a somewhat edited version (alas, they took out some of the good bits!) of the following was published by firstpost at http://www.firstpost.com/india/modi-right-to-ditch-english-but-he-should-speak-sanskrit-at-un-1563899.html

 

‘Sacred history’, ‘Christian nation’ and other dubious memes: English considered harmful

 

Rajeev Srinivasan worries that Indians are absorbing a worldview along with a language

 

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to speak Hindi with his foreign visitors is a clear statement of principle: there is no need to apologize for Indian-ness, nor is there the need to consider English the be-all and end-all. I liked R Jagannathan’s view in Firstpost http://www.firstpost.com/politics/speaking-hindi-how-modi-is-putting-indianness-back-into-india-1557541.html   that this helps put the Indian back in Indian-ness. The fact that a number of MPs took their oaths in Sanskrit is further evidence that the age of the unquestioned kowtowing to foreign tongues is coming to an end. Vive la difference, as the French might say.

 

I have long felt that languages are subversive, and that sometimes they are masks of conquest. Over time I have begun to feel that, in particular, English is enormously harmful in subtle ways. Now this is a hard thing for me to admit since English is the language that I prefer to write in, and so in a way I am sawing away at the branch that I sit on, quite Kalidasa-like. Nevertheless, the memes that we absorb with the language essentially deracinate us, because they are so alien.

 

For instance, it was intriguing to hear recently from the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, that “the UK is a Christian country” and that he was intent on propagating his religion (“David Cameron: I am evangelical about my faith”, The Guardian, 17 April 2014). This is about as bluntly un-secular as one can be: he was declaring that his country not only had an official religion, but that he would go to some length inflict said religion on others.

 

In contrast, would any politician in India dare comment that looting Hindu temples and transferring their wealth to the State was inappropriate? The government has in fact launched an attack on the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple in Trivandrum, with the clear intent of grabbing the billions in gold and antiques and gems in its vaults. But no such thought ever enters the European Christian mind – to say that the Vatican has immense wealth that should properly belong to the masses would be considered blasphemy.

 

The notion that Britain is a Christian country is not new. Years ago, I read the brilliant Raj Syndrome: A Study in Imperial Perceptions by Suhash Chakravarty ,which, with voluminous research, showed that there was, in practice, little difference between the church and the imperial regime (as I described in my column The Predatory State http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/aug/16rajeev.htm )

 

I felt a sense of déjà vu when the famously secular The Economist magazine tweeted “ the Arab Muslim world is reacting negatively to a forthcoming movie about Noah, sacred history’s first boat-builder” (emphasis added, and in case you doubt me, below is a screenshot of this tweet timestamped 5:42pm, 13 Mar 2014). This is a plug for its religious blog, Erasmus, which generally talks – very positively of course – about Abrahamic religions, particularly Christianity. I shall focus on The Economist because I read it regularly, and it probably is the standard-bearer among wide-circulation English-language publications.

 

Screenshots_2014-04-18-12-30-56

It amused me because ‘sacred history’ is a deliciously creative euphemism for ‘Christian mythology’: so concrete and real-sounding! The word ‘mythology’, I have noticed over time, is reserved by Anglophones for any non-Semitic stories, eg. Greek, Norse, Hindu, Buddhist, Roman etc. Whereas when it comes time to describe their own mythology, Anglophones use ‘scripture’, and never ‘mythology’. But I think ‘sacred history’ is even better, implying there is ‘real’ history and then ‘sacred’ history. Which is true: there is history, and then there is myth.

 

The problem is that the Anglophone West, and their friends in India, have a tendency to conflate – often with malice aforethought – their myth with history. For instance, let’s take the founding myth of Christian dogma. There is absolutely no evidence – and I mean absolutely, positively, none whatsoever – that Jesus Christ actually existed. No relics, no artifacts, no contemporary historical records, nothing. Nada. Zip. (Well, to be precise, there is the historian Josephus Flavius, but if you believe him, then you must also believe his history of the Essenes which tell you that the alleged teachings of Jesus were all in the Essene Gospels of a couple of hundred years earlier).

