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T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
MCI (P) 017/11/2015
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
NOVEMBER 20, 2015
T MIDNIGHT, on Aug 15, 1947, India gained
its independence after two centuries of British
rule. This had been preceded by three centu-
ries of Mughal rule. The people of India had waited
for more than 500 years to be the masters of their
Speaking at that midnight hour, India’s founding
prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, declared that In-
dia had a “tryst with destiny”. Mr Nehru united the
country with his vision, charisma and eloquence. He
elevated the status and role of India in the communi-
ty of nations. He left India with a positive legacy of
democracy, rule of law and secularism.
Under him, India did not however achieve great
economic progress. This was due to the fact that
Mr Nehru had pursued an economic policy which
was based on socialism and state planning. The econ-
omy was inward-looking, the role of the public sec-
tor was emphasised over the private sector and deci-
sions were made by bureaucrats instead of the mar-
ket. The result was that India grew very slowly, at a
rate which came to be known as the “Hindu rate of
Second tryst with destiny
In 1991, India was faced with an economic crisis. In-
flation was 13 per cent and rising. The current ac-
count deficit was running at US$10 billion and the
foreign exchange reserves were enough only to fund
two weeks of imports. The external debt was 250
per cent of exports.
In the face of that crisis, the Congress Party ap-
pointed veteran politician C.V. Narasimha Rao to
lead a minority government. He appointed a former
governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Dr Manmo-
han Singh, as his finance minister.
In the next two years, Dr Manmohan Singh dis-
mantled some of the worst features of the Nehruvi-
an economic model. Mr Narasimha Rao and Dr Man-
mohan Singh saved India from the brink of econom-
ic collapse. More importantly, they started India’s
second tryst with destiny.
Their legacy of economic reform and opening the
Indian economy to the world was accepted and built
upon by the subsequent administrations of prime
minister Vajpayee and prime minister Manmohan
Singh. However, in Dr Singh’s second term, the
government’s focus was distracted by a series of cor-
ruption scandals and the drive for reform lost mo-
mentum. The country cried out for a new leader and
a new tryst with destiny.
Third tryst with destiny?
The world had come to expect that elections in India
would not produce a winner with a majority in the
Lok Sabha. Instead, we had become used to the idea
that India would be ruled by coalition governments.
The results of the elections in 2014 were therefore
beyond expectations. Under its charismatic leader
Narendra Modi, the BJP secured a majority of the
seats in the Lok Sabha. It could therefore rule India
without having to depend on the support of unrelia-
ble coalition partners.
Will prime minister Modi be able to rekindle the
hopes of the 1990s and launch India along a trajecto-
ry of sustained high growth for the next decade?
Will Mr Modi be able to complete the agenda of eco-
nomic reform begun by Mr Narasimha Rao? Will he
succeed in transforming India into a country which
is easy to do business in? Will he succeed in translat-
ing the slogan, “Make in India”, into building a
CONTINUED ON PAGE
India’s trysts with destiny
Singapore has confidence in India’s prime minister Modi
Warm ties... (top) Mr Modi meeting Prime Minister Lee Hsien
Loong at a bilateral meeting during the 25th ASEAN Summit
held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, in November last year.
(Right) Mr Modi meeting President Tony Tan Keng Yam at
Hyderabad House when President Tan visited India in February.
(Above) Mr Modi who was then chief minister of Gujarat called
on then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong at the Istana in 2006.
November 20, 2015
November 20, 2015
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