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Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor

MP for Thiruvananthapuram. Author of 17 books. Former Minister of State,Govt.of India. Former UnderSecretaryGeneral,UnitedNations. RTs do not imply endorsement

Articles by Shashi Tharoor

India’s Modi Slowdown

2 days ago

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi was overwhelmingly re-elected in May with an even larger majority for his party, many economists expected him to take bold steps to remove the many bottlenecks that have discouraged investors. But no one should believe the Modi government has the ability or the will to fix what it broke.

NEW DELHI – Until recently, Indians had gotten used to taking economic growth for granted. After a decade of annual growth averaging over 9%, India’s economy weathered the post-2008 worldwide recession and grew at a still impressive rate of 7% until 2014-15. Nothing, it seemed, could stop the gravy train from rolling on.
Will Trump Be Removed from Office?

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India’s Democratic Dictatorship

September 13, 2019

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s character is being transformed by a government with no regard for institutions, understandings, and conventions maintained since independence. If this trend continues, India may well soon cease to be the country which Mahatma Gandhi struggled to free.

NEW DELHI – Amid much fanfare, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has completed a hundred days of its second term. Despite his government’s poor record, Modi remains immensely popular personally. This does not bode well for Indian democracy.
The Trump Narrative and the Next Recession

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Narendra Modi’s New-Model India

August 9, 2019

By asserting direct government control over Kashmir, India’s prime minister is remaking the country in the image of his chauvinist party. The new India is a far cry from the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who preached non-violence, religious co-existence, and the acceptance of difference.

NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi likes to practice what American generals call “shock and awe.” The last time Modi stunned the country – and was initially applauded for his decisiveness and bold vision – was when he announced, on a few hours’ notice, the demonetization of 96% (in value) of India’s currency. The Indian economy is still dealing with the consequences.

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A Test Match with the Taliban

July 15, 2019

Under the tutelage of Pakistan’s military, the Taliban brought peace to Afghanistan the last time it ruled the country. But it was the peace of the graveyard, which it could establish once again – this time with the support of the United States.

NEW DELHI – At the recent World Cup cricket tournament in England, a plucky Afghan team composed mainly of former refugees gave a surprisingly good account of themselves, including in matches against their neighbors, India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of two other Afghan teams – the Taliban and the government – that met in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month to agree on a “road map for peace.”
Philanthropy vs. Democracy

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India’s Cult of Modi

May 28, 2019

The recent Indian election will be a case study in how to upend the conventional assumption of electoral politics that an incumbent is judged on his record of performance against his own promises. Prime Minister Narendra Modi fulfilled none of his, so why did voters reward him with a landslide victory?

NEW DELHI – In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power at the helm of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after articulating a vision of a revived India, a manufacturing giant with high-tech capabilities which could meet the rising aspirations of a growing young population. Modi promised voters that his administration would be an era of “achhe din” (good times), marked by “minimum

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India’s New Social Media Politics

May 1, 2019

As India’s general election continues, there has been little progress in stopping “fake news,” arresting its perpetrators, or limiting its spread. That’s because the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is responsible for disseminating much of it.

NEW DELHI – With India’s general election a few weeks away from its conclusion, a crucial question needs to be revisited: what role have social media played in them?
Capitalism’s Great Reckoning

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Brexit Fever is Breaking

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Trump’s Most Worrisome Legacy

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A Battle for India’s Soul

April 3, 2019

Every Indian general election beats its predecessor’s record to become the largest in world history. This time, Indian voters must decide whether they want an inclusive country that embodies hope, or a divided one that promotes fear.

NEW DELHI – As India gears up for its general election, one must not lose sight of the sheer size of the exercise, which has been described as the “biggest humanly managed event in the world.” Starting on April 11 and ending on May 23, 900 million eligible voters (including 15 million first-time voters) will decide the fate of nearly 10,000 candidates representing over 500 political parties vying for the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha (House of the People). Every Indian general election beats its

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India’s China Problem in Pakistan

March 4, 2019

The deadly terrorist attack in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir last month has triggered renewed questions about China’s continued protection of the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed. Will China continue to block international sanctions against JeM’s leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, who has claimed credit for the attack?

