Toolkit

This section of Bharatiyata! is very much under construction and will very probably remain that way because it is supposed to be a resource area and will therefore be added to continuously.

I don’t know quite how to organise it yet, but it will contain links to various India-related sites useful to the investor and others interested in the future of the country. It will point to to individual articles and videos but also to the sites of newspapers, journals, institutions, think-tanks and so on that I think are interesting and trustworthy (so it will be brimful of all my tastes and preferences). There is a lot of nonsense out there and rubbish being written – by no means all of it in India by Indians; some of the most venerable Western organs are utterly awful when it comes to India – and I will seek to sift everything so that the visitor to Bharatiyata! can discern more accurately the situation in the subcontinent and the wider region.

Individual voices are also important. There are excellent Indian writers and journalists but also a deplorable number of ‘Congress-wallah’ hacks who won’t be given house-room here (although the previous government may well have gifted them a house in Lutyens Delhi). I will build up a list of ‘good guys’ so that you can enjoy the best writing and glean the most vital and truthful info. The biggest bad guys will be conspicuous by their absence.

A dynamic analysis of India means being aware of what is happening elsewhere and in many fields, and magpie-like I pick up shiny pieces of information from all over. I will link to, for example, people from other countries and people whose expertise is in other countries and areas, but whose voices and insights are vital to an overall understanding. Again it is purely a personal choice but it works for me and I hope it will for you.

For the time being here is a list of some of those people that I rely on and whom I look forward to reading or watching. I’ll include hyperlinks so that you can navigate to their websites, their books and publications, or to videos of them that I have enjoyed. (I will probably create separate pages for various sections later on as I collate more items.)

Let’s start with a preliminary list of ‘Good Guys’ – and by ‘guys’ I also mean women, of course:

Minhaz Merchant – at the head of the list as this excellent journalist, businessman, biographer, psephologist and opinion-maker must be. His website is here, his weekly pieces for the dailyO here and his Twitter page (compulsory reading for me keeping up with things) here. Minhaz likes to warn that whoever announces himself as a ‘secular liberal’ is almost bound to be the opposite.

M.D. Nalapat – or rather Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat, holder of the UNESCO Peace Chair and Director of Geopolitics at Manipal University. He is excellent on security, policy and international affairs. His blog is here, where he complains, with some justice, that ‘India is run not by elected politicians but by a cadre of officials called the Indian Administrative Service, the successor of the British.’

Tavleen Singh – she is one of India’s absolutely finest journalist-columnists. Vastly experienced and yet not made cynical by all she has seen, her recent book, Durbar, should be read by anyone who wishes to understand India since Independence, and especially since the Emergency. Her Twitter page is here and her website here. Tavleen’s special claim to fame is that she used to live in Slough!

Bibek Debroy – one of India’s finest statisticians, his honesty about how well Gujarat was doing under Modi’s stewardship (and his refusal to toe the line and instead repeat Congress black propaganda) cost him his job at the institution where he worked. His book about Gujarat is not only honest statistics but principled knowledge-seeking. He has now been tasked by Modi with trying to re-organise India’s railways. His Twitter link is here and his columns for The Indian Express here.

Madhu Kishwar – is Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, in Delhi. She was one of the few people who tackled the Congress black propaganda about Modi head on. I came across Modinama, her researches concerning what really happened in the 2002 Gujarat riots, and it helped me immeasurably. She also campaigns on behalf of Delhi’s homeless children and its rickshaw-wallahs. A very good woman; her website is here.

S.A. Aiyar – economist, a voice of sceptical reason and sanity at the Economic Times (India’s Financial Times); he is definitely not to be confused with the other Aiyar, Mani Shanker, the Congressman and ‘socialist’ who announced that as the son of a mere tea-seller, Modi should never be prime minister.

M.J. Akbar – one of India’s great newspapermen, proprietor of the Sunday Guardian (whose website has been ‘updated’, alas), and always a reliably incisive writer. He recently joined the BJP, although Tavleen says Akbar used to be a great admirer of Rajiv Gandhi, as so many were back in the day … Akbar’s website is here.

Ashok Malik – not only a journalist but a real thinker who inspires respect. He is widely read and historically knowledgeable and I have never read anything of his that did not leave me wiser. His piece on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was what set me going on the subject (and put me on to Shyam Saran).

