Manmohan Singh on Charlie Rose: summary of the interview

I've been getting lots of visitors to the site through Google searches for "Charlie Rose Manmohan Singh Interview" or some variant thereof. I had announced it earlier this week.

It's probably too late, but here's my summary of the interview as I saw it. I was taking notes for the first half-hour, but then I got a little tired, so I stopped. All quotes are approximations, not exact.

Incidentally, if you're looking for some more stuff on Manmohan Singh, I blogged a detailed bio of him back in May. Some of the articles and interviews there are still salient.

Charlie Rose's Interview with Manmohan Singh on PBS 9/21/04

The Prime Minister was well-spoken and seemed to be on top of things. Rose praised Manmohan for his erudition (including his occasional literary references to writers like Victor Hugo, as well as his Ox-Bridge education). Rose also noted these accomplishments are all the more impressive given that the fact that Manmohan Singh comes from “rather meager circumstances,” specifically, a small village in what is now Pakistan. Manmohan Singh's accent was not an issue, though I suppose some Americans really un-accustomed to Indian English might have had some difficulty with it. He's not quite as smooth or fluid as real upper-crusty Indo-Anglian types sometimes are (St. Xavier's in Bombay, Stephens in Delhi, etc.).

The interview went on for about 40 minutes, and wasn't cut or interrupted by commercials (for those outside the U.S., Charlie Rose is on American public television, which is commercial-free).

Topics discussed included:

--Relations between India and the U.S. The PM's line was, relations are fortunately improving, though “the best is yet to come." A key point of progress is in the U.S.'s decision to allow India access to information (presumably via purchase from private corporations) about civilian nuclear technology as well as the space program. These are the kinds of things that were discussed when the PM had breakfast with "Dubya."

--India/Pakistan. The PM said that given the extraordinary degree of cultural and personal connection between the two nations, relations need to be driven by more than just the question of Kashmir. There's long way to go, but if confidence-building measures were taken, he said that all possible options are on the table on the Indian side. Here the PM sounded conciliatory, but with a bit of steel in his voice.

--Liberalization. Charlie Rose gave the PM props for his role in liberalization back in 1991, which gave the PM the chance to reiterate his favorite one-liner from Victor Hugo ("No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come"). Liberalization will continue, though perhaps the PM isn't thinking of it as an urgent priority: "India really is a private sector economy. The public sector is only 30% of the economy."

--The future of the Indian economy. He's optimistic, though he stopped short of bragging.
MS: "I am not an astrologer, but the youthfulness of the working-age population will benefit us in the long run."

--On what made him become an economist. He said in school he read a texbook book called Our India by someone named Desani (??), in which there was the statement: “One in five men [on earth] is an Indian. India is a very rich country inhabited by very poor people.”
--Competition between India and China. China has been growing at 7-8% per year. India has been averaging around 6%, but would like to jump up to 7-8% under the government's current Common Minimum Program.
--Why India won't sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT):

MS “The NPT is an unequal treaty. It divides the world into haves and have-nots.

[Charlie Rose prods further, something to the effect of Is the treaty really dead then?]

MS: It is a thing of the past. We have declared a testing moratorium. We have declared no-first-use. We do not allow any of our participation in any proliferation. And we believe our record shows that we should be taken seriously on this.

--On Outsourcing, the PM claimed that it's a predictable phase in the globalization of goods and services, provable by Ricardo's “Comparative advantage Theory.” [That's correct – after 150 years, Ricardo is now a household name]

Charlie Rose outdid him a bit here, suggesting that in fact outsourcing a net-job gainer for the U.S., since the disposable income it produces in the Indian middle-class is spent on consumer goods either produced in the U.S., or that have U.S. Brand names. I was a little annoyed at Rose's one-upmanship here, but then... I guess he meant well.