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Over the decades, India has developed a reputation for having a strong society but a weak state. This bureaucratic, lumbering behemoth has especially struggled to deliver basic public goods like health, education, water, and sanitation. But a new book by the University of Oxford political scientist Akshay Mangla, Making Bureaucracy Work: Norms, Education and Public Service Delivery in Rural India, forces us to revise this conventional wisdom. In some parts of India, the state has succeeded in delivering quality primary education for its poorest citizens despite sharing the same institutional framework and often the same demographic characteristics of other, poorly performing regions. To talk more about why and when the state works, Akshay joins Milan on the podcast this week. Akshay and Milan discuss the importance of norms in driving policy implementation, the stark variation in education outcomes in north India, and the ways in which authoritarianism and deliberation can coexist. Plus, the two discuss the Modi government’s New Education Policy and the future of primary education in the country. 1. Akshay Mangla, “Social conflict on the front lines of reform: Institutional activism and girls’ education in rural India,” Public Administration and Development 42, no. 1 (2022): 95-105.2. Akshay Mangla, “Elite Strategies and Incremental Policy Change: The Expansion of Primary Education in India,” Governance 31, no. 2 (2018): 381-399.3. “Making Development Work for the Poor (with Rajesh Veeraraghavan),” Grand Tamasha, April 20, 2022.4. “Rohini Nilekani on the Secret to Successful Governance,” Grand Tamasha, October 5, 2022.
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India's nuclear program is often conceived as an inward-looking endeavor of secretive technocrats. But a new book by the scholar Jayita Sarkar, Ploughshares and Swords: India's Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War, challenges the conventional wisdom, narrating a global story of India's nuclear program during its first forty years. It is a story about nuclear ambiguity, Cold War geopolitics, territorial ambition, and visionary engineers and scientists. Jayita, who is a senior lecturer in economic and social history at the University of Glasgow and the founding director of the Global Decolonization Initiative, joins Milan on the show this week to talk more about her book. The two discuss the elite coterie of scientists and engineers responsible for India’s nuclear program, the myth of India’s peaceful, non-violent rise, and the many global inputs to India’s nuclear ambitions. Plus, the two discuss the surprising roots of India’s controversial 1974 nuclear tests and the country’s struggles to fulfill its nuclear energy potential at home. “Southern Asia's Nuclear Future with Ashley J. Tellis,” Grand Tamasha, October 26, 2022.[Open-access] Jayita Sarkar, Ploughshares and Swords: India's Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2022).
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Thirty years ago, Seema Sirohi first moved to Washington as a journalist charged with covering India’s relationship with the United States. At the time, Washington saw India as a problem—rather than a useful part of its foreign policy solution—to big, complex global challenges. Today, the situation could not be more different: the United States and India are deeply enmeshed in a strategic partnership that runs the gamut, from space to terrorism, and from climate change to technology. Seema, a U.S.-based columnist for the Economic Times, narrates this tectonic shift in a new book, Friends with Benefits: The India-U.S. Story.On this week’s show, she joins Milan to discuss the book and her own personal journey. They discuss the evolution of U.S.-India ties over the past three decades, including the rocky years of the early 1990s, the breakthrough in the George W. Bush administration, and the setbacks towards the end of India’s UPA-2 government. Plus, the two discuss the Washington establishment’s blind spots on both China and Pakistan and how these have repeatedly come at the cost of greater cooperation with India in years past. Narayan Lakshmanan, “Review of Seema Sirohi’s Friends with Benefits: The India-U.S. Story—Ringside view to bilateral ballet,” Hindu, February 17, 2023.“Southern Asia's Nuclear Future with Ashley J. Tellis,” Grand Tamasha, October 26, 2022.“U.S.-India Ties After the ‘2+2’ Summit,” with Joshua White, Grand Tamasha, April 27, 2022.
access_time21 days ago
Age of Vice is the blockbuster new novel by the author Deepti Kapoor. It’s a love story, wrapped inside a tale of capitalism run amok, wrapped inside a violent story of gangland politics. In nearly 600 pages, it transports readers from the badlands of eastern Uttar Pradesh to the five-star hotels and fabulous bungalows of New Delhi. To call this book a sensation would be the understatement of the year. Readers have snapped up copies, book editors have issued glowing reviews, and a television series is already in the works. Deepti Kapoor grew up in north India and worked for several years as a journalist in New Delhi. She’s the author of a previous novel, A Bad Character, published in 2015. To talk more about Age of Vice and the inspiration behind it, Deepti joins Milan on the podcast this week. They discuss Deepti’s journey from Delhi reporter to novelist, the research she conducted for the book, and the cynicism embedded in Indian politics. Plus, the two discuss the book’s adaptation for the screen and the planned trilogy of books that is in the works. Ron Charles, “Deepti Kapoor’s thriller ‘Age of Vice’ starts 2023 with a bang,” Washington Post, December 29, 2022.Milan Vaishnav, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017).Josy Joseph, A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2016). Deepti Kapoor, “Driving in Greater Noida,” Granta, February 23, 2015.
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The decline of India’s parliament is a refrain that has often been repeated over the last seventy-five years of modern Indian democracy. A new book on India’s Parliament addresses the decline thesis head-on and provides a warts-and-all assessment of India’s legislative chamber.The book is called House of the People: Parliament and the Making of Indian Democracy and its author is the scholar Ronojoy Sen. Ronojoy, a senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asia Studies at the National University of Singapore, joins Milan on the podcast this week to discuss the evolution of India’s parliament, the constitutional pre-history of legislative institutions in India, and the surprising lack of debate around universal suffrage. Plus, the two discuss the plague of parliamentary disruptions, the black box of conflicts of interest, and how the practice of Indian democracy transformed the institution of Parliament. Madhav Khosla and Milan Vaishnav, “The Three Faces of the Indian State,” Journal of Democracy 32, no. 1 (January 2021): 111-125.Ronojoy Sen, “Has the Indian Parliament stood the test of time?” Observer Research Foundation, August 15, 2022.
