India’s election made quite an impression on me. I wrote some initial thoughts at the time. More recently I wrote a piece for the Takshashila Institution‘s Pragati magazine on Indian national interest. The basic argument is that Indian democracy provides much more useful lessons for the rest of the world than US or other democracy. I wrote it after Prime Minister Modi’s trip to Japan in which he used somewhat evocative images to discuss Indian and Japanese democracy.
Among India’s key advantages are the size and diversity of its population, but also a globally competitive and sophisticated technological and managerial class, all things that we saw manifest in the election:
Just consider the ways in which India’s democratic ecosystem is unique. Not only does India have one of the oldest and most stable democracies of the post-colonial era, with a record of both success and failure to learn from. It also has one of the most dynamic laboratories of democratic practice. Due to its innovative culture, especially in globally competitive skills in technology and management, new organising methods have been created and deployed in its politics. Due to its size, these get deployed and tested and redesigned at a scale that simply no one else can match. Due to its diversity, it has organised communities of all sorts from marginally literate tribals to sophisticated urban elites.
While there can be many advantages that can be collected informally, some institutional support might be useful. I suggest that European Democracy foundations could provide a good model:
India could establish an Indian Institute for International Democracy on these models to leverage and channel the experience and resources it has and ensure that they are deployed in India’s national interest. Ultimately, the purpose of this institution would be to establish Indian democratic practice as a source of soft power, like India’s entertainment industry, and its educational system (with its grounding in English.)
In the end, this is something that only India can do. It is its unique gift to the world. I close with:
“All I think is required is a small light of peace, prosperity and democracy,” said Modi in Japan. This is a message that can only be delivered by a rising India, justifiably proud of its accomplishments and letting them speak for themselves. It is time for India to share the light from its lamp with the rest of the world.