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'World smitten by the new India'

A top US mag lauds India's "vibrant, open society" and "noisy democracy".

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 13:52 IST

Lauding India's "vibrant, open society" and "noisy democracy that has empowered its people economically", Newsweek has said in its latest cover story that the country's success story has "fascinated" countries around the world.

On the eve of President Bush's trip to India, the magazine focuses on "The New India," where Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria points to the "extraordinary pace" at which Indian companies are growing and Washington's new fascination with that country.

"The world - and particularly the United States - is courting India as it never has before. Fascinated by the new growth story, perhaps wary of Asia's Chinese superpower, searching to hedge some bets, the world has woken up to India's potential," Zakaria in the latest issue of Newsweek (March 6).

The magazine carries a slew of articles on the radically upward swing in US-India relations, looks at India's education system and profiles prominent Indian Americans.

Over the past 15 years, India has been the second fastest-growing country in the world - after China - averaging above 6 percent growth per year, he points out, with growth accelerating to 7.5 percent last year.

"Many observers believe that India could well move at this higher rate for the next decade," Zakaria says, also noting how "Indian companies are growing at an extraordinary pace, posting yearly gains of 15, 20, and 25 per cent".

Where just five years ago, the automobile parts industry's total revenues were $4 billion, this year they will exceed $10 billion, he says. In 2008, General Motors alone will import $1 billion of auto components from India.

"That's outsourcing - as it is any time an American company buys goods or services from abroad. It's also called trade or globalisation or capitalism. Those who want to stop it... should remember that the United States' prosperity has come from its very willingness to open itself up to the world," writes Zakaria.

"Over the last 60 years, manufacturing employment in the US has plummeted as those industries went abroad - and yet average American incomes have risen to be the highest in the world," he assures Americans wary of jobs going abroad.

"Globalisation highlights some problems for America but the solutions are all at home. As they have in the past, Americans must - and can - make goods and services that people will pay for freely not because the government forces them to by shutting out the competition. That is the only stable path to economic security."

Regardless of how contradictory the situation is in India, which houses 40 percent of the world's poor and has the world's second largest HIV population, "The India of the future contains all this but also something new. You can feel the change even in the midst of the slums."

India's growth, writes Zakaria, is "messy, chaotic and largely unplanned" and unlike China, it is "not top-down but bottom-up.

"It is happening not because of the government, but largely despite it... it has vast and growing numbers of entrepreneurs who want to make money. And somehow they find a way to do it, overcoming the obstacles, bypassing the bureaucracy," he says.

For Zakaria to render such a glowing account, warts and all, may be the eye-opener to many Americans still doubtful of India's potential.

"What is happening today is the birth of India as an independent society- boisterous, colourful, open, vibrant, and above all, ready for change," he contends. The trend in India is not only different from its past but also different from the rest of Asia.

"It is not a quiet, controlled, quasi-authoritarian country that is slowly opening up according to plans. It is a noisy democracy that has finally empowered its people economically. In this respect India, one of the poorest countries in the world, looks strikingly similar to the world's wealthiest country, the United States of America. In both places, society has triumphed over the state."

The magazine also profiles young Indian Americans who are moving beyond science and engineering, the traditional fields of their parents and first generation immigrants and naturalised citizens. These young Indians are going into fields like business, journalism, literature - even acting.

"But what sets them apart is a strong work ethic combined with the grace of people comfortable with living among strangers," says Zakaria.

The issue also carries an article by Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound and former CEO of Procter & Gamble India, who writes about Indian private schools that are churning out quality education, thus holding the potential for a better positioned knowledge economy that that of China.

Pulitzer Prize winner author Jhumpa Lahiri writes about her experiences growing up in America as an Indian and an American.

Ruchir Sharma, co-head of Global Emerging Markets at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, says India is the hottest of the hot emerging markets but warns, "its policymakers are showing the same symptoms of cyclical dithering that have stopped many emerging markets from realising their potential", and they should not fall prey to populism.