India—Prayer for progress amid the challenges

India has the world's fourth largest economy. In recent years, it has assumed an increasingly important role on the world stage, economically and politically. Capitalizing on large numbers of well-educated people skilled in the English language, it has also become a major exporter of software services and software workers.

Earlier this year, Indians sent a positive signal as they united to vote for a secular government and for balance. Manmohan Singh, who is both an economist and the nation's prime minister, is positioned to tackle issues such as reform and accountability in administration, as well as the corrupt practices that have slowed progress. Singh, perhaps best known for bringing India out of nuclear isolation by signing a landmark deal with the US, maintains a low profile and is respected for his integrity. Agriculture and infrastructure are industries that are crying out for help, and some improvements are already in place for farmers, who represent about 60 percent of the nation's economy. New global and local partnerships are doing much to increase productivity while also cutting down on exploitation.

Despite all this progress, there are large challenges to face and overcome. Illiteracy, overpopulation, and poverty continue to be serious problems. Geographically, India is surrounded by political unrest and turmoil. The conflict in Sri Lanka with the ethnic Tamils has left thousands displaced and in need of assistance. To the east, Burma's military junta, which has kept Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and human rights leader, under house arrest for 14 of the last 19 years, is resisting pro-democracy groups. To the west, both Pakistan and Afghanistan pose possible threats of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist activity. But can fear-based economic forces, terror threats, or political and religious fundamentalism and their volatile reactions be allowed to determine India's future?

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October 12, 2009

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