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On February 24, the world will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ongoing war has fueled considerable debate among foreign policy analysts about the long-term consequences for the nature and evolution of global order. In the wake of the ongoing conflict, few relationships have been as hotly debated as the ties between India and Russia. In the pages of Foreign Affairs, two of the best strategic minds working on Indian foreign policy—Happymon Jacob of Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Council for Strategic and Defense Research and Sameer Lalwani of the U.S. Institute of Peace—have engaged in a serious and constructive debate on what the future holds in store for India’s relations with Russia. This week, Happymon and Sameer join Milan to expand on their debate. Happymon argues that we’re seeing the beginning of decoupling between Russia and India, while Sameer is skeptical. He envisions a future in which Russia-India relations, while perhaps declining, exhibit significant resilience. The trio also discusses China-Russia relations, U.S. efforts to supply India’s military, and the prospects of India serving as an honest broker to end the war. Happymon Jacob, “Russia is Losing India,” Foreign Affairs, September 22, 2022.Sameer Lalwani and Happymon Jacob, “Will India Ditch Russia?” Foreign Affairs, January 24, 2023.“The Looming Cloud of Sanctions Over U.S.-India Relations (with Sameer Lalwani),” Grand Tamasha, September 29, 2021.Sameer Lalwani and Tyler Sagerstrom, “What the India–Russia Defence Partnership Means for US Policy,” Survival (2021).Sameer Lalwani, Frank O’Donnell, Tyler Sagerstrom, and Akriti Vasudeva, “The Influence of Arms: Explaining the Durability of India–Russia Alignment,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, January 15, 2021.Happymon Jacob, “The futility of underbalancing China,” The Indian View (newsletter), January 23, 2023.
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In 2016, Ashley J. Tellis published an important paper in which he unpacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for India to become a leading, rather than a balancing, power on the global stage. This call reflected an important change in how the country’s top political leadership conceived of its role in international politics.In the years following, Ashley and a group of collaborators have been working to flesh out what becoming a leading power would actually mean in practice. Their findings have finally been published in a new volume, Grasping Greatness: Making India a Leading Power, edited by Ashley along with Bibek Debroy and C. Raja Mohan.Ashley holds the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. On the show this week, Ashley joins Milan to talk about his latest project. He and Milan discuss India’s internal debate about its growing global role, the ideological constraints to realizing India’s economic potential, and lingering doubts about India’s liberal commitments. Plus, the two discuss whether India’s incremental pace of reforms is a harm or a hindrance to its wider ambitions. Ashley J. Tellis, “Grasping Greatness: Making India a Leading Power,” in Ashley J. Tellis, Bibek Debroy, and C. Raja Mohan, Grasping Greatness: Making India a Leading Power (New Delhi: Penguin India, 2022).Ashley J. Tellis, “India as a Leading Power,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 4, 2016.Lakshmi Puri, “The will to power: How India can become a leading power in the world,” FirstPost, January 27, 2023.“Southern Asia's Nuclear Future With Ashley J. Tellis,” Grand Tamasha, October 26, 2022.
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Last week, India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her government’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget. As in years past, the entire analyst class has been working overtime to scrutinize the minister’s speech and the underlying budget spreadsheets to understand how this government plans to steer the Indian economy in the midst of global headwinds and an important general election in 2024.To discuss this year’s budget and all that it means, Milan is joined on the show this week by Sukumar Ranganathan, editor-in-chief of the Hindustan Times. There are few journalists in India who follow budgets more closely or more insightfully. Milan and Sukumar discuss the government’s big infrastructure push, its electoral signaling, and future plans to raise revenue. Plus, the two discuss what we can say definitively about the Modi government’s economic philosophy after nine years in office. Prashant Jha, “Budget passes BJP’s political test ahead of 2024 elections,” Hindustan Times, February 2, 2023.Roshan Kishore, “Nightwatchman’s Budget ahead of elections,” Hindustan Times, February 2, 2023.Abhishek Jha and Roshan Kishore, “The Indian economy: Past, present, future,” Hindustan Times, February 6, 2023. Archana Masih interview with Milan Vaishnav, “‘Adani affair overshadowed Budget's stability, prudence,'” Rediff News, February 6, 2023.
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The Congress Party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra has spent more than 120 days traveling the length of India from the southern city of Kanniyakumari to the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.After traveling more than 3,500 kilometers, the march formally ended on January 30 in Srinagar. The yatra has grabbed headlines and riled up Congress supporters, but the question remains—what does it actually mean for the future of the Congress Party? To talk about the yatra’s legacy, Milan is joined on the show this week by Dipankar Ghose, deputy national editor of the Hindustan Times and three-time winner of the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Award. Dipankar covered the yatra when it traveled through Rajasthan in late December, and he and Milan discuss the yatra’s impact on the Congress Party’s fortunes, Rahul Gandhi’s image, and the party’s “vision” problem. Plus, the two discuss the BJP’s reaction to the yatra and what comes next for India’s struggling principal opposition party. Dipankar Ghose, “Counting milestones: A day in the life of the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Hindustan Times, December 16, 2022.Dipankar Ghose, “Congress political crisis: The parallels in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh,” Hindustan Times, September 26, 2022.“G20, State Elections, and the Future of the Congress Party (with Sadanand Dhume and Tanvi Madan),” Grand Tamasha, December 14, 2022.
