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IN SPITE OF THE GODS by Edward Luce Kirkus Star


The Strange Rise of Modern India

by Edward Luce

Pub Date: Jan. 16th, 2007
ISBN: 0-385-51474-3
Publisher: Doubleday

Illuminating survey of modern India, a state struggling to take its place among world leaders while battling structural inequalities that impede its progress.

It is commonplace for Indians to talk of their nation as a rising superpower, writes Financial Times editor and former New Delhi bureau chief Luce. That rise, he notes, is a gradual but steady one: Each year, he calculates, things such as wages and life expectancy improve by one percent, while poverty and illiteracy drop by the same amount. India’s emergence as a nuclear state, with near-disastrous consequences in the final years of the last millennium, and the celebrated rise of its film, high-technology and consumer sectors speak to a more rapid acceleration, while the country’s movement “from secular government to Hindu nationalist government and back again” and from “virtual bankruptcy to a lengthy boom” make forecasting of any sort difficult. Yet, Luce notes, this much seems clear: India will continue to grow as an economy and producer, and in this respect, to say nothing of geographical position, it offers a countervailing force against China. It is for that reason, Luce writes, that the Bush administration shifted from a more or less neutral position vis-à-vis India to pushing its growth as a major world power; and by 2012, according to a CIA report, India will indeed be the world’s fourth most powerful nation—good reason to cozy up to it. That growth is almost inevitable, it appears, but Luce identifies several factors that impede India’s development, from the caste system to the prevalence of poverty, illiteracy and epidemic disease; and, he writes, “the new wealth and technology of the last fifteen years appears to have exacerbated some of India’s less savory traditions,” such as the practice of killing newborn girls.

Clearly, India will occupy an ever-greater place on the world stage in the coming years, and Luce’s well-written account provides useful notes on that growth.