'Governance in India is broken'
August 19th, 2013
04:54 PM ET

'Governance in India is broken'

With a vast – and, just as importantly, youthful – population, India and its billion-plus potential consumers is on the minds of many Western companies. But will India be able to meet its potential? Ravi Venkatesan, a former chairman of Microsoft India and author of the new book Conquering the Chaos, answers GPS readers’ questions on this and other issues.

Indians want better education, health care and infrastructure, but the government is failing to provide these, writes “Sachin Patil” on Facebook. How confident are you that the government will carry out the reforms needed to make progress on these issues?

We have a real crisis. Despite India’s economic achievements, 66 years after independence, India ranks 136 out of 200 countries in terms of the human development index. A billion people live on less than $4/day. On many social indicators including infant mortality and lifespan, we lag even our neighbor Bangladesh. Half of all homes lack a toilet. Infrastructure investments are simply happening too slowly. India remains a ferociously tough place to do business, ranked #132 out of 200 countries in terms of ease of doing business by the World Bank. It’s hard to see a scenario when India can sustain its progress without addressing these issues.

It all simply boils down to governance. Governance in India is broken. Key institutions such as the judiciary, law enforcement, and the civil service haven’t been reformed and strengthened to keep pace with India’s development. But most of all, the levels of fragmentation, corruption and self-interest amongst leaders at the national, state and local government levels is stunningly high. This doesn’t augur well for reforms and progress. The base case appears to be one of a few more years of drift unless there is a black swan event that throws up competent leadership in the coming election.

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Topics: Economy • India • Readers' questions
How tough is doing business in India?
July 30th, 2013
04:45 PM ET

How tough is doing business in India?

With a vast – and, just as importantly, youthful – population, India and its billion-plus potential consumers is on the minds of many Western companies. But will India be able to meet its potential? And what are some of the challenges that companies face when doing business in the country?

Ravi Venkatesan, a former chairman of Microsoft India and author of the new book Conquering the Chaos, will be answering GPS readers’ questions on these and other issues. Please leave your questions below.

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Topics: India • Readers' questions
U.S. Congressman taking readers’ questions
June 26th, 2013
03:02 PM ET

U.S. Congressman taking readers’ questions

What should the U.S. and its allies make of China’s rise? What military challenges does it pose? And what kind of shape is America’s military anyway in to respond to changing realities in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere?

U.S. Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-Va), chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and co-chair of the China Caucus, will be taking GPS readers’ questions on these and other issues. Please leave your questions in the comment section below.

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Topics: Asia • China • Military • Readers' questions • United States
May 30th, 2013
03:11 PM ET

Leading China analyst to take readers' questions

June 4 sees the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident, while Chinese President Xi Jinping will be meeting President Barack Obama late next week in California. But what are they likely to discuss? How are U.S.-China ties looking? And what challenges does the recently installed Xi face at home?

Minxin Pei, a leading China analyst and the Tom and Margot Pritzker '72 professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, is taking questions from GPS readers. Please leave your questions in the comment section below.

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Topics: China • Readers' questions
Cyber security expert answers readers' questions
May 23rd, 2013
09:14 AM ET

Cyber security expert answers readers' questions

Cyber security expert Eugene Spafford, a professor of computer sciences at Purdue University and former member of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, responds to GPS readers’ questions. The views expressed are his own, based on publicly available information, and do not necessarily reflect those of any other organization.

“Danish Ahmed” notes we have laws governing the high seas and space – should governments be doing more to implement rules in cyber space?

Definitely, yes. Unfortunately, there are many significant obstacles in the way.  We’ve had governments for thousands of years and we are still working out how to balance national interests against each other with simpler technologies, and to understand and enforce the laws and norms those governments set for their populations. The whole notion of international computing networks is about 35 years-old – about one human generation. That isn’t enough time for us to get the experience necessary to really understand what needs to be done and what will work.

We have need of better agreements on behavior about what might be considered illegal, for instance.  But to do that, we need to come up with some norms or appropriate use to which (almost) everyone can agree.  This will not be simple or quick because there is such a variety of national and cultural standards that must be bridged. As one particular case, there are broad general protections in the U.S. for political and religious expression. However, that is not the norm everywhere else. For example, references to Nazi symbols are criminal offenses in Europe, Christianity is effectively banned in some Muslim countries with proselytization a capital offense, any criticism of the king is a crime in Thailand, and discussion of the failings of the Communist Party is blocked in the People's Republic of China. The situation may be even more complex as we consider images, video, and sound. Cartoons that purport to be of the Islamic prophet Mohammed will generate violence in many countries and be seen as valid speech in others. Posting pictures of naked people will be (boring) art in some countries, scandalous pornography in others, and possibly generate a death sentence in a few more. How do we begin to define norms for everyone to use?

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Cyber security expert to take GPS readers' questions
May 7th, 2013
06:44 PM ET

Cyber security expert to take GPS readers' questions

The Pentagon's claims in a new report that China is trying to extract sensitive information from U.S. government computers has put cyber security issues back in the media spotlight.

But how serious is the threat to U.S. interests? How can America respond? And what other issues should be attracting policymakers’ attention?

Cyber security expert Eugene Spafford, a professor of computer sciences at Purdue University and former member of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, will be taking questions from GPS readers. Please leave your questions in the comment section below.

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Topics: China • Internet • Readers' questions • United States
Submit your questions to William Milam, former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan
April 1st, 2013
02:06 PM ET

Submit your questions to William Milam, former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan

Next month, Pakistan holds a general election that looks set to mark the first successful transition between two democratically elected governments in the country's history.

But will the election really run smoothly? Who are the key players and what do they stand for? And what does it all mean for Pakistan's relations with its neighbors, especially India?

William Milam, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and currently a senior scholar on the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, will be taking questions from GPS readers. Please leave your questions in the comment section below.

Osnos responds on China
March 15th, 2013
11:29 AM ET

Osnos responds on China

Last week, GPS invited readers to pose questions to the New Yorker’s Beijing correspondent, Evan Osnos. Here's what he had to say:

China’s People's Liberation Army has always defended the party as much as national borders, notes "j. von hettlingen." How much influence does the military have over decision making?

As Mao put it, “Power flows from the barrel of the gun.” By that, he meant that the Party would always require the force of arms as its final defense. But he, and his heirs, also engineered the system to ensure that civilian power would predominate, and we have seen that, for the past 30 years, China’s diplomatic and military posture has been secondary to its development imperative. The military is getting more assertive but, for now, it is not an independent power.

“Hen na gaijin” raises the issue of the South China Sea. How likely is a clash over territorial disputes there or the East China Sea?

The danger is not of a strategic decision but of a mistake – a miscalculation, an error, a clash – and that danger gets larger as more vessels crowd into a confined space. Importantly, it can be said that Chinese leaders, even the more hawkish wing, do not actively seek a conflict simply because the Party’s operating principle is to control – and a conflict, by definition, has too many variables it cannot control. The Party knows that one of the few things more destabilizing than a conflict would be a conflict in which it loses.

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Topics: Asia • China • Readers' questions