NEW DELHI – One can only hope that the latest tensions between India and Pakistan, which erupted after a terrorist attack last month killed over 40 Indian paramilitary policemen and injured several others in the Pulwama district of the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, will be resolved peacefully. But however the ongoing crisis ends, the conflict between the two countries has cast an interesting

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India’s Vote-Buying Budget

February 13, 2019

By tradition, India’s pre-election budget is an “interim budget” – a modest rollover of expenditures to see the government through for a few months until a new government is elected and presents its own budget. Not this time.

NEW DELHI – One sign that an Indian general election is imminent, and that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is readying its campaign pitch, is the government’s final pre-election budget. By tradition, it is an “interim budget” – a modest rollover of expenditures to see the government through for a few months until a new government is elected and presents its own budget. But, in issuing its last budget at the beginning of February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government went much further than its

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Indian Farmers in Revolt

January 15, 2019

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure, the costs of agricultural inputs, and therefore of cultivation, have risen alarmingly, while prices for agricultural products, and therefore farm incomes, have stagnated or dropped. No wonder the Indian countryside is seething with anger and despair.

NEW DELHI – When Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide victory in the 2014 general election, he promised to be all things to all voters, eloquently promising “achhe din” (good days) for India. One of his target audiences was farmers; the agriculture sector still accounts for 67% of employment, and he grandly promised farmers that his government would double their incomes by

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A Comeback for Congress

December 20, 2018

The unexpected defeat of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in three state elections this year partly reflects the failure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national government to deliver on its economic promises. But it also suggests that the country’s main opposition party will be highly competitive in the 2019 general election.

NEW DELHI – The stunning victory this month of the opposition Indian National Congress in three elections to state assemblies – the local “parliaments” that decide who governs federal India’s 29 provincial units – is a major blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The elections’ outcome has dramatically upended Modi supporters’ complacent prediction that he would be

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Gandhi and the End of Empire

December 7, 2018

Two new books bring sharply different perspectives to bear on the history of British imperialism in India up until the end of the Raj in 1947. Together, they offer important insights into how national political identities can evolve on the basis of self-awareness or self-delusion.

NEW DELHI – The books under review both describe the people and events that shaped the final years of the British Raj in India, and demonstrate a magisterial command of their subject. But the similarities end there: these books could not be more different in the ground they cover or, ultimately, in their sympathies.The first is by Ramachandra Guha, a well-known Indian historian whose previous works include an excellent biography of Mahatma Gandhi’s

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India’s Deadly Air

November 13, 2018

Complacency has turned a pollution problem into a high-cost public health crisis. The Indian public, so easily distracted by issues of identity politics like temple-building and rewriting history, should be demanding something far more fundamental: the ability to breathe.

NEW DELHI – A friend of mine, a diplomat returning home after less than three years’ service in India, was asked at his exit medical examination how many packs a day he smoked. When he protested that he was a staunch non-smoker, the doctor commented that X-rays of his lungs showed otherwise. But my friend had never lit up. All he had done was breathe Delhi’s air, three smoggy winters in a row.

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Does Modi Have a Pakistan Policy?

October 10, 2018

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, India’s approach to relations with Pakistan has been inconsistent and episodic, typified in the tensions at the recent UN General Assembly. In fact, Modi’s government has no cohesive policy framework for dealing with Pakistan, much less a compelling vision for lasting peace.

NEW DELHI – Judging by the unsavory exchanges between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers at the recent United Nations General Assembly, the already deeply troubled bilateral relationship has reached a new low.




What immediately preceded the UN session was

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India Should Accept Disaster Assistance

September 11, 2018

India is a proud country that prefers to rely on its own resources. But when its resources are nowhere near sufficient to meet the needs of its people – who are suffering in the wake of devastating floods in the state of Kerala – it is irresponsible to reject aid from friends whom India would help if the tables were turned.