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After a short holiday break, this week we kick off the ninth season of Grand Tamasha. Milan’s guest on the show is Pranay Kotasthane, author of the new book—Missing In Action: Why You Should Care About Public Policy, co-authored with Raghu Jaitley. What is the Indian state? How does it work? How does it fail? And how can it evolve? These are just some of the questions that this important new book tries to tackle. Unlike most books in this genre, it is written for the proverbial man or woman on the street, refraining from jargon and acronyms to educate, and possibly even entertain, readers interested in how policy is made.Pranay, who serves as deputy director at the Takshashila Institution in Bangalore, and Milan discuss the difference between a democracy and a republic, the role of ideology in Indian politics, pro-business vs. pro-market policies, and the enduring weakness of the Indian state. Plus, the two discuss the shrinking of the “middle” space in public discourse and what that means for the future of Indian democracy. IVM Podcasts, Puliyabaazi (Hindi Podcast), hosted by Saurabh Chandra, Pranay Kotasthane, and Khyati Pathak.“Anticipating the Unanticipated,” weekly Substack newsletter by Pranay Kotasthane and Raghu Jaitley. “Missing in Action is Here,” Anticipating the Unanticipated, Number 195.
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One of the blessings (though it sometimes feels like a curse) of hosting Grand Tamasha, Carnegie’s weekly podcast on Indian politics and policy, is that our host Milan Vaishnav ends up reading a ton of books and interviewing many authors. In what we hope will become an annual holiday tradition, Milan has made a list of his top three India reads of the year, based on some of the books we’ve highlighted on the show’s recently wrapped eighth season. Our Grand Tamasha top three books of 2022 (drumroll, please): Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh: India’s Lonely Young Women and the Search for Intimacy and IndependenceBy Shrayana Bhattacharya. Published by HarperCollins India.The Progressive Maharaja: Sir Madhava Rao’s Hints on the Art and Science of GovernmentBy Rahul Sagar. Published by Hurst/HarperCollins India.The Newlyweds: Rearranging Marriage in Modern IndiaBy Mansi Choksi. Published by Atria/Icon/Penguin Viking. In this episode, Milan talks about why he loved each of these books and includes short clips from his conversations with Shrayana, Rahul, and Mansi. Think of this bonus episode as our little holiday present to you, our listeners. We'll see you in January.
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To commemorate the season finale of Season Eight of Grand Tamasha, Milan welcomes back show regulars Sadanand Dhume (American Enterprise Institute and the Wall Street Journal) and Tanvi Madan (Brookings Institution) to discuss the latest developments in the world of Indian politics and policy. The trio discusses the recent elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi, and what, if anything, they tell us about the political landscape heading into the 2024 general election. They also review Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and debate the future of the Congress Party. Finally, they discuss the significance of India’s G20 presidency and its domestic political salience.Milan, Tanvi, and Sadanand wrap up the show by highlighting one India-related trend they’ll be keeping their eye on in 2023. “A Test of the BJP’s Dominance in Gujarat (with Mahesh Langa),” Grand Tamasha, December 6, 2022. “Previewing India’s G20 Agenda (with Karthik Nachiappan),” Grand Tamasha, November 30, 2022.“Congress Drama, Indian Diplomacy, and the Diaspora (with Sadanand Dhume and Tanvi Madan),” Grand Tamasha, October 12, 2022.
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This past week, voters in the state of Gujarat went to the polls to select the 182 newest members of the state assembly. While the votes will be counted on December 8, there is an aura of inevitability around the result; journalists, pundits, and polls all point toward a decisive victory by the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Narendra Modi. But this year’s contest is not without its fair share of intrigue. In what has traditionally been a two-party contest between the BJP and the Congress Party, this year Gujarat features an ambitious new entrant in the form of the Aam Aadmi Party.To talk more about this year’s election and what it signifies, Milan is joined on the show this week by the journalist Mahesh Langa. Mahesh is a veteran journalist who currently serves as the Gujarat correspondent for the Hindu. He previously covered the state for the Hindustan Times. The two discuss the significance of the 2022 race, AAP’s pitch to voters, and the Congress’ listless campaign. Plus, the two discuss the enduring legacy of the 2002 riots and the salience of the “Gujarat Model.” Mahesh Langa, “Modest turnout of 59.11% registered in the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections,” Hindu, December 5, 2022.Mahesh Langa, “Congress views terrorism from prism of vote bank, says PM Modi,” Hindu, November 27, 2022.Nistula Hebbar and Mahesh Langa, “With two Opposition firebrands of 2017 now in BJP camp, election loses its spark,” Hindu, November 23, 2022.
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In December, India will assume the presidency of the G20, an international forum comprising the world’s twenty largest economies. It’s India’s first time chairing the group, and it represents a major diplomatic and political opportunity for the government to shape perceptions around India’s role in the world and to make headway on some of its key priorities heading into 2024, a general election year.To discuss India’s agenda at the G20 and its approach to multilateralism more generally, Milan is joined on the show this week by the scholar Karthik Nachiappan. Karthik is a research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore and a nonresident senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa. Karthik is the author of the book, Does India Negotiate?, which revises the conventional narrative that India’s multilateral behavior is prickly, obstructionist, and defensive.Milan and Karthik discuss India’s emerging G20 agenda, its attitude toward existing multilateral institutions, and what its behavior at the recent COP27 climate summit tells us about its evolving approach. Plus, the two discuss India’s digital soft power ambitions and how those aims could conflict with international concerns about data localization. Karthik Nachiappan, Does India Negotiate? (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2020)Karthik Nachiappan, “The international politics of data: When control trumps protection,” Observer Research Foundation, October 26, 2022.Arindrajit Basu and Karthik Nachiappan, “Data opportunity at the G20,” Hindu, August 18, 2022.“How Rising Powers Can Make—Or Break—International Order” (with Rohan Mukherjee), Grand Tamasha, November 16, 2022.
