Gurcharan Das’s key argument in his bestselling book India Unbound was that with economic reforms India’s economy could keep growing, resulting in the country becoming a world leader. He predicted that India would dominate the field of Information Technology and become an IT superpower. His book was published in the year 2000—those were the days of optimism, the days of high economic growth and rising power of the middle class. Westernized libertarians like Das used to appear on TV regularly—they used to challenge the political establishment by proclaiming that India’s economic reforms were unstoppable.
The days of optimism came to an end in 2004, when the UPA (a coalition of socialist and communist parties led by the oligarchic and dynastic Congress Party) won the election. The process of economic reforms came to an end. The ten years of UPA rule were marked by geopolitical setbacks, economic collapse, factionalism, terrorist attacks, and massive corruption. The Information Technology sector, in which Das was overconfident, stagnated and was captured by a bunch of unenterprising crony capitalists. In this political environment, all the pollyanna-like predictions about India’s glorious future that Das had made could not come true. Instead of becoming “unbound,” India was bound in layers of socialist red-tape.
I read Das’s book in 2003—then I was naive and so I was enthused by his economic vision. Since then I have realized that Das’s economic vision was bound to fail because it was not based on India’s civilizational reality—it was the “imported vision” of a Westernized libertarian intellectual. Being obsessed with economic reforms, Das failed to take note of India’s political, cultural, and religious problems. In his book, there is an excellent critique of Nehruvian socialism but from a purely economic angle. He does not examine the political, cultural, religious problems created by the policies of Nehru and his successors. He does not examine the causes and the consequences of the intractable religious and geopolitical issues that the country faces.
I have realized that economic problems cannot be seen in isolation from the country's civilizational problems—economic reforms cannot succeed until there is strong action to solve the political, cultural, and religious problems. Civilizational supremacy is the fountainhead of economic success. Despite its shortcomings, India Unbound is a very interesting book. The book’s copy which I purchased in 2003 still rests in my bookshelf.