NEW DELHI – India’s southern state of Kerala has been hit by the worst floods in nearly a century. Now that the floodwaters are receding, a peculiar debate has emerged over whether India should accept foreign aid to support reconstruction.

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Is Ethnic Cleansing Coming to India?

August 10, 2018

Some four million people in Assam state, nearly all of them Bengali Muslims who have lived in India for more than four decades, are at risk of disenfranchisement after being excluded from the National Registry of Citizens. That will help the Hindu nationalist government in the next general election, but not the goal of peace in Assam.

NEW DELHI – Seventy-one years after the partition of India, and 47 years after the former East Pakistan became Bangladesh, one of the legacies of the messy division of the subcontinent has returned to haunt the country. The current crisis over the publication of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the Indian state of Assam has cast doubt on the citizenship – and the future – of some four

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India’s Social-Media Lynch Mobs

July 11, 2018

Over the last decade, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has cultivated an army of cyber warriors to propagate its message of Hindu chauvinism and hyper-nationalism – and to launch vicious attacks on its opponents. Now, a BJP leader has become a victim of the party’s own monster.

NEW DELHI – Social-media platforms are often criticized for their susceptibility to toxic dialogue and vicious attacks. It is a problem that India knows well. Just ask External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, whose recent vilification by members and supporters of her own ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a case in point.

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The Modi-Erdoğan Parallel

June 7, 2018

While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not achieved the degree of “state capture” that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has, he is also 11 years behind. And the path the two leaders are on is similar enough to invite comparison – and provoke concern.

NEW DELHI – Comparisons are generally invidious, especially when they involve political leaders from different countries. But, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rose to power 11 years before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there is much about their personal and professional trajectories that makes comparison irresistible.

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An Assault on India’s Institutions

May 18, 2018

If the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s assault on India’s institutions – from the judiciary to the central bank to the free press – is allowed to continue, the public could lose faith in the system altogether. This would carry incalculable consequences for India’s most valuable asset: its democracy.
NEW DELHI – In India’s Karnataka state, the governor is favoring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a government, despite an opposition coalition having won more seats in the state legislature. The ongoing controversy has drawn attention to the way in which a constitutional position has been reduced to serving the political interests of India’s ruling party.

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India’s Big Leaky Data

April 12, 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unabashedly declared that data is “real wealth,” which enable “whoever acquires and controls” it to attain “hegemony.” But to protect the people who are generating that wealth, Modi must follow through on his campaign promise to deliver “minimum government, maximum governance.”
NEW DELHI – India has no coltan or rare earths, little oil, and not enough water. What it does have is people – 1.3 billion and counting. That makes India potentially very rich in what has been called the “new oil”: data. But who will benefit from that wealth, and who might be put at risk?

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Tabloid India

March 14, 2018

Indian media today report news recklessly, and, in the interest of ratings, focus on ephemera that have no impact on the public welfare. But trivializing public discourse and abdicating their responsibility as facilitators and protectors of democracy has cost Indian journalists dearly in terms of public trust.
NEW DELHI – When the Bollywood superstar Sridevi Kapoor drowned last month, at age 54, in a bathtub in a Dubai hotel, coverage of her tragic death once again showcased all that is wrong with Indian media. Sridevi – who, after a 15-year hiatus, had made a spectacularly successful return to the silver screen in two mega-hits in the last six years – led a modest and conventional life with her husband, film producer Boney Kapoor, and their teenage daughters. She did not

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India’s War on Science

February 20, 2018

For India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, religion is not a matter of personal belief, but a key feature of traditional identity politics and crucial to maintaining social order, ensuring discipline and conformity, and preventing radical change. Science and rationality threaten all of the party’s goals.
NEW DELHI – India’s junior education minister, Satyapal Singh, recently declared that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was “unscientific,” on the grounds that “nobody, including our ancestors, have said or written that they ever saw an ape turning into a human being.” It was a startling statement – and just the latest salvo in the current government’s attack on science.