 

Similarly there is the beloved myth of St. Thomas who, ‘sacred history’ says, arrived in Kerala around 70CE, converted Nambudiri Brahmins, and was murdered in Chennai by Brahmins with a spear, and his skeleton is in Chennai. There are only three problems with this: Thomas never actually went to India, there were no Nambudiris in Kerala at the time, and the Vatican itself certifies that Thomas’ skeleton is in Ortona, Italy. But this has not stopped the myth from becoming “truth by repeated assertion”. There is also a nice little embellishment I heard from Shashi Tharoor, that a Jewish girl with a flute greeted the man on a Kerala beach. Those little details… sheer genius! There were Jews in Kerala around the time: so the plausibility quotient goes up.

 

For a history-centric set of religions – as in the Semitic/Abrahamic religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, along with the quasi-religion of Communism – it is important that major historic events that are supposed to have taken place are treated as true history, things that actually happened. Hence the desperate attempt to confuse ‘real history’ and ‘sacred history’: in other words, an assertion that myth is real. Or, in other words, a ‘sacred lie’.

 

Correspondingly, there is also the denigration of Hindu history as myth. The Aryan Invasion Mythology is one such attempt – Hindu ithihasa (ithi-hasa: thus it happened) does not jell with the 4004 BCE creation mythology of the Abrahamics (Bishop Ussher’s 4004 BCE genesis date is the basis of Max Mueller’s assertions). Therefore the Hindu ithihasa must be myth. QED. In fact the exact opposite is likely to be the truth: ithihasa as history, Aryan invasion as myth.

 

The work of Bart Ehrmann, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, including his book Forged demonstrate that there is a great deal of forgery, extrapolation, errors etc. in the New Testament. That is, far from being ‘true’ or the alleged, immutable word of God, the New Testament (Christian Bible) is full of deliberate and unintended falsehoods. This is no ‘history’, although it is pretty good fiction.

 

The work of Thomas Thompson, a retired Professor of Theology at the University of Copenhagen and a leading archeologist, especially The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives, is notable. It suggests that the Old Testament (Jewish Bible) version of history “is not supported by any archaeological evidence so far unearthed, indeed undermined by it, and that it therefore cannot be trusted as history”. This is ‘sacred history’? (By the way, Thompson was made unemployable in US academia by Catholic theologians, and so worked as a schoolteacher, janitor, and housepainter until Israelis, and later, Danes, invited him to tenure-track positions.)

 

So this ‘sacred history’ business is very dubious, but The Economist perseveres. Though years of reading it carefully I have noticed that they use the term ‘Holy Land’ very often (isn’t this rather non-secular, and highly ethnocentric? An etic outsider certainly wouldn’t consider the West Asian desert particularly holy. A more accurate description would be ‘violent, bloody desert’). And for a Hindu or a Buddhist, his ‘Holy Land’ is India. So whose point of view is it?

 

Similarly, ‘Holy See’: why not simply say, ‘Vatican’? Given the reality that it is the biggest, oldest, most ruthless Multi-National Company out there, and that it has a dual status as a country (with its own UN seat) and a religious entity, I am not sure why it should be called ‘holy’. In fact, the Anglophone use of ‘holy’ strikes me as much the same as a vacuous formal title, such as ‘Lord’ or something.

 

Here’s another recent Economist story, where it asserts something about “the birthplace of Jesus”, as though it were self-evidently true, not a pious belief (see the screenshot). In fact, the traditional account of how the birthplace of Jesus was ‘found’ is that it came in a dream to Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, with no corroborative evidence whatsoever, that Bethlehem was the spot. A Greek or Roman temple that stood on the spot was destroyed.

Screenshot_2014-04-19-16-28-50

 

Similarly, the Economist magazine has its ‘Advent Calendar’, a special ‘Christmas Issue’, and it always talks about Christian texts (and only Christian texts) as ‘scripture’, for instance in “Religion in Northern Ireland: Staging the scriptures” (2010). Again, ethnocentric and religio-centric. I also noticed that, for 2014’s Good Friday, they pushed up their publication by one day, so that Christians could take the day off – note the equivalent of all these would be condemned if done in India for Hindus.

 

I wouldn’t have an issue if all this was confined to the Anglophones: it’s their language, their religion, their problem. But it is seriously polluting and undermining the Indian sense of self-hood. It pains me to point out that, along with the language, we speakers of English as a second language have acquired a number of unfortunate memes (and prejudices) that are grossly culture-specific.

 

One example is that of ‘crossing one’s fingers’. An article dated 14 Mar 2014 in Livemint.com (“How Isro got an indigenous cryogenic engine”) starts off with: “Mission director K Sivan kept his fingers firmly crossed in the mission control room at the ISRO….” This is comical because it is unlikely that anybody in India would cross their fingers: it is not natural for Indians. Besides, the engineers and scientists of ISRO are probably less religious, even if they happen to be Christians, than the average punter.

