Asia Society presents; 61
The Asian Society president. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. Most people who go to India stay for a short time feel a certain ambivalence about it. Note its beauty. Note its poverty. I wonder if it's coming out of its problems and then leave. But when a man elects to spend a number of years there as such is a person who is our guest on this program. You realize that he has developed knowledge information and the kind of insight which would benefit us all because India according to him is most important to the United States and we should never forget that fact. Why I believe he will explain to you as we go along. Our guest is John Lewis who has lived about six years in India in recent times and who is dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and
International Affairs at Princeton University before coming to Princeton which was in about a year ago. 969 He served as minister director of our governments a id mission to India India as you know is a tremendous country its border with China for example is about 2000 miles its population is almost 550 million. And so since it's such a tremendous proposition the subcontinent How does one begin to know India. GRAHAM I think that there's a common saying among those who have spent some Westerners who spent some time living and working there that after a short period you were you were you understand better and better which may end after two or three or six months you're going downhill the rest of the time it gets more and more complicated in some senses and comprehensible. But I think that. One way to think about it and yeah it is an enormous country it is almost more
than a country in many ways I think of it as a comparable to all of Western Europe. But together it's somewhat larger in population. The now 18 states of India by the same numbers Europe as countries their populations are roughly similar in size. There is as much diversity of culture of religion in the language and as little history really of being bound together in any integrated nation state so that it's a very complex undertaking to maintain this union and also to achieve some economic progress. Well many people feel that we Americans underestimate the importance of India that we should realize its significance because it is the only Asian country attempting to come out of whatever problems it has through a constitutional democratic method. Is that the main reason for simpletons. Well I think that the perhaps the greatest reason of course of course of all is
simply size sheer size here you have an awful lot of people 550 million people more than all the people of Latin America Africa put together and in some sense that in itself is a very very consequential thing and one that a people like our own the Americans almost by definition have an interest in but I also quite agree with you that the unusual character of the process by which the unions are trying to develop to improve their economic lives and improve their and transform their social and political ad a constitutional democratic process is you know something that we have it can be expected to root for. This is the only. Rich to the only country certainly the only country of any large size that has stuck rather meticulously to a constitutional means of doing business for now more than 20 years. I don't know if it's fair to ask you to do any comparisons between India and China two giant nations both with huge populations each in a different
ideological way trying to come into the 970 Well I shouldn't try very grand very long making these comparisons because I don't know very much about China the fact is of course that very few Americans at this point can really say they do. Our data and China are not very good but I think it is clear that these are the two largest countries. They start out both in a very poor condition very dissatisfied of that poverty determined to develop economically and as you say they have chosen very different approaches different methods of development. I remember years and years ago of reading I guess a Joe Alsop column written from Hong Kong where he was. Looking at China through the eyes of the Hong Kong China watchers and one phrase in his column was for the next 20 years he said don't watch the agony too much the Chinese are deliberately forming capital out of human misery. They are
using. Obviously a highly disciplined and austere approach to things. For some time I looked as though our democracy not only couldn't do it that way the Indian democracy couldn't do it that way but that this forced draft austere technique of the Chinese would be bound to go ahead faster and achieve greater success in a given period I think rather than the 60s are over only look at all the turmoil in China and look at the sketchy data we do have is by no means clear that the Chinese are farther ahead overall economically and it seems to me quite clear that there meanwhile has been a lot more agony and that in India there has been a much more much more continuity and sort of evolutionary order. I couldn't tell from reading that paper which you give me called Wanted in India revelent irrelevant so irrelevant radicalism. Aware that you were more optimistic almost pessimistic about India's future. You seem to have a bit of both in your attitude. You're quite right.