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A recent controversy involving the online news site the Wire and the tech giant Meta has sparked a new debate on the media in India. The recent controversy has been something of a Rorschach test with some critics castigating digital media for playing fast and loose with the truth and others defending the media from further intrusion by the state. The debate is far from academic as its consequences have implications for freedom of expression, government regulation, and democratic accountability.To discuss the state of the Indian media in the year 2022, Milan is joined on the show this week by the journalist Manisha Pande. Manisha is the executive editor of Newslaundry, a well-regarded digital news site that is dedicated to covering the media ecosystem in India today. She is the host and producer of the Newslaundry show, TV Newsance, which offers a satirical look at television news in India.In addition to discussing the media controversy involving the Wire, Milan and Manisha discuss the business-media nexus, shrinking space for anti-government criticism, and the dangers of self-censorship. Plus, the duo discuss why the sorry state of prime-time news television refuses to change. “Mehrauli Murder Case and 'sansani' reporting,” TV Newsance 193, November 19, 2022.Manisha Pande, “Why we report on the media,” Newslaundry, June 25, 2022.Manisha Pande, “‘It’s not a newsroom, it’s a durbar’: Inside the Republic of Arnab Goswami,” Newslaundry, September 7, 2020.
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Why do rising powers on the global stage sometimes challenge an international order that enables their growth, yet at other times support an order that constrains them? This is the core question motivating a big, new book on international order by political scientist Rohan Mukherjee. The book is titled, Ascending Order: Rising Powers and the Politics of Status in International Institutions, and it is a comprehensive study of conflict and cooperation as new powers join the global arena. The book focuses on how international institutions shape the choices of rising states as they pursue equal status with established powers.Rohan is an assistant professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. To talk more about his new book, Rohan joins Milan on the show this week from his office in London. The two discuss China’s surprisingly cooperative behavior in the post-Cold War era, India’s grievances with the liberal international order, and the importance of status concerns in international relations. Plus, Milan and Rohan discuss India’s approach to the nuclear nonproliferation regime during the Cold War, U.S. policies to restrain China, and the implications of a more isolationist U.S. foreign policy for rising powers.
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This week, climate negotiators and world leaders from around 200 countries are descending on the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el Sheikh for COP27—the twenty-seventh gathering of the 197 nations that signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change back in 1992. As proceedings get underway, a huge question mark hangs over this year’s climate summit. Rich nations are pushing for poor countries to announce greater cuts to carbon emissions, but developing countries claim that their developed counterparts have stiffed them when it comes to climate finance. To make sense of this dynamic at this year’s gathering and to explore the unique role India plays, journalist Bill Spindle joins Milan on the show this week.Bill is the climate and energy editor at the new journalism start-up, Semafor. He’s also a ten-year veteran of the Wall Street Journal, where he served as South Asia Bureau Chief from 2016 to 2020. Bill has spent the last year crisscrossing the length and breadth of India reporting on the transformation of India’s energy sector—a journey he documented on Substack.Bill and Milan discuss the developed vs. developing country deadlock that imperils the COP27 proceedings, India’s opportunity to play a leadership role, and the continuing uncertainty over U.S.-China relations. Plus, the two discuss Bill’s year-long adventure traveling 8,000 kilometers across India by train. Semafor “Climate” newsletter by Bill Spindle. Bill Spindle, “Energy: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly,” The Energy Adventure(r) newsletter, June 14, 2022.Bill Spindle, “The Free Power Flywheel,” The Energy Adventure(r) newsletter, August 29, 2022.Bill Spindle, “Global climate conference threatens to be a bust,” Semafor, October 22, 2022.“How India Can Get to Net Zero Emissions (with Jayant Sinha),” Grand Tamasha, October 13, 2021.“What COP26 Means for India—and the World (with Navroz Dubash),” Grand Tamasha, November 17, 2021.
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Regular Grand Tamasha listeners will recall that Milan had the scholar Rahul Sagar on the podcast several months ago to talk about his new book, To Raise a Fallen People: How Nineteenth Century Indians Saw Their World and Shaped Ours. That book was a look at the nineteenth-century intellectual roots of India’s foreign policy strategy and its approach to great power politics. And now Rahul has another book out—this one is called, The Progressive Maharaja: Sir Madhava Rao’s Hints on the Art and Science of Government. Rahul returns to the podcast this week to talk to Milan about an important but largely forgotten set of lectures that represented the first treatise on statecraft produced in modern India. Plus. Milan and Rahul talk about the legacy of India’s princely states, the unique historical figure of Madhava Rao, and why the latter’s treatise has been largely ignored—until today. “What Kind of World Power Does India Want to Be (with Rahul Sagar),” Grand Tamasha, June 1, 2022.Rahul Sagar, To Raise a Fallen People: How Nineteenth-Century Indians Saw Their World and Shaped Ours (Juggernaut, 2022).Ideas of India, online database curated by Rahul Sagar
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The competitive and often antagonistic relationships between China, India, and Pakistan have roots that predate their possession of nuclear weaponry. Yet the significant transformation of the nuclear capabilities that is now underway in all three countries simultaneously complicates and mitigates their geopolitical rivalries.This is one of the central arguments advanced by a new report authored by Ashley J. Tellis, the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The report, Striking Asymmetries: Nuclear Transitions in Southern Asia, is an authoritative account of the transitions in the nuclear weapons programs in China, India, and Pakistan over the last two decades.Ashley joins Milan on the show this week to discuss his new report and its implications. Milan and Ashley discuss China’s post-Cold War shift to its conservative nuclear posture, the developmental underpinnings of India’s nuclear program, and Pakistan’s diverse, burgeoning nuclear weapons arsenal. Plus, the two discuss U.S. policy options to manage China’s nuclear modernization and the logic of an India-France-United States nuclear partnership. “How China Sees India With Ambassador Shyam Saran,” Grand Tamasha, September 7, 2022.“When and Why Do India and Pakistan Fight (with Christopher Clary),” Grand Tamasha, September 14, 2022.Ashley J. Tellis, India's Emerging Nuclear Posture: Between Recessed Deterrent and Ready Arsenal (RAND Corporation, 2001).Ashley J. Tellis, Alison Szalwinski, and Michael Wills, eds. Strategic Asia 2019: China’s Expanding Strategic Ambitions(Washington, D.C.: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2019).
