April 10th, 2014
11:13 PM ET

The tension between global norms and national interests

By Fareed Zakaria

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has unified Western democracies, at least in their robust condemnation of the action. But farther afield, one sees a variety of responses that foreshadow the great emerging tension in 21st-century international life: between global norms and national interests.

Consider the response of India, the world’s most populous democracy. New Delhi was mostly silent through the events of February and early March; it refused to support any sanctions against Russia, and its national security adviser declared that Russia had “legitimate” interests in Ukraine — all of which led Vladimir Putin to place a thank-you phone call to India’s prime minister.

India’s reaction can be explained by its deep ties with Russia.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: India • Russia • Ukraine
India's election: What's at stake?
April 7th, 2014
09:45 AM ET

India's election: What's at stake?

By Aakanksha Tangri

As Indians begin heading to the polls in the largest election in history, GPS intern Aakanksha Tangri explains what’s at stake, who the key players are, and what the election means for ties with the United States.

It will be the world’s biggest exercise in democracy. As India heads to the polls from Monday, some 814 million people will be eligible to vote in a general election that will be broken down into nine phases at over 900,000 polling stations across the country. Indeed, the final votes won’t be cast until May 12, before they are all counted on May 16.

The election pits the ruling Indian National Congress’s Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi, the candidate of the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. But despite the storied history of his family name, Gandhi is widely seen as the underdog against the current chief minister of Gujarat.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government, led by the Indian National Congress, swept to power in 2004 under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, who surprised many by declining to take up the post of prime minister, instead calling on respected former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh to take the helm of government. But despite putting together a comfortable majority in a second consecutive election victory in 2009, a stalling economy, numerous corruption scandals and a perceived lack of direction left many Indians craving a change this time around.

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Topics: Elections • India
China or America? Indians pick U.S.
April 4th, 2014
12:52 AM ET

China or America? Indians pick U.S.

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

During the Cold War, the Indian government attempted to position itself between Moscow and Washington by claiming leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. As Indians head to the polls over the next six weeks, their country again finds itself in a world with two preeminent powers: this time, China and the United States.

And the Indian public is fairly clear where its sympathies lie: with America. Of course, how such attitudes will influence the views of the next Indian government remains to be seen. But, for now at least, there appears to be no evidence of broad anti-Americanism on the sub-continent.

This might come as a surprise to some. After all, the favorable views of the United States came despite the fact that the Pew Research Center survey measuring sentiment was conducted in India in the immediate aftermath of the controversial December 2013 arrest and strip-search of India’s female deputy consul general in New York on charges of visa fraud. Yet by more than three-to-one (56 percent to 15 percent), Indians express a favorable rather than unfavorable view of the United States.

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Topics: China • India • United States
Indians dissatisfied with direction of country
February 27th, 2014
10:41 AM ET

Indians dissatisfied with direction of country

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

Nations periodically have “change” elections. The outcome of the 1980 U.S. presidential contest, in which Ronald Reagan trounced then President Jimmy Carter, was attributable to many factors. But at the end of the day, Americans just wanted a change.

India may be heading for a similar such election when the public goes to the polls later this spring to elect a new parliament and government.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that seven-in-ten Indians are dissatisfied with the way things are going in their country today. And, by a margin of more than three-to-one, they would prefer the right-of-center, Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to lead the next Indian government, rather than the current governing coalition led by the left-of-center Indian National Congress party.

Of course, much can happen between now and election day. But the Indian public is clearly disgruntled and seems to be ready to embrace someone new.

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The myths of India's rising regional parties
February 18th, 2014
10:47 PM ET

The myths of India's rising regional parties

By Aakanksha Tangri

As India prepares to head to the polls in the next few months, much of the attention has been focused on the rise of regional parties and their potential impact on the national results. GPS intern Aakanksha Tangri speaks with Milan Vaishnav, an associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment, about the upcoming election and what he calls the “myths” about the rise of regional parties in the world’s biggest democracy.

You've spoken about the emergence of regional power centers in Indian politics. Could you elaborate on this and how you think these regional parties will impact the upcoming general elections?

Since 1989, no single party has been in a position to form a national government in Delhi without the support of key regional parties. The fact that this remains the case in 2014 is a true testament to their influence. Most so-called regional parties are actually single-state parties. But in India’s decentralized polity, holding just a few seats in parliament makes you an important player – like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam of Tamil Nadu, the Trinamool Congress of West Bengal, and the Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh.

These parties will again be crucial in government formation, as neither of the two major national parties—the Indian National Congress or Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—will win 272 seats (an outright majority) on their own. In the near term, both the Congress and BJP are looking to form pre-poll alliances with key regional actors to maximize their seat share in the elections. Once the results are declared, a second round of jockeying will take place when the party with the single largest share of seats tries to form a government. To do so, they’ll need to enter into a set of post-poll alliances with regional actors. And in order to join the government, regional parties will demand representation in the Cabinet or in key decision-making fora.