 

But that meme of ‘crossing one’s fingers’ has become part of the discourse. So has ‘christening’ for the simple act of ‘naming’ something. And ‘blue eyed-boy’. This in a country where non-brown eyes have traditionally been a sign of abnormality! Or ‘roses in December’: as Vikram Seth said acidly in Diwali, roses actually grow just fine in India in December!

 

“Into each life a little rain must fall”: yes, and we welcome it. In India, we welcome the cooling monsoon, the warm, soul-liberating rain, not the bleak, soul-deadeningly chilly drizzle of northern latitudes. As I write this, the monsoon has just hit landfall in Kerala, and all of us are awaiting its arrival with great anticipation, and we are a little tremulous about the El Nino’s effects of a deficient monsoon.

 

Similarly, we see many write about the “elephant-headed Hindu God, Ganesha” (including Indians writing in English). Fair enough: the deity is indeed elephant-headed. But how come we don’t see anywhere, in reverse, “the Christian corpse God, Jesus on the Cross”? That is also equally true: the deity is a dead body nailed to a cross. Yet, there is a mental block about saying that: it sounds… odd. That is what I mean by unconscious acceptance of metaphors and memes. There is in fact no reason for Indians to internalize these Western vanities.

 

There are many such metaphors and clichés that Indians use unwittingly that have no meaning in their context. This shows the extent to which they have been brainwashed into an Abrahamic way of thinking. I do not by means suggest that they should abandon English (it is fairly useful for trade and international exchanges); but let them be aware of the religious and cultural biases that pervade that language, that they have absorbed unwittingly.

 

This is why an uncompromising stand on language – for example, I believe Prime Minister Modi should read his prepared speeches at the UN etc. in Sanskrit and it will be interpreted for others – is a proper part of a cultural re-awakening and self-assertion. Indians don’t need to be colonized in the mind any more.

 

Some might accuse me of wanting to deny others the benefits I have received from English, I would suggest they get truly fluent in their mother tongue as well as English. In my defense, I am thoroughly familiar with one language, Malayalam, and it is my language of the heart. It is the works of Vijayan, Pottekkat, Mukundan and their Malayalam cohort that speak to me. With exceptions like Amitabh Ghosh’s ‘The Shadow Lines’, the entire corpus of Indo-Anglian literature leaves me a little cold: it is like making love through an interpreter.

 

1739 words, April 20, 2014

Update: 2076 words, June 7, 2014

this is an unpublished piece i wrote recently.

Were women voters Narendra Modi’s secret weapon?

 

Rajeev Srinivasan on a possible gender divide and the reasons for it

 

I have not yet been able to find data on how women voted in these elections. But I have a conjecture that far more women would have voted for Narendra Modi than conventional wisdom suggests, for both psychological and practical reasons. Until the data is crunched, we will not know this for sure, so I emphasize this is only a hypothesis at the moment.

 

Conventional wisdom, especially as based on American data, about women’s votes would follow certain axioms:

  1. Women are not particularly interested in politics but in day-to-day issues
  2. Women are more swayed by emotional appeals
  3. Women are put off by conservative or right-leaning parties
  4. Women may pay attention to irrelevant things, like a candidate’s good looks

And add to that, in India:

  1. Women vote as their menfolk tell them to, not as independent thinkers

Let us start with these postulates. Well, the immediate implication is that the BJP has not a ghost of a chance of winning their votes, because:

  1. The Congress is quite good at sops and giveaways. The immediate gratification has always won them the votes, especially from rural womenfolk
  2. The media barrage about how the BJP would turn the country into an unending mess of riots and violence – a la the narrative of BJP/Modi guilt in Gujarat 2002 – would terrify women
  3. The BJP with its allegedly macho image (remember how an editorialist in the mis-named The Hindu thought that even Swami Vivekananda was too macho a figure?) would scare women
  4. With all due respect to Shriman Modi, with his 56-inch chest, he’s no beauty. Women prefer guys like John Kennedy. And Rahul Gandhi, with his dimples, appeals to them
  5. Most men are going to vote for the familiar Congress (especially after being plied with booze and the usual rousing slogans of roti-kapda-makan and Secularism in danger!)

