India Transformed — An Excerpt

Rakesh Mohan is the former deputy governor of the RBI. He has also served as the executive director of the IMF and secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, and Ministry of Finance. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow with Brookings India.

India underwent a major economic reform in the form of liberalization in 1991. In India Transformed, India’s top business leaders and economists come together and provide a balanced picture of the consequences of the economic reforms, initiated in 1991. They ask themselves some imperative questions: What were the reforms? What were they intended for? How have they affected the overall functioning of the economy?

Here is an exclusive excerpt from the foreword of the book, written by Strobe Talbott, the former Deputy Secretary of United States of America.

This timely, authoritative and policy-relevant volume sheds light on India’s dramatic changes over the past quarter century. That transformation has not only been a boon to the people of India, it has also contributed to the progress of the human enterprise as a whole. The world’s largest democracy is a major player on the world stage. It is certainly viewed and valued that way by my own country, the United States of America.

The economic and commercial dimension of India’s evolution is, of course, crucial. Hence, the focus of submissions in the pages that follow is political economy, financial development, trade and globalization, technology and innovation, agricultural and industrial development, and the interaction between the private and public sectors. The contributors include some of the original designers and implementers of the reform process, along with the prominent business leaders who have been the most successful builders of the economy.

There is also, thanks to the inclusion of wisdom from Shivshankar Menon, Shyam Saran and Sanjaya Baru, due attention paid to India’s foreign and security policy.

Over the course of the last half-century, I have had numerous opportunities to watch India’s evolution, first from the vantage point of a student of international relations and then for two decades as a journalist. During my eight years in government during the 1990s, I also had a chance to participate in the effort by the Indian and the US governments to put the bilateral relationship on a sounder—indeed, a transformed—footing than had been the case in the first four decades after Indian Independence. Dennis Kux captured the perception on both sides of that star-crossed backstory in the subtitle of his 1992 book, India and the United States: Estranged Democracies.

What stymied a robust bond between these two countries? After all, both had wrested their independence from British rule while adopting and adapting many of the features of British constitutional governance (minus, of course, the monarchy).

The key factor, I’ve always believed, was the Cold War.

It was approximately at the midpoint of that global schism that I first visited India forty-two years ago. I owe that enriching and informative experience to a glitch in my career as a Sovietologist.

In those days, I was a reporter for Time magazine concentrating on East–West relations and was assigned to the State Department beat. This often meant whirling around the world, coping with what seemed like a permanent case of jetlag, trying to keep up with the then secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

In October 1974, Kissinger embarked on a seven-nation diplomatic tour starting with Moscow. The Kremlin was eager to welcome the secretary of state as the personification of continuity in the US policy of détente, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation and Gerald Ford’s ascension to the presidency. The Soviets, however, were not about to extend their hospitality to me. I was persona non grata because of my role in translating and editing Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs. The material for the two volumes was surreptitiously recorded and spirited out of the country while he was under virtual house arrest, since his ouster from the leadership ten years before. The second volume, published earlier in 1974, particularly irked Foreign Minister Anatoly Gromyko, who sent a message to Kissinger’s plane over the Atlantic, denying me a visa.

After I was unceremoniously dropped off in Copenhagen during a fuelling stop, I hopscotched to New Delhi, which would be Kissinger’s second stop after Moscow.

On the personal front, my several days of free time were immensely gratifying. I made friendships that lasted for decades. I also came to know Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan (whose desk officer at the State Department was none other than Dennis Kux). Moynihan’s wife, Elizabeth, took me under her wing and drove me out to—where else?—the Taj Mahal, where she was already deeply into studying the Mughal gardens.

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