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How India can leapfrog to the future
December 29th, 2013
08:08 AM ET

How India can leapfrog to the future

Watch ‘India at a Crossroads,’ a GPS special, this Sunday at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Barnik Maitra and Adil Zainulbhai, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Barnik C. Maitra is a partner at McKinsey & Company’s Mumbai office and co-editor of Reimagining India. Adil Zainulbhai is Chairman of McKinsey India and co-editor of Reimagining India. The views expressed are their own.

In a village 100 miles from any cities in Andhra Pradesh, a young woman, three months pregnant, is getting her first and only medical check-up. This is happening on board a visiting medical van that now comes to the village every month. The paramedic gives her basic vitamins and enters various vital parameters into an online data base.  Two weeks later, when she feels a little unwell, she calls a toll-free number from her family’s mobile phone, connects a $1 monitor to it, and talks to a doctor. He studies her vital signs through the monitor and reassures her that everything is fine this time. Five months and five such virtual check-ups later, it is time for her to go to the hospital. The online doctor sends her an ambulance, which drops her 90 miles away at the nearest hospital, for a safe delivery.

Thousands of mothers in Andhra Pradesh and around India are benefiting from the frugal technologies of wireless connectivity, sensors, software, and having a safer childbirth.

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December 28th, 2013
10:31 AM ET

What India could teach the world

Watch ‘India at a Crossroads,’ a GPS special, this Sunday at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

The most important global trend of the last twenty years has been the rise of China, which has changed economics, politics, culture and geo-politics around the world. Were India to unlock its economy, its demographics alone would ensure that its rise would be the defining trend of the next twenty years. That is what’s at stake – for India and the world – in its upcoming national elections.

Will India finally live up to its potential? Many foreign observers, particularly Western businesspeople, look at India today and despair. The country simply cannot reform at the pace needed to fulfill its ambitions. Everything gets mired in political paralysis.

This is true and unfortunate. But the India we show you in our special report this Sunday is a moving picture not a snapshot. I left India thirty years ago, but have visited it every year since, and the pictures have gotten brighter, more dynamic and more hopeful. Remember, the country's economy might be sluggish now, but it has grown steadily for the last 15 years, faster than any large economy except China.

In states as disparate as Gujarat, Odisha, and Bihar, governments are aggressively promoting economic reforms.

This is not simply a story about one person – Narendra Modi, the controversial chief minister of Gujarat. That state of 60 million people has grown almost as fast as China for two decades – and with seven chief ministers at the helm, not just Modi.

Other states are growing fast as well. Twenty years of economic growth have transformed the country. The Indian middle class now numbers more than 250 million, while technology is giving the new middle class the power to make their voices heard. Nearly three-quarters of the population has mobile phones. Texting and similar methods have now become a routine way to petition government, organize protests, and raise awareness.

India will never be a China, a country where the population is homogeneous and where a ruling elite directs the nation's economic and political development. In China, the great question is whether the new president, Xi Jinping, is a reformer – he will need to order change, top-down, for that country.

In India, the questions are different: are Indians reformers? Can millions of people mobilize and petition and clamor for change? Can they persist in a way that makes reform inevitable? That is the only way change will come in a big, open, raucous democracy like India. And when that change comes, it is likely to be more integrated into the fabric of the country and thus more durable.

And were India to succeed, it could have enduring lessons for the world. China is the rare case of an efficient, pro-growth one party state, a model that is rare in history and difficult to emulate. India is a big, messy, diverse democracy. If it can make the hard choices that ensure growth and progress, then many, many countries around the world can find their own paths to success.

Frankly, if India's dysfunctional democracy can deliver, well, there might even be some lessons there for Washington, DC.

For more on this issue, read my essay for the book Reimagining India here.

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Topics: India
December 27th, 2013
04:16 PM ET

What Indians really want from their government

Watch ‘India at a Crossroads,’ a GPS special, this Sunday at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Corinne Woods, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Corinne Woods is director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign, a U.N. campaign unit set up in 2002 to support the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The full MY World statistics can be accessed here. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

This year has been a turbulent one for Indian politicians faced with a newly vocal, newly energized electorate.

The rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old student at the end of 2012 has forced the issue of sexual discrimination and harassment to center stage, and last month the government saw huge losses at state elections as voters used the ballot to protest over corruption and incompetency. The United Progressive Alliance government is going to have to respond to these issues fast if it is to keep its grip on the country at next year’s general election, and the voters are leaving the politicians in no doubt as to what they expect on these key issues.

But what about the other issues that they really care about? What if these, too, could be heard and addressed so that policies recognized what the voters really talked about at home rather than what the media reported on the television, in newspapers and on the internet?