Thus, a priori, one would imagine a BJP, with its rather unsophisticated image (especially as narrated by the mainstream media), would not appeal greatly to the woman voter, who, I imagine, counts for a little over 50% of all eligible voters in the country. This impression was strenghtened by an interview I did of a smart young woman, who said she was “put off” by the BJP. She made a face too. But I did find that older women in Kerala were more positive towards them.

 

Other interviews I read about – mostly about young women in metros – were generally negative about the BJP. They seemed to have an image problem – quite likely because of the intense dislike the media has had for the party. Thus, it did not look promising for them at all.

 

But what might have happened during the last phase of the campaign? One possibility is that women are generally kind-hearted and sympathetic to the underdog (perhaps because they find themselves the underdogs in many of their encounters with men).

 

But then women like a winner, too. The feebleness of Rahul Gandhi’s campaign would have contrasted with the robustness of Modi’s. The images of Modi’s immense popular support (such as the ocean of people turning out to greet him in various places all over the country) must have had some impact, too.

 

I posit that women, who generally look for security in whom they choose for their husbands, are also keen to select the most capable and most formidable leader, because in a sense that is what keeps their country, and ultimately themselves, safe. The widely publicized issue of women’s safety (especially in the wake of the rape-murder of poor Jyoti Singh Pandey) may have made more willing to accept machismo, obviating item #3 in the list above. And Modi conveys machismo in spades, and efficiency too. He is the guy to depend on in a tight spot.

 

This struck a chord. I was amused by several anecdotes about old women arriving in polling booths (where Modi was not contesting) and demanding to know where they could vote for Modi. The man had become a movement, a tsuNaMo!

 

Perhaps the most important issue for women would have been item #1: their day-to-day troubles. Roaring inflation that has eaten into purchasing power falls disproportionately hard on women, as their budgets have increased anywhere near as much as prices. A mother struggling to feed and clothe and educate her children – as most fathers are blissfully unaware of these matters – has faced a tough time in the recent past. Economics dictated that they would not be swayed by short-term blandishments when they had seen for ten years poor delivery by Congress.

 

Item #2 – fear tactics about terrible times under the BJP – may not have played much of a role. Besides, not only the BJP, but also the AAP, focused women’s attention on the issue of corruption, which they probably encounter in regular extortion. In many ways, the fear of the unknown BJP was overwhelmed by the contempt for the known Congress. Women were ready to give the BJP a chance.

 

Item #4 is something that irritates men endlessly: the seeming female focus on irrelevencies. A friend of mine in San Diego, a smart and witty woman, once told me that she voted for Obama 1 simply because “he was better looking than McCain”. I told her I could have given her 25 good reasons why she should have voted against Obama, but she didn’t care.

 

But I think women are not as superficially as men think they are. Women, used to multitasking, are probably taking into account a large number of factors, which they don’t want to go into, when they simply say, “the guy looks good”. They arrive at a gestalt based on all these factors  – again it irritates men – calling it ‘woman’s intuition’, which is surprisingly clear-sighted.

 

As an example, take Shashi Tharoor’s campaign in Trivandrum in 2009. The guy looks like a rock star and speaks with a silver tongue, and women (of all ages and political persuasions) simply swooned over him, and he got a huge majority of around 100,000, unheard of in razor-thin-victory-margin Kerala. But wait, there’s more: women calculated that this man, if elected, would almost certainly become a minister, and also bring international pizzazz to his constituency, both of which were true.

 

Now contrast this with the Tharoor campaign in 2014. This time, the women were not very happy with him, for various reasons. But they also calculated that if he were to win, almost certainly he wouldn’t be a minister because the UPA was unlikely to come back to power. So I conclude they voted for O Rajagopal, who could become a minister in a likely NDA dispensation. So much so that Tharoor won with a much reduced majority.

 

Did men tell women how to vote, item #5? Perhaps. This continues to be a problem, I am sure. But this time the menfolk were also caught up in the TsuNaMo, which means that too worked to Modi’s advantage. The women I spoke to did not say “my husband told me to do this”, they usually said, “I like (or don’t like) Modi because…” Okay, they were in Kerala, where women generally are more independent.

 

Women are a tough vote bank. They who manage to pocketbook will be looking carefully at how far their rupees go. Unless the recent stagflation is tamed and there is clear growth, they will defect. Women are notoriously and ruthlessly practical about money: therefore Modi has to ensure that economic growth, along with their concerns about the safety of their daughters, are taken care of. In that case, this secret weapon will stick with him.

