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Time celebrates awakening of India

Sixty years after freedom, India's clout is beginning to make itself felt on the world stage, says the top US magazine in its special issue.
By Arun Kumar | IANS, Washington
UPDATED ON AUG 04, 2007 04:52 PM IST

Sixty years after independence, India is beginning to deliver on its promise, "unleashing a torrent of growth and wealth creation that is transforming the lives of millions", says Time magazine in a special cover issue.

"India's economic clout is beginning to make itself felt on the international stage, as the nation retakes the place it held as a global-trade giant long before colonial powers ever arrived there," says the US magazine's August 13 issue.

The special issue on A Young Giant Awakes has articles looking at the country's middle class, religion, politics and the transformation of its economy, besides a write-up profiling the conflicts, trends and turning points that shaped modern India.

"Twenty years ago the rest of the world saw India as a pauper. Now it is just as famous for its software engineers, Bollywood movie stars, literary giants and steel magnates," notes Time.

"It is worth remembering this as India aspires to superpower status, economic futurologists all agree that China and India during the 21st century will come to dominate the global economy," says William Dalrymple, author of The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857.

"Various intelligence agencies estimate that China will overtake the US between 2030 and 2040 and India will overtake the US by roughly 2050, as measured in dollar terms. Measured by purchasing-power parity, India is already on the verge of overtaking Japan to become the third largest economy in the world," he says.

"Today, things are slowly returning to historical norms. Last year the richest man in the UK was for the first time an ethnic Indian, Lakshmi Mittal, and Britain's largest steel manufacturer, Corus, has been bought by an Indian company, Tata."

"Extraordinary as it is, the rise of India and China is nothing more than a return to the ancient equilibrium of world trade, with Europeans no longer appearing as gun-toting, gunboat-riding colonial masters but instead reverting to their traditional role - that of eager consumers of the much celebrated manufactures, luxuries and services of the East," says Dalrymple.

Another article notes how real estate prices have skyrocketed in India. A 2006 study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and professional-services firm Ernst & Young found that total revenue from sales of commercial and residential property throughout India had grown 30 per cent a year for the previous three years.

Land prices in some areas have tripled in value since 2004, while office rents in Mumbai and New Delhi are now more expensive than those in Paris, Hong Kong or midtown Manhattan, Time says citing a 2007 survey by real estate consultant CB Richard Ellis.

"Yet the boom may still have room to run. Merrill Lynch forecasts India's property industry will grow to $90 billion by 2015, up from $12 billion in 2005," it says, noting that "as its economy grows, India will need millions more square feet of offices as well".

"Industry analysts estimate India has less modern urban office space than a single large American city. India's infrastructure demands too should keep plenty of companies in business. The government estimates the country needs $320 billion of investments in roads, ports and bridges by 2012."

"It's not a bubble," says Arjun Divecha, the California-based manager of investment firm GMO's $15 billion emerging-markets fund.

"In India the reason why prices have risen so rapidly is because there has been so little increase in supply. If you look at the experience of other emerging markets, the real wealth escalator has been real estate and I expect the same in India."

Another article - India's Democratic Advantage - says "sixty years of freedom have bound all Indians, rich and poor, to a single commitment: democracy".

"With a sixth of humanity living within its borders, India is more linguistically diverse than Europe. But apart from a few hiccups along the way, it remains one of the most stable and unified societies in all of Asia," Time notes.

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