Devesh Kapur in Harvard Magazine:
Things have never been as good for India as they appear to be today. Its economy has grown by nearly 6 percent annually for the past quarter-century—virtually unprecedented for any sizable democratic polity. In contrast to the near-famine conditions of the mid 1960s, the country sits on a mountain of grain surpluses and poverty levels have almost halved since that time. Fertility rates, too, have nearly halved during the past few decades, while literacy and health indicators have steadily climbed from their erstwhile dismal levels. This sharply improved economic performance is rooted in a burgeoning middle class, estimated to be almost one-quarter-billion people.
During the 1990s, India’s democracy faced severe challenges from the forces of Hindu nationalism, but that threat, too, has ebbed in recent years. Following its loss in the 2004 general elections, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP—Indian People’s Party) is in disarray. While the events of the 1990s engendered trepidation in India’s religious minorities about the country’s commitment to secularism, current political conditions appear to allay those fears. Today, for the first time, this country in which four-fifths of the population is Hindu has a Sikh prime minister, a Sikh head of the army, a Muslim president, and, as its most powerful political personality, a Catholic-born Italian Indian.