems of government.

Posted by: Fact check | March 2, 2006 02:15 PM

Toshiro : My OLD man, get on with your life. Thought you Japs were supposed to be a productive lot :-)

Posted by: Anil | March 2, 2006 02:29 PM

India is far from perfect. But, of all countries in the world, if there is any country which is the hallmark of communal tolerance and harmony, it is India. No other country even comes close.

Posted by: Sanjay | March 2, 2006 02:42 PM

True, there are muslim fundamentalists in India, as there are hindu fundamentalists. But if 10000 such fundamentalists/extremists from different parts of the country gather at a parade ground and stage protests against Bush, is it logical to say that these 10000 people represent a country of 1 billion? By virtue of its democratic principles, India does not try to repress these demonstrations, as does China and other oppressive countries which do not want their image to be tarnished to the outside world. Had there been no democracy in India, CNN would not even have gotten footage of these demonstrators.

Posted by: Sanjay | March 2, 2006 02:47 PM

Factcheck, it is precisely because I've lived in Japan that I understand above posters remarks on "those are not real Indians, they are muslims." This is identical to the Japanese telling white foreigners matter-of-factly that crime rate in Japan is due to Koreans and Chinese, not the "real Japanese." That is false and disgusting, and creates lots of unnecessary tension within society. But I feel the problem in India is even greater, because the population sizes of the minorities are much larger and there is religion involved.

Posted by: toshiro | March 2, 2006 03:11 PM

Growing up in India in the 1980-90's I never imagined that a day would come when the world would be talking about India as an emerging world power. India was always portrayed as a poor developing nation and pictures of snake charmers, elephants and slums were shown on TV screens when India was mentioned for a few brief seconds on television here in USA.
I think this change of status is difficult for some to come to terms with. This includes both Indians and Non-Indians. Majority of these Non-Indians harbor such thoughts as they are ill-informed and ignorant about India's history, culture and the socio-economic changes occuring there.
When India came into being in 1947 there were more than 500 kingdoms and they had to be united into one nation, there actually had never been a united India before that. There was a bloody partition with the creation of Pakistan and the biggest mass migration of humans in the history of mankind ( 10 million people displaced and more than 1 million killed). This newborn country with so much diversity in religion, language and culture had little chance to survive as a united nation in the eyes of the world. For decades the people of the world have looked down upon Indians as poor, illitrate and backward. India has gone from infancy, childhood, teenage years and is now steeping into adulthood like a confident, bold and beautiful women. No other nation has developed and advanced as fast as India has except China.
People constantly compare India and China and give the latter more marks in almost all arenas. China has done very well and a healthy competition between the worlds largest nations is always welcome. But the strict authorirative rule in China where peoples voices are forcefully suppressed and in the name of development millions are marginalized is creating a very unstable situation there. The foundations on which China is being built are unstable, this is where in the long run India will gain. India has always had a democratic society. People always criticize Indias democracy ( corruption, religious feuds etc) but they forget that just like it took centuries before America became a stable democracy it would take India time too.

World be aware, whether you like it or not, here come India!!!!

Posted by: RK | March 2, 2006 03:22 PM

Toshiro,

I understand your point, and yes, where religion is involved, things will always be sensitive. Unfortunately , you will always find these elements in every society who take it upon themselves to decide who is patriotic and who is not etc. It's happening in the U.S. as well.

However, I still think India has been more successful, despite problems, than a failure in this regard. Look at our government and how many religions it represents. Look at our army and how many religions and ethnic groups and languages it represents. Look at our actors, singers, musicians etc and how many religions and ethnic groups are represented, and many are successful beyond the numbers of their minority population.

I also think it is important for minorities to return the quid pro quo when it comes to secularism and tolerance. India could also do without interference from vested interests both inside and especially outside the country - be they religious or political or ideological -- who use India's diversity and innate tensions to stir up more trouble between minorities and the majority or who have an intolerant view of the majority culture. It's happening in the northeast of India, in Kashmir and elsewhere. Both India's majority and minorities are responsible for keeping things stable.

Posted by: Fact check | March 2, 2006 03:28 PM

China gets higher marks than India because it has outperformed India, not because of some secret agenda. Many nations in East Asia became developed through dictatorships: South Korea, Taiwan, and Meiji Japan. These three countries today are blooming democracies. It's hard to judge China negatively when 300 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty within 10 years. Most Chinese cities like Shanghai only started developing in 1992, same year as India. Now compare Shanghai with Mumbai. Problem with India is that it is not politically stable, ruling parties are overthrown by elections every term. That is not healthy for sustained economic growth.

It's hard to enjoy freedom when you are living just above subsistence level.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 03:34 PM

I just want to clarify that I hope both China and India success. :) But it seems China is winning the economic development race, if there is even a race. The only situation where India can surpass China is when China invades Taiwan and suffers international sanctions. The likelihood of China invading Taiwan is about the same as Pakistan invading India though.
India and China should maintain a healthy relationship. US should not try to force India to contain China, and China should not force Pakistan to contain India. Chinese culture and religious philosophy has lots of inspiration from India. The Chinese word for "heaven" refers to India. We should learn from Bush that cooperation is wiser than conflict.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 03:42 PM

toshiro

Am I to understand that you are generalizing (rather extrapolating) the mindset of the Indian population based on 4 posts on this blog? If that is so, then I can only ignore your comments! Before you make blanket statements regarding an entire nation of a billion people, I would recommend that you learn more about who these people are and what this country is about --- basing your judgement on 4 posts seems a baseless short-cut. Wouldn't you agree?

