Sunday, March 09, 2008

India Crawls Forward Like a Wounded Tiger---In Spite of the Gods

The Economist has a cover article on perhaps the most intriguing country I've ever visited---many times in fact. [The USA is almost equally intriguing and for many of the same reasons.]

A book called In Spite of the Gods by Financial Times DC Bureau Chief Edward Luce has the intriguing subtitle "The Strange Rise of Modern India." Luce was based in Delhi for years and has an Indian spouse, so he has an interesting avenue of examining India most international journalists lack. I recommend the book highly, as India's two main religions, dozens of semi-official languages, vibrant though corrupt democracy and a system of interlocking relationships between past and future, capitalism and socialism, and a foreign policy based largely on keeping its nuclear neighbor Pakistan from any military operations.

Although my acquaintance with China is far less developed, I have lived in an outlier of China's cultural and ethnic diaspora for a year & a half and learned a language whose vocabulary is mostly Chinese-based [Vietnamese]. My brother has had a much broader experience, having worked extensively in China & speaking Vietnamese, Chinese, and Bahasa Malay [Indonesian] as well as working in projects on the sub-continent [Bangladesh & Sri Lanka] for the Asian Development Bank or FAO. He judges India on a par with China because of the advantage democracy confers on the traditional cultures of East Asia, in his opinion.

It so happens that the US Ambassador to India was my squash partner in the far-off days of yore in Saudi Arabia. I'm no longer in contact, but India's interesting volte face toward the US makes America able to pull off some leverage against the economic clout of China.

The Indians I have met are among the most intelligent and wise observers of the human comedy as well as hard-working businessmen and possessing a spiritual dimension that few foreign cultures emanate.

I remain a big fan of India [I have been to Pakistan a half dozen times, at least] and somewhat less enamoured of the Paks, but both are countries that will play larger roles in the future both in US foreign policy and the world at large.

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