People who have been doing business with about India particularly some of my former colleagues in the U.S. government I suppose have me and some other people like former ambassador Bowles Peck pegged as optimist we do see the positive side of the Indian experiment we think there are many many things to be encouraged about and I certainly think that India is press for the past decade or so has been very unfortunate they are lousy at their public relations and they always somehow manage to get the wrong foot forward and just in public relations terms. I think that there is a tremendous potential now for exhiliration India a tremendously happy and exciting thing although it's by no means complete has has begun to happen there in the last five years has been a really striking breakthrough in agricultural performance you may want to talk more about that. This however opens up the opportunity for considerably faster growth in the economy and I think considerably greater dividends for the people who have been at the tag end of things the very poor people in the Indian system. And that sense I'm
very optimistic I think there's no question that it India now has the administrative and if you will physical resources to make it in a fairly satisfying way or I am pessimistic about is whether the financial resources necessary for this are going to be assembled. It's difficult to assemble the internal resources to do enough taxing of the right people and particularly attacks some of the more successful farmers now Indian farmers are hard attached like farmers the world over. It's even more difficult for me to see where than the minimal necessary external resources are coming from in a period when unhappily foreign aid is heading downhill on our tolerance and acceptance of foreign aid at least in the United States is heading downhill at the very time when India's case for deserving it and knowing how to use it has been going uphill. Well if we talk about that agricultural breakthrough in spite of the fact that from 65 to 67 there were two very bad drought years in India. Still there is the breakthrough I think you call it another school the green revolution that consists
mostly of having a better more durable wheat and rice crops is that the idea. Well yes it did features wheat and rice. It is really I think a package of a whole set of things. And you know agriculture had not been a total failure by any means for say the previous 15 years up until was two back to back droughts that you mentioned which were of course a major national disaster there hadn't been such back to back droughts. In all of their recorded meteorological history but in the preceding 15 years they made progress at the slow rate but they've been going ahead and they they had been working rather hard at it in terms of policy although they had not rated I think I grew a culture with as high a priority as they came to see that they needed to do. But what came along there after as I say was a package of things for one thing an essential were some breakthroughs in technology and notably the development of new varieties of wheat rice of some of the militant did most of the of the plant so that the food grain spectrum. It
happened came forward with a new much better varieties and outsiders especially Americans especially the Rockefeller Foundation supported their activities in Mexico and in Los Banias and the Philippines had a great deal to do with with this technological breakthrough. Although I might say the Indians had a lot to do themselves with taking ahold of these things and beginning to adapt them to Indian conditions in developing a more effective a applied plant breeding and other agricultural research. Establishment OK that's one thing the technology where they go with the technology. You have to make some assumptions about how farmers are going to react to technology what motivates them. And the Indians changing their tune in the middle 60s decided that they would assume that these subsistence farmers would indeed respond the economic incentives. If they could get reliable ones and so they went for the guarantee of higher prices for farmers and previously had been.
Available and when they had to supply the necessary inputs they go with the plants with the seeds. That is to say fertilizer and to provide assured water supply. And these three things. Are. Activated by the incentives really have caused a rather striking rate of progress already in wheat and and to a considerable degree with better performance I think on the horizon and rise. Would you say then that the pangas who predicted to be a famine in India by 1975 that India at this point will be able to feed herself. Yeah I think Rice out there that's rather clear I think that the people there was a very strange episode. When the two droughts hit back to back and they course are very scary things they're very consequential things as far as the United States is concerned in terms of the
claims they put on our surplus food on our appeal for any program. We had already been supplying the union six million tons of food grains a year and suddenly the requirement up to a minimum of 10 million tons and naturally many people in government and many by standing him servers got scared. But it was rather curious I think that so many earnest social scientists took a two year phenomena that as I say was the had no precedent historically meteorologically and extrapolated from that to assume that this is not only India but for much of the rest of the developing world was a first step of a just a slippery slope down to disaster. There would be worldwide famine in 1975. I think that the performance in India clearly indicates that culture production can go up from 45 percent a year. The food supply that's faster than population is presently growing. I think the unions can come to feed themselves sometime in the middle 70s and so in that