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December 23rd, 2013
05:26 PM ET

India at a crossroads

Watch ‘India at a Crossroads,’ a GPS special, this Sunday at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

The United States walked into a skirmish this past week. Not with China, not with Iran…but with India.

Why are Indians so angry at America? Well, they say that the United States mistreated an Indian consular worker, who was arrested for allegedly falsifying a visa application for her live-in maid, and for paying that maid less than a third of the U.S. minimum wage.

The facts of the case continue to emerge. But the incident highlights that for all their similarities – big democracies, Asian partners – India and America are very different societies.

Despite its impressive growth, India remains quite poor. Even if the consular worker’s maid was being paid only $300 a month, she was still making two-and-a-half times the national average. Second, India has a recent history of diplomats being involved with visa fraud. This shouldn't be surprising, unfortunately. India ranks 94th in the world for transparency. You encounter corruption every day in India.

And lastly, why are Indian politicians feeding all this outrage? Well, Indian politicians have always been masters of self-righteous indignation. But also, they're up for elections next year. With some 700 million eligible voters, this will be the greatest exercise in democracy the world has ever seen.

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The two faces of India
November 12th, 2013
10:23 AM ET

The two faces of India

By Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Katrina Lantos Swett is Vice Chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Mary Ann Glendon is a USCIRF Commissioner. The views expressed are their own.

This month, the world’s second most populous nation has resumed its annual commemoration of end-of-year holy days. India’s Hindu population, along with Jains and Sikhs, has celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights. Muslims are marking Al Hijra, the Islamic New Year, and Ashura on November 14. Next month, Christians will celebrate Christmas.

Taken together, these holidays are a testament to India’s remarkable religious diversity. Besides its Hindu majority, India includes the world’s third largest Muslim population, 25 million Christians, and Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Jews, and others. As the world’s largest democracy, India officially tolerates this diversity.   India’s prime minister is Sikh and the ruling Congress Party head is Catholic.

Yet on the ground, in a number of key areas across the country, there exists a second, markedly less benign India.

Pew’s Religious Restrictions Report finds that India scores “high” on government restrictions and “very high” on social hostilities indexes. In addition, a Pew survey of nations with significant Muslim populations excluded India, as local survey houses feared that questions on religious identity and belief could put interviewers’ safety at risk from local authorities or residents.

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Topics: India • Religion
September 26th, 2013
02:42 PM ET

What I'm reading: Scandinavia's superior prisons?

By Fareed Zakaria

“As India’s most dynamic states post rapid and sustainable growth rates, the country is rediscovering its natural fabric as a nation of strong regions. States still growing at or near double-digit rates represent India’s secret weapon for competing with the other major emerging markets, from China to Brazil, Indonesia to Mexico,” writes Ruchir Sharma in Foreign Affairs.

“The only hitch is that despite the chief ministers’ high popularity in their home states, many of them are pushing rapid development with an autocrat’s haste. Nevertheless, if India is to come back as a success story among the emerging markets, New Delhi should find ways to encourage the rise of its breakout states and the spread of their success to India’s other states.”

“It isn’t clear to me why China’s economy must deteriorate next year,” writes Jim O’Neill on Bloomberg. “China’s slowdown to its current 7.5 percent growth rate was well signposted by a sharp slowdown in leading indicators. Those measures, including monetary growth and electricity usage, are no longer flashing red. Coincident indicators such as the monthly purchasing managers’ index have picked up. Unless you believe that China is somehow doomed to fail, these signs are encouraging. They suggest that the rest of this year and the first part of 2014 might see slightly stronger growth.”

“The more resourceful pessimists next argue that the better growth signals are coming from parts of the economy where growth is unsustainable - such as the urban housing market and government-directed investment - from excessive growth of credit extended by shadow banks, and not from a broadly based expansion of consumer spending. If this were clearly the case, I’d be a pessimist, too, because a buoyant China needs consumers to take the lead.”

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September 6th, 2013
10:22 AM ET

Does India need a strongman to revive economy?

Back in 2001, Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill coined the term BRICs to describe the key fast growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. But a dozen years later, is the focus on the BRICs misplaced? Indeed, is the group “broken,” as Morgan Stanley’s Ruchir Sharma has suggested?

“Although the world can expect more breakout nations to emerge from the bottom income tier, at the top and the middle, the new global economic order will probably look more like the old one than most observers predict,” Sharma wrote earlier this year. “The rest may continue to rise, but they will rise more slowly and unevenly than many experts are anticipating. And precious few will ever reach the income levels of the developed world.”

Each day this week, a leading analyst will assess the prospects of a BRIC nation and weigh in on whether it still deserves its place in a group of economic high flyers. Today, Madhav Nalapat, holds the UNESCO Peace Chair at Manipal University, looks at the prospects for India.

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