I have not been a big fan of Mr. Guha’s writings on contemporary India. I have viewed with disapproval his easy inclination to paint BJP and Mr. Narendra Modi as guilty of committing fundamentalist crimes while giving a free pass to the Congress and others. He held Hindu fundamentalism as the greatest danger to India – a proposition that I strongly disagree with. Now, he has labelled corruption as the greatest threat to India’s superpower ambitions – if it has one, in the first place.
I am going to be lenient towards him on this one. I think he gave the title (or did the newspaper do it?) to provoke a debate. I doubt if he really held corruption as a big stumbling block to superpowerdom for India. People have argued that the US was corrupt (and is now rediscovering it on a bigger scale with relish) and so was the UK. Well, it is difficult to compare and rank the levels of corruption, even as many institutions do so, with varying degrees of conviction and persuasion. The contexts are different.
China is rife with corruption and it has not stopped the nation from marching on seemingly towards superpower status. Corruption, per se, may not be a block but we have to ask ourselves whether corruption played a role in quashing Argentina’s potential at the beginning of the 20th century. I do not have the answer. I do not know Argentina’s history well. Readers are welcome to add their comments.
Brahma Chellaney’s comments on Guha’s post are well made. The real stumbling block to superpower status or any status at all is the absence of electric power as my friend Narayan Ramachandran has argued in his latest column in MINT.