There was a time--quite a long period, actually--when Westerners liked to refer to the "Hindu rate of growth" in India, i.e., the slow growth of the nation's economy (compared to other Asian countries) and its apparent basis in Hindu fatalism (Whaat to do, we're like that only). The term was supposedly coined by economist Raj Krishna but popularized by Robert McNamara.
Atanu Dey thinks it should've been called "the Nehru rate of growth," to reflect its roots in socialist policies, but Arun Shourie had another idea in a column he wrote a year ago: simply re-brand "the Hindu rate of growth" as shorthand for high growth, and give credit to India's Hindus.
A couple days ago, "India Unbound" author Gurcharan Das wrote an op-ed in the New York Times. It's ostensibly about whether India or China will end up occupying the "top rung on the ladder of world power." Generally, I find these India vs. China discussions more a parlor game than anything else, but Das' larger point is that India manages to succeed despite its government, while China grows because of its government.
While he's at it, though, he can't help toss up a couple "Hindu" theories, explaining its economic growth as well as its democratic strengths.
From "The Next World Order":
The speed with which India is creating world-class companies is also a shock to the Chinese, whose corporate structure is based on state-owned and foreign companies.
I have no satisfactory explanation for all this, but I think it may have something to do with India’s much-reviled caste system. Vaishyas, members of the merchant caste, who have learned over generations how to accumulate capital, give the nation a competitive advantage. Classical liberals may be right in thinking that commerce is a natural trait, but it helps if there is a devoted group of risk-taking entrepreneurs around to take advantage of the opportunity. Not surprisingly, Vaishyas still dominate the Forbes list of Indian billionaires.
And further down, he explains why some people see India as less of a threat on the world stage than China:
The idea of becoming a military power in the 21st century embarrasses many Indians. This ambivalence goes beyond Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent struggle for India’s freedom, or even the Buddha’s message of peace. The skeptical Indian temper goes back to the 3,500-year-old “Nasadiya” verse of the Rig Veda, which meditates on the creation of the universe: “Who knows and who can say, whence it was born and whence came this creation? The gods are later than this world’s creation. Who knows then whence it first came into being?” When you have millions of gods, you cannot afford to be theologically narcissistic. It also makes you suspect power.
The column has been received with some skepticism, namely the Vaishya theory, in an ongoing discussion on the SAJA discussion list (which is separate from this blog). But read Gurcharan Das' entire piece and let us know what you think.