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WRM Interviewed in The Hindu

One of the stranger experiences when you travel in another country on a speaking tour is that sometimes articles about your visit or your lectures appear in the local press. You’ll be sitting peacefully in the breakfast room of a hotel far, far away, reading incomprehensible stories about people whose names you can’t recognize, trying to disentangle the political stories and remember which party is in the government and which is in the opposition when suddenly you’ll turn the page of the newspaper — and see your own face beaming out at you from a photo.

This is not as much fun as it may sound. You’ve then got to read the interview, realizing that many of the people you are about to meet will have seen it that morning as well. Did you commit some kind of horrible gaffe? Did the reporter accurately convey what you meant?  Did you say something that in a US context would be perfectly sensible but that would strike people where you are as hostile or weird?

I had one of those mornings on my last day in India. I was headed out for a session with some of India’s most brilliant professors and students of the US at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University, often considered the best in the country) and some sessions with various other bigwigs. And as I pondered whether to start with the coconut or the tomato chutney on my iddly, there I was: staring out from the pages of The Hindu newspaper.  You can read the article here.

The Hindu is one of India’s best respected newspapers; while I was in Chennai (a leading South Indian city formerly known as Madras) I sat for a mix of a chat and interview with some of the paper’s foreign policy mavens.  In the rush of other cities and other engagements, I’d forgotten about this interview, making it doubly surprising to see it as I prepared for my last day in the country. Fortunately, the journalists did a good job at putting the interview together and I don’t seem to have been any stupider or more prone to foot in mouth disease than usual when I gave it.

One of India’s strengths is that it doesn’t concentrate its intellectual and journalistic life in one city. Cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai to name just a few are also home to first rank academics, intellectuals and academics. And in India, the internet so far hasn’t killed traditional media; at this point newspapers are flourishing and in both English and local languages the number and the quality of papers is often very high. The secret of those high press runs? According to one journalist, the publishers price newspapers so cheaply that most Indians still find the printed paper a cheaper way to check for ads than to go online — and in at least one case, the price for a month’s subscription for a print newspaper is less than what you can get for the used newsprint at a recycling center.

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  • Anthony

    WRM, Bush nostalgia and magic has gone from US/India relations I find interesting perspective. Most importantly, discussions continue vis-a-vis American/Indian policy.

    Another note: “admiring what America can become rather than what it has been” may be too subjective a context to factor into foreign policy objectives (American Transformative Power).

    Finally, interviewers reveal insight and knowledge on India and United States relations.

  • Varun

    Thanks for clarifying an obvious but often overlooked in Indian media’s coverage of US politics.

    Media always says “America is planning to do this or do that”. As if America is a politically static entity without any conflicts within itself. Indian media never elaborates the party and ideological affiliations of President, Senate and House to explain the intricacies of US foreign policy decisions. Sometimes when pro-India policy made by earlier President is withdrawn by a new President, Indian media (esp left-liberal ones) goes nuts over accusing US as an unreliable and treacherous ally etc….

    Treating US Government as a politically monolithic static block leads to lot of confusions when trying to understand US foreign policy.

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