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India: Not So Shining But Definitely Arriving

February 2008
India: Not So Shining But Definitely Arriving

With more illiterates than any other nation in the world, India ranks 126th on the United Nations’s Human Development Index. Not an enviable figure, given that the number of countries listed is 177. For all the talk of India’s spectacular growth curves in recent years, it’s clear that there is still a long way to go, especially when it comes to providing the basic necessities. In recent years, words like ‘shining’ and ‘rising’ have often been used to describe India; but Rafiq Dossani—a senior research scholar and executive director of South Asia programs at Stanford’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center—thinks it’s time for a fresh and more appropriate label. His recent book is titled India Arriving. He points out ‘how this economic powerhouse is redefining global business’ (the subtitle of his book), and offers arresting statistics to help unravel the puzzle that India is for many foreign observers.

Take diversity as an example. America, unlike India, is home to people from every nation in the world. Yet, Dossani says, India is considered even more diverse because scholars use the ethno-linguistic-fractionalization (ELFI) index, which ‘measures the probability that two randomly drawn individuals from the overall population belong to two different ethnic groups.’ Among nations with over 50 million people, India has the highest ELFI index. There are many facts to back up this finding, one being that AIR broadcasts the news every day in 350 languages and dialects. Then there are 45,000 registered newspapers in India, although most have small circulations; the U.S. and China, on the other hand, have 1500 and 2000 newspapers, respectively.

“India, then, has many identities, even as it acquires new ones—all of them evolving at different rates,” writes Doassani. “Many will be influenced by globalization. For instance, the recent history of developing countries suggests that globalization, far from removing nationalistic feelings, strengthens them. This may happen to Indians and may help the country manage its identities that will always differ from one another due to language and faith. It is also possible that globalization will lead to a more aggressive nationalism that does not tolerate such differences.”

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