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Shaili Chopra was a well-known business journalist, working for outlets such as NDTV Profit and ET Now, before she decided to leave prime-time journalism and become an entrepreneur, launching a new digital media platform—SheThePeople—dedicated to telling the untold stories of women in India and around the world.She has a new book out called, Sisterhood Economy: Of, By, For Wo(men), which distills some of the many lessons that she has learned over the years. The book is based on conversations with more than 500 women—and men—across India and touches on questions from love and marriage to livelihoods and the economy to business and Bollywood.Shaili joins Milan on the show this week to talk about the book’s key messages. The two discuss her radical decision to quit her high-profile job in journalism, the vexing question of women’s labor force participation, and the social norms and conventions governing Indian marriage. Plus, Shaili and Milan talk about the catalytic role technology can play in a woman’s life and why mothers-in-law often get a bad rap. Lamat R. Hasan, “Review: Sisterhood Economy Of, By, For Wo(men) by Shaili Chopra,” Hindustan Times, October 6, 2022.Arunima Mazumdar, “Interview: Shaili Chopra, author, Sisterhood Economy: Of, By, For Wo(Men) - “Caste and gender inequality go hand in hand,” Hindustan Times, September 30, 2022.“How Shah Rukh Khan Inspires Female Empowerment (with Shrayana Bhattacharya),” Grand Tamasha, December 15, 2021.
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These days, the world of Indian politics and policy appears to be moving at warp speed—even by Indian standards. To make sense of all the latest developments out of India, this week Milan is joined by Grand Tamasha regulars—Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute and the Wall Street Journal, and Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institution. The trio discusses three topics. First, they examine the latest drama coming out of the Indian National Congress and discuss the race to take over India’s Grand Old Party. Second, Milan, Sadanand, and Tanvi discuss the key takeaways and controversies from External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s lengthy visit to the United States. And finally, the group unpacks the creeping signs of religious polarization in the Indian diaspora, stretching from Canada to the United Kingdom and to the United States. Plus, the three share the best thing on India they’ve read in the past six months. Tanvi Madan, “China Has Lost India: How Beijing’s Aggression Pushed New Delhi to the West,” Foreign Affairs, October 4, 2022.Sadanand Dhume, “Hindu Nationalism Threatens India’s Rise as a Nation,” Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2022.Prashant Jha, “A story of friendship: The underlying theme of Jaishankar’s Washington DC visit,” Hindustan Times, September 30, 2022.“Rearranging Marriage in Modern India (with Mansi Choksi),” Grand Tamasha, September 28, 2022.Jayita Sarkar, Ploughshares and Swords: India's Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2022).
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Rohini Nilekani is an author and philanthropist who has worked for over three decades in India’s social sectors. She is the founder of Arghyam, a foundation for sustainable water and sanitation, and she also co-founded Pratham Books, a nonprofit which aims to enable access to reading for millions of children. With her husband Nandan, she is the co-founder and director of EkStep, a nonprofit education platform.Her latest book, Samaaj, Sarkaar, Bazaar (Society, State, and Markets): A Citizen-First Approach, encapsulates many of the lessons she has learned in her years working in the civil society and philanthropic sectors. To talk more about these lessons, Rohini joins Milan on the show this week from Bangalore. The two discuss Rohini’s unlikely start in the world of civic activism, the role technology can play in bringing the state, society, and market into better alignment, and what works to reform urban governance. Plus, the two discuss the state of philanthropy in India and growing concerns about closing space for civil society in India. Rohini Nilekani, Samaaj, Sarkaar, Bazaar: A Citizen-First Approach (available open-access). “Off-the-Cuff with Rohini Nilekani,” ThePrint, September 9, 2022.“How to Fix India’s Water Crisis (with Mridula Ramesh),” Grand Tamasha, March 23, 2022.
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The Newlyweds: Rearranging Marriage in Modern India is a moving account of love in contemporary India. The book’s author, Mansi Choksi, follows three couples across the heartland of India as they navigate boundaries—of caste, class, religion, and traditional gender norms. What follows is a tale of romance, endurance, violence, and occasionally heartbreak. The Newlyweds does what most social science texts simply cannot—it brings us into the private lives of young people in love in India.Mansi’s writing has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times, the New Yorker, National Geographic, Slate and the Atlantic. This week, she joins Milan on the podcast to talk about modern love in a changing India, how love and politics intersect, and what her book tells us about India’s social fault lines. Plus, Milan and Mansi discuss life in “Tier Two” India. Mansi Choksi, “How ‘Love Commandos’ Help Young Lovers Cross Caste Lines,” Literary Hub, September 6, 2022.Mansi Choksi, “‘Did You Feel a Fire Between Us?’” Slate, August 30, 2022.“How Shah Rukh Khan Inspires Female Empowerment,” (with Shrayana Bhattacharya), Grand Tamasha, December 15, 2021.“Neha Sahgal on Religion and Identity in Contemporary India,” Grand Tamasha, June 30, 2021.“Rachel Brulé on Gender Quotas and Gender Inequality in India,” Grand Tamasha, May 26, 2021.Snigdha Poonam, Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing the World (Harvard University Press, 2018).
access_time6 months ago
In country after country in South Asia, we are seeing worrying signs of economic turmoil and political upheaval. Earlier this year, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan lost a bruising no-confidence vote, resulting in his abrupt ouster. But now the new coalition government that took over from Khan is struggling under the weight of a rising debt burden. Sri Lanka has experienced a full-blown crisis, resulting in Asia’s first default in decades and the collapse of the Rajapaksa government. While India’s economic prospects remain relatively positive, there too there are concerns about how widely the gains of recent economic growth are being shared.To discuss South Asia’s economic outlook, journalist Benjamin Parkin joins Milan on the show this week. Ben is the South Asia correspondent for the Financial Times based in New Delhi and has previously worked with Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.The two discuss the external headwinds, domestic policy missteps, and continued uncertainty plaguing South Asian economies from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. They also discuss how China is using the present moment to press its advantage and how the West is responding. Plus, the two talk about India’s economic trajectory and the sharply divided views on its recovery. “Pakistan After Imran Khan,” (with Aqil Shah) Grand Tamasha, May 4, 2022. “Inside Sri Lanka’s Meltdown,” (with Ahilan Kadirgamar) Grand Tamasha, May 18, 2022.Benjamin Parkin and Farhan Bokhari, “Man of the People or Agent of Chaos? Imran Khan Divides Pakistan,” Financial Times, September 5, 2022.Benjamin Parkin, “Sri Lanka Raises Taxes in Effort to Secure IMF Bailout,” Financial Times, August 30, 2022.Benjamin Parkin and John Reed, “Bangladesh is ‘Being Killed by Economic Conditions Elsewhere in the World,’” Financial Times, August 24, 2022.
