Sign Up

Manmohan Singh Speaks His Mind

What challenges is India confronted with in light of its rapidly expanding economy?

August 3, 2005

What challenges is India confronted with in light of its rapidly expanding economy?

India has arrived on the world stage. However, with a growing economy comes growing responsibility. As a result, India is faced with immense domestic and international pressures regarding democracy, development and its foreign relations. In this Read My Lips feature, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presents his views on these pressing issues.

What sets India apart on the global stage?

“There is no other country of a billion people — with our tremendous cultural, linguistic and religious diversity — that has tried to modernize its society and transform its economy within the framework of a functioning democracy.”

How does India measure democracy?

“The real test of a democracy is not in what is said in the constitution, but in how it functions on the ground. All Indians can be proud of what we have achieved in this area and our experience is also relevant beyond our boundaries.”

How has India overcome the obstacles of diversity?

“Our minorities, and we have many, participate actively in all walks of national life — political, commercial and cultural.”

How can India's economy reinforce its democracy?

“Democracy is one part of our national endeavor. Development is the other. Openness will not gain popular support if an open society is not a prosperous society.”

How do you respond to the criticism that India has been too slow in making proper reforms?

“Democracy means having to build a consensus in favor of change. India’s economic reforms may appear slow, but I assure you they are durable and irreversible.”

What role does freedom play in a democratic society?

“Democratic societies — which guarantee individual freedom and tolerance of dissent —provide an environment most conducive to creative endeavor and the establishment of socially just societies.”

How does India view its ability to compete globally?

“Our entrepreneurial talent has been unleashed, and is encouraged to compete with the best.”

Will India's educational values help strengthen its economy?

“The 21st century will be driven by knowledge-based production and India is well-placed in this area. We have a large and relatively young population with a social tradition that values higher education.”

Can India be perceived as a nuclear threat?

“India — as a responsible nuclear power — is fully conscious of the immense responsibilities that come with the possession of advanced technologies, both civilian and strategic. We have never been — and will never be — a source of proliferation of sensitive technologies.”

How has globalization affected India’s reforms?

“While globalization presents many potential benefits, it also poses special challenges. In a democracy, it is necessary that the process of reform be perceived as equitable and caring.”
(September 2004)

What insight is guiding the world's decision-makers today?

“Globalization has made the world so interdependent that none of us can ignore what happens elsewhere.”

What about India's relations with the United States?

“India is today embarked on a journey inspired by many dreams. We welcome having America by our side. There is much we can accomplish together.”

What kind of bilateral relationship does India want to expand upon?

“Partnerships can be of two kinds. There are partnerships based on principle and there are partnerships based on pragmatism. I believe we are at a juncture where we can embark on a partnership that can draw both on principle as well as pragmatism.”

Why will this partnership work?

“India and the United States have much in common that is very important to both countries. The United States is the world’s oldest democracy, we are its largest.”

Do India and the United States have a firm basis to maintain this strong partnership?

“Real partnership requires more than just a shared commitment to democracy. A real partnership requires the commonality of values to be supplemented by an awareness of converging interests and a shared world view.”
(September 2004)

In what ways can both nations' interests be served through cooperation and assistance?

“India’s growth and prosperity is in the American interest. U.S. investments in India — especially in new technology areas — will help U.S. companies to reduce costs and become more competitive globally. Equally, India’s earnings from these investments will lead to increased purchases from the United States.”

Do you think the United States will uphold its commitment to free trade?

“At this point in time, when India and other developing countries are beginning to be won over by the persuasiveness of the case for globalization, I hope the argument will not be lost in the United States.”
(September 2004)

Overall, what is India's view of the United States?

“We admire the creativity and enterprise of the American people, the excellence of your institutions of learning, the openness of the economy and your ready embrace of diversity.”

And finally, do you think international institutions need to be updated to better incorporate up and coming countries such as India?

“It is remarkable that the world order of 1945 dominates global decision making even today. The architecture of all our major international organizations has remained virtually immune to the momentous political, economic, social and demographic changes of the second half of the 20th century.”
(September 2004)

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are drawn from Prime Minister Singh's speech before the U.S. Congress in July 2005.