Research Activities
The Political Economy of India’s Strategy of Development with Democracy: From the Nehruvian Consensus to Economic Reforms
Second Joint Seminar ”Democracy and Conflict Resolution”: Section Two
■Speaker :Professor Aditya Mukherjee, Center for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
■Place :Shieikan 5F Meeting Room, Fukakusa Campus, Ryukoku University
■Date :3rd December 2005 14:45-18:00
Discussant: Professor Yukihiko Kiyokawa, Hitotsubashi University

1. Abstact of Presentation

Prof. Mukherjee compared the economic development policies pursued by two important prime ministers in India, Jawaharlal Nehru and Manmohan Singh, and discussed the similarities and differences between them. Nehru, the first prime minister of India after independence, adopted state-driven economic development policies and introduced a series of five-year national economic development plans, which were roughly guided by Marxist principles. Unlike the development-oriented authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia, India under Nehru implemented these policies without abandoning the democratic regime. The crucial factor that made this possible was the fact that Indian politicians, after fighting for independence from Britain, had reached a consensus that economic development should be the uppermost priority.

By contrast, Singh, who was a leading figure in formulating India’s economic development policies in the 1990s and subsequently became prime minister in 2004, adopted the market-driven approach. The new policy aimed to achieve economic development by relaxing government regulations, stimulating economic activities in the private sector, and opening the markets. These new policy measures were in accord with the spirit of the Washington consensus.

Many researchers have emphasised the differences between Nehru and Singh in terms of their approaches to economic development policy. Prof. Mukherjee, however, argued that this difference did not originate from ideological differences between the two. Rather, he argued that the difference between the Nehru era and that of Singh should be understood as deriving from their different historical contexts. He also emphasised that the rapid economic growth of India since the 1990s should not be regarded as disconnected from earlier developments in the country. Rather he argued that it was made possible thanks to the economic foundations that had been achieved during the Nehru era.

2. Summary of Discussion

Prof. Kiyokawa, the discussant, pointed out that the uniqueness of Prof. Mukherjee’s analysis lay in the fact that he sees similarities between the Nehru era and that of Singh and takes the standpoint that there are “continuities” between the two periods, while most economists take a position of “discontinuity.” Prof. Kiyokawa raised several questions regarding the assessment of the economic policies of the Nehruvian period. One of them concerned the effects of the import-substitution industrial development policy on light industries such as textile in India. Several further questions were raised by other participants at the meeting, including the definition of “democracy” by Prof. Mukherjee, and his view on comparisons between India and the economic performance of East Asian countries, which is often described as the East Asian miracle, as well as the relationship between the two regions.

In response to these questions, Prof. Mukherjee emphasised the following points. (1) It is true that Nehru placed too much emphasis on the need to manufacture capital goods, but he did so for a good reason. For the government of the newly independent country, restoring and maintaining national sovereignty through manufacturing capital goods was a high priority. (2) As for the relationship with the East Asian miracle, there would be a give-and-take relationship between the East Asian experience and the Nehruvian consensus. However, India has so far been too inward-oriented to fully undertake the task of studying the East Asian experience and drawing lessons from it. (3) On the definition of democracy, he pointed out that he was using the term with two facts in mind: firstly, there is a democratic election system in India, and secondly there is civil liberty in India in the sense that people of all social strata have the right to speak out and the right to take collective actions. Indian democracy might be different from that of the United States. However, it is fair to say that there is democracy in India in the sense that citizens have the right to elect their representatives through democratic elections, and they have the right to protest against actions taken by the government.