This concerns a post made by International Herald Tribune columnist, Daniel Altman, on his blog, about India and Japan. IEB bloggers Pragmatic and Shefaly have already blogged about it, here and here.
My specific thoughts on the post aside, I had reached out to Mr. Altman with some questions on his post. He was quick to respond (which is something I find extremely commendable, as a lot of columnists at major publications often dont respond at all). My questions, and his answers to them, are reproduced below (with his permission)
My question: In your opinion, is India really at economic level similar to Sudan and Bolivia, while China is miles ahead? I am not sure if you are aware of the fact that there is a lot of debate about whether Chinese FDI numbers are fudged.
Altman’s response: I was pointing out a superficial similarity in the relationships; the economies need not be of similar size for the analogy to hold true.
My question: You mention that Japan and India have no historical ties. How come? Japan is a Buddhist country, and Buddhism originated in India, and the Japs(short for Japanese)* have been interested in developing Bodh Gaya for years. Let alone the fact that economic investment has never been driven by ‘historical ties’ or ‘economic links’.
Altman’s response: I did not say India and Japan had no historical ties. I did say that this relationship is based on economic convenience.
My question: What about the massive investments India is making outside? Indian FDI outflow has exceeded Indian FDI inflow – do we have more ‘client states’ now?
Altman’s response: “Client state” may by a strong term. But sure, India could have its own client states.
That is his response. For the last question, I think his point is that the term ‘client state’ is a strong one in general, and not just with respect to India. In any case, I am not very convinced by the client state argument. In any case, this is Mr. Altman’s personal opinion, and most importantly, was posted on his blog, and not even on IHT. However, I do feel this is reflective of some larger trends in international journalism (notably business and economics), but those merit a full separate post.
* The term Jap has derogatory connotations in many countries (not India), as explained here
. I did not
use it in a derogatory sense, I used it as an abbrieviation while typing, in my initial email to Daniel Altman. As the email was being reproduced verbatim, I did not change it.