India has come to world’s top table: journalist Daniel Lak

September 30th, 2008 - 11:34 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) If 1991 was India’s wake-up call, then today India is out of bed and on its way to office, says senior British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist Daniel Lak.But he hastily adds: “Metaphors aside, it means that India has arrived at the world’s top table and is awaiting due recognition.” His book “India Express” analyses the country’s potential role as “Asia’s America”.

Canada-based Lak, who has covered the India and the sub-continent for 20 years, argues that India’s plural democracy, its rule of law, entrepreneurial talent and military might are together fashioning a country that is globally respected and increasingly influential.

“India Express”, published by Penguin India, is being released at the Canadian High Commission Tuesday.

The author points out that the growing political heft of the urban middle classes, linked to a historic strengthening of liberal institutions in the country, is part of a process whereby key blocs of voters exchange political support for government patronage.

Coalition governments - a widely accepted sign of democratic maturity - are both a testament to Indian political pragmatism and a de facto devolution of central authority in a country that has struggled for most of its independent existence with an imbalance of power between centre, states and communities.

The book, divided into 11 chapters, covers every aspect of the country’s growth from debugging, Y2K, the country’s online revolution, the new economy, the colonial legacy, India’s street fighting years and India’s road to super-powerdom - in the context of its fluid politics.

Covering India as a foreign correspondent has been a multi-dimensional experience, the genial, bespectacled Lak told IANS in an interview.

“India has historical contacts that extends in all directions because anything that goes on here is a complex process that has its ramifications across the globe.”

Illustrating an example, he said if a rival gang attacked a village in Bihar, the immediate provocation would be construed as caste violence. “But Bihar has a long history of caste conflicts and land reforms. The attacks and the strife can be traced back to generations.

“I tried to weave all of it so that my reportage did not become simple straightforward account of incidents. For a foreign audience to understand India in all its shades required perspective,” Lak said.

Lak allowed his heart, instincts, emotions and contacts to guide him in a way that was not necessarily straightforward. “I had to bring in the human factor in my book to tell the story of India where people were natural resource.

“The country was not even governed by one economic factor - for instance oil, like several gulf and western countries - and did not have a central definition. It had evolved naturally for the last hundreds of thousands of years.

“Hence some of the historical events are still relevant. But post-Mughal arrival, we had to extrapolate the real India from its art, architecture and intangible spiritual drifts in the broadest sense. I love this aspect of the South Asian civilisation,” Lak explained.

Lak also nurtures strong views about the Indian state.

“The policy of a central power point in the decades after independence, when the states were demarcated on the basis of language, made them stay together. But now, India needs devolution of power for a more federal structure so that people get the services they require the most like health, education and the social safety. And develop the ability to generate its own resources and utilise its capacities to the optimum,” Lak said.

When asked to name the three events that he enjoyed covering the most, he replied: “The 50th anniversary of Indian independence, the Pokhran nuclear tests and explosion of information technology in the southern cities of Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai that travelled up north.”

The author is currently trying to negotiate film rights for his book, which he plans into a three-part documentary series on the “People of contemporary India, the Historical Context and the Rise of a Superpower.”

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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