Letter from the Editors

By Akhtar, Sarah; Balasubramanian, Aditya | Harvard International Review, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Letter from the Editors


Akhtar, Sarah, Balasubramanian, Aditya, Harvard International Review


As the world's largest democracy, the second most populous nation, and the fourth largest economy, India boasts a record of superlatives that has led to its identification as a geostrategic heavyweight defining the new global balance of power. Recent visits from leaders and officials from the United States, France, Germany, and Russia highlight India's rise as a force to reckon with in what Fareed Zakaria has called the "post-American world."

However, amidst Bangalore's state-of-the art IT parks, Mumbai's impressive skyline, and one of the world's fastest growing middle classes exists a more sombering reality. Home to a third of the world's poor, India is gripped by mass poverty and inequality. In addition, the religious, economic, and cultural cleavages that slice Indian society have been variously identified as chains restricting the Indian state as well as markers of the vibrancy of the nation. This symposium thus seeks to assess competing claims on the state of the subcontinent: is India a rising star on the way to superpower status or a high-growth developing country struggling to conquer its own demons?

Our debate begins with the eminent University of California historian Stanley Wolpert's examination of the sociopolitical factors underpinning India's postcolonial growth. In his article "Colonial Trappings: India's Ascendancy in Comparative Perspective," Wolpert attributes India's rapid ascendancy to both the cultural inheritance associated with British rule and the scientific tradition of ancient Hinduism. Bringing us to the present, Columbia's Arvind Panagariya asserts that India's success today rests on an entrepreneurial class of educated elites that forms an integral part of the expanding global workforce. Meanwhile, Subrata Mitra of the University of Heidelberg poses the question of whether India's democratic process has the historic depth and room to accommodate reform of its political system, arguing that the main challenge is to balance its "introverted national culture" with democratic values of equity and freedom. Next, in "The Future of Kashmir," Amitabh Mattoo underscores the importance of quelling fundamentalism and separatism in Kashmir to India's regional strength. Finally, Jessica Seddon of the Center for Development Finance argues that India must rectify its unstable foundation of weak infrastructure and poor service delivery to sustain its momentum on the world stage.

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