02 April 2015
Delhi was irritated, if not angered, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew held up a harsh mirror to India’s self-defeating economic and foreign policies in the 1970s and 1980s. Personally close to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Mr Lee privately advised them to be more pragmatic and publicly criticised India’s failures. Mr Lee’s trenchant critique, however, was rooted in a genuine affection for India, clear recognition of its potential to shape the economic and political order in Asia and the world and deep frustration at Delhi’s seeming inability to act in self-interest.
India’s economic slumber, its perpetual domestic chaos and the temptation of its political elite to blame democracy for all its ills had some influence on Mr Lee, who held that democracy and development were incompatible, at least in the early stages of nation-building. As India evolved in the later decades, Mr Lee’s impatience yielded to better appreciation of its complex internal dynamics and the role of democracy in managing them.
… C. Raja Mohan is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, and heads its strategic studies programme. He is adjunct professor at the S. Rajaratnam Schoolof International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, and a visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. This commentary first appeared in RSIS Commentary.
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Last updated on 23/11/2015