Listen and learn
I would like to extend congratulations to Asian Affairs’ sister organisation, The Democracy Forum, for its bold foray into the contentious subject of cross-border terrorism in South Asia at a recent seminar in London. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the entire event, though I watched it in full online and was impressed with the quality of the panel, the depth of the analysis,the speakers’willingness to address these testing issues head-on, and the pertinent questions posed by well-informed audience members.
Less impressive, however, was the aggression that erupted from one or two guests, whose views were no doubt valid, but who delivered them in a way that was, as the chair later said, ‘unhelpful’ and ultimately disruptive.
It is becoming an ever more disturbing problem in today’s society that people want to talk, expressing their views with great enthusiasm, but not to listen. Being passionate about one’s beliefs is commendable but not when we turn a deaf ear to any alternative viewpoint, however we might disagree with it.It is one thing to call out hate speech or incitement to violence, but quite another to dismiss or even suppress ideas we don’t share. If we cannot tolerate difference, how can we co-exist? And if we will not listen, how will we learn?
No sense in tensions
Thank you to Humphrey Hawksley for the excellent piece on Japan and South Korea as the weak links in northeast Asia’s challenge to China’s hegemony and to growing security threats from North Korea. Bad blood between Japan and South Koreaover historical issues that happened more than 70 years ago makes little sense in view of how much these neighbours now have in commonas democracies, flourishing economies, major trading partners, G20 and OECD members, and with a shared ally in the US.Without stable multilateral structures in place to allay tensions and build a future-centred bilateral relationship, South Korea and Japan mayfind themselves having to juggle both their US and Chinese engagement.
I read with interest your June edition which carried two cogent articles, by G Parthasarathy and Dr Sudha Ramachandran, on the BJP’s extraordinary election triumph in India.
Both writers analysed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory from a political and social viewpoint; neither applied the Clintonian dictum, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’. And it will be the economy by which success or failure of Modi’s second term will be judged.
Mr Parthasarathy concludes his piece noting that ‘with a new Modi-led government in office, one can expect a determined effort to accelerate economic growth rates and promote foreign investment’. Indeed, one might expect such an economic imperative, yet the evidence from Modi’s first term and the initial moves in the second, including the Cabinet choices, does not inspire confidence.
Despite his reputation as an effective economic manager from his years as Chief Minister in Gujarat, Modi’s economic record in office has so far been unspectacular. GDP growth in the first term, averaging just over 6%, was only marginally ahead of that of Manmohan Singh’s lacklustre second term and growth has slowed recently. Although a number of long-delayed reforms were pushed through, such as GST and the bankruptcy code, Modi has so far ducked the fundamental reforms India desperately needs.
India has an historic opportunity to lift its growth rate, address its supply side inefficiencies and create the jobs its aspiring young population require. The new government needs to move boldly and swiftly to reform and unleash the economy. Election 2024 will be swiftly upon us and the voters are unlikely to be as forgiving of more of the same in a second term.