Ask Canadian author John Ralston Saul about the rise of India, and he promptly corrects you: "The re-rise, you mean." He says for millennia, Indian civilisation has been dealing with complexities with methods of its own. "It has come so far by drawing upon itself and moving at its own pace. It is probably the only post-colonial state that has survived without a coup d'etat or an economic collapse," says Saul. And now India is rewriting the rules of globalisation.
In India to promote his latest book, The Collapse of Globalism, Saul, an economic historian, blames the collapse of globalism on the rise of India and China in a manner that defies the rules as defined by the West. "The economic idea behind globalism and globalisation comprised a deterministic belief in the weakening of the state and the ascendancy of the market, which would take economics out of the purview of the state. We see none of this taking place in India or China. They are, in fact, rebuilding the nation-state," says Saul.
India's young demographics, says Saul, are more promising than China's, which are already ageing. India has first-rate institutions — judiciary, free press and democracy "however flawed".
Saul asserts that although India's rise is impressive, for this growth to last, it has to be more inclusive. At the moment, there are some successful sectors, a small percentage of people growing richer and some expanding cities.
But wealth has not spread to the vast majority of the population. And herein lies India's challenge. "Historically, the rich states of today set off on a path of economic growth only when they began to invest in infrastructure and education for all," he says.
Only when wealth is fairly well spread out does the wealth of a nation solidify to form a strong base for further growth. "A healthy, well-educated, well-to-do population is the best wealth-creating tool a country can have," he says.
Does Saul agree with the possibility of an emerging India-China duopoly? "It depends on how unstable the world becomes as India and China grow in importance. Perhaps they will end up as rivals. But, who knows, they may just cannily realise that their interests are best served through cooperation," he says.