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Contemporary India Through Italian Prism

Updated: September 22, 2012 2:28 pm

In this book the author analyses the various aspects of the country’s institutions and the mechanisms of its civil society and provides an original insight into the motivations of the remarkable optimism with which Indians pursue the perspective of accelerated economic growth and global strategic influence, indicating in their aspiration to be recognised as a superpower. Antonio Armellini, former Italian Ambassador to India, looks at the opportunities and the pitfalls confronting India in the twenty-first century: a buoyant economic climate and a strong “can-do” mentality among the people have to reckon with a bloated bureaucracy, widespread corruption and the enduring influence of caste.

In fact, this 432-page book, which is divided into eight chapters, is a collection of essays dedicated to India’s past and present, its role and mission in the world and the contribution it has made and continues to make to the spiritual and material capital of humanity. After looking at some of the many factors, internal and foreign, that have contributed to the formation of the nation as it is today, the book explores various aspects of the harmonic convergence between contemporary scientific discoveries and philosophical insights and the esoteric Indian teachings and symbolic representations.

The first four chapters of the books lay down the foundations of the book for his Italian readers. The author begins with an examination of India’s unity in diversity. He believes that unlike the other colonial countries, this country did not collapse because of the colonial legacy left behind. All the apparatus of the state, including the political executive with the supportive civil service, the legislature, the judiciary as well as the social infrastructure of railways, roads, post and telegraph, built by the British, remained behind and continued to function as before. A set of competent politicians, ably supported by civil servants, saved the country from utter chaos. This aspect is consistently overlooked by historians and researchers when they gather plaudits for the national effort.

Chapters five to eight are devoted to foreign policies and India’s emerging global role, a constant concern for foreign writers, especially its campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The author says this shows that the country has become “conscious of its new status” in the international power system. In chapter five, the author devotes his attention to the new global ambitions of India as a nuclear weapon state. The hurdles impeding emerging India are the not-very-cordial relationship with its immediate neighbours Pakistan and China. His broader message is that if India wants to be recognised by the global powers of the West, it should integrate itself further.

In one chapter, the author asks whether India will meet the challenge of the 21st century. Then the author says yes—most probably—even though some points remain to be addressed. For the vast majority of Indians—or better, for nearly all those “who matter”—this is a rhetorical question: success is undoubted and future prospects leave little doubt. No other country in the world has India’s capacity to project the future into the present; this at times leads to unwarranted enthusiasms, but is important in keeping the level of expectations high and putting aside the limitations.

The author has tried to look at India through an Italian eye: Most of what is written about it today—whether shining or not—is from a different, and generally Anglo-Saxon perspective. In so doing the author has attempted to look in an unbiased way at the many similarities with Italy that are often ignored despite their objective interest.

By Ashok Kumar

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