Dr. Milan Vaishnav

South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Modi's India: Change You Can Believe In?

About the Topic

The 2014 Indian general election, the largest democratic exercise in history, produced a landslide victory for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader, Narendra Modi. The election verdict has been hailed as “historic,” “unprecedented,” and a “game-changer” for India’s future. Brandishing his credentials as an economic modernizer, Modi led the BJP to a decisive victory over the incumbent Congress Party, whose Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has ruled India for much of its post-Independence history. Modi’s supporters believe he possesses unique skills to get India’s sagging economy back on track, an urgent task for a country with 1.25 billion people, 50 percent of whom are under the age of 25. On the other hand, detractors criticize him for “authoritarian” tendencies and his involvement in horrific ethnic riots which took place on his watch when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Indeed, for the greater part of the past decade, the United States denied Modi a visa to enter the country due to concerns about his human rights record.

In this lecture, Dr. Milan Vaishnav will reflect on the election results and Modi’s performance in his first year in office to evaluate how India’s economic, society, politics, and foreign policy have changed, and how they have not, in the new “Modi era.” These developments, in turn, have real-world implications for the United States and the U.S.-India bilateral partnership.

Milan Vaishnav is an associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His primary research focus is the political economy of India, and he examines issues such as corruption and governance, state capacity, distributive politics, and electoral behavior. 

About the Speaker

One of his ongoing major projects examines the causes and consequences of political corruption in India with an emphasis on representation and quality of political leadership, connections between the state and private capital, and the management and exploitation of natural resources. He also works on development policy as well as issues of governance in developing countries and their relation to democratic accountability.

He is the co-editor of the book Short of the Goal: U.S. Policy and Poorly Performing States (Center for Global Development, 2006). His work has also been published in the Latin American Research Review

Previously, he worked at the Center for Global Development, where he served as a postdoctoral research fellow, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He has taught at Columbia, Georgetown, and George Washington Universities.