access_time7 months ago
Since their mutual independence in 1947, India and Pakistan have been locked into a fierce rivalry that shows no signs of abating anytime soon. But a new book by the political scientist Christopher Clary, The Difficult Politics of Peace: Rivalry in Modern South Asia, suggests that our traditional narrative of doom and gloom glosses over a rich history of cooperation, contestation, conflict, and conciliation that defies easy explanations.This week on the show, Milan sits down with Chris Clary to discuss why and when rival states pursue conflict or cooperation. Clary is an assistant professor of political science at the University at Albany and a nonresident fellow with the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. The two discuss the primacy of leaders, the surprising cooperation India and Pakistan have often forged, and the South Asian security community’s blind spots. Plus, Chris tells Milan why there is ample evidence for continued pessimism in bilateral peace negotiations. “Pallavi Raghavan on an Alternative History of India-Pakistan Relations,” Grand Tamasha, April 7, 2020.Brian Finlay, “The Passing of Our Co-Founder Michael Krepon,” Henry L. Stimson Center, July 16, 2022.“Myra MacDonald on the India-Pakistan Battle for Siachen,” Grand Tamasha, March 9, 2021.
access_time7 months ago
This week we kick off the eighth season of Grand Tamasha with a very special guest. On the season premiere, Milan sits down with Ambassador Shyam Saran, former Indian foreign secretary and one of the most decorated Indian diplomats of his generation. Saran, currently a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, is the author of a new book, How China Sees India and the World. This new volume is a companion to his highly acclaimed 2018 book, How India Sees the World.Milan speaks with Shyam Saran about his lengthy career studying China and learning Mandarin, India’s relative ignorance of Chinese politics and society, and the sources of China’s unique model of social order. Plus, the two discuss the current border standoff between India and China and the prospects of a China-centric world.Shyam Saran, “Signs of Twin Troubles in China,” Business Standard, August 17, 2022.Shyam Saran, “Why India@75 Must Pay Attention to Fault Lines,” Mint, August 15, 2022.“India’s Future in a Changing Global Order (with Shivshankar Menon),” Grand Tamasha, February 2, 2022.
access_time10 months ago
This season, in twenty episodes, Grand Tamasha has covered a lot of ground—from the war in Ukraine, to the UP elections, and India’s water crisis. We will be taking a little break to recharge our batteries, but we will be back in August with all-new Grand Tamasha content.To bring the curtains down on the seventh season of Grand Tamasha, Milan is joined on the podcast by podcast regulars, Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute and Wall Street Journal and Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institution. The trio discusses the foreign policy crisis which engulfed India last week after two BJP spokespersons made statements criticizing the Prophet Mohammed; the 180-degree turn in popular perceptions of India’s stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and how India was received at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.Plus, the three offer their summer reading recommendations for India policy enthusiasts. Sadanand Dhume, “Hindu Nationalism Threatens India’s Rise as a Nation,” Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2022. Shoaib Daniyal, “The India Fix,” Scroll.in.Carnegie India, “Ideas and Institutions,” Carnegie India.Ananth Krishnan, “The India-China Newsletter.”Suyash Desai, “The PLA Bulletin.”Manoj Kewalramani, “Eye on China,” Takshashila Institution.
access_time10 months ago
In 2014, soon after coming to power, the Narendra Modi government decided to abolish India’s decades-old Planning Commission, replacing it with a new government think tank meant to facilitate cooperative federalism. For years, the Planning Commission devised detailed, five-year, central plans meant to guide India’s economy and allocate funds from the center to India’s states.Eight years later, the Planning Commission may be gone, but it is not forgotten. A new book by the University of Notre Dame historian Nikhil Menon, Planning Democracy: How a Professor, An Institute, and an Idea Shaped India, provides a wide-ranging history of the marriage between liberal democracy and a socialist economy, uncovering the way planning came to define not just the economy but the nation itself.Nikhil is Milan’s guest on the show this week. They talk about the legacy of India’s planning infrastructure, the unique influence of pioneering statistician P.C. Mahalanobis, and the ways in which India’s statistical architecture was the envy of the world. Plus, the two discuss the decline of planning, the vestiges that carry on today, and India’s weakened data institutions. “India’s once-vaunted statistical infrastructure is crumbling,” Economist, May 19, 2022.Nikhil Menon, “A short history of data,” Hindu, March 21, 2019Pramit Bhattacharya, “How India’s Statistical System Was Crippled,” Mint, May 7, 2019.
access_time10 months ago
What kind of world power does India want to be? Few questions have been asked as often or as intensely since India’s economic take-off in the early 1990s and the corresponding rise in its foreign policy ambitions. Many of our intellectual debates seek answers to this question by looking back to the dawn of independence in 1947. A new book by political scientist Rahul Sagar, To Raise a Fallen People: How Nineteenth Century Indians Saw Their World and Shaped Ours, invites readers to look even further back to the oft-forgotten, raucous debates of the 19th century. Rahul joins Milan on the podcast this week to talk about his new book and the intellectual roots of India’s strategic thought. Milan and Rahul discuss the debate over India’s strategic culture, its “half-hearted” approach to great power politics, and the salience of 19th-century debates for understanding the current foreign policy discourse on Russia-Ukraine.Rahul Sagar, “If it doesn’t learn from the past, the West can lose India (again),” Times of India, May 22, 2022.Rahul Sagar, The Progressive Maharaja: Sir Madhava Rao's Hints on the Art and Science of Government (London: Hurst, 2022). Rahul Sagar, “‘Jiski Lathi, Uski Bhains’: The Hindu Nationalist View of International Politics,” in Kanti Bajpai, Saira Basit, and V. Krishnappa, eds., India’s Grand Strategy: History, Theory, Cases (New Delhi: Routledge, 2016).