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 03:45 PM

This is all Good for India. This will only speed up the process of India's poor class finally joining the middle class. This is already happening. Families that would be proud owners of TVs, Bicycles and two wheelers now own homes and cars. They have jobs and more awareness of their rights. Hats off to the previous BJP govt and the current PM Man Mohan Singh, for their vision. Hats off to Clinton for sowing the seeds during the previous visit and President Bush for following it up. The Brits must be turning RED, for ages they painted jaundiced picture of India to the world and the State department. It took courage from Mr. Bush to show the world what India is all about. India is all about democracy. You can hear the Indian say..I may be poor..but I know my rights and I can even criticize my Prime Minister without any fear. How many asians can say this??? This is indeed PRICELESS.

Posted by: PV Rao | March 2, 2006 03:46 PM

MichaelL

The cost of China's faster economic growth compared to India's is democracy. Within a democratic system, you have to tolerate the fact that politics may change every 5 years. But despite this, the fact remains that the economic reform process is now irreversible in India: no political party that came to power since 1991, has reversed this process, and don't dare to. As Gurcharan Das, ex-CEO of Procter and Gamble, India, put it, I would rather live with a 2% lower GDP growth compared to China, than pay the price of democracy, which is a high and risky price to pay.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 03:49 PM

Michael L.

I agree with your last comment. China and India have a lot to gain from each other as healthy, friendly competitors. They have important civilizational links that have unfortunately been in the background in the last 50 years.

Posted by: Fact check | March 2, 2006 03:54 PM

When the Chinese people demand a democratic society and rebellion pours out on the streets that is when China would destabilize.
All that eventually would be for it's good but definately things would be topsy turvy for a while.
I do not think this formula of a communist government trying to develop a capitilist society would work for too long.

Posted by: RK | March 2, 2006 03:58 PM

RK,

The last time Chinese people demanded a democratic society was Tiananmen Sq Protests, and that led to 16 years of economic stability because the government realized that the Chinese people were in reality demanding for better opportunities and conditions of life.

Most Chinese living in China could care less about political freedoms right now. Just like most Americans in the US think the Patriot Act is necessary. The Chinese feel economic development outweighs every other condition. This kind of mindset will lead to rapid Chinese economic growth for a couple more decades with little to none dissent (the amount of dissent in China is miniscule compared to total population).

By the time the Chinese do start to demand political freedom en masse (I predict 2030 at the earliest), China would have been highly developed and more institutionally ready to accept democracy anyway, the destabilization would be minor and temporary by then, similar to South Korea.

Ask the common Chinese, and they will tell you they prefer economic development BEFORE political freedom.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 04:31 PM

Even iwth all caste discrimination , one thing in india, you have the freedom to do anything. BUt one thing lacking. Oppurtunities to grow. As much as india wants to go to MOON with USA help.(aspirations of upper class), India should invest in infrastructure like Roads , Housing , Clean water, Telecommunications(must) and jobs.
Also remove red tape bureaucrasy in different states.

Yes , India is improving in its own pace.
Also india need to improve relations with china with lot of trades.

Posted by: Alex | March 2, 2006 04:38 PM

What's important to realize is that there is no one-size-fits-all model of development. India and China will develop according to their own inclinations and cultural underpinnings. While Indians admire China's success, most Indians (except the communists in India) wouldn't trade India's democratic but slower pace of change for China's more authoritarian but faster pace of change. If the Chinese value development over freedom, that's their choice and their right to develop as they see fit.

Posted by: Fact check | March 2, 2006 04:48 PM

MichaeIL,
If only there was a magic switch that would bring democracy my friend!! Just look at Iraq!

I dont know how you came up with the year 2030 at the earliest were people would demand freedom in huge numbers. The Communist government would absolutely freak out!! Why do you think they crushed the student protests in 1989? It challenged their authority.It looks bad for business! Who wants to invest in a country of any size let alone China where people are in social unrest against their own Government ?

You are living on fool's gold if you think people will gather in huge numbers all over China and demand democracy when they can't even Google Tiannamen Square or watch porn!! Check this headline "Chinese Student Faints At Sight Of Internet Police" at http://www.zonaeuropa.com/200602.brief.htm

By 2030 if the Government allows them to watch porn without policing them publicly, freedom would have advanced.

Dont forget the draconian grip the government has on society and how willingly Chinese society is going along with this out of a combination of fear, nationalistic impluse and indifference.


I dont know of any "institutions" in China that would become "ready to accept democracy" - the law begins and ends with the PLA.

Posted by: Nagarajan Sivakumar | March 2, 2006 04:51 PM

Good point Nagarajan. MichaelL: that is just rhetoric to say that the "average Chinese will prefer economic growth to democracy". Things are changing even in China. Despite, Google, Yahoo and MSN being prepared to censor the internet, the penchant for free speech and dissent runs strong amongst the Chinese. Did you read this article, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/18/AR2006021801389.html, published a week or two back. It's heart-warming, as well as depressing. Economics is not everything -- that world-view is American foolhardiness.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 05:41 PM

Nagarajan Sivakumar,

Your last statement is simply not true and reflects a lot of anti-China dogma on your part. The Chinese are rapidly reforming legal and economic (contract) laws in the Mainland. Law schools are becoming more and more popular in the past 5 years by Chinese college graduates. China is gradually reforming its communist legal system with a more "Rule of the Law" system strongly influenced by Hong Kong's model. These reforms are a necessary foundation for any long-term democratic changes to succeed. Without them in place, democracy will inevitably bring chaos and stunt economic growth, as you probably wish to see for China.

