Indians Dominate India Reviewers In The US

Updated: Jul 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
Ending a long dry spell of the neglect of India within the academic community in the United States of America, the University of Texas at Austin and Frank Cass Publishers launched a new journal devoted to the study of Indian society, politics and economy, earlier this year. Called simply India Review, the quarterly journal is edited by Sumit Ganguly, a professor of Asian studies and government at the University of Texas.

While India Reviews inaugural edition, published in January 2002, was devoted to a study of religion, politics and governance in India, its second issue (April 2002) focussed on the economy and economic reform. Between the first two issues India Review addresses itself to the primary current concerns of a large majority of US-based scholars looking at India - governance, secularism and economic reform and growth. It is only an influential minority that worries about nuclear strategy and Kashmir.

To be sure, a majority of the contributors to the first two issues are of Indian origin, either Americans of Indian origin or resident Indians. But that captures the reality that the new generation of India scholars in the United States are largely Indian Americans. The curtain is coming down on the era of Susan and Lloyd Rudolph, George Rosen, Daniel Thorner, Selig Harrison, Leo Rose, Francine Frankel and such like. There is a surfeit of experts on Indias nuclear and defence strategy in the younger generation of India hands in American academia, but a shortage of social scientists.

While there are many technocratic economists with expertise on India, most of them are either in international organisations based in the United States or in the financial sector. Few adorn the portals of academic ivory towers. It is, therefore, not surprising that in the second issue of India Review, devoted to issues pertaining to economic growth and reform in India, two of the four authors are presently with the private sector. John Adams, a former professor of economics and an India specialist is now with Sawhill Associates, and Joydeep Mukherji, presently director, sovereign ratings, at Standard & Poors, New York. A third contributor, Rafiq Dossani, has a current academic association with Stanford University but also has a media and financial sector background. The true blue academic in the list of contributors is Devesh Kapur of Harvard University, better known for his contribution to the writing of the history of the World Bank and currently actively engaged in improving the quality of research in the US relating to India.

The choice of papers in India Reviews second issue will make it vastly popular within the academic and policy making community, both in the US and in India. Adams paper is entitled Indias Economic Growth: How Fast How Wide How Deep, while Mukherjis title is equally interesting: Indias Long March to Capitalism. While these two papers offer broad brush perspectives on macroeconomic issues and trends, Dossanis Telecommunications Reforms in India and Kapurs The Causes and Consequences of Indias IT Boom offer a more focussed discussion on the two sectors, IT and telecom, that have seen more action on the Indo-US bilateral front than any other, perhaps with the exception of power.

Will India become a prosperous country asks Mukherji in the opening line of his essay, echoing the favourite question of the newly-elected President of our Republic. After providing a balanced assessment of Indias many strengths and weaknesses and of the various opportunities and challenges, Mukherji concludes on a cautious note: The economic growth impulse from the first round of micro-economic liberalisation in the early 1990s has been exhausted even as macro-economic problems, such as government debt and budget deficits, increase alarmingly. For Mukherji, the jury is still out on the question of whether a second round of reforms will happen as a matter of course or if another crisis is needed to trigger it.

Mukherji believes that Economic liberalisation in India is being driven by domestic impulses, not foreign creditors. But, for this reason, the political system will slow down the growth process rather than speed it up.

Consequently, The Indian road towards a prosperous, modern, capitalist economy will be a long one. In the on-going debate in India on whether we can notch up 8 per cent growth in the next five years or will have to be satisfied with 5 to 6 per cent growth, Mukherji would go with the pessimists because he is not too enthused by the present governments track record on the reform front.