C. Christine Fair – is a professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. The scourge of  Pakistani propaganda and the ISI, I call her Christine Harsh-But-Fair. She is brilliant and nobody knows more about what Pakistan gets up to (and the USA for that matter). Her book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, is a new classic. In this video she is at a conference, delivering a merciless smackdown to some luckless fool who parroted the usual Pakistani line about Kashmir.

Christine Hughes – of Otterwood Capital. A straight talker and full of good sense. ‘It’s a stupid idea to borrow in a currency that your revenues are not,’ she says (see here). Emerging markets suffering from the strengthening dollar take note. India, on the other hand, is issuing rupee-denominated bonds.

Deirdre McCloskey – is a true polymath: Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago as well as adjunct professor of Philosophy and Classics. If the global slump is getting you down and you need some intelligent optimism about humanity’s direction of travel then I recommend reading or watching some Deirdre McCloskey. The third volume of her masterwork (destined to outsell Harry Potter) is published in April 2016. If you can’t wait then I recommend you read her elegant and magisterial destruction of Thomas Picketty’s Capital, here.

Swapan Dasgupta – a senior, senior journalist though not in years of age! I have had the pleasure of meeting him and apparently we share the same opinion of Indian beef. He has been writing for years, has known Modi since way-back-when, and I can honestly say I have never read a line of his from which I could dissent. His articles at The Pioneer can be found here.

Arvind Panagariya –  Indian-American economist and Professor of Economics at Columbia University. The USA wasn’t exactly an exile for him, although he was certainly a noble dissenter from the Congress economic anti-matter hegemony from 2004 onward. Modi has now appointed this ex chief economist of the Asian Development Bank as vice chairman of the NITI Aayog (the National Institution for Transforming India), which replaced the 65 year-old, soviet-style Planning Commission. Everything Panagariya says is just and sensible. His latest book is India: The Emerging Giant. Basically, replace Amartya Sen in all instances with this man.

Jagdish Bhagwati – born in Gujarat and therefore a big advocate of free trade! Like Arvind Panagariya, he is also a professor (of economics and law) at Columbia University, and in my mind they make a great double-act. His book, Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty, decisively puts him on the team: he is a good antidote to ‘big government’ enthusiasts.

 Ram Jathmalani – at 92 years of age he is still the highest-paid lawyer in India. I came to adore this ex law minister and ex Chairman of the Bar Council of India through his columns in M.J. Akbar’s Sunday Guardian. For years he agitated for the exposure of the ‘black money’ villains (politicians – not naming names, but Big Ones – and businessfolk) who have looted India over the decades to the tune, says Ram, of $1,500 billion. He had high hopes for Modi doing something about it, which he now thinks is not happening. Trouble then, especially as he is representing a client in court against Modi’s less-than-excellent finance minister, Arun Jaitley (see interview on the subject here).

Surjit Bhalla – a money man (chairman of Oxus Investments) who writes a column for The Indian Express, here, as does Tavleen Singh and M.J. Akbar. He is very astute and exactly predicted the outcome of the recent Bihar state election, which humbled the BJP. This made many new people look at him. After originally dismissing Modi he lent him provisional support before the last general election, so I think Bhalla is a trustworthy bellwether for the government’s fortunes.

Chetan Bhagat – a novelist of the younger generation but also an incisive commentator; he writes columns for The Times of India and his journalism is collated on his website. I like him because he articulates the outlook and the desires of young India; and he is of course highly intelligent.

Tufail Ahmad – a Bihari who is now a British citizen resident in Washington D.C., where he is head of South Asia studies at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). A Pakistan specialist, he is an articulate critic of Islamic fundamentalism and jihad, and writes eloquently on the subject of Indian Muslims taking their full and rightful place in society (see this brilliant article where he explains the paradox that ‘secularism is a threat to Indian Muslims’).

Michael Pettis – one of the absolute best: he is a professor of finance at Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing, and as an economist is an expert on China (he also used to run a punk-rock nightclub in the city). He is half American, half French, born in Spain, at home everywhere, I think. It is worth an hour or two of anybody’s time to read what he is writing at the moment about Chinese debt, here on his blog. If you want a wider ranging discussion by Professor Pettis on China, watch this.

Anne Stevenson-Yang – another China hand (since 1985), Anne Stevenson-Yang co-founded J Capital Research and is its Research Director. She lives in China with her Chinese husband and speaks the language. She is just very good indeed and has excellent on-the-ground knowledge linked with economic and financial expertise. See her speak here. ‘China, for all its talk about economic reform, is in big trouble,’ she believes, and this has implications for India.

Herb Meyer will probably get a page to himself. Watch this space …