2030 is commonly seen as a future milestone for China. This is when China's population will peak at 1450 million, from then on the Chinese population will gradually age and rapidly decline. By 2015, China's economy will have surpassed Japan. By 2030, China's economy will be just under the US in real (not PPP) GDP. This is signficant in that the per capita income by then will be comfortably BEYOND subsistence (about the same level as Taiwan during the 1980s), and thus the population will have more leisure to discuss political and social issues. China then would also be more confident in its stability and willing to experiment with political reforms, as the existing legal system will have become more matured by then.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 05:55 PM

Hong Kong and Singapore are not democracies. They, however, have the "Rule of the Law" which the Mainland is still lacking, but gradually heading towards.

The article Girish linked is true and does reflect the public's desire for INFORMATION and TRANSPARENCY, but not necessarily for rampant democracy. There has been a great struggle within the Chinese Communist Party over whether to develop greater transparency or enforce greater censorship. For those who actually follow Chinese politics will know that it's more like a tug-of-war. To assume that China will continue censorship into the future is foolish on the part of China-observers. It is part of a internal struggle within the party, and the anti-censorship (more transparency) faction is growing rapidly. But you would be a fool to believe that these same people who want greater transparency necessarily want democracy at this stage of China's development.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 06:02 PM

MichaelL, you make a good point. The people who want greater transparency are staunch believers in communism (for example the editor in the article who spoke out against censorship used Marx and Lenin invoking critique of the censorhip regime). But, on the other hand, communism, as conceived by Marx, called for a democratic model of government. Those ideals were but subverted by Stalin, who set the precedent for all communist regimes to follow. Look at West Bengal and Kerala in India; the governments in power in these two Indian states have been communist for decades, but have always been democratically elected. So, I am not so sure to claim that the people who want greater transparency in China, don't want democracy -- the line is blurred, and the landscape between economic desires, greater transparency and democracy in China is more gray than the black/white picture you paint

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 06:12 PM

Just wanted to add to Toshiro and Michaell's India-China comparisons. I have lived in South, South East and East Asia from the 1980s to the late 1990s. I am a great admirer of Chinese culture, and their post-1950 social economy. However, it cannot be denied that the Chinese government provides a unification through brute force that if ever deposed will result in chaos. The common response of most Chinese people I polled after the the Tainanmen square massacre was not that they preferred economic viability but that they did not like the chaos that would necessarily set in if the Chinese government is overthrown. If Toshiro and Michaell also suggest that with the calls for more freedom in China, the Chinese government will one day roll over and play dead, it would be as realistic as imagining that Iraqis would embrace the Americans for bringing them democracy. We know how that turned out. China as a nation state has evolved from a thousand year old hegemonically unified polity/s with a unified script, political speech and a zone of centralized political control for centuries. India on the other hand is part of region in which people from different polities might have shared cultural practices but have had to develop the idea of the nation-state through scratch following British colonialism. So the political process in which the governments are voted out by the people that Toshiro and Michaell complain about is a good thing, not a detriment. Japanese and American parties are voted out. It is not their detriment is it? Or do they think that a one-party system is a "good" thing? Multiparty democracy in which people excerise their power to vote is a release mechanism which allows people to take action without need for national revolution. Evidence suggests that the differenc ebtween urban prosperity and rural poverty in China is growing humongously. In India, when that was seen as happening the government was voted out. I doubt that will happen in China. Furthermore, the realities of coalition politics and the rising importance of regional issues at the national level in India are that no single ideology or party will ever dominate Indian politics. If it is sustanability we are looking for, a group of politically mature people striving towards economic advancement is better than a group of economically advanced but politically naive people under a totalitarian government that knows that its generally complacent population used to centuries of absolute centralized rule abhors chaos, and would turn a blind eye to any attempt to curb government power. Note, this is not to indicate that there are no Chinese people fighting for freedom of political thought but that they will be silenced by the many, by the dominant thought that political and individual freedom is unimportant compared to economic freedom. The problems in India are infrastructral, in China, political.
I like to live well, but I also like to breathe occasionally.

Posted by: roka | March 2, 2006 06:13 PM

I apologize for the multiple typos in my last post but still stand by the crucial distinction between what drives the Chinese investment in their political economy: fear of political chaos vs love for economic advancement. Blinded by Chinese economics, we cannot ignore Chinese history and the fact that in a crisis ordered by a tyrant, the majority can be depended upon to side with the tyrant and spit on the trouble-makers. Add that to one of the most ethnically unified groups of people in the world: what is the scope for successful freedom struggles?

Posted by: roka | March 2, 2006 06:25 PM

If China were to become a democracy today, China will be a danger to Asia and the world. It would be like Germany voting in Hitler.

First China will *vote* with overwhelming majority to unify Taiwan by force.

Second, China will *vote* to have a HUGE military buildup as a counter to Japan's SDF and the United States 7th Fleet.

