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Modi Rising
The Biggest Loser in India's Election: China

Gordon Chang writes that China is the biggest loser from Narendra Modi’s landslide election victory. Why? “[I]t’s certain,” he writes, “that in the coming years direct foreign investment will head to India instead of China.”

Maybe. Modi would certainly like that to happen. Getting foreign investors excited about India’s economy is probably his greatest test, and by no means is it certain that he will pass. All five of the “5 things India’s new prime minister should do” listed by Quartz are related to India’s economy and would improve the country’s attractiveness for foreign investors—if Modi can achieve them. “But nobody will let him” is the second half of the title of the Quartz article. It’s going to be difficult. Modi enters office with an unbelievably strong mandate—the strongest since Indira Gandhi. And the mood around the country certainly has changed, as Mitra Kalita writes:

The revolution was not as I’d expected—no mass protest in the streets over inequality and women’s rights, graft and malnutrition, wages and labor conditions. Yet there was a palpable shift in a nation’s psyche…

A newfound individualism was asserted, too, by rattling off possessions: cars, phones, flats. But it also manifested through that most precious commodity: time. My trip coincided with another cousin’s wedding. In the past, everybody in the extended family showed up to everything. No longer: attendance at rituals were squeezed in between jobs and school drop-offs, tutoring sessions and dentist appointments.

India is undergoing a seismic social change. Voters chose “Modi because they wanted India to become one big Gujarat,” Chang writes. “We want Modi,” one voter in Rajasthan told reporters from the WSJ. “What he did for Gujarat, he should do for us.” Voters chose Modi because, a Delhi resident said, other developing countries like China are “miles ahead.” Modi, the man from Delhi went on, is “a doer.”

There are other potential downsides for China besides a diversion of foreign direct investment. For one, Brahma Chellaney, an award-winning author and one of India’s foremost strategic analysts, says Modi is “India’s Shinzo Abe”:

Like Abe, Modi is expected to focus on reviving India’s economic fortunes while simultaneously bolstering its defenses and strengthening its strategic partnerships with likeminded states, thereby promoting regional stability and blocking the rise of a Sino-centric Asia….

The 63-year-old Modi mirrors Abe’s soft nationalism, market-oriented economics, and new Asianism, seeking close ties with Asian democracies to create a web of interlocking strategic partnerships.

Modi and Abe also get along well. Gujarat attracted many Japanese businesses thanks to Modi’s relationships in Japan. When Abe became Prime Minister in 2012, Modi, defying protocol, called to congratulate him. Abe returned the favor earlier this month, and Modi responded with an effusive tweet: “Personally, I have a wonderful experience of working with Japan as chief minister. I am sure we will take India-Japan ties to newer heights.” And this close personal relationship builds on a solid recent history of warm Japan-India ties: Even under outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India and Japan have been growing increasingly friendly.

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  • bigfire

    As Mr. Wolf said in Pulp Fiction: Well, let’s not such each other’s **** just yet. Modi promises big, and I’ll be surprised if he can deliver a fraction of it.

    • Andrew Allison

      If Modi delivers a fraction of what he’s promising, it will be a giant leap forward.

      • Dan

        A great leap perhaps? =)

        • Andrew Allison

          No. Modi is the antithesis of Mao, which is why the left is so busy denigrating him.

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