sense the disaster panic aspect of the agricultural problem I think has its faults or we can see that it doesn't need to be that way. This is not to say that that it's not important to check population growth phatic Leah's it's about I think a great shame however that so much of our case about the population problem in developing countries like India was in the panic about the Indian droughts of 65 66 and 66 67 tied so tightly to the food supply issue result is now if people believe what they hear about the green revolution I think they should. They will also tend to relax about the population. Yes that would be unfortunate. There should not be neglected people around that time. What I've heard people say this microphone that India's plight was so desperate that there was no point in sending any foreign aid because it was water going down the drain. Well of course a very hard hearted way to look at it now that this is
what's the this was the period for instance of that book you mention famine nine hundred seventy five India it was argued as one of those basket cases that we might just as well save your money. Well now I would be expected to be to have a different view after I was for five years in the business of trying to help pass out foreign aid and justify it back in Washington but I do totally reject this view I think that probably at present. It may well be that India is about the most efficient user of foreign assistance of any recipient we have. I would say on two grounds first buys the dyad of aid that we have given the Indian we including ourselves along with all the rest of the aid donors and so solve the so-called consortium of Aidan's is a leaner. Than almost any other significant case received simply because India is big and because we still think of aid programs as going country by country so that Liberia with five or seven hundred thousand population has an aid program. India with 550 may also has an aid program and we don't really put the thing on
per capita basis. Consequently when you figure out what we are supplying per capita even though we're very serious about the Indian program in absolute terms it's large it's a very very lean in but and at the margin therefore it's use has to be calculated very carefully. The other thing that makes the unions efficient and I think. Affective uses of aid now are the policy changes that they made in the late 60s. The most important or most conspicuous sat were these that are involved in agriculture where it took public policy deliberate planned changes in policy to get this thing agriculture going. But there are also some very sensible changes with respect to their import regime with respect to their exchange rate and with other ways of promoting industrialization. So right now I think the Indians are probably about as sensible a set of performance performers. At least in relative terms as as we. We can turn to has been developing in India. This
principle is according to what I've read of self-reliance. Doesn't Madame Indira Gandhi feel that Indians should believe in themselves work for themselves and not look to foreign aid too much. Indeed they do. This is been coming on very strong I think it's probably true to say that any Indian politician who wants to stand up any day in parliament and then foreign aid and say let's cut it off completely would get a pretty strong ovation. Foreign aid is not popular and self-reliance has become exceedingly popular. The unions are very proud people. They don't take kindly to having their arms twisted even in good causes even sort of for their own best interest. And of course in many ways these are attitudes that are exactly the ones that we seek to promote with our aid programs we are most familiar set of slogan or in this most familiar slogan we have and the program is self-help. This John Kennedy was one of the first to push this all through the 60s and still today. This is a theme we want people
to help themselves and become more self-reliant. The only catch in the Indian case is that you know the the. The. Maybe the country is getting an appetite for self-reliance just a little bit ahead of the time when it's most realistic in terms of the rates of progress and the inputs of capital seem to be needed which would be the greater problem in this instance the fact that the Indian people are proud and don't want to take too much help or the fact that we and others don't want to give them too much if they haven't got the money. We say Yeah I don't know I guess that if I had to ask for. From having to solve one problem and see if the other could be taken care of. I would like to see the attitude of the US Congress toward a somewhat more abundant attitude toward foreign aid to improve. I think that the chances are the Indians either might not always do it with the greatest Grace do know enough to use