Is this what the world wants now? It WILL happen if China were to become democratic now. Be very very careful what you wish for.

I cannot emphasize this strong enough: TRANSPARENCY/RULE-OF-LAW should come BEFORE democratization.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 06:31 PM

MichaelL, you are now taking your argument elsewhere. Nobody in this blog called for democratization of China. You are right -- transparency must precede democracy. This all started with the idea that faster economic growth requires totalitarianism -- that may be true in some ways (as China has demonstrated). The next question is do the people prefer faster economic growth to democracy, particularly in India? The answer to that is probably an overwhelming no. In China, of course, the political landscape and history is different. But do the people want political muffling? Probably not. Do they like the economic growth? Probably yes. Will they want to trade one for the other? I don't know -- your answer is no, they prefer political muffling to slower economic growth. Nobody, however, disputes that democracy cannot and should not be imposed overnight -- it must be a grass-root effort and transparency, as you say, must precede it. Just as much as India will not renege on democracy, China will probably not become a democracy --- history makes certain processes irreversible. Once the people have tasted a certain lifestyles (whether it be democracy in India or greater economic growth in China), they may not be willing to give it up. It is a difference that will remain, and the comparison will end there.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 06:40 PM

In response to Roka, the Japanese have never voted out the LDP in national elections since the WWII occupation period. Japan is under de facto one-party rule, and this is unlikely to change in the near future.

You are right about the Chinese people's desire for stability. But this stability is not because of fear for war, but rather fear of chaos that would disrupt economic opportunity and national territorial integrity (fear of secession of territory).

China is not as homogenous as some people think. The Chinese dialects are mutually unintelligible, not unlike separate Indian languages. Cultural outlooks vary greatly between different parts of China. The southeastern region of China is historically more mercantilistic/capitalistic and independent than northern and central China. The national paranoia that China can just disintegrate into 16 pieces is not unfounded, but historically and culturally validated.

But all these differences today mean little in the face of economic development. Economic development considerations outrank EVERY OTHER issue in China. China today is more united than ever precisely because of economic interests between the provinces. It has the power to even unite the KMT Taiwanese with the Mainlanders.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 06:45 PM

Girish, I agree with what you say very much. My point on transparency was that as China's economy develops and standard of living increases, in order to SUSTAIN this development, transparency and law necessarily must develop. This is basic economics (barrier to information must be removed). And in the general trend, transparency HAS developed (I view the current censorships as temporary abberations). There is much greater transparency today in China than before Tiananmen. Just look at how rapidly and frank AIDS is now being handled by the Chinese government. Because of greater development of transparency and rule-of-law, I do not believe the pessimism that many people have of China's longterm economic growth is warranted. China NEED NOT HAVE TO enter into political chaos with continued economic growth, because the foundations for stable democracy (rule-of-law and transparency) will have been established by the time the issue of having democracy is widely debated again by the Chinese population. It can do what South Korea, Taiwan have done during the 1980s.

Bottom line: I'm optimistic of China's route toward development. It is following a steady path of economic development left by other East Asians nations like SKorea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. That is a Manufacturing/industrialization first approach.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 06:58 PM

MichaelL,
Somehow you also seem to be able to read what my mind wants! i.e. China's economic growth being stunted. Chill, out dude! I am no fan of the Chinese government and if that happens to be "anti-Chinese" dogma to you, i dont want to even respond to that!

China being a democracy is something people in India WOULD BE THRILLED about. It would change history like no other event. We could live in peace or atleast with the firm belief that they are not trying to undermine us at every possible stage in history - every one knows how much they have helped Pakistan with a nuclear program just so that they could keep India more on the defensive. Lets not even get started with how they signed a peace agreement in 1956 with India only to attack it in 1962!!

Your basis for the Chinese people demanding more freedom by 2030 or being in a more comfortable position to "leisurely" think about it is driven entirely by one assumption. i.e. as soon as most of the country rises above subsistence levels as you claim, people would nationwide suddenly start thinking of political freedoms. You just have to look at India to realize that freedom is not something that you thirst for based on solely your economic conditions. If that were the case, India would never have even started the Independence movement!!

If the Chinese people truly believe that they were born to be free, to choose their leaders of their own free will IRRESPECTIVE of whether its 2030 or 2100,the world becomes a safer and better place. I agree that democratic institutions need to be built and you have tried explaining how their legal system is undergoing changes. But that alone does not guarantee a path to democracy. It has to start with individuals seeing themselves as having some natural rights such as free will and a right to choose - not a privilege based on economic criteria as your post seems to sound.

And that is what i am worried about - i dont think there will ever be a movement large enough to make the communists realize that democracy is a better system. Are Chinese people ready to die for freedom as Indians were during British Rule? The spirit of the student in the Tinnamen Square incident who bravely stood before the chinese tank does not seem to be there anymore.

Posted by: Nagarajan Sivakumar | March 2, 2006 07:02 PM

Nagarajan, I have to respectfully disagree with you this time. You seem to imply that (a) China becoming democratic will bring more peace to the region, (b) it is the autocratic Chinese government that puts India on the back-foot in terms of military pressure.

