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India's optimism a useful antidote to Western pessimism

With a powerful new electoral mandate, Modi looks to engage with the world

| India
Some 50,000 people gather at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's canpaign ​rally​ in Kannauj​, Uttar Pradesh on Feb. 15. (Photo by Yuji Kuronuma)

Americans suffering a crisis of confidence about the future of their country's democratic institutions under President Donald Trump could use a dose of Indian-style optimism. The country's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elected on a populist platform in 2014, has just won a landslide victory in elections in Uttar Pradesh, India's biggest state. Results there and in a handful of other states are still being finalized. But it is clear that in his third year in office, Modi has overthrown establishment elites in his pursuit of an ambitious reform agenda that is transforming the country by kindling economic growth and hope. India's experience offers a useful antidote to Western pessimism -- and a reminder that democracy can offer solutions to the growth and governance dilemmas that afflict the U.S. and Europe.

India's economy is expanding at around 7% a year, powered by the demographics of the world's largest population of young people, but also, importantly, by "big-bang" reforms. The country is enacting a national goods and services tax that will rationalize and unify its internal market, currently broken down into 29 state markets. Doing this required revising the Indian constitution, no small task in the world's biggest parliamentary democracy.

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