access_time10 months ago
Over the weekend, Australian voters elected a new government with the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Anthony Albanese at the helm, ousting the ruling Liberal-National Coalition for the first time in a decade. Key to the ALP’s landmark victory was the vote of the Indo-Australians, now the second largest immigrant group in Australia.A new Carnegie study co-authored by Devesh Kapur, Caroline Duckworth, and our very own Milan Vaishnav, sheds light on three elements of the Indo-Australian community’s political behavior: the community’s political preferences, leadership preferences, and policy priorities. This week, we put Milan in the hot seat to discuss his new study along with Caroline Duckworth, a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow in Carnegie’s South Asia Program. We also wanted to turn the tables on Milan to ask him about his recent trip to Delhi—his first in the COVID-era. We talk about India’s ongoing heat wave, the political mood in the country, and the fractures in Indian federalism. Caroline Duckworth, Devesh Kapur, and Milan Vaishnav, “Indo-Australian Voters and the 2022 General Election,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 18, 2022.Jonathan Kay, “A Heat Wave Has Pushed India’s Dysfunctional Power System Into a Crisis,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 12, 2022.
access_time11 months ago
Sri Lanka has been the site of dramatic economic and political upheaval over the past several weeks as years of economic mismanagement have resulted in rampant inflation, shortages of essential commodities, and the country’s first sovereign default in the post-independence era. The island’s dire economic conditions have spurred angry, and sometimes violent, protests which resulted in the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and continued calls for the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country’s president and the prime minister’s brother.To discuss the economic and political causes and consequences of this crisis, Milan is joined on the show this week by political economist Ahilan Kadirgamar. Ahilan is Senior Lecturer at the University of Jaffna and one of Sri Lanka’s leading political economists. Ahilan and Milan discuss the tense situation on the ground, the economic roots of the current crisis, and the prospects for a return to wide-scale violence. Plus, the two discuss India’s role in extending an economic lifeline to Sri Lanka and whether the island nation can put a decades-old legacy of ethnic strife behind it.“Rethinking Sri Lanka’s economic crisis,” Interview with Ahilan Kadirgamar, Himal South Asian, February 28, 2022.Ahilan Kadirgamar, “Polarization, Civil War, and Persistent Majoritarianism in Sri Lanka,” in Thomas Carothers and Andrew O’Donohue, eds., Political Polarization in South and Southeast Asia: Old Divisions, New Dangers (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2020).Ahilan Kadirgamar, "Sri Lanka stares at bankruptcy or redemption," The Hindu, April 16, 2022.Ahilan Kadirgamar. "The Political Economy of the Crisis in Sri Lanka," Economic & Political Weekly, April 30, 2022.
access_time11 months ago
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently completed a three-country, whirlwind tour of Europe. The trip began in Germany, where Modi met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, then continued with a stop in Denmark, where he participated in the India-Nordic Summit, and wrapped up in Paris, where he sat down with newly reelected French President Emmanuel Macron.To discuss Modi’s Europe visit and its lasting implications, Milan is joined on the show this week by Garima Mohan. Garima is a senior fellow in the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund based in Berlin. Her research focuses on Europe-India ties, EU foreign policy in Asia, and security in the Indo-Pacific.Milan and Garima discuss how Europe sees India’s evolving stance on Russia-Ukraine, India’s ambitious (and nuanced) European outreach, and the trajectory of defense collaboration. Plus, the two discuss how Europe and India are working together on cross-cutting issues from climate to trade and technology. Episode notes:Nayanima Basu, “Modi’s trip shows India & EU can grow closer despite differences on Russia’s Ukraine invasion,” ThePrint, May 6, 2022.Garima Mohan and Thorsten Benner, “Look More at India!” Der Spiegel, May 2, 2022.Sreemoy Talukdar, “An assessment of EU-India ties as Modi visits Europe: Sheer political will driving strategic convergence beyond differences,” Firstpost, May 4, 2022.
access_time11 months ago
On April 11, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from office, having suffered defeat in a dramatic no confidence vote in the national assembly. Soon after, Shehbaz Sharif—former chief minister of Punjab and brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif—was sworn into office as his replacement, capping a dizzying few weeks of political intrigue. To make sense of the latest developments in Pakistan, including what they mean for India, this week Milan is joined on the show by Aqil Shah. Aqil is the Wick Cary associate professor in the Department of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma and a visiting scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Aqil is the author of The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan, one of the best guides to civil-military relations in Pakistan. Milan and Aqil discuss Imran Khan’s dramatic fall from grace, the challenges facing the new government, and the country’s complicated civil-military power balance. Plus, they talk about what these developments mean for India and Pakistan’s frosty bilateral relationship. Aqil Shah, “The Shambolic End of Imran Khan,” Foreign Affairs, April 15, 2022.Aqil Shah, “Pakistan’s ‘Moderate Taliban’ Strategy Won’t Hold Up—For Anyone,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 30, 2021.Aqil Shah, “Pakistan: Voting Under Military Tutelage,” Journal of Democracy 30, no. 1 (2019): 128-142.