For (a), where is the guarantee that any democracy will remain peaceful? Take the USA, it is a democracy, and has gone to war in Iraq. How can you say that China becoming democratic will imply a more peaceful China? Hamas is democratically elected and is not renouncing violence. Indeed, as Michael points out, democracy in China may mean more chaos, just democracy in the middle-east will probably bring to power radical Islamic populists, and yes, Hitler was democratically elected. So, I find it hard to see the connection between democracy and peace.

Regarding (b), I feel that we are clinging on to the historic '62 animosity too much. The border dispute between China and India has reached a point where both parties are comfortable with the status quo; there is currently so much more economic cooperation between China and India than ever before -- Indian IT companies are setting up offices in China - trade has burgeoned between the two.

So, the stereotypical Chinese boogeyman has always existed, but you need to take a fresh look to see if this remains a boogey or a reality. On the other hand, democratizing China by no means implies that the democratic Chinese government will be peaceful with India -- how do you guarantee that?

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 07:18 PM

MichaelL, As much as you are optimistic of the path taken by China, I'm excited by the path taken by India -- you prefer the former, and I prefer the latter :)

I don't want to argue about what is a better route, but definitely I think we all agree that it is good to have a free society. I'm happy that you are optimistic about the Chinese government bringing in more transparency -- although given the Chinese news I follow, it is difficult for me to believe. Yes, there's more transparency since 1989, but then again, there is a limit to how much transparency can be created, as long as a totalitarian government wants to cling on to power. Freedom of press and the right to dissent and critique the politics of the government, in my opinion, will always be suppressed by any autocracy --- that, by definition, is how autocracies hold on to their power. Still, if you and the rest of the Chinese people are optimistic, and I'm proven wrong, then I'll be pleasently and happily surprised.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 07:31 PM

I can't believe that you just equated the US with Hamas in Palestine. The US is a peaceful nation. Have you ever heard of the democratic peace theory? Democracies don't go to war with each other. Democracies do have wars, just not with each other. When was the last time you saw the US attack England or India? And just because you win an election, or that electios were held does not mean the nation is a fully functioning democracy.

Posted by: Don | March 2, 2006 07:56 PM

Nagarajan wrote "If that were the case, India would never have even started the Independence movement!! Are Chinese people ready to die for freedom as Indians were during British Rule?"

I don't think you are familiar with modern Chinese history looking at the points you are making. China was semi-colonized by every nation in the western world plus Japan, yet no foreign power outside of the Manchus were able to hold onto China. Freedom has different meaning for different people; "Freedom from what?" is a question you need to ask yourself. As of 2003, China's female literacy rate is 87% compared to 45% in India, China's under-5 children malnutrition rate is 12.1% compared to India's 46%. Infant mortality rate in India is more than double that of China's. The average Chinese person's life expectancy is 8 years longer than the Indian's. Isn't freedom from poverty and freedom of opportunity also a worthwhile cause?

China has had 2 violent political revolutions in the 20th century. The last thing it needs now is another one.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 07:58 PM

Girish,
I will try to explain why i think India would be thrilled to have a China that is democratic.

The pre-conditions to a functioning democracy are
A. The rule of law as MichaelL says
B. A genuine desire to enjoy personal freedoms and protect them through these well established laws.

When China does finally become a democracy, i dont think that they would forget how much they had to go through ( it would have to be a hard and long struggle - the Communists are not going to roll over or be too thrilled even by an orderly and gradual transfer of power to civilians).Plus, they would get a better sense of appreciation for Indian democracy which would have survived all these years inspite of all the difficulties it faced - A democratic China which has just found freedom would not try to grab this from another country -that would be unlikely not to mention unnecessary.

If China does become free the way i see it happening, i would be hard pressed to find as to why they would want to attack India or say even Taiwan - a democracy would need popular support before going to a war.

in fact you just pointed out how business relations between China and India are improving.It probably would have become a lot better when China becomes free. The Taiwanese would almost automatically unify with a democratic mainland that lends them a voice in the democratic process. So, Michael's fears that a war would be declared to grab Taiwan seems highly unlikely, atleast to me.

China would think twice about going to a war from a business perspective but more importantly from a free people's perspective.

Lets take the two instances that you pointed out about democracies going to wars.

Germany electing Hitler in 1933 - let us not forget that Germans at that period in history still saw themselves to be superior to everyone else - They would not forget the humiliation of Germany in the WW1 and plainly wanted to challenge world order - Hitler was symbolic of those feelings.

When the Chinese do become democratic, are they going to elect a military type guy like Hitler or are they going to enter civilian rule ? When the rule of law does established and people do want to become free, they are going to choose civilian rule - hence my confidence.

the US invading Iraq - well this might be a very controversial topic but even the most ardent opponent of the war would admit this -The US does not want to occupy Iraq one more day than what is necessary. the Iraqi's are free atleast from political tyranny - for all that they have gone through, they still think that the war was and is worth it.

Democracies do not go to war that easily - the US invasion may seem to be contrary to this view but it was the first and may be the last "pre-emptive" war with its own set of merits and de-merits.