 

1250 words, May 23, 2014

 

A slightly edited version of this appeared on rediff.com at http://www.rediff.com/news/column/rajeev-srinivasan-the-tripolar-world-that-modi-should-plan-for/20140605.htm

The tripolar world, G3, that Narendra Modi should plan for

 

Rajeev Srinivasan on a unique combination of facts that mean India finally gets a second chance

 

There is such a thing as timing and luck. If I were an optimist, I would suggest that the time is ripe as never before for India: this could be India’s time in the sun, as the Indo-Pacific Century brings to an end the Atlantic Century. India should think big: about how in a multipolar world, India can indeed be one of the poles, rather than being a secondary power that has to worry about ‘alignment’ with one of the poles. A G3 in other words, a India should look to getting others to align with itself rather than the US or China.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s epic victory in the Indian elections comes at the cusp of several events that demonstrate how far the world has changed in a short time. Many both on the Left and the Right find it hard to deal with the momentous changes that have come with Modi’s ascent. That’s certainly true in India.

 

As far as the world at large is concerned, things have changed dramatically in 2014 and even on the very day of Modi’s swearing in. I was startled to read that US President Barack Obama had made a secret visit to Afghanistan to celebrate America’s Memorial Day with the troops. Upon arrival, Obama requested, at short notice, a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Bagram Air Force Base. Surprisingly, Karzai refused. Instead, he got on a plane and landed in New Delhi to attend the Modi inauguration ceremony.

 

Granted, there’s been plenty of bad blood between the US and Karzai, and he is anyway about to leave the Afghan presidency. But consider: the leader of the occupying force in his country, not to mention the leader of the so-called Free World, wanted to meet him, but Karzai snubbed him to meet Narendra Modi, till just the other day deemed untouchable, whose US visa was denied as a punishment for him!

 

To use an old American idiom, “You’ve come a long way, baby!”. That is true of Modi personally, but it also indicates how India now has the chance to be a somebody. Echoing  Marlon Brando’s words as a burnt-out boxer in On the Waterfront, India “coulda been a somebody, coulda been a contender”, but instead “we are bums”. Fifty wasted years!

 

There’s a larger context that has unfolded over the last few years. First, there is widespread belief that the US has lost interest and capability in overseas adventures. Second, the spectacle of China’s allegedly “peaceful” rise, which has turned distinctly muscular recently. Third, the rise of anti-pacifist sentiment in Japan. Fourth, the increasing assertiveness of Russia. Of course, all of these are related.

 

In addition, the recent European Union election has been notable largely for the success of ultra-nationalist, anti-Euro/anti-EU parties in France, Germany, Britain, Greece, Italy, etc. It appears that the dream of a united single market in Europe is receding; anyway with the demographic implosion in much of prosperous Europe, it is getting to be less and less relevant.

 

The malaise that afflicts the US is due partly to one of those periodic funks that encourage the nation to look inward (“Fortress America”), especially after it has wasted much blood and treasure in interminable, unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is partly due to the lingering effects of the financial melt-down, and the realization that the US simply cannot afford large-scale, long-drawn-out wars.

 

It is also partly a function of the fact that despite all the hoopla that greeted his win in the elections, President Barack Obama is now seen as a bit of a failure. In general, his efforts have been treated with scorn: his ‘pivot to Asia’ has not prevented the Chinese from rattling sabers all around the region; his dire warnings did nothing to prevent Russia’s Vladimir Putin from capturing Crimea; and his lakshmana-rekha to Syria over chemical weapons was breached.

 

That short period in which Francis Fukuyama trumpeted “the end of history” and the US was the only hyperpower is coming to an end, principally due to imperial over-reach, as the British found out a century ago. Even giant America, with its continental size and exuberant population, can only be primus inter pares, first among equals, not hegemon. In particular, the instincts of Barack Obama, not exactly an electrifying leader, lead towards passivity.

 

China is beginning to lose a bit of its luster: among other things, there is the fear of an economic downturn there, challenging the justification for the continued totalitarian rule of the Communist Party there. Furthermore, on the 25th anniversary of the Tianmen Square protest, the enforced peace is broken by regular massacres and suicide bombings supposedly by separatist Uighurs: they cannot take internal docility for granted.

