Is Davos dissing India?
By Carlos Lozada
Every year, by design or by accident, one nation becomes the Davos darling, the country that everyone gawks at, snapping photos with its leading politicians or gushing over its prospects in panels and speeches. Back in Jan. 2003, the one time I had occasion to make it to the sub-zero center of the universe, I watched Brazil strut around as the It Country, with President Lula, inaugurated just days earlier, starring as Davos’s undisputed head-of-state celeb.
In recent years, India has rated the Davos spotlight, with chief executives and politicians swooning over its mix of democracy, entrepreneurship and dance numbers. The 2008 Davos included panels such as “Innovative India,” and the 2009 forum elevated India in a session dubbed “China, India and Japan: Asia’s Big Three.” But judging from this year’s program, India is no longer considered the promising up-and-comer.
Instead, Delhi is being taken to the woodshed -- though, of course, in a polite Davos sort of way. Tomorrow, Davos will feature a panel titled, “Will India Meet Global Expectations?” The official description: “Multilateral trade, climate change, Millennium Development Goals and nuclear non-proliferation are just some of the items on the global agenda in which the world expects India to play an active and constructive role. What does the world expect from India and what does India expect from the international community?” Basically, Davos is saying: Congrats, India, you’ve arrived. Now it’s time to step up and help run the world with the rest of us.
It’s not the first time India is getting this lecture. Writing in the latest Foreign Policy, former New York Times Delhi correspondent Barbara Crossette is a lot less genteel: “For all its business acumen and the extraordinary creativity unleashed in the service of growth, today’s India is an international adolescent, a country of outsize ambition but anemic influence.” Ouch.
If this sort of badgering sounds familiar, it’s because back in 2005 Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick basically delivered it to China, in his famous speech urging Beijing to become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system. (It sent Chinese authorities scrambling to figure out what the world “stakeholder” really means.) But at least at Davos this year, China is getting no lectures. Instead, Thursday’s panel on “U.S.-China: Reshaping the Global Agenda” seems more of an homage to the Middle Kingdom’s place on the world stage. “China is now the principal creditor to the United States, the largest economy in the world,” the panel description says. “How will future U.S.-China relations (the G2) reshape the global agenda?”
So I guess if India wants to avoid the lectures at next year’s Davos, it should start buying some Treasury bills?
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