Posted by: | March 2, 2006 08:04 PM

Don, the democratic peace theory depends on the condition that these countries are indeed "fully functional democracies" (they key word is "functional"). The threat that new democracy posses in unstable, ex-totalitarian regimes is that democracy tend to bring in even more totalitarian regimes. History is full of these examples, Hitler being the most famous. Why does this happen? Because of the lack of transparency during the former totalitarian regime. Do you honestly believe that if China were to renounce communism tomorrow, that by nightfall it will become a fully functional democracy? Of course it wouldn't, then how can you say that a democratic election held in China by tomorrow nightfall will ensure the security of Asia and the rest of the world? This is what I believe Girish was intending.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 08:15 PM

Nagarajan wrote: "When the Chinese do become democratic, are they going to elect a military type guy like Hitler or are they going to enter civilian rule ? When the rule of law does established and people do want to become free, they are going to choose civilian rule - hence my confidence."

You are correct, except this is sometime in the future, when the rule of law has been established and the Chinese are far more prosperous than they are today. Let's not kid ourselves, China today is still very poor. Even Shanghai is poor compared to the west. The Chinese are FULLY AWARE of this, they have no illusions of being a superpower now, instead they WANT TO BECOME ONE.

If China were to become democratic today, the overwhelming majority will support a more militarized China. Why? Because like the Germans after WWI, many Chinese do believe they have been given the shaft in the 20th century, and that they better have a credible military force this century. You think military spending now in China is high? A democratic China will be far more aggressive.

Posted by: MichaelL | March 2, 2006 08:27 PM

MichaelL,
I would like to make a small correction to the statistics that you pointed out - India's female literacy is 54% and not 45! (nothing to be proud of but still) - the rest of the figures are most likely to be true and i have no doubts about them.

Also, you did bring up the fact that China was colonized by many western nations - i did read this in my history lessons - in fact they were termed as "spheres of influence" as China was so big that one country couldnt possibly control it. In fact when China was fighting in WW2 against the Japanese, Indian doctors tended to wounded Chinese soldiers - we do know the pain China went through and how it shaped their views in making their country strong and independent. The Communists under Mao obviously thought that they had the only answer to China's problems and that began the polutbiro's rule as we know it.

Michael, there have been so many times when i thought as to if those statistics you sighted could be better for India if we were not in a democracy - i dont know - it definitely worked for China. But you know what - those statistics will change - The Government has been trying for the last two decades to counter those exact problems of female literacy, chid malnourishment and child mortality rates that you were talking about- There has been a lot of progress in these areas - they dont seem to be much to you because India's literacy, life expectancy rate etc were ROCK BOTTOM to start with. But careful observers will know how much progress has been made and how a LOT more need to be done. But there is hope and a Government elected by the free will of the people gets a lot of support to do exactly those things a good Government is expected to do.

How ever, the question is simply this - in 2030 as you say the Chinese people are ready to demand their freedom , why would the Communists give up power? In fact would they not show the enormous economic progress made in China as proof that the Communist leadership was sincere in solving the nation's problems and knew better than any one else how to do it? What would the Chinese people demanding freedom counter that with ?

When India does get to the stage where the standard of living is better, its democracy would still exist - When China gets to the stage where its standard of living is in line with East Asian nations, where is the guarantee that it would be a democracy ?

From your posts, it looks like you are from China though i mightbe wrong - so ,all i can say is GOOD LUCK !! We wish you become a democracy at your own convenient pace - the important thing is you finally do.

I cant believe that there can be a bigger and powerful symbol to world peace than 2.5 billion people living in peace harmony and co-operation side by side!!

Posted by: Nagarajan Sivakumar | March 2, 2006 08:40 PM


I agree with the eminently sensible observations from Michaell. The foundations to sustain liberty need to evolve and coalesce, instead of, china waking up one day and declaring itself a "democracy".

The civic governance of India has the distinct advantage of having been "built up" by 200 years of gradual British rule. (or "oppression" if you prefer ;))

We are seeing the fruits of the top-down evolution (degeneration?) with the Russians, and the Arabs living in the palestine areas. Alexander Hamilton, that noble elitist, had sneered at Jefferson: "your "People" sir, your "people", is a beast". Aptly put. Look at the babu politicians of india: Jayalalitha and the Yadavs! A dumb young anti-bush indian protester (a hindu!) was asked today as to just WHY he's protesting- and he answered that his "neta" (leader) is never wrong in politics, and HE opposes Bush's visit. THIS is what you'll get EVEN in India with its alleged "shared ideals" with America. To be fair, you'll probbaly get this kind of answers from the over-educated lunatics in America - a.k.a Michael Moore fans. One must be fair and balanced, after all. ;)

England had the luxury and providence of evolving its own "liberty" in relative safety and serendipity. All the lands touched by England are free and prosperous today (well except zambia and pakistan ;) ), because the civic institutions to support an anglo-saxon notion of "democracy" were built from the GROUND up. Hopefully the chinese leadership would start encouraging and nourishing these ideals at grassroots level, before its too late.

And Yes, India is Bush country. Or should be - after all, Clinton tried to "Cap and Rollback" India's nuclear program. The fearless leader, on the other hand, has got strategery and the vision thing going.

Amend the constitution! 4 more years for the dear leader. ;)
peace

Posted by: Tamil-Indian-American chickenhawk psuedo-neo-con | March 2, 2006 09:15 PM

India needs to improve their infrastructure like roads, hospitals, Housing , telecommunication etc...

India should stop comparing itself with CHINA. China is well ahead of india.

India has to do what is best for india.

That is remove all red tape bureucracy and stop suspecting everyone that trying to colonise india. India should be confident of themself and stop suspecting america's action.

