Walmart's Passage to India
Varadarajan, Tunku, Newsweek
Byline: Tunku Varadarajan
Hardline American Republicans tasted a blast of buckshot from Down Under after Wayne Swan, Australia's deputy prime minister, declared them responsible for the global economic malaise. In a speech to financial-services executives in Sydney, the feisty Aussie from the left-leaning Labor Party made it clear that he had no stomach for Tea Party types: "Let's be blunt and acknowledge that the biggest threat to the world's biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over a part of the Republican Party." While the conservative opposition was swift to condemn Swan for his "immature contribution" and, perhaps hyperbolically, for "peddling hatred," Australia's prime minister, Julia Gillard, stood by her man. "America is, of course, a global economic giant and what happens in the U.S. economy matters to the world economy and it matters to us," she said. "Wayne Swan was making that very common-sense point."
Since its founding in 1962, Walmart has chalked up an impressive corporate history. Missing from the company mantelpiece, however, has been a trophy that it could well pick up in the coming weeks: the bringing down of a national government. After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed off on a flurry of economic reforms--including a decision to let foreign supermarkets like Walmart invest in India--key partners in his rickety coalition withdrew their support, leaving his government vulnerable to collapse. Walmart has been a particular focus of Indian ire, allowing many to give vent to the anti-Americanism that is ingrained in Indian politics. "The tragedy is that our prime minister has begun to worship the U.S.," said Sitaram Yechury, a veteran Communist Party leader, striking a somewhat hysterical note. "Congress [Singh's party] wants Indians to be slaves and foreigners to be our masters. We will not accept foreign direct investment in retail. We will protest this decision till our last breath."
For years, the Egyptians mediated between the Israelis and the Palestinians, trying to coax a peace agreement out of implacable opponents. …