Question: Where is India headed?
Shashi Tharoor: Well I think that in terms of political forces, India seems to be destined for a long year of coalition governance. The last two governments each were made up of coalitions of 20-odd parties. And that seems to be the direction of Indian politics. There are a couple of big, national parties there – the Congress party and the . . . the . . . the more Hindu-inclined BGP party. They’ve each got about a third of the seats and . . . and . . . and slightly less than a third of the vote. And then the remaining third is split up amongst as many as almost 40 parties in the Parliament – some of which have one or two members, but which therefore exercise a great influence when coalition building takes place. I think that’s likely to be the direction of Indian politics. I’m not thrilled about it. One could argue that it promotes conciliation and cooperation. But on the negative side, it also means that governments are . . . are vulnerable to the rise and fall of political temperatures; and that an executive, unlike the U.S., can’t just be elected to execute and go out and change things for the better. It’s constantly going to have to look over its political shoulder at the . . . at the . . . the tastes, and wishes, and demands of each of its many coalition members. And that, I think, is a pity. Having said that, the future economic progress of India looks very promising. Today as I speak to you in 2007, we’re talking about 9.5 percent economic growth for GDP. And if that continues, we’re looking at not only pulling more people out of poverty than any country in the world, barring China, has ever done in human history. But we’re also talking about creating a society that’s full of people . . . the most amazing talent, creative energy, and youthfulness. Fifty four percent of the Indian population is under 25. That’s 550 million people. And these people are going to be growing up and . . . and . . . and being their productive best when many parts of the world – particularly Europe and China – will be aging. So India could have an extremely important part to play in the 21st century.
Recorded on: 9/18/07