access_time11 months ago
Two weeks ago, the foreign and defense ministers of the United States and India met in Washington for the fourth annual U.S.-India “2+2” Dialogue. The annual meeting has become an important focal point in the growing partnership between the United States and India, and this year’s edition received even more scrutiny than usual. For one, it featured a high-level virtual meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden. But it also took place against the backdrop of the Russian invasion in Ukraine and tensions in the bilateral relationship over how that conflict should be handled.To discuss the key takeaways from the 2+2, Milan is joined on the show this week by Joshua White. Josh is associate professor of the practice of South Asia studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington and a nonresident fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. Josh also has extensive experience working in the U.S. government, having done stints at both the National Security Council and the Pentagon. Milan and Josh discuss the trajectory of U.S.-India ties under the Biden administration, the big takeaways from the 2+2, and how the two sides are dealing with the thorny issue of Russia-Ukraine. Plus, Josh gives listeners a behind-the-scenes look at putting together a high-level ministerial summit. Joshua T. White, After the foundational agreements: An agenda for US-India defense and security cooperation(Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2021)Joshua T. White, “Nonstate threats in the Taliban’s Afghanistan,” February 1, 2022, Brookings Institution, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2022/02/01/nonstate-threats-in-the-talibans-afghanistan/Ashley J. Tellis, “‘What Is in Our Interest’: India and the Ukraine War,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 25, 2022.
access_time11 months ago
One of the most vexed questions in development studies is why the poor often receive such poor government services. The development literature is littered with hundreds—if not thousands—of examples of elite capture, weak state capacity, corruption, and subversion. But a focus on the failures obscures the fact that, every once in a while, the state does get it right and the top-down and the bottom-up meet in a place that produces positive benefits for ordinary citizens.How exactly this happens is the subject of a new book by Georgetown University professor Rajesh Veeraraghavan, Patching Development: Information Politics and Social Change in India. Milan and Rajesh discuss how bureaucrats and civil society forged an unlikely partnership in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to implement the world’s largest workfare program at scale. Plus, the two talk about the the role of technology in government, the political economy of India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), and the limits of transparency. “Information Politics and Social Change,” Ideas of India (podcast) with Shruti Rajagopalan and Rajesh Veeraraghavan, March 3, 2022.Philip Keefer and Stuti Khemani, “Why Do the Poor Receive Poor Services?” Economic and Political Weekly 39, no. 9 (2004): 935-943.Diego Maiorano, “The Politics of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Andhra Pradesh,” World Development 58 (2014): 95-105.
access_time12 months ago
Over the past two months, the southern Indian state of Karnataka has been the site of significant religious tensions as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government—and Hindu nationalist organizations associated with it—have advanced policies and issued statements that many believe have explicitly targeted Muslims in the state. From a ban on hijabs in school to calls for boycotting Muslim businesses, we are seeing sharpening religious divisions in the state that is home to India’s biggest technology hub, Bangalore.To make sense of the latest developments in the state, Milan is joined on the show this week by Sugata Srinivasaraju, a respected political journalist and author who has been covering political developments in Karnataka for decades. Sugata is the author of several books, including Furrows in a Field: The Unexplored Life of H.D. Deve Gowda.Sugata and Milan discuss the BJP’s rise to prominence in Karnataka—its lone southern stronghold—and the spate of recent controversial developments, from the ban on hijabs in school to calls for boycotting establishments serving halal food. Plus, the two discuss the upcoming 2023 assembly elections, the BJP’s dilemma, and the fractures within the political opposition. Sugata Srinivasaraju, “Balancing Opinion And Diverting Attention,” New Indian Express, April 7, 2022.Soutik Biswas, “Bangalore: How polarisation is dividing India's Silicon Valley,” BBC, April 7, 2022.Pooja Prasanna, “Karnataka’s Hindutva hate politics: Blame it on a weak CM and an edgy Opposition,” The News Minute, April 6, 2022.
access_time12 months ago
When Ideas Matter: Democracy and Corruption in India is the title of a new book by the author Bilal Baloch. The book provides a framework for understanding how governments respond to credibility crises. We all know that governments act in their own interests—but what are those interests? How are they defined? And where do they come from? These are the questions that Bilal explores in his new book, through an examination of two seminal crises in Indian history: Indira Gandhi’s response to the JP movement in the mid-1970s and the UPA government’s reaction to the India Against Corruption movement a decade ago.Milan and Bilal discuss the role ideas play in shaping government policy during acute crises, the relevance of ideas in interpreting India’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the factional divisions that exist within the Modi government. Plus, the two discuss Bilal’s new career as a tech start-up entrepreneur. Christine Hall, “GlobalWonks relaunches as Enquire AI following $5.5M round,” TechCrunch, December 15, 2021.Bilal Baloch, “10 years later, assessing UPA’s response to IAC,” Hindustan Times, December 11, 2021.Sandip Sukhtankar and Milan Vaishnav, “Corruption in India: Bridging ResearchEvidence and Policy Options,” India Policy Forum 11: 193-276.
access_time12 months ago
The last few weeks have seen a flurry of activity on the Indian politics and policy front. India has found itself front and center in the Ukraine crisis as it has repeatedly abstained from condemning the Russian invasion. Last week, in a visit that had tongues wagging, the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers met in New Delhi in the first high-level summit in two years. And, we’ve closed the books on five key state elections across the country—in which the ruling Bharaitiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as victor in four of five contests.To discuss all of the latest developments out of India, Milan is joined by Grand Tamasha news round-up regulars Sadanand Dhume (American Enterprise Institute and the Wall Street Journal) and Tanvi Madan (Brookings Institution). The trio discuss India’s evolving stance on the Russian invasion, Wang Yi’s surprise visit to India, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s future. Plus, the three discuss what under-reported stories Grand Tamasha listeners should be paying attention to. Sadanand Dhume, “India Has a Lot to Lose in Ukraine,” Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2022. Tanvi Madan, “India is Not Sitting on the Geopolitical Fence,” War on the Rocks, October 27, 2021.“India's High-Wire Act on Russia-Ukraine,” (with Raji Rajagopalan), Grand Tamasha, March 2, 2022.