India need to reduce poverty as much as they talk about travel to moon. India also need clean water.

India should trade with china and work as partners not as competitors.

Posted by: Alex | March 2, 2006 09:26 PM

Tamil Indian American,
The question is not about China becoming a democracy overnight but whether it would ever become one.

MichaelL was of the view that Chinese people are now more concerned with becoming economically strong than any thing else - he also thinks that by 2030, China's standard of living would be on par with East Asian countries and that people would now have the time to think more deeply about democratic freedoms - i hope it does - and hope that the Communist politburo at least starts sharing power - how ever this is mere hope - the question is how is all this coalescing of society based on the rule of law going to happen?

Posted by: NS | March 2, 2006 09:54 PM

Tamil American, I object to your sneering contempt, and your cronyism for colonialism. Firstly, there are many countries around the world today "touched" by the British but not having a free and prosperous atmosphere --- shall we take the Israel-Palestine issue to start with -- India-Pakistan share this "divide and rule" British legacy with Israel-Palestine. Then, how about Kenya and Nigeria which are both struggling with ethnic tensions; and if you go to the streets of Jamaica, you'll know that the only people who are prosperous are those running tourist resorts. We could go on ... clearly, the British never were a Midas. If your claim is that they helped build institutions bottom-up, well so did the French and the Spanish colonists. Your argument for colonialism is like saying that it is only because of slavery that there are many Blacks living comfortably all across the western world.

Regarding your apparent contempt for Indian politicians, I would just say that politicians around the world are as shoddy, some more sophisticated in their shoddiness than others. For every Jayalalitha, there is also a Manmohan Singh and a Chandrababu Naidu. And, let's not forget, Lalu Prasad Yadav has surprised all of India with the first railway budget surplus in years. And it is the first time, that rail fares haven't increased, but on the contrary have been slashed --- can you imagine that? If you are an Indian American, I guess you probably haven't travelled in trains in India and probably can't imagine that. And similarly, we can always have people like Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, Jack Abrahamoffs here in the west. So, your swooning up to the west is a bit annoying.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 10:25 PM

Don, have you heard of any of the West African countries, or those like Congo, Zaire, etc? They had democratic elections, but are riddled with civil strife and war. As Michael points out, there is a difference between a democracy and a fully functional one. I would recommend this book "Future of Freedom" by Fareed Zakaria for you -- he talks about exactly this issue --- there have been and can be illiberal democracies, and liberal autocracies (e.g, Singapore). So, democracy does not automatically bring peace.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 10:32 PM

Nagarajan, I agree with you this time. I would also live with those lower statistics (that Michael cited) in a democracy, rather than being very literate but not being able to express my angst when and where I wish -- I guess it is about priorities: you and I value the fruits of freedom in a democracy, but Michael prefers economic growth in an autocracy --- just as there are millions in Singapore who feel the same way as Michael, and we know how many Indians flock to Singapore for opportunities.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 10:39 PM


Easy there ;). If you notice closely, I'm rooting for the "dear motherland" and more "NUCULAR" power! And steady, relentless rise to prosperity and social justice. Prosperity with no asperity. (Hey that rhymed). Manmohan shouldn't stop until India pushes its way into the security council. And I'm from Trichy - not American-born.

Anyway, mine is not an "argument for colonialism". Thats a way too broad a brush; even broader than my sweeping "ALL countries touched by England" etc etc.

But the evidence is before us that most people from non-English-speaking countries -including those in Europe -would rather emigrate to Canada, Australia, U.S or Great Britain than to ANY other country. Do you see a pattern here? And Singapore and Hong Kong are British creations as well.

They are ALL either, former or current British territories. My "cronyism" is limited to the Anglo-saxon world and probably the Dutch - not the "west" or "white folks". To quote Gandhi, western "civilization" would be a "good idea" ;) The Belgians, Russians and the Germans and the like, are no better off than the arabs, when it comes to "freedom". Most of continental Europe was liberated and raised from the ashes, and their institutions (not entirely "new" of course) of "freedom" were resucitated and enforced top-down, by Britain and America after the war. So much for the "west" being "free" or "advanced".

Some facts might be hard to deal with, such as 1.India as a modern administrative unit is a creation of Britain 2. The only other time when it came close to being united was under Ashoka -and Emperor Ashoka was UNKNOWN -in collective idnian consciousness -until English arachaeologists discovered him. 3. Indus valley civilization - revealed only in the 1920s by whoelse ;) Anyway, ENOUGH of this, which has got very little to do with TODAY's watered down, somewhat unrecognizably-degenerate Britain. They happen to be white and they happen to be in the West. ;) Whats important is that the IDEALS that animate these nations - ARE universal. Thats why you and I and millions of others are flocking to these shores, and not to Saudi Arabia.

People have been invading and colonizing, plundering others for millenia. What business had the Cholas (my people) invading indonesia? ;). The fact that they couldn't sustain an empire doesn't mean they were "angels". That would be similar to congratulating your dog for not unreasonably invading poland.

