Rama Krishna Sangem
The Economist, globally reputed magazine from the UK, this week, May 14-20, 2022, carried a cover story on India, with headline “India’s moment, Will Modi blow it”. This along with three other related stories in the issue is an interesting case of the magazine’s love-hate relationship with India. The one page article is full of opportunities India has now and at the same time, how this 1.4 billion people country is a land of contradictions and negative points.
We all know, this 178 year old (established in 1843 in London) The Economist, never misses an opportunity to dismiss India as a “chance country”. Means, here all bad things happen by design, while all good things happen by chance, sheer luck or accidentally. Even in its Asian edition, the magazine with around nine lakh circulation in print, doesn’t have a section on India, while the US and China have one.
Claims to be a publication of political alignment of economic liberalism, radical centrism and social liberalism, this magazine is of the view that India is basically a country of religious tensions, under performance and cronyism. This general view is amply reflected in the cover story of this week. While saying that “Indian economy is being rewired, the opportunity is immense – and so are the stakes”.
What stuns us its commentary that in India the pandemic has killed between 2.20 million 9.70 million (close to one crore!). First, is it a range to estimate deaths? Second, this figure is much more than that of WHO’s 4.7 million deaths in the last two years. Indian government has disputed WHO figures and maintained that only around half a million people had died. Of course, some experts put the Covid deaths at 20 lakh, not more than that.
The magazine goes on saying:”Since India opened up in 1991, its economy has prompted both euphoria and despair. One minute, it is the next China, a rising superpower bursting with enterprising geniuses. The next it is a demographic time-bomb unable to generate hope for its young people, or a Wild West Vodafone and other naive multinationals are fleeced”. Vodafone tax may be bad, but all multinationals naive?
By saying that India continues to be a fastest growing economy for 2022 and for years, The Economist comments: ” Who deserves the credit? Chance has played a big role. India didn’t create the Sino-American split or the cloud, but benefits from both. So has the steady accumulation of piecemeal reform over many governments. the digital identify scheme and new national tax system were dreamed up a decade ago”.
The Economist reserved its attack on PM Modi. ” A strongman lacking checks and balances can eventually endanger not just democracy but also the economy; think of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey whose bizarre views on inflation have caused a currency crisis”. The magazine lashed out at BJP’s ambivalence towards foreign capital. “The party loves blank cheques from Silicon Valley, but wary of foreign firms competing in India,” it says.
The long article ends: ” Fate, inheritor and pragmatic decisions have created a new opportunity in the next decade. It is India’s and Modi’s to squander”. A reluctant acknowledgement that India will surely miss the opportunity. Interestingly, The Economist is silent on how the US, the UK and Europe are turning to India, away from China or how India is becoming integral part of West’s security networking.