The Year Ahead 2018

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India’s Lost Fisherfolk

January 8, 2018

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Cyclone Ockhi has made painfully clear that all is not well for India’s fishing communities. To prevent the next natural disaster from causing so much damage and inflicting so much pain, India’s government must take action to improve disaster prediction and response, as well as to strengthen fishing communities’ long-term economic prospects.

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India’s Culture War Comes to Bollywood

December 12, 2017

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The Bollywood film Padmavati has inspired heated debate, hysterical threats of violence, and a ban in four states governed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – all before even being released. The tolerance and acceptance of difference that once accompanied India’s remarkable diversity, are wearing thin these days.

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The Siege of the Taj Mahal

November 9, 2017

For seven decades after independence, Indian identity rested on cultural pluralism. Now, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is seeking to redefine India as a Hindu nation long subjugated by foreigners – a divisive and self-defeating effort exemplified by its attacks on one of the world’s most famous monuments.
NEW DELHI – In a country where politics has turned toxic, leading virtually everything – from festival firecrackers to animal husbandry – to take on a “communal” religious coloring, perhaps it should not be surprising that even one of the world’s the most famous monuments has become a target. But that doesn’t make it any less tragic – or destructive.

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The Two Backlashes Against Globalization

October 12, 2017

The reaction against globalization has taken two forms: economic resistance to rising inequality and a revolt against multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. To save globalization – which has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, created new markets for goods made by poor countries, and reduced prices for rich-country consumers – both must be addressed.
NEW DELHI – When I left India for graduate school in the United States in 1975, the word “globalization” was not in use anywhere in the world. Back then, crossing borders was still a big deal, and getting a US visa was no easy feat. When I did arrive in America, to be an Indian still carried a whiff of the exotic and the unfamiliar.

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The Harsh Truth About India’s Godmen

September 8, 2017

NEW DELHI – Late last month, when two Indian states and the national capital were held to ransom by rioting mobs protesting their spiritual leader’s conviction on two counts of raping minor girls, many Indians found themselves confronting several painful truths about their country.

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The leader who spurred these protests is Gurmeet Singh, one of the more prominent of several “godmen,” or self-proclaimed spiritual leaders, who flourish across India. The flamboyant, jewelry-bedecked Singh calls himself Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan – a compound of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh names, followed by the word

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The Harsh Truth About India’s Godmen

September 8, 2017

NEW DELHI – Late last month, when two Indian states and the national capital were held to ransom by rioting mobs protesting their spiritual leader’s conviction on two counts of raping minor girls, many Indians found themselves confronting several painful truths about their country.

Federico Parra/Getty Images

Nur Photo/Getty Images

Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Getty Images


The leader who spurred these protests is Gurmeet Singh, one of the more prominent of several “godmen,” or self-proclaimed spiritual leaders, who flourish across India. The flamboyant, jewelry-bedecked Singh calls himself Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan – a compound of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh names, followed by the

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India, A Land of Belonging

August 9, 2017

NEW DELHI – Seventy years ago this month, at midnight on August 15, 1947, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed India’s independence from the British Empire. Nehru called it “a moment that comes but rarely in history, when we pass from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” With that, the country embarked on a remarkable experiment in governance that continues to this day.It was an experiment that Winston Churchill thought implausible. “India is merely a geographical expression,” he once dismissively barked. “It is no more a single country than the Equator.”Churchill was rarely right about India. But it is true that no other country matches India’s extraordinary mix of ethnic groups, profusion of

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India’s Botched Tax Reform

July 12, 2017

NEW DELHI – On July 1, an eerie silence descended over many of India’s teeming marketplaces. At midnight, a new national goods and services tax (GST) had come into effect at a glittering ceremony in India’s parliament. It was hailed as the biggest tax reform since independence, but business owners were so uncertain about how it would affect the prices of their wares that many shuttered their businesses for the day.

Many (including me) have long advocated a national GST, which has the potential to unify India’s national market, making the economy more transparent, digitized, and efficient. Its introduction was delayed for a decade by the now-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, argued that it would

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