 

The exertions of their navy in the South China Sea, their imposition of their air defense zone in the East China Sea, the deliberate provocation of Vietnam by drilling for oil in their territorial waters: all these point to the fact that China’s alleged “peaceful rise” is just a myth. In response, its neighbors are getting much more wary of China. Furthermore, despite their willingness to consort with dubious leaders in Africa, their neo-imperialism is beginning to annoy the people there (as it did in Myanmar). China is no longer seen as positively as it was earlier

 

Japan, irritated by Chinese adventurism, and fearful that American defense commitments are not worth very much, is on a path that will amend the infamous Article 9 in its Constitution that essentially forces it to be a pacifist nation, unable by law to have normal armed forces.

 

Nationalist Japanese, of whom Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is one, are also tired of the ongoing propaganda that has deemed Japanese to be major villains, besides their having atoned for their wartime sins many times over. They have apologized, they have given reparations, yet they are berated for, in essence, being gullible enough to take Western media seriously.

 

Besides, the Japanese are looking to de-invest in China, given that the two countries may well be on the verge of a war. These factors, as well as a civilizational/cultural amity, mean that an Indo-Japanese partnership could become a major factor in Asia. A ‘reverse string-of-pearls’ containing China in its continental heartland is a possibility if India, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, Australia, the US come together to form a loose alliance.

 

Finally, there is a (somewhat) resurgent Russia. In some ways Obama is pushing Russia into China’s arms through sanctions: the recent signing of a giant $400 billion, multi-year gas deal is an example of this, and the Chinese got it at a bargain price. There are simmering tensions between them, for instance based on the influx of Chinese into sparsely-populated Russian Siberia. But a workable détente has been created by the two.

 

The Financial Times wrote about how ‘Modi completes a quartet of combative leaders in the most powerful nations of the region [Asia]’ (The Perils of Asia’s nationalist power game, FT, May 22). The quartet is: Putin, Modi, Xi of China, and Abe. The fact is that they will increasingly demand respect and attention, and that America will slowly become less influential in Asia.

 

The key to India’s possible future importance lies in a few factors: demography, location, and, now, decisive leadership. The demographic dividend needs no elaboration. The fact that India sits right smack in the middle of the most dynamic area in the world, the Indian Ocean Rim, with rapidly developing South-east Asia on the one side, and the future growth paragons of Africa on the other, is big geopolitical plus. As geostrategist Nicholas Spykman suggests, it is the Rimland that is becoming more important than the Heartland of Asia.

 

What India has lacked for a long time is leadership and focus. Narendra Modi supplies both these, as well as discipline, in ample measure. As Martin Wolf of the Financial Times pointed out, “India’s election remakes our world” (FT, May 20), this may be the most momentous election in history, bar the elections of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (okay, he betrays his Anglo-American bias, but still).

 

It will be in economics and commerce that a rising India can make the biggest impact. The industrial revolution a few centuries ago (in Europe), and the manufacturing revolution a few years ago (in Asia) bypassed India because of bad luck, poor education and infrastructure. But this time, with Modi at the helm, India may well become a new manufacturing hub. In a way, the self-inflicted troubles of Thailand and the attacks on Chinese factories in Vietnam are to India’s benefit: India will be seen as a more dependable logistics hub (if only we could get the roads, ports and electricity in place).

 

Given India’s vast resources (human and physical), there is no reason why we cannot have big Indian multinationals bestriding the world. The Economist magazine ran a recent story on how rising Asian companies may need to do a few things differently from American and European MNCs before them (Special Report: Business in Asia, June 1). This is true: it does not do to copy business models, because they have to be based on national core competencies: for instance, as Germany has done with its mittelstand, or Japan with its keiretsu.

 

This means India will have to invent its own—although I hate to use this term because of prior associations—Third Way. It will have to create a Capitalism with Indian characteristics, one that recognizes the long-term value, for instance, of agriculture. This will also require a Third Way of diplomacy, as almost all nations follow mercantilism to a greater or lesser extent.

In a recent post, Cleo Paskal asks: “Will Modi’s India Reinvent International Relations?” (Huffington Post, May 30). It can, and it should. There is the Cold War paradigm of two warring factions: the idea of G2 is a force-fit of that scenario into the rise of China. With the likely rise of Modi’s India, we need to plan for a multipolar world. It may be a G5 or G6 or something, but India should aspire to be one of the poles for sure.

Byline: Rajeev Srinivasan is a management consultant and business school professor.

1700 words, June 3, 2014