Think India: The Rise of the World’s Next Great Power and What It Means for Every American
by Vinay Rai and William L. Simon
Vinay Rai is clearly a cheerleader for his native country, so in that sense the book is biased, but informative and interesting nonetheless.
India has a rich history. “In the early eighteenth century… India, rich in resources and at peace with the world, accounted for an incredible twenty-five percent, more or less, of global trade; by the time the British boarded their ships in 1947, India accounted for no more than one percent of global trade.”
The book puts the relationship with the U.S. in context. Since Indian independence, the U.S. had strategic interests with India’s adversaries, and thus the Soviet Union ended up being India’s primary trading partner. More recently, India is emerging as global player, counterbalancing the strength of China in the region.
The author is very bullish on India’s future, but points out the challenges as well, including massive poverty. The book also covers the general acceptance of bribery as necessary to get things done, particularly with civil servants who don’t earn enough to live on.
I’ve heard of the caste system, but didn’t know much about it. This book gives the topic two and a half pages. It explains the about the oppressed class of Dalits, and that the caste system continues even though it has been illegal since 1950. But I’m left not really understanding what the caste system is. I would have preferred more on this topic, as it seems important to understanding Indian culture.
Rai mentions that in 1999 he was ranked by Forbes as one of the five richest people in India and among 200 wealthiest people in the world. He is not listed on the current Forbes Wealthiest list. (See Thirty who disappeared from the list.) The Afterword offers some insight in this regard. Rai explains how his political dissent was punished. “My actions stirred up some powerful forces within and outside the government and resulted in my being slapped with tax and revenue inquiries, and official harassment, leading to the government filing charges against me.” Of course there are two sides to the story, but I think this raises questions about the political risks of doing business in India.
Rai, Vinay, and William L. Simon. Think India: The Rise of the World’s next Superpower and What It Means for Every American. New York: Plume, 2007. Buy from Amazon.com