The Next World Order
Two days after last month’s terrorist attack on Mumbai, I met with a Chinese friend who was visiting India on business. He was shocked as much by the transparent and competitive minute-by-minute reporting of the attack by India’s dozens of news channels as by the ineffectual response of the government. He had seen a middle-class housewife on national television tell a reporter that the Indian commandos delayed in engaging the terrorists because they were too busy guarding political big shots. He asked how the woman could get away with such a statement.
I explained sarcasm resonates in a nation that is angry and disappointed with its politicians. My friend switched the subject to the poor condition of India’s roads, its dilapidated cities and the constant blackouts. Suddenly, he stopped and asked: “With all this, how did you become the second-fastest growing economy in the world? China’s leaders fear the day when India’s government will get its act together.”
The answer to his question may lie in a common saying among Indians that “our economy grows at night when the government is asleep.” As if to illustrate this, the Mumbai stock market rose in the period after the terrorist attacks. Two weeks later, in several state elections, incumbents were ousted over economic issues, not security.