more assistance for a time without if you will getting hooked that it's true what you say about the public relations of India or the image they have presented to the rest of the world its most accurate. You hear that Indian people are difficult to get along with. Yet all of the Indian people I must say I'm not great many let's say a dozen that I've met have all been so affable and charming and warm hearted. They don't at all behave like their national image. Why do they do this. It's almost schizophrenia. Well of course I say one obvious thing which is that there are an awful lot of Indians and types of Indians and you can just like there are Americans and you can get almost any set of ornery or terribly ingratiating ones if you if you happen to draw it that way. But I agree with you I find them as a as a people terribly affable good sense of humor a lot of fun and I find it is easy to make friends with and use Indians as any group I've known. I think part of this prickliness that comes through is accidental that it's partly our images because they happen to have a particular guy named Mr Bush. The men here are
very conspicuously in the UN delegation for a long time. It's partly more reason they because for rather arcane diplomatic reasons they have to do with their relations to Pakistan. India feels it has to almost out Arab the Arabs visit V Israel in order to produce prove its credentials as somebody who can get along with Muslim countries. And this naturally irritated has irritated many Americans particularly since the Six Day War. So there's some accidental factors but I think beyond that. Part of the prickliness is the inherent problem of a democracy. Democracies tend to be very proud there have to be accountable through parliaments to their own people and this includes people in parliament in the Congress in the case of the United States in the 19th century who are flag wavers who are very proud and and self-reliant and we're going to take any. Anything from any foreigners you know. And I think that if you think about the prickliness of the young American republic in the 19th century and they had rather bad manners in many times in his diplomacy
something of the same applies to the young genuinely democratic Indian republic. Yes if you are growing you don't have time I suppose to be polite. Still they are essentially good qualities and I personally attest to that in my limited experience and you have much broader experience and you say the same thing. Mr. Lewis Madam Gandhi's name of course is magic in India and she as a symbol of her father in a way holds indeed together. I suppose very well could the problems mom so seriously that she would find herself being swept aside. Oh yes. Mrs. Gandhi could be swept aside if you know if her party the new Congress lost the 1972 election and which is the next time that a five year election is scheduled to come up she could call one sooner of the parliamentary system. But if you ask her party didn't she or she was unable to form a coalition around her party of sufficient strength to govern and she be out. It is true that Mrs
Gandhi has a certain unique position because she is her father's daughter she is the most national of the present Indian leaders and there seems to be really no very close alternative tour as a prime minister I might say that was not the case when she came out in 1966 it was a quite a surprise to a number of people that she did turn out as a compromise candidate for prime minister. I think that you know India's been through a succession of crises in the past decade. The first one was much the most serious one and then and then two years Shastri then it was it turned out to be a much less stressful thing. If for any reason Mrs. Gandhi who has great political skills should something happen to ride we should not expect that the Indian system will fall apart. In fact I think they're one of the tendencies of Westerners is to assume that it's just the merger always always on this I think isn't so I think there was some kind of chemical change that occurred when union was formed in 1947. And you now
have a real sense of emptiness in the system with all of the diversity and one thing you can get agreement on are an overwhelming consensus that any time is in any one part of that 18 Part peace should not leave the Union. It shouldn't be allowed to opt out. There's a re strong. Physical force and you disciplined namely the Indian army and one thing that could always be done would be to deploy that army to keep any one or two parts from opting out so I think in almost a mechanical sense you can expect India is indeed going to hold together and retain its national integrity. Final question Mr. Lewis. Returning to our original question and your ambivalence about the good in the battle the hope and the gloom. More on the hopeful side more on the positive side. I usually wind up sounding that way and I think that is that's really that's incorrect. It is I do have. I think good reason to be basically hopeful about the vitality as a culture and I think as an economist I have
the basis to be quite hopeful about the progress of this despite administrative invasions is one of the Indian economic system. And as I've indicated of the political manner in which they're trying to carry their transformation I'm pretty high on the place and country especially when it attempts to fulfill its promises to its people on a democratic basis. I thank you very much for being here. Say that our guest on this program has been John Lewis Lewis is dean of Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University an authority on because he has spent much time there. And the author of a book I'd like to recommend for your further information quiet crisis. Thank you and goodbye. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. Listener ease comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can
participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7 and make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents. This is the national educational radio network.
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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