You and I should know this better, because India has been invaded by the mongols, turkmen, arabs, Turks, persians over a period of thousand years and her treasures looted and destroyed beyond recovery. Just because the British (who stole them and prompty put'em in their museums) did it far more effectively and systematically does not mean that they are extra-evil. How many hindu temples were destroyed by the invading British? Can you name one? How many thousands of CIVILIAN, non-fighting population was exterminated intentionally? The ONLY government-sponsored massacre in British-Indian history must be the jallianwallabagh incident. A piddly 300; nothing compared to the millions in the gulags and "cultural revolutions" of the allegedly non-colonial angels (china included)

Where am I going with this? today's Indians, including muslims, need to be thankful that a thousand years of islamic rule was brought to a certain end by the British - and india is RISING today precisely because of our knowledge of the English language, and our adaptation of their institutions. Accepting this fact, just as Manmohan himself did to an audience in his alma mater- Oxford - is not cronyism. Hey, after all the grand Chinese and Russian civilizations were destroying their nations to try out the ideas of a crazy German Jew, who ranted from the comfort of - whereelse - London. ;) Where DO you think the ideas of property rights, freedom of speech and freedom of the press and "democracy" COME from? And considering that today's Britain is nowhere near the greatness of their ancestors, this isn't giving THEM an upper-hand either. Sometimes I wonder if they are worse off than Indians, considering their inane attempts at placing more cameras everywhere, tracking ALL automobile movements(HELLO?), surrendering to the islamists, and generally legislating freedom out of existence in England. Or is it just Tony Blair...

Now, as of 2006, the concepts of Liberty and freedom are no longer "exclusive" to "Whites" or "West" (blasphemy! considering the fact that Amnesty International was founded by a man...ahem...English btw... outraged by the ARREST of two portuguese students toasting freedom http://web.amnesty.org/pages/aboutai-faq-eng#7 ) Its ours, yours and it belongs to the Chinese as well. All people deserve to be "free".

This attitude is not considered suave,urbane or "realistic" by the elites in Europe and elsewhere; but thanks to Bull-headed Americans like Bush and John Bolton ;), it WILL come to pass. Even china will be "free" someday, and, the U.S cozying upto India, for its own self-interests of course, will nonetheless, subtly, imperceptibly influence China's progress towards "individual liberty". I personally hope its a slow, gradual evolution as MichaelL and others seem to describe, and not like the volatile, terrifying, instant-democracy mix served up by the dear leader to iraq ;)

Posted by: Tamil-Indian-American | March 2, 2006 11:55 PM

Tamil American ... first, before I start, let me note a commonality between us --- I was born in Trichy :) ! Anyway, coming to your citations of colonialism being dominant throughout the millinea, I agree with you entirely, but don't necessarily condone it. I am not proud of either the Cholas or any of the other Tamil kingdoms who conquered not only Indonesia, but also present day Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia. By the same token, I have no respect for either Alexander the great, Atilla the hun, or Gengis Khan. But, there has to be an evolution over time; history has its lessons, and if you believe that expanding territory through colonization is not a virtue, then every ruler of his time should learn from rulers of the past. By that reasoning, the British (much closer to our time than any of the other colonists you've mentioned) and other European colonists had to act as more responsible colonizers, and the fact that they didn't destroy temples and inflict genocide is expected of them given the history that they knew of. But, colonialism itself is a disease, which I can't justify. By the same token, would you condone China's march into Tibet? China had the same argument as the British invading India --- they were trying to improve the standards of living in the colony. So, would you say that Tibet is happier under the Chinese today?

Coming to the argument that we are where we are due to the British colonists --- well, I find that argument to be extremely difficult to prove. If you are a scientist, the only way you can prove something like that is if you had a control experiment in which you see the same society evolve in the absence of the British. Unfortunately, we don't have that luxury. So, I find that your argument does not have a counter-example to support it. Yes, the British gave us English, yes the British gave us the railways, and many of the social and political institutions, but I find it hard to believe that these concepts are so exclusive to the British that an independent, uncolonized society cannot generate these concepts (except the language of course) on its own through its own evolution. Time and again, we have known through the history of time, that many ideas, especially scientific and mathematical, have sprouted in different parts of the world independently -- ie., several researchers have discovered the same concept simultaneously. So, what would have stopped an independent society from achieving the ideals that you thank the British for.

Finally, I also find it a bit disturbing if you claim that the British are the pioneers of freedom and free society in general. What is this free society, after all? It started with burgeois traders, who wanted to independently go about their business --- from this evolved the very concept of independence. And, to my knowledge, such encouragement of private trade has shone through several millenia, and was not invented by the British.

Finally, why do we care about the British creating the concept of India? You note that India has never been more unified as far back as Asoka (I still dispute this claim, but don't have the patience to argue about it); so what? Would I have been worse off if the concept of an Indian nation had never been created, and we had lived in say 4 or 5 fragmented countries? Or would we better off if India-Pakistan divide (which the British were responsible for) never happened? I don't know the answer to these questions. We will never know the answer to these questions; we only have to live with this legacy. But, to claim that we should be thankful to the British for creating India, I find this ridiculous precisely because I don't know the answers to the questions above.

Posted by: Girish | March 3, 2006 10:00 AM

There exists two Indias. More than the classes and divisions based on wealth, the more clear division of India is based on religion. Muslims in particular and Hindus, who still form nearly 80% of India. Muslims dont like Bush, US and Israel. Hindus can relate with Bush, US and 9/11. Ethnic cleansing in Kashmir is prevelant by Islamic fundamentalists since 1989. So, yes there are two Indias.

Posted by: Shivi | March 8, 2006 03:12 PM

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